Sunday, 6 September 2015

With A Little Help From my Friends

I really like to be busy, not necessarily physically but most definitely, mentally.

On the 26th of September 2014, after recently finishing my 'Mile For Muscles' in Leeds I decided to go again and once again I would try to better what I had just conquered. I took to social media and decided that I would try to turn 'I' into 'We'. I was wondering if any of my friends would like to get on-board with an idea I had, which, in essence, seemed quite simple. Would you be able to join me and help me complete an ambition of mine and that was to be part of a Marathon.

It may seem strange to some that as my condition gets worse I have shown more interest in sports that involve just one person, distance or challenging environment. This might stem from my own challenges that I now face, I'm not sure but whatever it is I'm thoroughly enjoying it, the things humans put themselves through to prove a point, never give up and relish on the achievement.

So, back to that Friday night in September, some of you replied to my request that night and there was a theme, I was getting the same reply via Facebook, Twitter and text messages and yet some of you had no idea you were all saying the same thing; Count Me In! Our tag line was born and I was bombarded with it. Through the Autumn and early Winter of 2014 I was already visualising a Marathon in Aylesbury and even had some of the running order worked out already but then I had to think about reserve runners in-case life was life and people had to pull out. Also, I wanted a broad range of people involved,  the event had to be about inclusion, encouragement and fun. Talking about fun, I wanted to bring a musical element to the day too, so in January 2015 I met with old school friend, musician and music promoter, Paul Adams. Typical coffee shop meeting that over ran and ended up with us getting chucked out by our ear. As I was walking back to my car Paul closed the meeting by saying "Yeah, we could call our festival 'Music For Muscles', what do you think?" . That, my friend, fits like a glove.

 Once again as in the previous two years we immediately got support from Val and Gary, the landlady and landlord of our venue and the same from the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, who, once again, had an open arms attitude, so in that respect we were prepared early on.

I started to have more meetings with people to try to make sure they could visualise what I was trying to achieve and how help was imperative to me and others. People came in droves, I went to meet the Aylesbury united walking football team, A Marathon man and friends who wanted to cycle 26 miles and every one of them had their own element of competition to it. Mark Sammon was going to 'Race The Relay' and run his Marathon in a record time, Dean Murray and Wayne Martinig were persuaded by me after Bradley Wiggins took on his hour challenge, to cycle their 26.2 miles in under 90 Minutes, Hayley and Tommy Lloyd scooting round in Super Hero outfits. Then there was Graham and Hannah Cocker running around Stockport, Cheshire, training tied together at the ankle in preparation for the big day, no charity t-shirt, no sign of the fact they were entering into a charity event, no explanation whatsoever why they was tied together. That still makes me smile. That said, it's probably a good time to say what an effort people were making to be here and be part of this too. People were coming from all over England to be part of this and I do mean from all over, Cornwall, Cambridge, Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Warwickshire and our great friend, Jo from Yorkshire.

Over the last few months I was burning the candle at both ends and constantly staying in touch with people to make sure they were reassured and everything was still on and it was actually happening. So many people had put the date in their diaries very early on, it was becoming very overwhelming and by that I mean in a supportive, feeling loved, kind of way. 

Family friend, Marie Johnson started up our raffle and little did I know that it would be a massive contributor to our 'Just giving' page, in the end. As well as the board game invented by Sheralee which pretty much instantly raised a few hundred pounds, plus my mum's sweet game too! Thank you, Ladies. 

As we run up to our event I presented at my works town hall meeting and presented to all of my colleagues, it was one of the hardest things I've done. To stand in front of everyone you work with and tell them everything about yourself, I really did open my heart, it felt painful to say some words because I was talking about my own reality and a future I may face and then, at the end, I had to ask for help...

Turns out albeit petrifying, it was a good thing to do as all employee donations would be doubled. The last few weeks I took part in a few radio shows and pod casts and then that was it, it was upon us, Mile For Muscles - Count me In, was here.

30th August 2015.

Of all the days in the year, this was one where I did not want to wake up with any pain or issues with my legs and low and behold my legs where shaking from above the knee, downwards. I could not let anyone know, Michelle kept asking and I said I was fine. I was not bothered about anything else. Reserve runners were in place, bands ready to play, BBQ being stoked, raffle full to the brim and 26 groups of people, individual runners, two cyclists, one Marathon Man and one swimmer all chomping at the bit, despite the weather. Everyone was raring to go, to cover their mile and carry on cheering for the whole day.

At 11:00 it started, our eldest daughter, Lucie, set off with relay baton. Over the last few months I was compiling 'Participant profiles' to get some insight as to why people were getting involved with 'Mile For Muscles - Count Me in'. It was a chance for an introduction from everyone, to everyone else. I think they worked well and the day before the event Lucie explained in hers that she was a carrier of the Muscular Dystrophy gene. Lucie hardly ever talks about this and was another reason for me to be gratified and also why, as a family, we do what we do.

After Lucie quickly set off some of us jumped in the car to get to the stadium to witness the first baton exchange and to encourage and cheer everyone on. Lucie passed the baton to my future son-in-law, Nick and he was off like a rocket! As were the next few runners and it really was happening, what I had thought for a long time as a dream was coming true right before my eyes. I cannot take you through everyone's miles because I wasn't at both ends of the relay and also, I cannot talk from your perspective and I wouldn't want any credit for what you did. And actually that was part of the point. It was only on the day that I saw how much pride people were taking in 'their mile', enthusiastically grabbing it, shouting about it and taking ownership.

I think it was about mile 12 when it started to rain and it didn't stop. The relentless, fine rain that is well known to soak you through. You really wouldn't of known, no spirits were dampened. The runners kept coming along with the cheers and smiles, I was on cloud nine.

Towards the end I had a feeling of anxiety in my stomach, A mix of pride and nervousness. During this year Michelle started to run in the evenings and she was to be the penultimate mile, mile 25. I remember looking up the road and Michelle was running towards me with the baton and that was it for me, absolutely, totally, rewarded with pride and emotion.

I received the baton and a cuddle and I was off, I had to think of something to get me to the end, what could it be, think Martin! It was beer, I chose beer to get me to the end and it was very painful but it worked. All joking aside, it was also for a very special young man that was asleep beside me most of the way in a buggy and also other friends boys who I've spoke about this year. My mile was for Finley, Leo, Tommy and thousands more.

The reception we received was incredible and I am extremely proud of how all my family and friends celebrated everyone that took part. I'm not quite finished here... The last mile was also walked by my friend Steve Davies who has Beckers Muscular Dystrophy and how amazing that was to see. Someone equally as stubborn and determined as me making so much effort to complete this challenge and together, at the end, we laughed in the face of adversity and it felt bloody brilliant! This was the first time I had met Steve, we knew each other through mutual friends on social media and this event compounded not only this but many friendships.

Even now I'm still tired, both physically and mentally but it was worth it. Lastly, I set a target of £6000 on our 'Just Giving' page. This was because £5880 will pay for a full weeks research into Muscular Dystrophy, 168 hours of research paid for by our event. The total right now is £5622.97 and we have £1000 to go on from the owners of Phlexglobal. Needless to say, we smashed it!

As I said in my very own participant profile, I don't think I'll ever be able to thank all you very selfless people enough.

With all my heart, Thank You!

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