Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Very Special Sunday

Supporter Martin Hywood and his wife Michelle volunteered at last Sunday's Virgin London Marathon to help us cheer on our 103 Team Orange runners, including Martin's brother, Andrew.

06:20, Sunday, 21 April 2013...

Never have I hated my alarm clock so much as right now! Then as I slowly wake up and get my head together I realise why I'm being 'beeped' at... The 2013 London Marathon!

We're up, ready and set off to the station for the train. We're very lucky with our train journey, travelling through the Chilterns at this time of the morning is something else; the mist rolls off the hills to reveal a stunning patchwork quilt of forest and field. This takes away some of the anxiety I am feeling right now.

As we arrive in Marylebone, even early on a Sunday morning the hustle and bustle of the city hits you. Everyone needs to be somewhere and they needed to be there 10 minutes ago!

As we arrive at our destination, Tower Hill station, an ice cold feeling runs down my spine, something that I had totally taken for granted and hadn't given a second thought to - stairs.

What I failed to mention until now is that I'm going to the Marathon to support my younger brother who is running his first marathon for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.  Andrew is running because I and my older brother have limb girdle muscular dystrophy.

So you see this is why I'm here, this is why I'm stood at the bottom of three very large flights of stairs looking up in fear. This literally is a mountain to climb for me, but I'm a volunteer for the charity, so I can't just stand here. Time to get on with it.

Stairs climbed and out the station, the familiar feeling of vivid burning in my legs is apparent, all at 8:30 in the morning! This was my expectation for 9pm at night, not now! But we are visually rewarded by 'The Shard' and the Tower of London; these distractions are welcome and somehow help my legs recover a little as we slowly make our way to meet our 'Cheer Group'.

We arrive at the Bridge House bar; here we are surrounded by lots of people, lots of people in orange! There is even a dog in a Muscular Dystrophy Campaign running vest... orange obviously. I feel at home here, very comfortable, and my wife is all smiles too. This all feels so right.

We take to the street to see Mo Farah fly past, the word is out that apparently he'll stop half way... he did.

After the athletes and elite runners go past, then come the charity and fun runners; for me, the most important. It suddenly and quite quickly becomes apparent to me that Team Orange cheers EVERYONE, every single runner that's going past and looks like they need a lift, gets one! This is outstanding; these are my kind of people.

Within our group are expectant family and friends, waiting to see their loved ones, get them to the front! Lo and behold they arrive to the mass of cheer, encouragement and in some cases hugs and kisses. Not our Andrew though, oh no, he just rolls past at a good pace, well within his expected time, in no pain whatsoever, simply smashing splits (time sectors) and just shouts "alright?" with a typical thumbs up and half a gormless smile. It's at this point I go ballistic - in a good way! I shout with so much fervour and passion (anyone who know me knows I'm a big football fan), well imagine if you will, your team constantly scoring for ten minutes solid, that was me.

This feeling was not just with me, it was all along the streets with every other spectator. I take a moment to imbibe this highly charged, positive atmosphere, If only we could bottle this spirit, it restores a lot of faith in humanity.

Eventually the runners thinned out on the roads and the sweepers came out to tidy this amazing day away. We then went onto the 'In and Out' club in St James' Square to see the runners arrive for pictures, refreshments and a well-needed massage. But not our Andrew, he met his fiancée at the finish line and got the first train home. Job done!

I was so humbled and so very grateful to see all the runners and the fantastic messages that were there. These people did this to raise awareness and funds for my condition and others maybe worse off than myself. I cannot thank them enough.

Andrew had a target of £1,500, and he smashed it! Later this year he is getting married and I've been chosen to be one of his best men. All of this just made my speech a whole lot easier.

What's next? The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign Oxford Town and Gown 10k on Sunday 12 May. GET INVOLVED!

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