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Aches, pains & blistered feet from non-stop 145 mile race are worth it.
Naomi Newton-Fisher will be running 24 marathons or ultra marathons in 12 months for Saint Francis Hospice. Her first blog post explains why...
I don't think I ever really understood hospices before Roger got ill.
In the middle of August 2014, our lives started to unravel. My father in law Roger had been struggling with a cough for a few weeks, but one evening when we were visiting his shortness of breath started to get really scary. He wouldn't let us call an ambulance, but finally relented and let us take him to A&E. He was urgently admitted, and suddenly my husband and I found ourselves in a nightmare of hospital visits, waiting for doctors, and trying to find out what was going on. Within a few weeks, Roger had a lung cancer diagnosis, and we were given the contact details of the St Francis Hospice by the hospital, but not much else.
We were absolutely lost.
When Roger was discharged and sent home, we had no idea how to look after him, or how to make life as comfortable as possible for him. The Hospice were an incredible support though, and provided a level of help and care that I had no idea they were able to do. From phoning our consultant to try and get information about treatment, to giving us advice, to arranging a hospital bed to be set up so Roger could stay at home, they were absolutely invaluable and at a time when, as his sons tried to cope with the emotional heartbreak of seeing their dad deteriorate within a matter of just a few weeks, I tried to be the practical one, and to arrange things. If the hospice hadn't been able to support us all, I just don't know how we would have coped and it frightens me to think what would have happened - we had felt totally alone without them. What was also incredibly important was the time that the Hospice nurses took to talk to Roger on the phone and in person, he found his conversations with them incredibly comforting at a time when he would have been most scared.
Roger died, very peacefully, at home, during the night on 15th October, a month after his cancer diagnosis. A nurse was with him, as St Francis had just helped to provide us with 24 hour care.
It was terrible. But made somewhat easier through having the services of the St Francis Hospice available...so I decided that I wanted to try and raise some money to help them in return, and to say thank you.
The only way I knew how to do that, was to run.
I've been a runner for a few years now, running my first marathon at London in 2008, and my first ultra marathon (a race of any distance further than a marathon) in 2012. I got bitten by the bug, and started racing a lot. In 2013, I ran 10 marathons in 10 days for charity, and by in August 2014, when Roger fell ill, I completed my 54th marathon or ultra event. I knew that to raise money this time, I would have to come up with a really big challenge!
Originally I planned to try and do an Ironman triathlon, but that idea fell to the wayside pretty soon, and I realised there was a better way to make most money . I decided on 24 marathons or ultra marathons in 12 months. I started with the Chelmsford Marathon- it felt really fitting as it's very local to us, and Roger went to school in the town. However, everyone knew I could run marathons so I knew I'd need to get some pretty crazy ultras into my schedule too to convince people to sponsor me. Lots of marathons wouldn't be enough. So, fast forward six months, and the really scary races were coming up, the two really long ones!
In May I would be running two non-stop foot races three weeks apart - the Thames Path 100 mile event, that would see me running through the night from London to Oxford, was the first weekend of May, and if that wasn't ridiculous enough, the second event was the Grand Union Canal Race. This is an iconic, revered race in the ultra running community, in its 21st year - it's 145 miles long, and 1 00 runners travel the length of the Grand Union Canal from Birmingham to London, non-stop. It's very tough!
But I did them both.
As race 12 in my year of 24 marathons, I completed TP100 in 23 hours and 19 minutes. I really struggled with leg pain and conditions weren't great towards the end, finishing in the rain.
I completed GUCR, my 13th race of the 12 months, in 37 hours and 22 minutes and as 3rd Lady, which really surprised me. I'd been aiming to finish in under 40 hours, and had no thoughts at all of placing, and so I'm incredibly pleased with how it went. 63 of us finished out of the 100 who started, and although we were very lucky with the weather (it was dry all weekend) it's just such an unbelievably long way! Unfortunately I fainted at 120 miles, but recovered relatively quickly and was able to keep going. Not finishing was just never an option for me. As I'm sat on the sofa writing this, it doesn't seem possible that I ran (and walked) all that way, from Birmingham to London - I have to keep looking at a map to remind myself of what I did, although the aches and pains, red raw chafing, and terribly bruised and blistered feet should be enough of a reminder! I am very proud to have completed such tough events, especially so close together.
I was right though...with such big races, the sponsorship money has started to come in. People recognise the limits to which I have pushed myself this month, and what a fantastic cause the St Francis Hospice is to donate to. To date, I have raised £1,354.
Next up in my 24 races in 12 months challenge, is another marathon in two weeks time - the Stour Valley Marathon in Essex. I am desperately hoping that my battered feet recover quickly! Following that, I have a 24 hour event booked, that I will be running as half of a pair, and then a quad - that's four marathons in four days. June is looking busy! After that, the races continue...
UPDATE: Naomi has now completed her remarkable challenge and has allowed us to use her story as part of our Winter Raffle campaign. Show your support to Naomi and take part in our Winter Raffle today - we promise, no running shoes are required.