Monday, 22 September 2014

Crazy? You ain't seen nothing yet...


I’m in! Who’s with me? Or should I say, who’s bringing up the rear with me and making the marshals curse about how late it’s getting “and there’s still a few out there”?

There are some things in life you just have to face up to and bite the bullet – and the famous hill marathon in my own back yard is one of them. Inspired by watching my fellow Burndeners tackle the gruelling event last year, I pledged to have a crack at it myself. Now I can’t wait.

If Diane thought that after 40 years as an avid couch potato I was mad to take up running at the age of 58, after ditching nine stones in a year, then she ain’t seen nothing yet.

It will certainly be the toughest thing I will have attempted in my brief life as a distance runner – but I’ve news for you, Diane – it’s not the craziest thing I have planned… Watch this space!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why today was a special day

EVERY now and then, people come into your life that make you wonder how you ever managed without them.
There haven’t been that many in my 58 years but that just emphasises how special they are when they do appear.
When they come along, they change your life. They add to it, their friendship enriches it and their guidance helps you make more right decisions than you would otherwise have done. They make you a better person, because you learn from them how to be towards others.
Diane was one. Everyone who knew Diane was the better for it. She had that effect on people. When I lost her, I thought my world had ended. But she soon put me right on that score. She made me turn my life around and in so doing she made me meet some wonderful, new friends.
She’s the driving force behind the posts on this blog. Every now and then I’ll think of her and I’ll find myself suddenly thinking of something I need to put down in writing. It’s happened again tonight.
This post was originally going to be selfishly all about me and what I did today – my first major bike ride in quite a fair bit of traffic plus more lengths of Horwich pool ahead of this impending "fun" triathlon next month.
But that’s not the most important thing that happened to me today. 
The best part of today was to spend time with two of these very special people I’m talking about, to realise just how much they mean to me and how much they have quickly become such a big part of my new life now.
I can do so much more physically now in terms of running, swimming and cycling than I could before and it’s an amazing feeling – but it’s nothing compared to what it means to have discovered friends like these. Like I say, this isn’t the post they were expecting to read after our exploits today. 
But their kindness has made me realise that even if I could bike a thousand miles, swim an ocean and then run across a desert it wouldn’t mean half as much to me as those few (shaky) miles I did today and the joy of just being in their company.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

To the many who are doing it Steve's Way

COMMONWEALTH Games marathon man Steve Way's incredible journey from poor health and bad diet to last Sunday's epic performance around the streets of Glasgow proves just what can be achieved if you are determined to turn your life around.
I know how he must feel even though I know I'll never match his level of performance (after all, I'm old enough to be his dad!) But I know the sense of pride he feels this week will be the same sense of pride that all runners feel when they achieve something which would have been impossible a few years ago.
It's the same feeling you get when you do two minutes on a treadmill after only being able to do one minute the week before. The distance and the scale of the achievement is not what makes us burst with pride - it's the fact that we made a decision to reach for seemingly impossible goals - whether it's over 5K, a marathon or an ultra event.
Steve has inspired me to try harder, aim higher and reach further. But then so have a load of people who do their running well down the pack towards the back of the field, but who are still achieving more than they could ever have dreamt possible.
Inspiration comes from everywhere in a race, often the back of the pack. It's a great feeling to be part of the whole running community which includes Steve and the hundreds of thousands of other inspirational people who strive to improve their lives beyond measure every week and every time they run.

Bolton News, Saturday July 26

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Word gets around!

Coventry Telegraph, Monday July 21

Worcester News website, Sunday July 13

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The awesome Ironmen

It's Ironman weekend in Bolton, when men become supermen. It's a weekend they will never forget, when they rise to be, quite simply, legends. They are doing something beyond the capability of billions of people. They define the word elite and they deserve every accolade they receive. They are simply awesome.
It is their spirit and drive which has inspired me to want to learn to swim and ride a bike so I can compete in a junior triathlon. After that, who knows? One thing I've learnt over the past 18 months is that you should never say never. Never say enough is enough because whatever you have achieved, there's always more.
No-one can ever stop and say they've done it all. No human in the history of mankind has ever been able to. No matter how much they achieved, there was still more to strive for. That's what should drive us on every day. We should always aim high, and then higher and never stop testing ourselves. 
There is no such thing as failure if you try to achieve something. 
The only failure is if you don't try. If you limit yourself to what you think you can do, instead of saying to yourself: 'I wonder how much I can do', then you have let yourself down. 
Realise your full potential.
Don't tell yourself you can't run lose weight and get fit, ask yourself: 'I wonder if I can lose weight and get fit'. Don't shrug your shoulders and say you'll never be able to run a 5K, ask yourself: 'I wonder if I can run a 5K'. Then when you achieve what you didn't think you could, you suddenly wonder just how far you can take all this.
A 10K, a 10-miler, a half, a full marathon... and then, maybe, just maybe, have a crack at even more.
Diane's courage in her six and a half year battle against breast cancer has inspired me to reach for stuff I never dreamed possible. With her to guide me, I went from someone who said ‘I could never do that’ to someone who wondered if he could.
If you’d told me at the start of 2013 when I weighed 24 stone and struggled up a flight of stairs that I could run 50 yards if I put my mind to it, I'd have laughed at you. If I'd had the breath to.
But losing Diane changed everything. I realised how precious every second of life is, how it’s so foolish to waste a single moment wondering.
Better to fill that moment trying.
So my dream to lose weight became my dream to run a 5K and then a 10K. And that became a dream to run a half marathon and then a full one. Now that has become a dream to learn to swim and cycle to have a go at a triathlon. And if that works out, who knows?
Nobody knows. That’s the answer. Nobody knows. Least of all you until you have a go and see for yourself.
Never say never. Always reach for what you think is impossible and even if you come up short you’ll be amazed how far you travelled just attempting it.
That’s what I learned in Rotterdam. I was devastated. I thought I’d failed. Then I realised how far I’d come and that this was just another lesson along the way.
I might never get to a sufficiently high standard to do an Ironman. I still swim like I'm in an invisible diving suit and have yet to summon up the courage to ride a bike in traffic, but I swim better than I did three weeks ago and today I rode a bike for the first time with something bordering on confidence. It’s coming.
So as Ironmen test themselves to their own limit, this weekend has seen me take a giant leap forward too.
I might never be able to attempt an Ironman but don't tell me I can't.
If I am not able to, it will because I tried and didn't make it. That's something entirely different.
The amazing athletes competing in the gruelling event this weekend didn’t get to the start line because they knew they could. They got there because they wouldn’t let anyone tell them they couldn’t. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Can't swim or ride a bike? I know what I'll do...

A FEW weeks ago, I had another of those moments. One very similar to the one that last September after completing (eventually) my first 5K run EVER around Salford’s shiny new Quays. I loved it, and that was when I decided I wanted to go for a marathon.
At the time, as I plodded up the slight rise to the finish line outside the Lowry Theatre, it seemed outrageous to even contemplate the idea of doing 26.2 miles.
Trouble is, I couldn’t see why not. I knew it would be the biggest challenge of my life but I saw no reason why not. If I could do 5K I could do 10, surely. And when I’d done 10, wouldn’t I be able to try that seven-miler at Longridge where you get a Christmas pudding? Why not? Then, after that, why not a half? And so on, and so on, until in April in Rotterdam I found myself lining up for my first marathon attempt.
That day, it wasn’t to be (see earlier posts for the unfortunate reasons) but my weekend’s experience in the city where Diane spent her childhood taught me a valuable lesson – you just don’t turn up and run a marathon. You have to earn every step.
And so at Liverpool six weeks later, after I had knuckled down and put more minutes on my legs, I managed it. So I proved that with the inspiration of someone special, someone who was my whole life for more than 20 years, I wasn’t mad when I dared to dream.
And I’m not mad today when I come out of the triathlon closet and reveal that I am now in training to complete my first three-discipline event as the latest chapter in the Running With Diane story in aid of the support charity Breast Cancer Care.
When I say “in training”, what I really mean is “in learning”. 
Two weeks ago I had never sat on a bike in my life, even as a child. Just never had one. Don’t know why but it never happened – never entered my head to ask for one and never crossed my mum and dad’s minds to get me one. Also, two weeks ago, I swam like a ship’s anchor.
I don’t quite know why I’m doing this, but I am. It’s kind of happened by accident. 
After the marathon, I had to come up with something even more crazy to do for the charity. Then someone happened to say triathlon and I was hooked on the idea.

This was Lesson 1. Lesson 2 seemed a long way off...

Now, after taking my first tentative steps at both swimming and riding a bike, I can report that I can swim half a length of the local pool breaststroke. Well, it’s a start. If this amazing transformation in me has taught me one thing it’s that small steps bring big changes.
For example, I can pedal a bike now. I still look like I’m cycling through an earthquake, but I’m definitely pedalling and definitely improving. Once I feel in control of the damned thing, I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better. So will the bike.
I like to go for things people think I’ve no chance of achieving. Every day, I want to prove someone wrong about me. I want to surprise somebody all the time. Diane is still my driving force and I know she’ll be with me every moment – just like she has been so far. This is for her again, because I know if I promise to do it for her, I won’t allow myself to waver in my efforts.
The target is a “fun” triathlon at Nantwich in September, then a sprint version before the end of the year and a full Olympic one in the new year.
Yes, September. Yes, this year. Now you think I really have lost the plot, I suppose. You could be right. We’ll see.
If I manage to hit that target, it will be just 15 months since I joined the gym at Smithills, 13 months since running for the first time on a road and 10 months since joining the Burnden Road Runners club.
If I complete my first full triathlon early in 2015, it will be less than two years since, with my weight at 24 stones and suffering from diabetes, I struggled to even get up a flight of stairs.
It will also be just under two years since the death of Diane, whose courage and bravery during her battle against breast cancer has been my inspiration for turning my life around.
Breast Cancer Care does incredible work to help families across the UK living every day under the cloud of cancer, just as we did. There are more than 500,000 such families, and more than 50,000 women and men will discover in the next 12 months that they have the disease.
Nothing prepares you for that day when the bombshell diagnosis is given. The fall-out is terrible and your world becomes dark and desolate. But Breast Cancer Care is there to pick you up and help you through. Miracles do happen. For some, the clouds do disappear.
Sadly, too often – as in Diane’s case – they don’t. But the fight goes on and we won’t stop until we beat this terrible disease.
So what’s a bit of swimming, cycling and running – with Diane helping me every inch of the way – compared to what these families are going through every moment of their lives and compared to what Diane had to suffer.
Can’t swim, can’t ride a bike, can’t run too well? Sounds like the perfect challenge for the two of us... How about it, Di?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Now what have we here ..?

Countdown Clocks

A dream finish

I had crossed that finish line a thousand times. Maybe more. First of all in the weeks leading up to my first marathon attempt in Rotterdam, then, over the last month, I dreamed about the final few strides of the Liverpool Rock N Roll Marathon instead.
This time it happened for real. I crossed it with my head filled with thoughts of Diane. I could feel her hand in mine and hear her voice in my ear, encouraging me and giving me a reason to believe I could do it.
She was there the whole 26.2 miles of the city where I spent my teenage years. I recognised many places I had not been to for decades and on this special day they became unforgettable landmarks on the route of a journey which began just over a year ago.
A journey that started with a promise Diane made me make. During the years of her battle against breast cancer, she would occasionally speak about how I would cope without her. It was never a conversation that lasted very long as I refused to even contemplate such an empty world and talk of death was off the table.
She was worried about my health. Typical of her spirit of generosity. She was fighting cancer and she was worried about me. But I couldn’t talk about it. I might have been 24 stone, suffering mobility problems with my weight and having Type 2 diabetes, but I didn’t have cancer. How could I harp on about my health while she was courageously fighting her life-or-death battle. What I was suffering paled into insignificance next to her struggle.
Yet still she worried about me.
I would be fine, we would be fine, everything would be fine, I said, once this terrible disease was driven out of our lives. Everything would be all right, just wait and see. Then we can worry about me. Not before.
There was no need for her to worry, I told her, no need to discuss it. She was not dying. She was not going anywhere. There would never be a time when I was without her. There would never be a time when I had to go to bed alone, to wake alone, to live life alone.
At least, that’s what I told myself. It’s called hope, and it is the bedrock of the human spirit. It lives in all of us and it’s what drives us on when times are tough.
If Diane thought I could calmly sit there and rationally, logically, almost coldly, plan a life without her, she was wrong. I couldn’t even imagine such an existence, a life without the woman with whom I had shared the happiest 21 years of my life, so no, no, no. No need to discuss this because we will be fine.
For her to be brave enough even to mention what would happen if cancer took her life shows the kind of selfless person she was. And why she was such an inspiration to me from the moment I first met her.
Then, in February 2013, cancer consumed her body and our lives changed forever. But wait. Cancer didn’t win. It didn’t take her from me. There hasn’t been a moment since then when we haven’t been together. Our relationship is simply different now, but not less strong. She is still always here. Just not in the way she used to be.
It was her idea for me to look up and not down, ahead and not behind. She didn’t tell me this during those conversations about life without her. Like I said, I couldn’t, wouldn’t sit and talk about losing her like that. No, she told me later, after cancer thought it had won.
She told me in the unspoken way soul-mates instinctively know what the other is thinking or wants. She didn’t tell me to go to the gym. I just one day got the notion to. A notion she put there without me realising at the time. From there she kept prompting me further.
Why else would I take up running after 40 years of not doing a tap, decades of being the poster boy for couch potatoes everywhere? Why else would I take up running when the furthest I ever ran was for a bus?
Not only that, but why, after years of being the least driven and competitive person you could wish to meet, did I suddenly become energised with some steely determination to do anything that people told me I couldn’t
Because Diane wanted me to. She did it as her side of The Promise. So she was the one who got me to the start line in Liverpool last week and she was the one who held me tight as I crossed the finish line.
And she wants me to do it all over again. And soon. And more besides. She hasn’t finished on her promise to me yet.

One special member of the Running With Diane story

There are many people to whom I owe a great debt to for getting me to that finish line. I’m not going to fall into the trap of naming them all individually – partly because I might accidentally forget to include someone and partly because there isn’t enough room on this computer’s memory to list them all anyway.
But I cannot go without mentioning Bev Walker. She has asked to stay in the background in all this, but I can’t allow that. She was the person who got me round on the day in under five-and-a-half hours, that magical target which was the Rotterdam cutoff time.
Maybe I could have dragged myself round but not in that time. She was simply awesome.
Her offer to run in Liverpool with me lifted my spirits enormously at a time when the doubts were creeping in and with her managing my race, I knew my chances of success had suddenly shot up.
She has a special place in the Running With Diane story now. And she has my undying thanks for making it happen the way it did.

And to see my running pals Dave Pearson and Lesley Fisher at the finish line – as well as my closest and most treasured friend in the world Pam McVitie - to cheer me home was the icing on a very wonderful cake.

Hang on. Did I say cake, Maria?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

My turn, Diane

NOW it’s my turn to show Diane round the streets where I grew up.
The Liverpool Rock N Roll Marathon promises to be another hugely emotional experience for the two if us. This time, I hope we cross that finish line together, hand in hand, like I’ve dreamt it and lived it over and over in my head.
As I write this, there are just three days to go. Three days until the day I write the closing lines of Chapter One in the story of this life-changing experience.
I’ve tried to keep a low profile and avoid making rash predictions, like the ones I made as my first attempt in Rotterdam approached last month. I've learnt my lesson there. But I’m getting just a little bit excited as the next big day draws near, so I can’t keep quiet any longer.
After all, this is not about whether I do this or not on Sunday, it’s about honouring the life of a very special woman, whose bravery as she stared death in the face was extraordinary. My Diane.
It’s also about raising awareness of the charity Breast Cancer Care and the incredible work its staff and supporters do for families going through the same day-to-day hell that we did.
Since I started running last August, around 30,000 more women have discovered they have breast cancer. They – like the already 500,000-plus families in the UK living their everyday lives under the cloud of this terrible disease - endured that moment, that single moment when it is confirmed, when your worst fears are realised and your hopes are dashed. The moment which changes your life forever.
The moment you uncross your fingers, and stop believing in miracles.
Breast Cancer Care is there for all these families right where it matters, helping to rebuild lives shattered by this one moment. Miracles still do happen, and gradually you restore the belief that one of them could actually happen to you. For some it will, for others – like Diane – sadly not.
I run with Diane for all of them, whether or not a miracle is on their way.
That’s why this Sunday is so important. Perhaps even more important than Rotterdam. I need to honour my pledge to the many wonderful people who have supported the Running With Diane appeal, for all the heroes who work for Breast Cancer Care and for every person going through what we did. Whatever the future holds for them.
Diane and I did our best in Rotterdam but I guess we just weren’t quite ready. Now I feel the time might be right. And Liverpool still holds a deeply personal meaning for us both.
She showed me her beloved Rotterdam where she spent her happy childhood. Now it’s my turn to show her where I grew up, places she never got to see when she was alive.
I never got to show her, but I wish now I had, where we lived just outside Woolton Village on the way to Hunt’s Cross. Where I went to school at Liverpool College in Mossley Hill. I wanted to show her Penny Lane Records round the corner from school where I snuck to one day to buy the single Roundabout by Yes the Monday it came out in 1972. You weren’t allowed out of the school gates during school hours in those days but I decided to risk it that lunchtime. I made it back without being spotted. Just.
Sadly the marathon route doesn’t quite reach that far south, but it does course through streets I’ve trodden many times and there’ll be plenty of memories for me to share with her.
I would have wanted to take her on a No72 bus out of the Pier Head homeward bound for Hunt’s Cross, just as I had caught the last one home so many times way back then, after another good night with great friends, a belly full of Higsons and Bass and a smile as wide as the Mersey.
One night, the driver of the last bus home hadn’t bothered to scroll round his destination so as he headed past Lime Street on his way out of town the front of the bus still said “Pier Head”.
A man put his arm out up ahead and the bus pulled up. After three attempts to focus on where the floor of the bus beside the driver was, the man asked to go to the Pier Head.
“I’m not going to the Pier Head,” said the driver. “I’m going to Hunt’s Cross.”
“I want to go to Pier Head,” said the man, “it says Pier Head on the front.”
 “It says India on the ****ing tyres, I’m not going there either,” said the driver. And the man retreated and headed back off into the night.
It’s made me smile then and it still does over 40 years later. I think they call it rapier wit.
A little further on, the driver’s radio played Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. It was the first time I’d heard it.  This week, I’ve had another of his songs in my head. Get It Right Next Time.

No use complainin’, don’t you worry, don’t you whine
Cause if you get it wrong, you’ll get it right next time.

I got it wrong in Rotterdam but can't complain. And though I worried, I promised myself I certainly wouldn’t whine. There would a chance soon to get it right next time.
And here we are.
Back at the foot of another mountain, looking up, saying “Bring it on.”
The race starts at the Albert Dock. When I was living in Liverpool back in the 70s that was all it was. A dock called Albert. Grim, unloved, an eyesore. Now it is transformed, home to galleries, the Tate, cafes, craft shops, designer outlets, the Beatles Story, quayside apartments and sailing clubs.
Ah, The Beatles. More song titles spring to mind. Help! would probably have to be the first, if I’m honest. Then maybe The Long and Winding Road? Or how about Run For Your Life
In the end, only one sums out how I got here, how I made it to the start line and how it became possible to even dream this moment, let alone achieve it.
With a Little (it ought to say ‘a lot of’) Help From My Friends.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Diane works her magic again

MORE than a week has passed since the devastating disappointment of my marathon debut in Rotterdam. And it’s been a time of soul-searching and reflection.
It has been time well spent.
I needed to process what had happened and what was to happen next. I had already decided only minutes after failing to finish what was to happen immediately after. I knew there and then I had to find another marathon quickly to prove I could do the distance and to honour my commitment to the many generous people who had supported the Running With Diane appeal for the cancer support charity Breast Cancer Care.
So in less than five weeks, I take on the Liverpool marathon and it is hoped that the first part of this journey will come to its conclusion round the streets where I grew up instead of Plan A which was to do it round the streets of Rotterdam where Diane spent her childhood.
I still feel disappointed, still feel like I blew it on the day it mattered most. But that is because of the reason I was running it and the reason why I was running it in Rotterdam.
I knew it would be an emotional day. But I expected that emotion to be elation, not despair.
Back at the hotel, as I gazed out at Diane's beloved Rotterdam, I also made another promise – to her mainly. I will return next April to tackle it again - and every year until I conquer it. And every year after that, if truth be told, because this weekend will become an annual tribute to the woman who still guides me every step of the way despite losing her to breast cancer in February last year.
It will be a kind of pilgrimage, I guess. And when my legs won’t carry me round anymore, I shall go just to 

watch, to be a part of it, to cheer on the runners – including the ones who, like me now, will be trying to achieve what they never dreamed possible.
As I had predicted, Diane was with me every step of the 20 miles I was allowed to run. And she was with me afterwards helping to console me.
As were my friends. The messages of support I got from my fellow Burnden Roadrunners, relatives, friends and work colleagues were staggering. I felt I didn’t deserve such kindness at the time, but they convinced me otherwise. I couldn’t have got this far without their support and encouragement. And they still have their work cut out to get over that finish line at the Pier Head!
The first thing Diane told me as I sloped back to the start/finish area in Rotterdam, head bowed and feeling defeated, was that no-one said it would be easy. Nothing worth having is ever easy.
That’s why when I do eventually conquer Rotterdam, it will mean so much more.
People have reminded me where I was a year ago and how far I have come. That’s true, but the problem is I can’t let myself look back to a year ago until I have finished my first marathon. I will not shrug my shoulders and say I have done my best. I will not accept that I have come as far as I can. I will not let myself come up short. I have loads more to achieve. More adventures.
Hopefully, the streets of Liverpool will now be where I will finally reach the finish line. Then, and only then, will I look back and see how far I’ve come.
I will never pause and pat myself on the back while I am still short of where I want to be. Diane knows that, although she’s as bemused as I am where this mean streak in me has suddenly appeared from.
Wherever I was a year ago doesn’t alter the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be that Sunday in Rotterdam.
Don’t get me wrong. I am now grateful for what happened in Rotterdam. I perhaps needed to be reminded that I had come a long way, but still have a long way to go. It reminded me that it’s a journey that will go on for many years.
I had a magical weekend in the company of some wonderful friends and I saw loads more of this fantastic city than I did on my first visit at the beginning of the year. The crowds were awesome, the occasion was wonderful and I took away far more happy memories than that one sad one.
I have learned a lot from this. A lot about running. And a lot about myself. I know now this wasn’t failure. It was just another twist in the story. It was the marathon gods telling me I wasn't yet ready to earn that finish line elation.
Hopefully, they will smile on me in Liverpool.
I have emerged stronger from this setback. I am more focused, more determined and, most importantly, wiser. I feel a better runner for it. And, most importantly, it has given me fresh goals in life.
And it has made me a better person because I know more about myself now than I did when I lined up with the other 13,500 runners at the start line.
Diane has worked her magic again.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My unique and beautiful Rotterdam medal

I might not have earned a finisher's medal, but I have one more special than all those handed out.
My medal is unique. No-one else went away from Rotterdam with one of these except me.
It was given to me by my closest friend. It reminds me that this weekend was about Diane and not about me.
It was about enduring love and her incredible courage. It was about how one person can make a difference.
Diane showed me 20 miles of this beautiful city and it left me wanting more.
Zo dank je wel voor mijn mooie medaille, Els. Het is erg lief, en ik ben zeer gelukkig om je als een vriend.

Now I must honour my commitment to the many people who have donated to the appeal, who have coached me, run with me, supported me and encouraged me. To Burnden Roadrunners, to all at Smithills Sports Centre in Bolton, Lancs. They still have their work cut out.
I promised to run a marathon in memory of Diane in aid of the charity Breast Cancer Care and is important I do that quickly.
So I am off to Liverpool to run the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon to complete the task I couldn't manage in Rotterdam.
From the streets where Diane grew up to the streets where I spent my teenage years.
And the good news is I'll still be Running With Diane.

Just try and stop me next year!

Five things I have learned from the Rotterdam Marathon.
1: I must train harder
2: I must train harder
2: I really must train harder
3: No, seriously, I must train harder
4: For the last time, I am telling you, I must train harder

Five things I have really learned from the weekend.
1: The people of a city determine how great the marathon is not the organisers.
2: Even the runners slugging it out near the back are doing more than they ever dreamed possible.
3: Running is about joy.
4: Memories are the real prize for taking part.
5: I really must train harder.

Thank you, Rotterdam. See you next year.
Just try and stop me!

The Day of (Bad) Judgment

I think it's fair to say the weekend did not go to plan. After four hours and nearly 20 miles into the race I was advised to turn back as I was going too slowly to finish inside the cut-off time of five-and-a-half hours. So the dream of crossing that finish line with Diane evaporated.
It was a shame. There were thousands of us who were prevented from finishing by a cut-off time so harsh it seemed to suggest the organisers cared only about the elite runners and were embarrassed by the slow ones.
The people of Rotterdam were not so discriminatory. My race was one of the most magical experiences I have had. The people lining the route loved the way runners like me who were defying the odds rose up to the challenge as best they could.
While the organisers were having their precious pictures taken with the winners, people like me were still out there, responding to the fantastic crowds, joining in the fun with the bands along the route and high-fiving scores of joyful kids and their mums and dads along the route who were still cheering me on at 20 miles just before I was told to stop. The people of Rotterdam loved the fact that us tryers had come to their city to give it a go and do our best.
It is a pity some of their incredible generosity didn't rub off on the organisers.
Yes, I am slow and yes, the unusual heat that morning made me a bit slower still. But I had just over 10k to go and was feeling very capable of finishing - to be stopped at that point was devastating.
When I got back to the hotel, people were still being allowed to finish in London and they started half an hour before us in Rotterdam. So there is a message there.
It is lucky the people of this great city made it a weekend I will never forget.
And next year, I will be back. And I am determined the organisers won't get the satisfaction of thwarting me again.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The final countdown...

I WRITE this with less than a week to go to the big day, the culmination of a pledge I made just seven months ago to run a marathon to honour the life, and praise the courage, of my wife Diane, who died of breast cancer in February 2013.
When she lost her fight, just a few weeks after thinking she’d beaten this terrible disease, she made me promise her that I would not allow myself to go downhill. I was in a shocking state health-wise. I weighed 24 stones, had mobility problems and suffered from Type 2 diabetes.
I couldn’t get up a flight of stairs without struggling for breath. If I hadn’t done something quickly, I could have seen myself in a wheelchair within a very short space of time.
Now, here I sit, just over a year later, looking forward to next weekend. I now weigh 15-and-a-half stones (so still plenty to work off!), I have lost eight inches off my waist and dropped five shirt sizes. My diabetes is now undetectable and I am desperately hoping I can finish the 26.2 miles round Rotterdam next Sunday, the city where Diane grew  up and learned to be the wonderful woman I was lucky enough to share more than 20 years of my life with, in under five hours.
She never got to take me to the city, although she always wanted to. She wanted me to see where she laughed, cried, played, went to school and lived.
A lot of you will think I’m repeating myself, but the only point I’m making is that this is now a time for reflection. A time to take stock, before I fly off to realise this dream.
Life without Diane to hold, to hug, to kiss and to just be with, has been difficult. You put on a brave face, you try not to cry when anyone’s around. You try hard to cope and you have days when you don’t quite manage it.
But my life is not without Diane.
She is in heart and my head, especially when I run. That’s our personal, private time together. When I run, I think of nothing but Diane. And I want to think of her for as long as possible, so I want to run for as long as possible.
I think that’s why I’ve taken to this distance running so quickly. I can’t get enough of it because I can’t get enough of our “us” time.
People often talk about longing for some “me” time. I say cherish the “us” time. I have more “me” time right now than I know what to do with. What I crave is going back to all the “us” time I had with Diane. Make the most of yours. Before you know it, you might find yourself sitting like I did a year ago struggling to cope with how empty the house felt.
But my life isn’t empty. Diane fills it still. And she’ll be with me every step of the way on Sunday.
My biggest challenge on the big day could be to keep a lid on my emotions until after the race. It won’t be easy. Standing on the start line with the other 13,500 runners will be emotional enough, let alone running the race. Heaven only knows what the last 200 metres will feel like.
One thing is certain. This is not the end of this story. This is merely the end of Chapter One. I have begun to write on that blank piece of paper I mentioned in a previous post. Now we are on the brink of starting Chapter 2, and just like when I began to write Chapter 1, I have as yet no idea what it will reveal or where it will take me.
There are certain to be more marathons, more adventures, more ways to celebrate the life of Diane, the most wonderful person I have ever met or am ever likely to meet.
Cancer took her body away. But it could not take away what she means to me. I am aiming to show the world just how much she is still a part of everything I do on Sunday.

Someone is looking after me (Part 2)

I WAS one of those 6,000 runners who lined up in vain to run the Sheffield Half Marathon on Sunday, the one that was infamously cancelled 50 minutes after it was due to start.
No-one had delivered the water for the on-course water stations so the race couldn’t go ahead. But that was not the most remarkable thing to happen on such a strange day.
I was due to run for Breast Cancer Care and wore, for the first time, the charity running vest I will be wearing at next week’s marathon in Rotterdam. I’ve had it modified with the Running With Diane logo and the name of the marathon.
So there am I, in among 6,000 other runners randomly thrown together from various parts of the country and a young woman standing near me sees the wording, leans across and says, incredibly, that she too is running next Sunday in Rotterdam.
What are the chances of that? An unbelievable coincidence, given that I only confirmed I was entering Sheffield a month ago and only picked up the vest on the Friday before the race. Then what are the chances that in the middle of 6,000 people I happen to be standing near the only other runner in the crowd who is also running in Rotterdam?
And what are the chances that this young woman’s name would be Diane?
Someone is smiling down on me and wishing me well. I will not let them down...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Someone is looking after me...

THIS is a photograph Diane loved. It was taken in 1960 and sits in its original frame. She showed it to me when we first met and it has stayed with us ever since as one of our favourite things.
It's just a black and white photograph of a cruise ship, but like many highly sentimental items in a person's life, it is utterly worthless to a stranger but priceless to the person who holds it dear.
She cherished it, partly because it reminded her of Rotterdam, partly because it echoed her father’s working life at sea in this era – not on cruise ships, but as a merchant seaman.
The elegant boat, built in the 1950s, is the SS Rotterdam. I know how much it meant to Diane which is why it now means a lot to me. Sentimental value, which all the money in the world couldn't buy, like I say.
Some strange things have happened since Diane was taken from me in February last year but what happened last week takes some beating. I hesitate to say Diane is still influencing events in my life, deciding things for me, because I know what that makes me sound like.
But sometimes, things occur and you just have to shrug your shoulders, pull that “I dunno” expression and admit that something, somewhere must be making these things happen.
Surely it can’t all be dismissed as just a random series of coincidences.
My weight loss for a start – eight and a half stones in 12 months … and counting. Impossible to even contemplate 12 months ago. Taking up running after 40 years of not being the slightest bit interested in walking briskly, let alone breaking into a trot. The fact that I immediately became bitten by the running bug.
The fact that during this winter – the worst since 1910 we’re told – I have only once run in dreadful weather, a nine-mile training run round Leverhulme Park on New Year’s Day after a parkrun.
But, last Friday, what I discovered hit me as the oddest of all. It stopped me in my tracks, to be honest. I was deciding my hotel arrangements for April, where I’ll run my first marathon in memory of Diane, when up popped a familiar name.
SS Rotterdam.
I found out that the ship in the photograph which Diane got 54 years ago is now permanently moored on the Maas river in the city centre as a floating hotel. It's not far from the massive Erasmusbrug bridge which we cross twice on the route and which I stood on during my first visit to Rotterdam in January.
There it was. On, the same ship, built in the late 50s. 
So when I run this great race with Diane as my inspiration in less than seven weeks, I will be staying on the ship in the picture she held so dear.
Now, tell me that doesn’t start you wondering… 
Or shrugging your shoulders.
"I dunno...".

Sunday, 16 February 2014

It's time these two took a bow...

I think it’s time these two incredible girls got the credit they deserve for getting me through the past 12 months.
For those of you who haven’t met them before, let me introduce Bonny Lulu on the right and her big sister Cassie. Cassie’s 13 years old this year and Bonny will be six in July. Let’s not forget they lost their Mummy a year ago and miss her deeply, too.
Diane always wanted a King Charles Cavalier and when she became ill, that seemed the perfect time to make that particular dream come true. We were lucky we found Bonny. From the start, the difference she made to Diane’s life was obvious. Bonny’s just a bundle of joy that everyone falls in love with and she never spent a minute apart from Diane.
Cassie has always been Diane’s great love, too. She was only supposed to stay with us in the beginning, way back in 2001, until we could find a good home for her but both Diane and I knew the minute this little scamp walked in ours that nobody else was going to get a look in. She was ours.
And so when their Mummy went out one day and didn’t come back, they were both devastated. Confused and wondering what I had done with her, I guess. But instantly they rallied round me when they saw how upset I was.
People who don’t “get” dogs, will never understand that. They’ll also never know what joy they are missing. These two beautiful girls have helped me through the past 12 months by showing me the kind of devotion, love and support I never thought possible.
Two little dogs, so wise, so sensitive to every mood I was in and so faithful.
They quickly became my focus, just as I became theirs. Knowing I had to sort myself out health-wise - so I could take them on the walks they deserved and was there for them for many years to come, hopefully - was a major reason for me deciding to get fit after the loss of Diane.
So I guess, in a way, they’re a big part of the reason why I’m where I am now. They have helped me become a better, fitter person. And they will be in my thoughts when I leave them for a few days in April to climb my own personal Everest.
Thanks to them, I have never come home to an empty house, have always been greeted with joy as I arrived home from work in the evening and have always had a loving cuddle when I needed it.
I have also never gone to sleep without the soothing, comforting sound of Bonny’s snoring from the landing.
They have kept me company, got me out walking for miles and miles, and never once have they asked for anything in return. Like I say, people who don’t understand dogs don’t realise what they are missing out on in life.
And so, I salute my little girls. And I say thank you with all my heart to the pair of them. My Bonny Lulu and Cassie, without whom I could not have made it through as I have. I am forever in their debt and they will probably never realise just what having them beside me this past 12 months has meant to me.
But then they just love their Dad. They don’t see why it has to be any more complicated than that. There’s a lesson they can teach the rest of us.

Friday, 14 February 2014

For my Forever Valentine...

A year ago today, I gathered with family and friends to say goodbye to my darling Diane at a service celebrating her wonderful life, a life cut far too short by the curse that is cancer. 
It took from us all a very special person – it has a habit of picking on the best – and the world is poorer for not having Diane here in it any longer.
I remember that Valentine’s Day last year very clearly. It was a day much like today. Overcast, with clouds blocking out any hope of sun. It’s how I felt inside as I stood there watching her be carried in, my last moments with her in this life.
But not my last moments with her, by any means. She remains forever in my heart. She will always be my Valentine, the woman who made every day special and who still, somehow, manages to do that now. She still guides me, looks after me and is still my inspiration. She also still slaps me down when I get too big for my boots. So no change, really. 
I just missing not seeing her, not touching her and not being comforted by that gentle smile she always had.
People have said that it was unfortunate her funeral was on Valentine’s Day, that every year the day when everyone falls in love would forever have a sadness for me. I didn’t see it that way. To me, it was the perfect day to have it. It is the best day to remember the woman you love, wherever she might be. 
It’s the day when, a year ago exactly, I looked at her one last time in this life and swore I would love her forever.  I know I can’t send her a card, roses or chocolates again. But I can give her one thing today, for sure. Me. For keeps.
I know that Diane will always be my Valentine, always filling my heart – nothing and no-one can change that.
So for me, from today, this isn’t going to be called Valentine’s Day anymore. From now on, February 14 is Diane’s Day. Our day. A day to remember what true love really is.

Just like I promised you...

At that service, I wrote these words for Diane. I hope you don’t mind if I share them with you again.

“There is a reason why everyone loved Diane.  She was simply the kindest, gentlest, sweetest, most generous person you could meet. She saw good in the worst of people and rescued me when I was at my lowest. She is quite simply the love of my life and the most important person there has ever been in it.
“Everyone who met Diane is a better person because of it. She had that effect on people. And she will always live on in our memories.
“It’s so cruel.
“We had just started making plans together again, now the future seemed so much brighter than a few short months ago. Then this. It’s all so unfair.
“It doesn’t end here, though. Neither Diane nor I will allow it to.
“They try to keep telling me she’s gone.
“So how is it I still feel her hand in mine, still feel her head on my shoulder and hear her voice in my ear?
“The might think they have taken her from me, but they haven’t. She and I will stay together forever.
“Just like I always promised her we would be...”

Please do whatever you can...

The sad truth is the situation Diane and I were in is not unusual. There are more than 500,000 people living their lives under a diagnosis of breast cancer. That’s 500,000 people waking up with cancer, getting the kids ready for school with cancer, going to work with cancer ... there’s not a moment in your life after diagnosis that doesn’t have that cloud hanging over it.
That’s why the work of Breast Cancer Care is so important and why Rachel and I are running this marathon in Rotterdam, the city where Diane grew up.

Please help by donating whatever you can using the links on the right. Do it for the 500,000 living with this terrible disease. For the 50,000 more who will find out in the next 12 months have it. And do it for the thousands of wonderful people – like Diane – who didn’t make it.

Monday, 3 February 2014

My favourite photograph... reminding me a year on just how much I lost

This is my favourite photograph of Diane and me. 
It was taken almost 20 years ago during a great evening in the company of two very dear friends.
We look happy, because we were. She looks radiant, full of joy... just as I remember her. You can see the warmth of her character, sense that special something which made her so wonderful. The hopes, plans, dreams and wishes on a star we had then can be seen in those beautiful eyes.
I can sit for ages staring at this picture, this memory frozen in time of a moment in our lives when we thought we had it all and that we would have it forever.
I see those eyes, that smile, that bright and loving look on her face and I realise just how much I have lost and how much I miss her. I see in this photograph the woman I still adore. I often hold this picture close again and remember that golden time when we both knew how much we meant to each other.
I’m holding it now, it’s the one I always turn to when the going gets tough.

And it doesn’t get tougher than this week.

This Thursday, February 6, it will be a year since Diane lost her battle with cancer. It is the anniversary I’ve been dreading, the day when I think back a year ago and have to relive the pain of seeing this beautiful woman be taken from me.
She slept a lot of the time in the days previously. I hoped she was dreaming nice dreams, free of the pain she felt when she was awake.
I hoped she would be running somewhere, perhaps riding her bike as she often told me she did all the time, every day, growing up in Rotterdam.
I hoped she would be laughing, playing with her brother John and their friends in those innocent years. I prayed for her that in her dreams she felt as if she didn’t have a care in the world. And I hoped that somewhere in those dreams, she would find room for me.
I had stayed by her bedside each evening, watching her sleep. Even as she slept, I held her hand, and I would kiss her forehead as I said goodnight and told her I’d see her tomorrow.
I knew that one of those tomorrows wouldn’t happen. And so it was on that Wednesday.
I remember the phone ringing early in the morning, before dawn, and knowing when I heard it that it could only be one thing.
She had become worse during the night, they said. I should come quickly, they said. I immediately started to get dressed, but before I’d even pulled on a shirt, the phone rang again. It was the same nurse. She was sorry, but Diane had gone.
I still rushed to the hospital although there was no need to hurry. She was always going to be waiting for me when I got there. I held her hand and kissed her forehead as I always did. I held her close, one last time, and told her yet again how much I loved her.
She knew that anyway.
She remembered the evening that photograph was taken as well as I did...

I tried to fix you, Di...

Little things can trigger the most intense memories. One of those things of seemingly little significance which remind you of a particular momentous time or event, forcing you to take a moment to regroup such is the impact of this recollection.
Sometimes it’s a phrase someone says in passing, something as daft as a TV show, even a scent or smell that reminds me of Diane. 
Today, it was a song we both loved. 
It's a song which today stopped me in my tracks. I know I’ll get a load of stick for admitting this, but hey, I have toughed it out liking Sleepless in Seattle all these years so I can take it. Coldplay’s Fix You is one of my favourite tracks. And hers. But after Diane was diagnosed in 2006, it became difficult to listen to.
Maybe I was being silly, too precious about it (after all, the lyrics probably mean something entirely different) but the words seem to hurt all of a sudden, instead of warm the heart. 
The lyrics might indeed not necessarily mean what they came to mean for me, but that doesn’t matter. They still hurt when I heard them. So I stopped listening to it.

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.

When she was diagnosed, our lives changed in an instant. The sky turned dark and it became in a split second a future full of fear instead of hope.
I looked at Diane on that day we were told all our suspicions were true, and I saw the joy that was so obvious in that favourite photograph drain from her face, I saw the look of fear and worry in the eyes that shone so brightly in that picture... and I just wanted to fix it.
And I couldn’t. I couldn’t promise to make it all better this time, like I had in the past. I couldn’t be the person who put my arms around her and held her close to protect her from all the bad stuff. This was bad stuff I couldn’t fix.
I felt helpless.
We had our moments of respite, times when we genuinely believed we could get through this. But then she would have a bad day and we would be back to thinking the worst. But still we tried to fix it.
But, despite all our hopes, despite the belief that at the end of 2012 we had finally come through the worst, despite all that, I was there at home early that Wednesday morning, numb with grief.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something that you can’t replace

So today, when the song came on the gym TV halfway through a work-out, I feared it would bring me down again.
But strangely, it didn’t. It didn’t hurt any more. I felt inside me a fresh resolve. It made me, if anything, more determined to do this for Diane as I remembered how over the years we had held each other close while we listened to it. Oddly, today it seemed to have gone back to making me feel I was with Diane again.
Maybe I couldn’t fix her, couldn’t stop cancer snatching away her body. But I can damned well stop it taking away that special thing we had.
I can and I WILL fix that on April 13 in Rotterdam. I’ll fix it so the love you can see in our eyes in this photograph can never be taken away from us. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The only way is up - Part One

Another day, another diet, at worst another con trick, at best another silly gimmick. Diets, diets, diets. Something has to be done to stop people falling for the magic tricks of the con artists who dream them up. It might be time for the B-Plan. The Beevo Plan. The only plan you will ever need. 

But you're not going to like it. 

It won't make any newspaper headlines, it won't be something to wow your friends with. It's not a 4/3, 5/2, intermittent, no carb, protein-only designer diet. It's very boring. You just lose a massive amount of weight in a short space of time and it stays off. Sorry. I wish I could make it more interesting or give it a trendy name.

Fad diets are aimed at people who think they'll run faster if they wear expensive running gear. What little effect it does have is usually psychological. Because you're kitted out with designer stuff, you might feel more up for running and indeed initially you might see a difference in your time or performance. But it won't last.

Just like you might see early weight loss on a fad diet but that won't last, either. That, of course, doesn't matter to the snake oil salesmen who dream up these useless diets. All they need is for you to lose weight in the first week, then when you fail to progress with further weight loss, they can blame you for not sticking to it properly. Then they'll dream up another trick to con you with.

If you told yourself you were determined to lose weight and changed nothing, you would probably lose some weight in the first week. That's because subconsciously your attitude towards food changed. You were, without realising it, more disciplined in your eating. But this will fade and you will then stop losing weight. That's the same way fad, trendy diets work. They make the headlines or the magazine cover and capture your imagination but soon they have no effect at all. And you can't stay on them forever so what happens when you come off? Even without returning to your old bad habits completely, you'll still find the weight you lost creeping back on.

No. Sorry. I'm afraid it's boring and simple. I lost eight stones in 12 months that's a third of my original bodyweight by watching what I ate, what quantities I ate and by exercise. And it's staying off. Tedious, isn't it? There's not even a fancy name for it. Not even some "leading nutritionist professor", from a clinic which probably only exists on the internet, to explain the science ("It must be good, cos I don't understand a word of what he just said"). No Hollywood endorsements. No glamour. Just massive weight loss. Boring.

Boring, but amazing. I'll talk you through what I did and you follow me and the same thing will happen to you. Guaranteed. There's nothing special about me. I'm not prone to easy quick weight loss or I would never have got to 24 stones in the first place.

But that's what I was last January. Then I decided to do something about it. My spur, my inspiration, was the loss of my wife Diane to breast cancer last February. Last January, about this time, it became obvious to both of us she had more than just one of those winter bugs that were knocking about. I think Diane knew then that something was seriously wrong and yet she
kept insisting she was feeling better each day. Perhaps she was terrified of being told the truth.

When she died on February 6, I was not only a wreck emotionally, I was a physical wreck, too. I had watched the woman I had shared over a third of my life with fade away, cruelly snatched from me by this cursed disease.

It took me a while to get my head around what I had to do. In the weeks following the death of a loved one, particularly when that loss leaves you on your own, there are two ways you can go. It's touch and go which path you choose. You might think now, as you consider how you would react in the same position, that you be strong enough to get through it, but trust me you cannot possibly know until you are there. It's scarily easy to crumble.

In the end, I simply refused to allow myself to become The Sad, Fat Old Man Who Lives In The Corner House. The one the kids throw grit at the windows to annoy him and to get him to come to the door, shaking his stick at them to chase him off.

I could have become that person. But how would that have made Diane feel? I had been given the opportunity to spend the rest of my life paying tribute to her and keeping alive her memory. How could I do that if I slid into a self-pitying, self-loathing shell of a man living in a pit of depression.

I realised she hadn't gone. Cancer might have destroyed her body, but it couldn't touch the part of her that made her special and what made us special together. That spirit of me WITH Diane, the woman I adored, was still in my head and my heart. She was still guiding me. And it was still my duty to make her proud. Still my duty not to let her down.

And so, with her help, I chose to look up instead of down. And I joined a gym...


Monday, 6 January 2014

13 miles ... and counting

Twelve months ago, on our 17th wedding anniversary, Diane didn't feel like celebrating. She was still feeling under the weather with this bug she had got over Christmas.
Neither of us had any idea what was really going on inside her body. It never entered our heads that her cancer had returned. After all it was only a few weeks ago that she had come out of the Royal Bolton Hospital's Breast Unit with a broad grin, positively skipping back to the car with the news that she was off the tablets and could look forward to the rest of her life.
We could start making plans again, start building our lives back up now the clouds had parted and fresh rays of light had peeked through. All those years of darkness, now a hint of sunshine. It was the happiest I had seen her for more than six years.
Now all she had to do was shake off this bug and we could get on with our plans.
One of those plans was for her to finally take me to Rotterdam to see where she spent her childhood. Where she lived, went to school, played, laughed and cried. She would show me where she fell heavily from her bike and broke her teeth. She used to tell me how she would jump between the huge barges that were strapped together at the side of the Maas, the giant river which slices through the centre of Rotterdam.
Maybe some of her old school friends were still living in the city, perhaps one of her old teachers was still alive. It would be exciting for her to see how much it had changed. I was excited that I was to see it for the first time.
But all our plans were to be futile.
It wasn't a bug after all. Soon she would be gone.
Which is why I spent our 18th wedding anniversary running my first half marathon around the country lanes of Lancashire. More than 13 miles, the furthest, by some distance, I had yet attempted.
12 months ago, as I sat with Diane and hoped she'd soon be feeling better, I had no desire to run 13 yards, let alone 13 miles. But that was all to change.
I need to do this to help others going through the same pain. For those who hope they can too start to make plans again like we did. And for those, like us, who will see their dreams shattered.
So, here I am a year on. Less than 100 days away from running my first marathon. In Rotterdam. Where Diane lived, went to school, laughed, cried and, yes, lost those teeth.
I will at last see the city that holds so many memories for her. It will soon hold some cherished, precious ones of my own.
I did the half marathon yesterday. Eventually, after nearly two hours and 40 minutes, I passed that 13-mile marker and turned the last corner to the finishing line. I know now that having done that, I'm ready to realise this dream. To run in Rotterdam with Diane.
At last.

Friday, 3 January 2014

24st to Marathon Man - the story so far

For those just joining the blog, a quick catch-up...

RUNNING anywhere on February 6 2013 was the furthest thing from my mind. My beautiful wife Diane had just lost her six-year fight against breast cancer. She died at 7.20am, before I could get to the hospital.
Fortunately, the previous evening, like every other evening that she had lain in hospital, I had kissed her on the forehead, told her yet again that I loved her and would always love her and said goodnight to her as she slept.
In the final days, she slept most of the time. She looked serene when she was asleep. So I would just sit beside her bed and hold her hand, and watch her.
I hoped she was dreaming. I hoped she was dreaming that she was well again, that we were laughing once more and that the pain had gone. Sweet dreams, my darling Diane.
After her death, I realised that I had to do something to help others who were going through what Diane and I had.
When Diane died, I was in poor health. I weighed nearly 24 stones, had Type 2 diabetes and struggled to get up a flight of stairs. I felt vulnerable and alone. So I decided to get fit.
When I joined a local gym in April, I couldn’t walk on a treadmill for more than a minute. Now, seven and a half stones lighter, I’m looking forward to running my first marathon around the streets of Rotterdam where Diane grew up.
By the time I line up at the starting point I will have lost 40% of my bodyweight, dropped eight inches off my waist and gone down six shirt sizes. All within a little over 12 months. And all inspired by Diane and the need to make a difference.
To make a difference to ease the strain and stress of people going through what we had to go through. And the best way for me to do that was to run and raise cash for Breast Cancer Care.
I discovered I loved running – after 40 years of couch potato life – and did my first 5K round Salford in Lancashire where Diane was born. And Diane ran with me. This wasn’t in memory of Diane or “for” Diane – it was “with” her. She was there every step of the way, driving me on and making sure I did it. Thanks to the generosity of friends and colleagues, that run raised a magnificent load of cash and I was hooked. Now for that marathon …
But there is nothing unique about my experience, nothing special. The heart-breaking scenario, where you are forced to watch a loved one be slowly taken from you, is being played out in families the length and breadth of the UK.
And luckily, the dedicated team at Breast Cancer Care is there to help. Which is why I’m telling you mine and Diane’s story in the hope you’ll support this marvellous charity through helping us.

There are loads of ways you can help. If you're running in 2014, run in aid of the campaign. If not, then just follow us on Twitter and retweet our messages to get them to as wide an audience as possible. And join us on facebook at 

Let's make 2014 the year everyone Runs With Diane.
This whole experience has transformed my life and now I work on behalf of Diane raising money for Breast Cancer Care.
You can too. Be inspired like I was.
Breast Cancer Care does amazing work for families affected by this terrible disease. More than 500,000 people are living with a diagnosis of breast cancer. 50,000 more will find out they have it in the next 12 months.
That’s 500,000 living with cancer, getting the kids ready for school with cancer, dashing off to work and grabbing a slice of toast with cancer, getting the evening meals ready with cancer, doing the weekly shop with cancer. There’s never anything you do without cancer casting a cloud over it.
More and more people are beating the disease, but too many still aren’t. They need your help.
Once you get that diagnosis, the sky falls in. And it’s too much to face everyday life on your own. Family members can struggle to cope too. You need help, support, guidance and someone who cares.
And that’s why the work of Breast Cancer Care is so important. Because that’s what they do – help, support, guide and care.
If you’re running in 2014, please run it in aid of Breast Cancer Care. Help them help people like us.
Do it for all the brave and courageous women who are getting through each day under the cloud of this terrible disease.
And for all the brave and courageous women - like Diane – who didn’t make it.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Landmark day

Big day today - 100 days to go to the marathon in Rotterdam. Just over three months of training left and this Sunday I run my first half marathon.
Ah, Sunday. Another difficult day. January 5. It would have been mine and Diane's 18th wedding anniversary. Another day when I will share a quiet, private word with her and another day when I will tell her how much I love her and miss her. I'll buy a card, of course. I haven't reached that stage yet where I don't feel the need to. It's my way of telling her she is still as much a part of my life now as she ever was.
It makes Sunday all the more special. Running with her for our longest distance yet, I will cherish every moment.
And perhaps, after we've finished, she will finally believe I can do this crazy thing in April. Just goes to show, anything's possible if you're inspired. Not doing it is not an option. Not hitting every target I set myself is out of the question. I simply have to do it.
And I will.
Letting Diane down isn't an option either.