Posted by: Leonie Brown19/04/2010
‘You must be mad’ and ‘Why?’ have been two fairly common responses over the last four months when I’ve told people I’m running the London marathon.
I feel quite mad right now. With a niggling cold, a hole in my trainer and exhausted to the core after 371 miles since New Year’s Day, I’ve rarely felt less like a marathon runner. But I know that with six days still to go the cold will clear, the adrenaline will kick in and the amazing crowd support and huge sense of achievement upon crossing the line will, hopefully, reconfirm sanity.
That sense of achievement also goes a long way to explaining ‘why’. But it’s not the only reason.
One of my first competitive (or should that be ‘organised’ – the competitive element was, for me, limited) road running experiences was the Hydro Active Women’s 5km race in Hyde Park in 2006. I plodded round in around half an hour – a fairly unremarkable achievement by marathon standards. My mum though, being treated for ovarian cancer at the time – a disease which killed her just nine months later – did her own Jane Tomlinson impression, finishing the race in under an hour.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into some slush-fest about how the memory of her inspiring, adversity-beating example will keep me going at 23 miles. But there is one thing I’ll remember from that day which I think applies this Sunday.
Mum and I were running for the ovarian cancer charity Ovacome. As we lined up for the start we were surrounded by several hundred pink-clad women raising funds for various breast cancer charities. Strange as it may seem, this made mum angry. She was cross that so many people were running in aid of what she saw as a ‘glamorised’ disease, when other forms of cancer – without the celebrity sufferers, or almost ‘sexy’ image – got nowhere near as much attention.
In reality, her argument doesn’t make much sense. As the UK’s most common strain of the disease, claiming more than 12,000 lives a year according to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer is both a devastating illness and an utterly worthy cause. And in the grip of it I have no doubt that it is not remotely ‘glamorous’ or ‘sexy’. Perhaps her own cancer battle clouded mum’s judgement to some extent that day, but nevertheless I was struck by her passionate defence of, in charity terms, the little guy.
Campaigning for said little guy is, hopefully, is what I’m doing by running for Hact on Sunday. It provides essential but ultimately background support for what is not an immediately emotive sector. Its cause does not resonate with potential sponsors in the same way that, say, a breast cancer charity’s does.
I discussed this hurdle with the trust’s chief executive Heather Petch when I met her back in February. Hact’s is not a glamorous cause, she agreed, part of the problem being that its work is ‘developmental and a bit third-tier’. But knowing that people were prepared to run ‘miles and miles and miles’ to raise Hact’s profile was ‘inspirational’, she added, and would make a huge difference.
So there’s the other reason ‘why’. I could have chosen to run London for Ovacome, but in various ways I’ve raised a lot for that cause over the years. Picking a new, unsung but hugely deserving charity seemed like something mum would approve of.
Leonie’s run rate
Miles since 1 Jan: 371
Pasta-based meals planned for this carb-loading week: at least six
Caroline’s run rate
Miles since 1 Jan: 398
What that number should be if I hadn’t skipped Sunday’s run due to another bout of lurgy: 406
DAYS TO GO: SIX!!
From Home run
Tracking the progress of Inside Housing staff and others running the London Marathon for the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust