During October 2000 whilst working at a Bournemouth fire station, Terry Brokenshire, a lad on my shift, mentioned in casual conversation that he was going to run the London Marathon dressed as a giant heart! Terry explained how he had become involved with CRY after experiencing the tragic consequences of heart failure in the young whilst working as a lifeguard in Somerset. Consequently myself (Left), Neil Ditch (Middle) and Terry (Right), all Dorset Firemen, pledged to run for CRY.
Training was well underway by the New Year as we pounded the streets in preparation for the big day in April, whilst badgering everyone we knew for sponsorship. The costumes were dispatched from CRY. We would certainly stand out on the day!
Traveling up to London the day before the Marathon gave us the opportunity to meet the CRY team of Steve and Tony and other CRY runners. Adrenaline levels were rising and sleep was hard to come by that night. Sunday dawned and in no time we found ourselves on the starting line. The gun was fired and 30,000 runners were on their way.
Myself, Neil, Terry, Steve and Gordon all running in heart costumes decided to run together and crossed the actual start line nine minutes after the gun had been fired. As we did so a microphone was thrust into my face and we were interviewed by BBC TV. What a coup for CRY! Gordon’s mobile phone rang and it was confirmed that the interview had gone out live to the whole nation. I just hoped that I had said the right things.
The crowds were already large and constantly shouted encouragement, our names were pinned to our costumes so rang in our ears for the whole 26 miles. The early miles passed, the pace was steady and we were swept along by the occasion. Many spectators shouted that they had seen us interviewed and everyone seemed to know we were running for CRY.
The Cutty Sark came and went and we crossed the Thames at 12 miles. The weather was perfect and slightly to our surprise we found that our heart costumes really were easy to run in, which also meant that we could not use them as an excuse if we did not finish!
The five of us ran together until half way at which time we realised that we would all have to run at our own pace if we were all going to complete the distance. The crowds encouragement pushed me on to the Isle of Dogs and I passed the 18 mile mark. Suddenly the pain began and between 19 and 22 miles each mile seemed longer, my legs ached and my energy was draining rapidly. Those 3 miles seemed like an eternity but my costume was repaying me with support. The crowd seemed to pick me out baying encouragement. They would not let me stop even if I had wanted to.
The cobbles came after passing Tower Bridge. More pain! I arrived at the Embankment. Two miles left. The crowds swelled again and my energy returned. The Mall was in sight and I crossed the line in 4 hours 38 minutes. I finally stopped running. An emotional moment!
I soon met up with the other CRY runners. We eagerly swapped stories and lapped up the atmosphere. The journey home was a long one. Our legs stiffened up and we all had trouble getting in and out of the car. If I had been asked at 20 miles if I would run again I would have said “never” but on the journey home the seed was beginning to grow again!
The time had come to collect the sponsorship money. People were very generous and the task was easier than expected. By the end of May I had handed my cheque to CRY.
It is now July and looking back the whole occasion was a fantastic experience which was certainly enhanced by running for such a worthwhile and supportive charity as CRY. Roll on next year!