Walking with Jeff Stelling & other stories
There are so many great stories from the marathons (I say marathons all but one was over 26.2 miles with some days hitting 29 miles which does not seem that much more but I promise you when you have just done 10 marathons those extra 3 miles are a killer) I could not do many of them justice in my email but we effectively walked from Exeter to Newcastle via 40 football grounds of all shapes and sizes from small non league council run grounds to the massive premiership stadiums. Along the way I met so many great people, many either had or still have prostate cancer but many more were walking for someone not able to which really brought home what it was all about as far too many men are no longer with us because of this disease.
We were all made so welcome by the football clubs, the smaller the club the better the welcome too. I experienced my first ice bath at Forest Green Rovers FC, I felt like a cocktail, all I needed was an umbrella and a plastic monkey over the side and that would have been it, after 10 minutes of freezing my bits off I was relieved to get out and start to defrost! Not sure what its supposed to do to you other than make your jaw ache from chattering constantly!
I mentioned last time that over 80 friends and colleagues joined me on various days. They were so inspirational to me as their reason for being there was me, many were not that fit, yet they all completed their allotted day(s) some really pushed themselves to the limit. I seemed to fare ok over the 15 days but many had chafing where you don’t want to chafe and blisters on their feet that were potential walk stoppers but still battled through. I just hope that they all remember the day fondly as I do and that in 2018 do something bigger and even more challenging for the charity however I am so grateful for every penny and bit of awareness they raised.
I mentioned that three of us intended to do all 15 marathons, my (new) friend Ian and I set out with every intention of doing all with Jeff (who is a complete legend by the way!) however life throws curved balls at you that you cant prepare for. Ian, in his wisdom, wore some new anti blister socks on day 1 and 2. These with the heat made his ankles get blistered (how does that work!) with, in the words of the Forest Green Rovers physio, the biggest blisters he had ever seen in his life! Both ankles were covered in them. A couple of trips to hospital seemed to have them under control but after day 10 cellulitis had started so Ian had to very reluctantly pull out. What makes the measure of the man though was his continued support of the other walkers on the last 5 days, Ian in the only way he could, never gave up.
As for me, well I got to day 8 and then had to come home as I needed to do something sadly unexpected for my family however my heart was set on doing 15 marathons in 15 days. After an initial bit of resigned sadness I then started to hatch a plan. I could walk day 9 still but then get a train from Blackpool home straight after the marathon ended at 7-00pm and get home just after midnight. I needed to drive my daughter to Swansea university the next afternoon, stay there the night and then meet her after her final exam and help her empty her flat after lunch then drive her home back in London. The next day I needed to get up to Harrogate for the evening so I could carry on for marathon 13. That effectively left me with a six hour window each morning for 3 days. So what did I do? Well rather than walk, I ran 3 marathons, one each of the 3 days. I then decided in keeping with the spirit of Jeffs March I would go to football grounds so day one I ran from home to AFC Wimbledon, Hampton and Richmond and finally Corinthian Casuals then home, the next day it was Swansea, I could not find any other football grounds in my 26.2 mile run apart from Swansea but did see (not unexpectedly) many rugby stadiums and finally day 3 I ran from home to Banstead Athletic to Sutton United and then home again. Each day I ran exactly 26.2 miles. Those marathons were done in 5-07, 5-17 and 5-09 (although all 3 are my slowest ever road marathons!), not bad following 9 walking marathons with no drink stops, food stops, crowds cheering or medal at the end (I had to carry all my food and water but I guess I am used to that).
So whilst technically, I did not do all 15 of Jeffs marathons I did do 15 in 15 days so achieved my goal. I guess there is a lesson for everyone here, if you want something bad enough then you can usually find a way with a bit of creativity and effort (and yes running a marathon is definitely harder than walking one!). The one bit of sadness was that many colleagues had signed up for one of the 3 official Jeff marathons that I missed so I did not get to walk with them for which I am sorry (my loss mind you not theirs!), in particular my friend Dave who came up from London on his own to do day 12, I owe you mate.
During the various marathons I did a fair few radio and press interviews, many live including 10 minutes on BBC 5 Live, I hope that I did the charity and myself justice on them. Many celebrities joined us on different days, many of them struggled with the distance too, some even dropping out which surprised me for ex pro footballers. There are too many to mention but they all happily chatted, gave selfies and for me even did a few videos bigging up some mates and their football teams however the best person I walked with was my wife who joined me on day 15 and did the whole route from Durham to Newcastle, got blisters along the way but gave me such a massive mental boost by being there.
Overall, I hope that Prostate Cancer UK met their objectives from the March, Jeff Stelling certainly has gone up even further in my eyes as to give up effectively 17 days of your holiday only to be put through the mill both by walking 400 miles, have a seemingly non stop demand for press interviews and still have time for everyone who wanted to talk and walk with him was amazing. All that because two of his friends have prostate cancer. It makes me yet again humbled and emotional that so many of you reading this have done so much to support me in one way or another too, thank you. I have had so many emails about not just people doing one of the Marches but also other fund raising events that you have done for Prostate Cancer UK, I think in total the sum raised will be well over £100,000 just by people supporting the charity because of me.
When we were at Harrogate we were met by a research scientist who has a lab in York with other technicians all funded by Prostate Cancer UK, the advances made in understanding the disease are huge. The £100,000 that friends and colleagues have raised effectively pays for that lab to be open for another 4 months, that is a lot of research, thank you all for what you have done towards that, not just from me but for mine and everyone else’s kids today who because of ongoing research should not have to face prostate cancer as a killer as I and others have to which is why it remains a priority of mine to keep going until they sort out what they need to for everyones sake.
Finally, on the subject of Jeffs March, I have to thank the staff of the charity. One could argue its their job to do what they did however if you witnessed as I did the 15 days of 6-00am starts and 11-00pm ends, chasing around to make every walker have the best experience, maximise press, PR , fundraising and always have a smile for anyone and everyone then you too would wish to thank them as I do, they all went above and beyond.
So back home and straight into the reality of my next stomach hormone injection and blood test. Whilst I try to get less anxious about the blood test the last 3 have not been going in the direction I wished so I was relieved to see that this time there was a 25% improvement in my “score” down to 0.11, the lowest its ever been (Remember it started at 342 so the current number is fantastic as it means that when things go wrong I will have more time to try different drugs and slow progress). Smiles all round in the Webber house that night!
Next up is my 230 kilometre race in Al Andalus, Spain. I travel in 8 days, physically I think I am ok but do have a sore hip (again!) however I am sure it will be ok. This is yet another hot race with temperatures over 40c every day and nights still over 20c. I have been doing the hot yoga again in Wimbledon most days, it really helps the heat acclimatisation but also is just a great experience. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with any aches/pains or mental stress, I am pretty rubbish at yoga but that does not really matter.
Thank you all for reading this, as ever if you don’t want to get any more then email me back and I will not send them, I wont be offended if that’s the case.
My final thoughts are about attitude, I guess in part inspired by myself completing those 3 marathons when it seemed like my dream was about to go and that is “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods” I guess we should all stop being afraid of what could go wrong but instead focus our thoughts and energies on what could go right.
Have a great July, smile more than you did in June... ;-)
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