If you believe everything you read in the papers, you might think community is dead and "me me me" is king. Oh, really?
Last week, the RW forum proved that community spirit is alive and well. The inspirational story began four months ago, when forum member 200 Minutes, better known at home in Exeter as Dave Moulder, wasn’t feeling well. Really, really not feeling well.
Dave was a healthy family man: an experienced marathoner who ran most days, didn't smoke or drink, and had notched up a hearty 49 years. But when doctors ran tests, a biopsy revealed throat cancer.
"Right after the biopsy he went for a run," Dave’s wife Liz, aka forum member School Runner, told RW. "It reminded him that there are loads of people who are too ill to run at all. He’s such a positive person, it amazes me."
Forum in action
Dave was already a contributor to the daily thread on the RW Training forum, so he shared news of the diagnosis with his online friends. Immediately they posted scores of messages of support, and Dave was overwhelmed. "He broke down and cried when he saw the messages," said Liz. "That’s the only time he showed any emotion about the diagnosis. He was just overcome by their kindness, especially considering he’d only met one or two of them at races."
And that was just the beginning. Fast forward to Thursday August 10, the day of Dave’s operation to have his throat tumour removed. To mark the day, forum member Stickless suggested a one-day collective run - partly a show of support for Dave, and partly to raise money for Cancer Research UK through the fundraising website JustGiving.com.
So as Dave prepared for surgery and Liz prepared for the longest evening of her life, forum members ran 200 Miles for 200 Minutes. Members from all corners of the country - and, in the case of NZChristine, Nicedad and others, on the other side of the world - dedicated their daily run to Dave, each adding their miles to the total. Meanwhile a JustGiving page was set up, with £200 as the target.
Hundreds of RW members took up the challenge. "Normally a day off but felt compelled to run," said TG Trotter. "Mine were done a treadmill in Shanghai in 35 degrees and high humidity," said Nicedad. "It’s an excellent reason for doing it." Julz wrote: "First run in over two months for 200 Minutes," and clairster said: "I had a fab run, one of the best I have had in ages."
Target? What target?
The 200-mile and £200 targets were quickly smashed. By midday, members had covered more than 100 miles and raised more than £500; by 6.30pm the pot was up to £950, and an hour later, members had covered 400 miles. By the end of Thursday, the count was 555 miles - and at the time of writing, on Monday morning, £1,120 has been raised. In Liz’s words, "it’s the best get well card anyone could give".
Liz spoke to us on Friday morning, after Dave’s eight-hour surgery. "I obviously couldn’t sleep, so I spent the whole time on the forum, and it really kept me buoyed up.
"The trouble is you’re so helpless. You’re not in the operating theatre, you’re on your own. So I just spent hours clicking through the forum and checking the JustGiving page, seeing the total going up and up and reading people’s messages. One person said they’d been stopped by a dog walker who gave them £10. It just goes to show, people are nice really!"
Liz, in School Runner guise, posted her own message in the small hours of the morning. "OK I'm a bit late but I have an excuse. Two miles around the hospital grounds with a variety of diversions to get the mileage this high! Dragged a couple of friends round for company - does this count as six?"
Dave was transferred to intensive care and put on a ventilator. But doctors, who realised that Dave was a runner when they spotted a copy of RUNNER’S WORLD on his bedside table, predict that his fitness will speed his recovery.
"The doctors said he’ll be perfectly OK on his own without the ventilator later today," said Liz. "The original plan was three weeks in hospital, three weeks recovering at home, then six weeks of radiotherapy. But now it looks as though he may be home in a couple of weeks. He's got a reasonable level of fitness, and that should count in his favour."
Looking to the future
Forum members won’t need to wait long before 200 Minutes is back in town. "He’ll be back on the forum the minute he’s out of hospital, or maybe even while he’s still in hospital, if he can find a computer," says Liz.
"He also wants to get straight out running, but the radiotherapy will probably make him fatigued. There’ll also be issues with swallowing because the treatment is in the back of his throat."
But for Dave, running will be a central part of his recovery. "He’s got a five-mile route that he ran the morning he went into hospital, and that’s going to be his comeback route. Even if he just walks it, it’ll be a big step in getting better.
"If he gets into the London Marathon this year, it’ll be perfect timing. It would be his first marathon after recovering, and after his 50th birthday. London would also give him a chance to meet more of the forum members who’ve done this amazing thing for him."
In the words of forum member paul l: "And people say there is no such thing as community anymore. I challenge that."