Before I started running I only really thought about Gillian and Poppy. Before Poppy I only really thought about Gillian and holidays, well traveling. Ok, that’s a little bit of a lie as food was also something that I thought about a lot. What I am trying to say here is I haven’t really ever had a plan or set goals and just rolled with what was happening. With 2017, I planned my running goals and I am damn chuffed that they all got ticked off.
In the summer I started to think about 2018 and that’s when the idea of the ultras came up as a big challenge. This was only part of my plan though. When I was fundraising for the London Marathon it gave that race a real sense of purpose. When it was hard, I thought about all the people who had donated to UNICEF and how proud I was, and still am, to support a charity that I love dearly. I am also very aware that so many people dug deep for this event and I would feel really bad asking them to do it all again for something I love to do. London was my first marathon and it will always hold a special place but now as I have decided to step up a gear what could I do to make it special again?
Rather than an event specific piece of fund raising, how about spreading it out over the whole year? Over 6,7 or even 10 races!
What if I didn’t rely on just donations but thought of some other ideas, some fun ways to raise money and on top of that how could I also give my time to a charity?
These were the thoughts I had but who should I support? After just a short time thinking I decided on Mind. This is a charity that has had a decent amount of coverage in the running community this year which has been fantastic, but for me it goes deeper than that. The first time I was exposed to mental health issues was when a friend had to be sectioned in his early 20s. It was really sad as I think more could have been done if we knew what we know now. Then, later in life my best and oldest friend also talked to me about the issues he had been having. Him confiding in me like that was a revelation and something I will always remember as he showed great courage and strength. He continues to have therapy and its working really well to help keep him balanced. Then another very dear friend suffered from severe post-natal depression but also thankfully got the help she needed and had the support of her husband and close family to encourage her to seek help. I have also witnessed another dear friend have a complete break down and not really know how to help. To see someone collapse like that was quite shocking, but to see her come out the other side as well and return to work encouraged me.
I have learned even more this year from taking the time to talk to friends and to understand better their issues and how they try to cope or resolve them each time. I also understand that running has helped me find a calm place from the stresses of life. Some people say that you are running away from your problems, but to all of us that know, you actually face them out on the roads and trails. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose but at least you are trying to tackle them. This is why supporting a mental health charity is important to me, to keep up the discussions and break the stigmas.
So back to my plan. I had decided on Mind as my charity of choice. I just needed the events to base it all around. I really wanted them to all be set up and entered by me. These were the ones I eventually picked.
February – Maverick trail HM in Sussex
March – The Big Half. Time to get the PB I missed in Newcastle.
April – Paris Marathon. Time to face the demons and get a sub 3hrs 40 – if not faster!
May – Still a TBC (looking for a half or 10mile)
June – Weald 50K ultra
July – Race to the Stones 100k non-stop – aiming for 12 hours
August – No race – we all need to rest
September – Berlin Marathon
October – Beachy Head Marathon
November – Brecon Beacons Ultra
December – No race
The key races are the 3 marathons and 3 Ultras. Now, I had them all booked and paid for by me apart from Berlin, which is a ballot. This is where the lovely Sophie comes into the story! I finally got to run with her earlier this year on a LDNBurgerRun which was fab as we had been chatting and commenting on each other’s IG posts for a while. At some point during the run I asked her what she did and it turned out she works for Mind! Whoaaa, this was brilliant. She told me what she did for the charity and it got me thinking. She mentioned that Mind would have charity places if I had a ballot failure. So a few days later I emailed her with my “plan for the year” and she was super encouraging. I also mentioned that I would like to keep a place from the charity as my back up plan. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to do the challenge on my own by getting my own race places but something in the back of my head said, Jon, you need a back-up plan!
Fast forward to Thursday 30th November. Ballot results day and I was nervous as hell. I really wanted this, more than I wanted London again. This was the last piece of the jigsaw and as the day went on and I kept seeing all my friends get their well-deserved places my heart sunk a little further as I felt it was slipping away. I know this sounds weird as I knew I could apply for a place pretty quickly but I had my heart set on doing it my way. I received quite a few messages of support which I was really touched by, but when I got the email about 8pm, I couldn’t read it myself so gave my phone to Gillian she gave me the thumbs down. It really hurt, but I got straight onto the Mind website and filled out the form. I also sent Sophie a message to say that’s what I had done and got an out of office but bless her, she emailed me back straight away! Her message warmed my heart because you know what, the charity place has a minimum of £900 but I want to raise at least £1000 next year.
I am not going to start the challenge until after the New Year and like I said, I plan on trying some new things rather than straight forward donations to achieve this goal. I am also working on how best to donate my time because if my friends and family will be donating their money in one form or another I want to try and match this in time somehow.
2018, I am coming for you and will be proudly wearing the blue on my race days!
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