Chicago Marathon 2018

Run reports, blogging or generally keeping up to date is hard work! Like my running and training, I need more discipline to keep this blogging up to date and share my thoughts on these important runs. However, last week was the official end of my Chicago marathon journey which I felt I needed to share.

For those people reading this for the first time, 2017 was a life changing year with the diagnosis of kidney cancer and the removal of both cancer and kidney. I had not really reflected on the impact it has had on my well being. I sailed through the operation, had 4 weeks off work and went back to being normal David; working hard, running and just getting on with it.

However when you have a life changing diagnosis, it is as it says, life changing. Outwardly I have a scar and without seeing that, you can’t tell what has happened. But my outlook on life has changed. A little bit of uncertainty has crept into my life. Ten years of follow ups and scanning await. Aches and pains that would have been ignored now can seem massive. Don’t get me wrong, I am not thinking about it all the time but there is a check in my step now as I walk. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s bad.

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I am a really lucky guy not just about the cancer but also with races and entering them. I was fortunate to get a ballot place for London in 2017 first time and I received a ballot place for Chicago first go for 2018. So to mark my first year anniversary of being cancer free, I decided to run for St John’s hospice, Lancaster.

My partner Chris and I flew out to Chicago in October on the Thursday before the race. Unfortunately there are no direct flights from Manchester to Chicago so with the stopover in London and the delay, we were pretty knackered when we checked in. For those that have never been to Chicago, it is an amazing city with the centre being compact for walking as well as the L (or train system) to get about.

Friday was collecting the race number at the expo about half an hour outside the city centre. It was quite chaotic with queues initially (it did not have to be) but once you had collected your race number, there were a number of stands to visit. A nice touch was to receive the T shirt at the beginning which had a standout design and many runners were wearing them.

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Between the expo and race day, we visited a number of sights including art galleries, the Bean, Chicago symphony center and the cathedral. We were joined by one of our good friends Caroline, who went on to show us a number of other sights and also joined her for a meal with her husband Steve. One thing to reflect on for race day is that it is important to rest before a race, even if the temptation is to visit everything!

Sunday race start was at 8.30am and it was an easy walk from the hotel to the start. It started raining and it was about 12 degrees which was not unpleasant. It was good to talk to some of the other runner including Americans who had travelled great distances to run Chicago. The start was well organised and surprisingly we crosseed the start line within 15 minutes of the gun going off. However with the combination of jetlag and the sightseeing, I was tired before the 5 hours of running to do!

It is a flat course though with roads organised in blocks, there are lots of turns. The rain continued for another hour which made it a bit miserable but then it stopped and the humidity of the city made it interesting as the steam came off you. Support was good though not as densely packed as London. As we ran through different districts, it was good to pick up the individual feel of these areas through supporters, music played and the snacks that were offered. Unlike other races, the water and Gatorade was offered in paper cups which meant that I threw half over my face and the paper cups were mushy and slippery by the time I ran through the water stations.

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I ran and walked the last few miles but was pleased I managed to banish the demons of Brighton out of my mind (where I had picked up a thigh strain at mile 14 and hobbled to the finish). GPS is notoriously inaccurate in Chicago due to the buildings saying that I done the first couple of miles at 6 minute pace – I wish! Finish time was 5 hours 15. Not my best but not my worst. I felt okay at the end and I managed to walk home with Chris back to the hotel, where he ran me a lovely bath.

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The icing on the cake is that I raised nearly £6000 (after gift aid) for St John’s Hospice with an anonymous donation of £1000. I am so glad that I completed it and feel I can try and move on with my cancer now. Fundraising in 2019 is going to be much more low key but I have set myself some new challenges which I am really looking forward to.

David’s Lancaster Priory Sermon October 2018

Yesterday Chris and I celebrated our 16th anniversary together, meeting on the 20th October 2002. Since then I have listened to many sermons, mostly his and have given feedback on them. It is an unwritten rule of being a clergy spouse (fortunately it is not the same being a GP spouse).

If I have managed to stay awake or not been daydreaming, then I need to make one or two useful comments without being too unkind or harsh. When Chris suggested I might have a go at giving a sermon, he must have thought all his birthday wishes had come together in one go!

Remember Chris, we still have many happy years to enjoy together!

So where do you start when you want to write a sermon? Unlike essays or exams, there does not seem to be a company or website that will write them for you. So I turned to my trusted social media source, Facebook and took a quiz to see if that would help me.

So here are some interesting facts about me that you may not know.

I have a medical condition caused anosmia. It means I cannot smell and I have probably have had this since birth. I can certainly smell things that are very strong but bread, perfume or flowers and other such smells eludes me. However, this lacking has stood me in good stead as a doctor. When patients apologise for stinky feet or bring in samples, I smile as they are oblivious that it does not affect me.

I am a mad Star Trek fan. Yes, I have been to conventions, had the communicator badge, collected the DVDs and even worn the pointy ears. But please do not offend me by asking the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars.

As I mentioned earlier, yesterday was our anniversary of our first date. We had chatted on the phone and agreed to meet at the cinema in Colchester. However, I had not realised that I was waiting by the old cinema that had closed the week before and Chris was at the new one. Fortunately, a helpful passer-by corrected my mistake and we met, albeit late and so the story of Chris and David began.

I was not confirmed until my early 30s, my parents both Buddhists but not practising at home so religion was not discussed. I did go to a Church of England primary school but faith had very little meaning to me. However, meeting Chris and attending an explorers group and a Bible study class started me on the journey of wanting to deepen my relationship with God.

Many of you will have journeyed with me last year when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. 16th October 2017 was my operation date. It had started with an opportune meal with Pauline and Michael Fielding who mentioned that they had donated both a kidney to their son who needed one. A kidney transplant can revolutionise someone’s life from being on dialysis and allow them to reduce their medication and spend their life away from hospitals. It does carry risks for the donor but you can live a normal lifespan with one kidney and a live donor match is much more successful than one harvested after sudden tragic illness.

So in June 2017, I met the transplant team at Preston to undergo tests to be a donor to a stranger. In August, whilst scanning me, they found I had a kidney cancer and I underwent the operation to remove both the cancer and the kidney. I now undergo CT scanning every 6 months for the next 10 years.

One of my lasting memories of that period, was the Sunday before the operation. Chris and I sat in the Priory congregation and I had asked whether we could have a private blessing before the big day in the side chapel. However, this became a more public affair with 40 or so people crammed into the chapel, their faces full of love, tears and concern that will stay with me forever. For someone who has spent their whole professional life serving others, having that reversed and feeling the power of prayer and love was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

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So last month, I undertook the Chicago marathon for St John’s Hospice. Running has become a bit of an addiction having started with my brother Tony getting a place for the London marathon. I had run before but never really consistently but I decided 3 years ago, I would run my first marathon in Manchester. I don’t really have a goal when it comes to finishing apart from getting to the end. For me, it is more discipline of training and getting to the start line. I don’t even get a runner’s high. But as St Paul in the 2nd letter to Timothy said “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, and I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy Chapter 4.7.)

In fact, there seem to be lots of similarities between church and running. It does not matter if it’s your first 5k or your 10th marathon; just as it does not matter if you have been coming to church for the first time or for 20 years. It is the participation that counts and we should embrace and encourage that as a welcoming community.

In the Guardian newspaper this summer, it discussed the social movement of Parkrun to get people moving and ultimately healthier. A 5km walk, run, push a pram or walk the dog every Saturday 9am across the country. In fact, there are now 559 sites including one in a prison. 250,000 people participate every week across 20 countries, having started only 14 years ago and this is projected to grow to a million in 5 years. The ethos of Parkrun is that it is free and all are welcomed and treated equally. There is no hierarchy from the fast or the slow and children and first timers are especially welcomed. It is not a race and there are no medals. A recent article in the Church Times said even asked the question, “Is Parkrun the new church?” The article said that “it showed the vitality and innovative potential of the non-corporate, volunteer-based sector, of which the Church was once the largest national example.”

All this is brought by the power of volunteers. Parkrun only has 23 paid members of staff but its real collective power are the people who go, attend and volunteer whether it is once or twice a year or every week. Just have a look at some of the companies now doing that in a horizontal model rather than top down. Ones you may have heard of like Wikipedia, Freecycle and Tripadvisor. There are no hierarchies, but members or volunteer contributors do much of the work. There might be a lesson for us there.

A hundred years ago Dame Cecily Saunders was born. She started as a nurse in 1944 having studied at St Anne’s College Oxford but abandoned part way due to the war. She qualified as a nurse but gave this up shortly due a back problem and then become a lady almoner. She worked after the war in fledging hospice care and qualified as a doctor in 1957 having started her studies at the age of 33. It was her vision that created the modern hospice. She had spent time working in hospices and on 2 occasions fell in love with men who were terminally ill. Though there were hospices before St Christopher’s was opened in 1967, many were run by nuns and were just places where people died. What Cecily Saunders created was a place where people had their symptoms reviewed early, a place for teaching and research but also looked after the spiritual, emotional and psychological wellbeing of patients. A calm and peaceful place. She herself underwent a dramatic Christian conversion in the mid-1940s. She recalls this as ‘It was as though I suddenly felt the wind behind me rather than in my face. I thought to myself “Please let this be real” I prayed to know how best to serve God’. Though the philosophy underlying St Christopher’s was Christian, it welcomed anyone of any faith community or none. However, research has shown that patients of faith have a better acceptance of the reality of their situation when they develop a life limiting condition.

St John’s Hospice in Lancaster provides that care for the people of South Cumbria and Lancashire through inpatient, day services, hospice at home, Macmillan nurses and allied teams/professionals working around them. I used to work there as a weekend doctor and refer patients to use their services when appropriate.

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It was founded in 1986 and costs £9,000 a day to run of which only a third comes from NHS sources. As medical technology continues to improve and increase over time, hospice services are likely to become more important in the future. Thank you so much to those who have donated to my marathon run as we raised over £5000 for St John’s.

As St Paul said, running – and finishing – the race is important as a symbol of our living and believing. But – as with the Church – both running and worshipping are things we all do together. Can we rediscover the “vitality and innovative potential” of the whole community contributing towards our shared life here in Lancaster?

LMC 10k July 2018

This run from the Lancaster and Morecambe Athletics Club is affectionately known as the Golden Balls 10k as it runs past the said pub in Snatchems. It is a flat as you run out towards Overton on the cycle path and road when you then run up the hill with the return back to the club.

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In order to make the course 10k, there is an extra 2k dog leg back along the cycle path to Lancaster with the finish on the track at LMAC. It is well supported with lots of marshalls at turn points and a very strange ambulance that seemed to pop up all over the course.

It was hot and sunny and many of the runner were struggling with the heat compared to last year. However you are rewarded with a great medal as well as a goodie bag of food. One of the fab things about being a club runner is that you get lots of support from fellow runners especially when you run with the club top on. I started at the club having been to Lancaster Parkrun for about a year. Parkrun is where my heart is but club running has allowed me to push my running further in a supportive atmosphere. I do struggle to get there every week but at LMAC, people are welcoming with run leaders for different running abilities.

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North Wales Half Marathon 21/7/2018


My first review!

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging. I have been running and on and off for ten years but only seriously for the last two. My proper challenge was when my brother, Tony managed to get an entry to the London Marathon in 2016 and asked me to join in. I had run several halfs but the thought of choking on a full marathon especially London scared me into booking Manchester marathon 2016 and I have never looked back since.


North Wales Half Marathon

I booked this half 3 or 4 months before I picked up an achilles injury. It seemed sensible at the time as I needed a fun half to keep me motivated and I had managed to persuade my friend, Andrew to run it with me. The fact that the race was only a couple of hours away and had a beach start made it all the more attractive.

Unfortunately due to the achilles injury I had not run much in April and May to rest it as the physiotherapist had suggested. However Matt had given me the all clear to increase my mileage and start to train. However the renowed hills of the north Wales half was filling me with dread. The other fear was seeing all the other runners struggling with their runs in what has been the hottest summer for many years.

Fortunately the weather was on our side as it was a pleasant 18 degrees on the day with some rain. The race was well organised with numbers collected on the day and a chip given to tie to the shoe. There was a fun run 1k at 10.30am and then the main event started at 11am. There about 350 runners taking part mainly from Wales and the north west.

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The first mile was on the beach which was challenging having never run on a beach before. The ground was either hard and ridged or soft which made running hard and exhausting. Dodging the jellyfish was good fun too. After the beach start, there was a five mile stretch out along the coast hugging the sea to the right.

The route for the half is circular and after the first 10k, you double back and head up into the windy paths in the hills. Mile 7 was so steep and I had to walk as there was no way I could have run it. After mile 8, we were running through trails and tracks with a combination of hills and descents with amazing views of Conwy on display. Mile 10 to the end were pavements though the beach reappeared for the last mile.

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A very satisfying 2.31h was my time with a great smile on my face that I managed to run most of it and saw some amazing sights as well as run injury free. You receive water, a medal and a cotton tee at the end. Perhaps for a larger fee, we could have all received a technical tee but these were on offer for a charge. The race was very well marshalled with many volunteers encouraging and checking on you at cross points.

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A very interesting race with all terrains served and very well organised. It only has a small number of entrants so I do hope it grows as the years pass.