End of the road

“Although we’ve come,
To the end of the road,
Still I can’t let you go”

End of the Road, Boyz II Men

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve realised it’s probably time to dim the lights, do the final sums and sign off on the Twelveathon with an official grand final total unveiling.

There will be some nauseating X-Factorish musing on my “journey”, but this will be at the end and it will be short (I may use the word ‘closure’ though, so be warned).

First, the most important bit – the final, final total raised, including Gift Aid, was £14,406.20, which means a little over £7,200 for each of the charities. Wow.

What this will mean for UNICEF? Well, £7,200 might buy…

- School supplies for 500 children
- 200 treated bed nets to protect children or pregnant women against malaria
- Furniture (desks, chairs, etc) for a class of 50 primary school children
- Training for 4,000 schoolteachers, to teach children about HIV and AIDs
- 400 immunisations against wild polio and other diseases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Materials to raise awareness and so prevent outbreaks of cholera for 300 children and 900 adults in Haiti.

£7,200 would buy all of that, or fund projects of similar worth, saving and improving thousands of lives.

For Scene & Heard, £7,200 performs a simpler function – it allows the work to carry on. The budget for the entire organisation is very small by UK charity standards, so a sum like this will make a big difference in allowing the award-winning projects to continue and help children in one of the most deprived areas of London.

The second most important thing to do is thank everyone I can think of and who made this last bewildering year possible.
- Alan, for helping me come up with the idea in the first place.
- All the support from the fundraising teams at UNICEF (Sally, Cesca, Michelle, Clare, Alyrene, Ruth, Isabelle and Rachel) and Scene & Heard (Ros, Simma and Kai) for feeding me ideas, answering my questions and cheering wildly at various races.
- Shaulan for sourcing, selling and then giving me the money from various baked delights.
- M’esteemed colleagues in Billericay for organising Olympic and Halloween fun days to put a few hundred extra in the coffers.
- All the Jimathon runners for helping me get the best time all year in one of the best days ever (Kirsty, Alan, Steve, Adam, Shane, Rob, Mason, John, Laura, Robin, Dan, Anna, Jim, Andy, Teresa, Lekshmi, Isobel, Kate, Lorraine, Susie, Rachel, Liz, Bruno, Gavin, Vicky, Emma you are all amazing) and Elizabeth for knitting the finest medals of the year!
- My team (and particularly Steph and Liz) for organising raffles, and shaking tins to help me out all year.
- All the runners who have offered support and advice before, during and after races and taught me how not to knacker myself. It’s a hell of a world to get to know and I’ve heard some wonderful and inspiring stories of people far braver and tougher than me to contend with.
- The performers at Chabaret for their time and talent (Mat Ricardo, Ginger Blush, Richard Herring, Shirley & Shirley, Benjamin Louche, Mandy Muden, Frisky and Mannish, Sarah Louise-Young and MC extraordinaire Shaun W Keavney).
- Ben and Rose of the Double R Club for organising the tremendous and traitorous Battle Royal on Jubilee Weekend with performances from Tricity Vogue, Emerald Fontaine, Kitten Von Strumpet and Dan Lees, Nathan Dean Williams, Randolf Hott, Fancy Chance, Preacher Muad’ib, Minxie Mayhem, Georges Kaplan Presents and the magic was held together courtesy of Violet Crumble, Shaun Mooney and Amelia Kallman.
- The glorious Hula Hop band and team of Steve, Dan, James, Susie, Anna, Sally, Eve, Alice, Rachel and Toby.
- Everyone who came to cheer at the marathons (you knocked MINUTES off my times by spurring me on) or put me up (and put up with me) for the far-flung ones (Louise, Kaidi and the rest of Team Belfast; David and Carole in Brighton; Mum and Dad in Edinburgh)
- God
- My homies
- My family, for love, support and hard-wearing genetic material
- You, for actually giving the money and making this ridiculous project make a difference. You have given a staggering amount of money to change the lives of children and I am grovellingly, stupidly grateful (unless you are reading this having not given anything in which case I feel NOTHING about you.)

The biggest thank you has to go to my girlfriend Zoe.

To try and list what she has done: designed the logo, massaged my joints, organised Chabaret, organised Hula Hop, baked and baked charity cakes, helped make the videos, travelled to and cheered at all 12 marathons, then made sure my weary, incoherent form managed to get back home in one piece afterwards

But that doesn’t really capture the most important thing, which is that from the moment I said I was going to do it, she believed in me and took it on as OUR adventure. I simply wouldn’t have made it without her.

The day after the Berlin marathon I asked her to marry me and she said yes and now I can’t wait to see what more adventures we’re going to have together.

And that’s it. This year I ran 12 marathons and raised some money. Have I learned anything or gotten some great revelation? Maybe that bloody mindedness will get you a long way. “Look after your knees” perhaps. Or “Always ALWAYS use Vaseline”.

If I had one lesson to pass on, it is that if you think you can do something, then you probably can. And even if you can’t, you should do it anyway, because you might make something extraordinary happen.

Happy new year.

24 hours and it’s over…

Pre-race nerves are everywhere today, making me a jittery and unpleasant bugger to be around. Went to register in the biggest marathon expo I have ever seen (with the worst organised queuing) and picked up metres of tape and plasters for my ankle, which still has a raw patch from Odense. I am paranoid about every twinge and perceived ache in my legs – “is that my hamstring?” “my knee feels stiff” ” have my toes fallen off?” etc….

I would not have imagined this one year ago.

I got an email this morning from my friend Alan, wishing me the best of luck for the marathon tomorrow. It was particularly apposite, since Alan was the one sitting with me in The World’s End in Finsbury Park one afternoon during that glorious April sunshine when I came up with the idea for the Twelveathon.

Given that we had just played a stunningly inept game of tennis, it was a quite surprising move on my part to propose taking on a sporting endeavour that would require a significant improvement to the fitness levels that had seen me lurch after even the slowest serves with all the grace and energy of a lump of yoghurt sliding down a toddler’s bib.

That seems quite a long time ago. Now I am here in Berlin, with 11 marathons behind me this year, unsure of what to expect tomorrow. I have resolutely treated each race as a single step on the way to completing this task, not allowing myself to think about the whole achievement or the scale of it. But now it is all I can think of.

Tomorrow feels like the real race is finally here, that all the other marathons have been building up to this point. We don’t often get clear beginnings and ends in our lives. Now I have a real and symbolic finish line rolled into one,

Only have two main thoughts – make sure you enjoy yourself and don’t fuck it up.

Let’s hope both come true.

Michael Sheen and my noble stupidity

Michael Sheen and I have a lot in common.

We’re both Welsh, we’re both supporters of UNICEF and Scene & Heard, and we both had promising sports careers as boys (Michael was scouted for Arsenal, I made some waves in the Llanishen Under 16s Second XV).

However, what I was unaware of was that we are both big fans of each other’s work. Whilst I have long admired his nuanced acting on stage and screen, it turns out he thinks me running all these marathons is pretty cool (as opposed to appreciating my use of tracked changes in Word) and has sent the following message to endorse my efforts:

Jim Paterson is attempting something both noble and completely stupid. I fully endorse this combination and still hold both those values as ones we should all aspire to. The organisations he’s trying to raise money for are ones that I am involved with and encourage you to support in whatever way you can. They are both working to make significant changes in the lives of children; for UNICEF, it is a global project, whereas for Scene and Heard, it is specifically for children in a very particular area of London, but both organisations are united in their desire to change the lives of children who need it most. I urge you to support Jim in his foolishness and in doing so, know that you are not only helping to make real changes in the lives of vulnerable children but also waving the flag for noble stupidity everywhere. – Michael Sheen

I think that is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me that includes the words stupidity and foolishness.

If you’d like to heed Michael’s call, make your donations for children and noble stupidity here. We’ve only a couple of hundred quid to go!

Trans-Europe Express – Part I

Yesterday I ran my first ‘official’ sub five-hour marathon at the Hans Christian Andersen marathon in Odense, Denmark. Although I did 4h 49m last month for the Jimathon, the fact it was such a big improvement in time (18 minutes) kept making me wonder whether I’d measured the course incorrectly and had in fact only run 25 miles. So to actually do it with the soulless, yet relentlessly accurate, electronic timing chip telling me I had actually, properly, no messing done it felt really good.

Couple of things I noticed yesterday:

Danish marathons are fast
Although there were about 6,000 running yesterday, the standard was much higher than my experiences of a similar-sized British marathon would be. I first worked this out when I was looking around for the pacers’ balloons indicating what time they were measuring. I was stood by the 4h 30m (the slowest I could see) and thought “I wonder where the rest of the pacers are”. About one minute before we started, it finally dawned on me that they weren’t expecting a lot of 5h+ runners and a groaning shiver of terror ran down my spine.

Charity stays at home
With the caveat I’m not that familiar with Danish charities and could be completely wrong, I struggled to see any charity runners on the course – mainly saw running clubs. Saw them from the back of the field, obviously…

A few days off now before next Sunday’s Berlin marathon and the end of the Twelveathon.

Blimey.

Jimathon Video Diary

I’ve finally got the harrowing footage of my wonderful, sweaty friends helping me run a marathon last month. We did 26.2 one-mile loops starting and finishing in Postman’s Park and defied the beating sun and some rather varied fitness levels to help me get a new PB of 4h 49min.

I was struck while editing it just how many people said “I don’t/can’t really run” and then went and ran a mile or more with me. Mind over matter in action.

Only two more to go….can’t quite believe it…

Them’s running words

When I started training for the Twelveathon, I started reading a LOT about running, initially for advice on training, then to see what it had been like for other people. These are some of the best ones I keep coming back to – either because they’re full of great advice, great writing or just because the personality of the writer strikes a chord with me.

Christopher McDougall – Born to Run – I have only recently started reading Chris’ blog after finishing Born to Run (which I will, like many of its readers, write a shiny-eyed paean of beatific praise about in the next couple of weeks). He’s a really engaging writer, in the classic American magazine style, and along with ultras, is chronicling the growth of barefoot running and other themes covered in Born to Run and their impact on the wider running community with great insight.

Jenny Hadfield – I first came across Coach Jenny’s writing when I was trying to find out more about just how exactly you pace yourself when you’re trying to run 12 marathons in a year. Her advice (basically, remembers its one long race, not 12 short ones) was really helpful and her style of writing – authoritative, friendly and drawing on personal experience in the right way – is reassuring to read and leaves you with plenty to think about when planning your next set of runs.

Bangs and a Bun – This blog is not solely about running, because the interests and opinions of Ms Bangs (Muireann) herself are so diverse, but running is a big part of it, and she writes with magnificent passion and eloquence about the impact it has had, and continues to have, on her life and how, through Team Bangs on the Run, she encourages other women to make it a part of their lives. It is also an excellent place to learn about international knitwear.

Jog Journal – What I like about this blog is the way is that although Paul is a strong runner, he catalogues his runs warts and all, with no vanity and good humour, so you get a picture of how each run felt, why it was different from the last and what his mind and body go through on each one.

Lazy Girl Running – Like Paul (and indeed all of the blogs on here), the honesty of Lazy Girl Laura’s blog is part of what makes it a good read. Having been at it for four years, she still doesn’t always like running, she finds it difficult to motivate herself sometimes and has yet to commit to a Triathlon despite her best intentions. But she keeps at it, and even though she is running some really impressive times, the voice is that of someone who still remembers the nervous person they were at the start of their first race.

Jog Blog – Probably the funniest running blog I have read, primarily because the entries are as much about the absurd things life throws at Cathy during her runs as the running itself. Any blog that works the phrase “I was hoping the cows would bite that dirty old man’s dick off” into a tale of a bike ride has to be worth a read.

So yeah, check them out. And if you know of someone I simply absolutely completely MUST read, then please tell me about them…

Help me run a Jimathon

Following some internal debate regarding logistics, time and the lingering suspicion it’s a bit hilly, I have decided not to run the Isle of Man marathon for my tenth marathon this year.

This means I need a replacement marathon, and one that takes place before mid-September if I still want to have the big finish in Berlin.

So instead, I will be running a Jimathon on Sunday 19 August and I’d like you to join me.

The idea is to run laps of a one-mile circuit in the City of London, when it’s quiet at the weekend. In order to avoid loneliness and introduce a bit of variety, I’m looking for 26 volunteers to run a mile each with me (though if you want to go further you’re very welcome). Think of it as a very long relay race, in which for some reason you’re pacing an increasingly red and sweaty Welshman.

We’ll work out exact logistics closer to the time, but expect to start about 9.30 and overall pace will be between 5hrs – 5hrs 30min. I tend to have some very slow miles in the second half, so don’t feel you need to be super athletic. Pace per mile will vary between 9-15 minutes, so as long as you’re on that spectrum, you are PRIME JIMATHON CALIBRE.

Totally unofficial, and any new PB will not be recognised by any international governing bodies but you’ll be recognised by me as being AWESOME. Plus we’ll bring sandwiches, cake and set up a cheering point so your mile will be celebrated like a mile has never been celebrated before!

If you’re free and fancy it, comment below the line here or give me a shout via Twitter.

Catching up with myself (Part II)

How do you cope with marathon ennui?

Ennui

"Ah! Le marathon! Je despair..."

One of the recurring themes that comes up when people talk about marathons is the special, almost transcendent challenge it presents to the individual. To quote Emil Zapotek “If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”

However, what I have felt during my last couple of marathons is that the running has become ever so slightly workmanlike. The euphoria and sense of accomplishment that accompanied the best moments in Florida or London has been replaced by a resigned determination to get round and a confidence (or complacence?) that I can now get round in or around the 5h 15min mark – calmly within myself.

They aren’t easy as such – I’d be getting faster if that were the case – but now I have a strategy to cope with getting through them and by sticking to it I have been safe, injury-free and a little bit bored. The rush of emotion and exhilaration has been lacking.

Part of it is the relentlessness of preparing for run after run. Having run six marathons in the last 10 weeks (and nine this year), I’m quite grateful for a break as much to rest my brain and not have to spend another weekend schlepping round the country (though I’m aware this is worse for Zoe, who doesn’t even get a medal at the end of it – just a tired, grumpy man that smells like “a thousand dead men’s sweat”).

Which isn’t to say that the last three haven’t had their unique points…

Edinburgh was hot. Opening-of-Sexy-Beast hot. “Scotland might surprise you”, runs the current Scottish tourist board slogan. And it did – the land had been transformed into a baking desert of remorseless sun.

Weather for running is a bit like porridge for small children in fairy tales. Too cold and wet and your spirits drop, your body temperature gets low when you start to slow down and your running gear gets heavy with rain. Too hot and you sweat more, increasing the risk of dehydration, risk sunburn or sunstroke and are victim to getting increasingly withered by a remorseless heat just as you are getting increasingly tired the further you run.

Edinburgh was very definitely ‘too hot’. People were collapsing at the side of the road from the halfway mark. I saw one man with an oxygen mask clamped to his face, deliriously shouting “Get me an ambulance! I won’t tell my Mum!” while a St John’s Ambulance volunteer tried to calm him. It was so hot that my initial hopes of going sub-5 hours turned into just getting round without losing my upper layer of skin. Which I did, in 5 hours 10 minutes. Probably, considering the circumstances, my best run.

The Wales Marathon was another surprisingly hot one. The route started and finished in Tenby, taking in a long loop via Pembroke and through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It was very up-and-down and a bit sparsely supported outside the towns. But it was friendly and I was able to do a fast first half then slow down to deal with the more rugged second half without too much trouble. Even had time to chat to a few of the other runners, who were from a very varied set of backgrounds. A gentle-ish time of 5h 19min reflected the generally relaxed nature of the run.

Cheltenham, however, was an omnishambles of a marathon on my part, which can be summed up with these points.

  • There was no mass start. You started by yourself at any time between 7am-11am, so I turned up at 9.30, dropped my bag off and they gave me a map (!) and said “Right, off you go.” And I did. By myself.
  • There were no spectators. Just me and the occasional other runner/walker to grunt at. The organisers did their best at the water/refreshment stations to buck up your spirits, but this was a run for those who were good at setting their own pace and sticking to it. I am not one of those people.
  • The Cotswolds: Surprisingly hilly.
  • The preceding days of rain had left it rather muddy – making it very slow going and rather slippy underfoot.
  • This meant that it took me 7 hours and 14 minutes to complete it…
  • And I fell over three times.
  • But actually, that time looks more impressive when you consider I got lost and ended up taking a two-mile detour – meaning I actually did 28 miles.
  • Finally, while pausing to check if an injured runner was OK, I electrocuted myself on an electric fence.

So that’s why I’m tired. But if I take a step back to look at the bigger picture, then I know that this IS what I need to do to finish the Twelveathon. The always excellent Coach Jenny’s advice is to consider the whole 12 marathons as your goal – “In order to finish the last event, you have to race wisely in the first few”. So running within myself is exactly what I need to be doing to make it to the end. And then I might try and cut loose.

And, looking at the even bigger picture, I’ve now raised over £8,600 for UNICEF and Scene & Heard thanks to phenomenally generous people. And that’s definitely worth a bit of “boredom”.

Catching up with myself (Pt 1)…

“That blog you keep about the marathon thing…”
“Yeah?”
“You ought to update it. I was on it the other day and there was nothing about any of the recent ones. Did you not have anything to say?”
“Well…”

In truth, its more that my recent marathon exertions have taken more out of me mentally and physically than I’d bargained for. So first I didn’t really want to even think about marathons when I wasn’t running one, and then every time I sat down to try and write about them I would sit at the screen and write a variation on “well, it just kind of happened I guess”.

They have also all bunched up a bit. After the arduous journey that was the Sussex Coast run, I had 22 days before the next one in Brighton. By a remarkable coincidence, there were also just 22 days separating Brighton from Belfast, with a wee race called the London marathon in between.

As you might imagine, it all passed in a bit of a blur, but highlights included:

  • Running in front of people again. After two marathons in the glorious, but rather empty, countryside, it was clear from the first steps in Brighton that having people to cheer you on again was the most amazing tonic and was definitely a reason for…
  • Posting my three quickest times. Brighton was the fastest at 5h 12min 47sec, but then I managed to knock another five minutes off at London! Belfast was a bit slower at 5h 18m, not least because of the incessant rain throughout, but was still my third fastest time.
The slack jaw of relief - Jim after the Brighton marathon

The slack jaw of relief - after the Brighton marathon

  • Feeling good. Coming off the back of the Sussex Coast, which had not just been challenging, but felt like a massive knock to my confidence with such a slow time, I was keen to get back to a road race and be able to push on. From the first mile of Brighton, even considering the great atmosphere, I felt good – in control, calm and strong. Even when really feeling weak after about 18 miles, I knew it was OK because I knew what to expect next. It felt like the mental breakthrough for understanding a marathon and how to manage yourself.
  • Having my friends around for all three, both to cheer me on and cheer me up afterwards (including bringing me tea afterwards in Belfast!). It also helped Zoe, who finally had a break from hanging around in the middle of nowhere, wondering where I am and how much she’s going to have to hold my hand.
A nice cup of tea after the Belfast marathon.

Tea. Sympathy not pictured.

  • My first London marathon. Like children, they are all special in their own way, but running on home turf (well, concrete) with what seemed like half of London on the streets to cheer you on was a really emotional experience from start to finish and one I really will never forget.
  • Having my first injury wobble. Not a highlight so much as a reality check.  My right knee started to hurt during the London marathon. In truth, it had felt odd the day before, during the warm-up run, but I still felt stunned when I had to stop and walk during the third mile because It felt too sore to run on. I shifted to a walk-run strategy for the rest of the race and that allowed me to progress without too much discomfort. In order to give it as much rest as possible, I did virtually no running before Belfast, which was two weeks after London, and have changed my training routine around to avoid too much running and impact on the joints between marathons.
Supports on my legs pre-Belfast marathon

I am grateful for all the support(s)

It does make you feel vulnerable though. Ever since the start of this endeavour, people have been jokingly asking “How are your knees?” and I have joking answered “Oh, still hanging in there!” and we have laughed and then maybe had a biscuit. And its been fine, but maybe, just maybe, that’s because I kind of ignored the reality of trying to run 12 marathons in a year so that it didn’t scare me too much. Blithe thoughts of carrying on, cart horse-like, through all 12 are now replaced with visions of a doctor taking a look at my legs at the end of the last one and saying “Well they’ll have to go.” The three weeks between Belfast and Edinburgh involved no road-running at all an attempt to preserve my knee as much as possible.

However, it was not to be my knee that was my main worry at Edinburgh…

TO BE CONTINUED.