Well I did it, I managed to run a marathon. Not bad for a man of 41 who had not ran for 23 years and to be quite honest, a man who was and is totally rubbish at sport. How proud I was running the last few miles of the London Marathon 2010 - my first ever marathon - but if only things had been different perhaps I would never had this wonderful experience.
Six years earlier my younger brother came rushing into my house one evening in a complete state. He had just been to hospital for some tests and had been diagnosed with Cerebral Lymphoma, a brain tumour. I didn't know what to say or what to do and just hugged him and promised him that things would be fine and we would get through it together. For three years he suffered the roller coaster ride of good and bad news that many cancer patients suffer until finally, at the age of 35, he died.
During the last six months of his life visiting hospital each day, I saw some very sad things. Memories that still haunt me today. People helpless knowng that they have little hope of pulling through. People who give everything trying to beat the disease and families who suffer terribly throughout. Paul's illness broke my parents, and I could not bear to see how hurt they were. As a father of two young children I couldn't begin to imagine how hard it was for them. Throughout this whole period there was one feeling that remained constant - I was completely helpless, I could not help him.
Twelve months on from his death in February 2009, I got chatting to a friend at work who was doing the Great North Run. It hit me like a brick: that's what I should do, run a half-marathon for charity and try to help others. I contacted a charity that was close to my heart and Paul's illness and they could not have been more supportive and helpful. So helpful in fact, that by the end of the phone call not only was I entered into the Great North Run that year but also the London Marathon the following year. I had just over twelve months to go from never having ran a mile in any event, to running 26!
As I stood at the start of the Great North Run with thousands of other runners, listening to Abide With Me on the PA, I looked round and for the first time I realised that I was not alone. For 18 months I had felt like I had not been able to help my brother, or my parents. I felt like I had let everyone down. Standing beside so many others with charity vests on with messages on in memory of cherised ones. I actually, for the first time since Paul had died felt like I had a sense of purpose and very proud to be there. Two hours later I crossed the line proud and inspired. Next stop, London Marathon 2010.
It is very hard to put into words the sense of achivement that running a marathon for charity gives you. All I can say is the day is absolutely amazing. The support you get along the route is fantastic, and I ran the 26 miles with people cheering me on along the way. What would my brother have thought of his completely unfit older brother running 26 miles! By the time I started the marathon I had raised nearly £4000, knowing so many generous people were there to support me in memory of my brother kept me going along with some very noisy support from the very large crowds that packed the route.
The following day with aching legs and completely shattered all I could think about was doing it again. I want to get to £10,000 I told my wife. Well, twelve months on I am getting closer.
Since the London Marathon 2010 I have completed the Great North Run again, and I went to mallorca last October and ran the TUI Marathon there. And a week ago I did the London marathon again! I have a coast-to-coast bike ride planned at the end of May with some friends, two more half-marathons before the summer is out, and another marathon in October. All to get me to my target and beyond.
I probably have more reasons now for running for charity than I did when I started. Originally it was to hopefully stop others having to go through what my brother and my family did. Now it's for this reason, and for many more. It has helped me, I have a purpose for doing this, I feel good when I pull on the vest for the charity. I don't feel so alone, the encouragement you get whilst you are training and taking part, from friends and the thousands who line the routes cannot be underestimated. I cried many times during my marathons, it's very emotional and I can't wait to do more. It's probably the best therapy I could have had.