Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Idea - Part One.


My name is Martin Hywood; I’m living with and adjusting to a life with Muscular Dystrophy. I decided to raise funds and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy UK. In 2016 I took on the biggest challenge of my life. The challenge was to ‘Move a Mile for Muscles’ to iconic sporting arenas and events in England. This was to fulfil some dreams of my own and that of others. Despite my condition I pushed myself to the limit both physically and mentally. Lots of family and friends came with me and here is the story of our year… 

The family - Skye, Olivia, Myself, Michelle and Lucie.

There is no reasoning or training behind thinking of a good idea, I’ve tried sitting in a room, in silence with a pen and pad before and come up with nothing. I just let it ride, I know that I have to do something to try to help myself and then I just see what happens. It’s usually when we’re least expecting it that our best ideas come to us and that’s what you have to prepare yourself for, be receptive and then lock that idea in and write it down somewhere too (I usually text myself!).

In the autumn of 2015 I was watching ‘A Question of Sport’ late at night, with a beer in my hand. There was a question on the show about stadia in the UK and also a reference to the Olympics and that was my ‘lightbulb’ moment. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and the reasons why I wanted to do it.

I sent myself a text to look at the following morning, it read… “Move a Mile For Muscles to Iconic sporting arenas, stadiums and events all over England. Get people to come with me and take in some of these events too”. Wow! Even by my standards this was raising the bar. I got to work that day and immediately asked some good friends to help me with all my plans and naturally because of who they are they all jumped at the chance.

Again, late at night shortly after this first thought I had another one. I had become pals with actor Ralph Ineson on Twitter and I was wondering if I would be able to use his voice for the idea I had. I sent Ralph a message asking for his email address and unbelievably he gave me it. I left it a day or two then sent Ralph my idea… “Could you read a script for me if I wrote it? You speak about the downward spiralling effect that Muscular Dystrophy has on me and then we convince the audience that I’m not prepared to be beaten and this is what we’re going to do about it – starts dark then gets lighter, bit like wizard of Oz both in photography and mood”.  This is a very well-known actor with one of the most famous voices in the industry, there’s no way he’ll agree BUT if you don’t ask then you’ll never know. Ralph replied within the hour… “Martin, I’ve read your blogs and appreciate what you're trying to achieve, it would be an honour” – Gobsmacked!

This now meant I would have to write a script for Ralph, get a film crew to film it and learn how to act (a little) and all the while I was frantically contacting sporting venues up and down the country asking for permission to be on their property to make this happen.

I often get by in life simply by luck and it was just by chance that I got speaking to some of my old school mates who just so happened to make films and they had some equipment to help me get this done - and on Wednesday 30th December it was complete. Ralph had done the voice over, Paul Adams and Steve Richmond filmed and produced the short film to promote my event. This was all completed just in time for me to take on my first mile at the birth place of the Paralympic movement.

1st Jan 2016 – Mile 1.

I remember it so well, it was absolutely freezing! It was also the morning after the night before - but not for me. This was part of the promise to myself, I was taking this so seriously that I had not allowed myself any time to celebrate the New Year with loved ones. I had to take this seriously from the get-go, new year, new me and all that. I couldn’t have the January gym bunny attitude of signing up for something, going for six weeks and then letting it slide. This really was it, the start of what was to come and this was my bench mark. The very first mile consisted of a team of three, myself, my son-in-law Nick and our middle daughter Olivia. Olivia was there reluctantly to take pictures as I think she would have rather been with the rest of the world, wrapped up in duvets on the couch watching movies. The streets were asleep and it was mid-morning, we set off on the adventure that would get every single emotion out of me during the course of the year. I was slower than I thought I’d be and I struggled more than I thought I would, but we spoke, that’s what I do on these walks when I’m nervous, apprehensive, tired - or all three! The mile was started at 11:00 and we had walked it by 11:45 - I was shattered. I was stuck between jubilation and exhaustion already. As I said, this was my bench mark, going forward I knew what pain and discomfort to expect and how long this would last; also I could take on recovery time too and try to work out how long that would last, turns out that it was most of the year. I gratefully thanked Nick and Olivia took some pictures and it was now up to me to show social media my short film and share my Just Giving page. We were out the blocks.

Out of the blocks with my Son-In-Law; Nick

This year would surprise me in ways I wasn’t expecting, up’s and down’s that I wasn’t prepared for and they started in earnest in early February…

Feb 2016 - Mile 2.

If you know me then you’ll know I have a passion for documentaries and History, often the channel of choice for me when I get the TV to myself. I’ll watch anything from resurrecting a barn-find muscle car to people pushing themselves to the edge and beyond. Again, late at night I was immersed in telly and an advert was asking if you could ‘Make Your World Bigger’ on the Discovery channel and if so, how? So I tweeted the channel and told them my plans, I didn’t really say much, I just shared our short film. From there I got down to the final 15 in a National competition and won a back pack. The three winners would go on to win a cash prize to make their wish happen and would get some coverage on social media; I kept going with this and asking people to share my pledge. Things then got a little surreal; I received a phone call just before lunch at work one day. It was as you would expect some dramatic pause and then the news… “You’ve won! We will be sending you a cheque for five thousand quid! Who would you like this made payable to?” I had previously had this discussion with my wife and our girls and we had made the decision that if we did win this we would immediately donate this money to the charity and that’s what we did. It was sent to Muscular Dystrophy UK and an offline donation was made to my page and I increased my target because I had just smashed through my initial £6000 goal. I couldn't stop smiling; the pressure was off me a little but my biggest battle now was a physical one.

The morning of the 7th February, a very dark Sunday morning with a sky full of grey. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. The rain was relentless; I had lost my charity t-shirt that had been especially printed for me and my car broke down on the way to Oxford.

I was on my way to stand on the shoulders of giants, to walk this mile on the famous Iffley road track where Roger Bannister had broken the four minute mile on 6th May, 1954.  I have become so intrigued and interested with sports people that are mostly alone in their event and how they overcome everything that comes with that. Some might say that Roger Bannister was not alone and he was helped by pace makers, similar to that of a boxer with his team in the corner of the ring. They were Chris Chataway (co-founder of the Guinness book of records) and Chris Brasher (sports journalist and co-founder of the London Marathon); these three men were a band of brothers and had a lot to prove as Bannister's training techniques were considered controversial and most certainly unorthodox for a runner.

I was shattered and flustered before we had even started and also feeling intimidated by the prospect before me. The track was huge, I mean I did have an idea of what to expect but it was beyond that. It was mile two of the year and I was thinking about whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I really did need a brave face and whole lot of determination. I got started and it was so tough, I have no idea why but everything below my chest wanted me to stop, my back was aching, my legs were burning and my feet were floppy. I really was holding onto Michelle, hoping to be pulled along. However, the Oxford mile had encouraged others to get up and get out with me, lots of family and lots of friends. Then at the end of the second of four laps a special young man had turned up to show support too. Tommy is 10 years old and also has Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, Tommy had come along with his Mum, Hayley to join us and put this mile to bed. That was the boost I needed, Tommy’s smile and enthusiasm spurred me on that morning and I was so relieved that I had found the power to continue and cross that very famous finish line. The money kept rising and people were now talking about this challenge on social media, I got home that afternoon at about 14:30 and slept until the next morning.

Tommy, family and friends seeing me over the finish line at Iffley Rd, Oxford.

March 2016 – Mile 3.

On the evening of Wednesday, 2nd of March I received a lovely message from our friend Charlotte, “You encourage me to remain happy and positive. Thank you. Keep on doing what you’re doing” there was nothing unusual about this, Charlotte (AKA Char) was a big supporter of the things that I did as she herself had Muscular Dystrophy and was a character in the community. I had been getting lots of messages and like I said nothing unusual. Sadly on the 3rd of March I got a message from Char's Brother - she'd passed away. Char was 41 years old, one year younger than me. My world had just stopped, my heart sank and I had no way to control the tears rolling down my face. Char was my pal; she was a bright light and a beacon of joy. At previous fundraisers she would have her alcohol of choice and her straw to drink it from, she did not conform to what people expected of a disabled person, she went out and saw the world, she went to more music gigs than most and took pride in the fact she always got the best view, at the front! I’ll never forget Char and she will always be a catalyst for me to help others going forward.

On the 19th of March we descended upon the Oval Cricket ground in London, Conveniently it was exactly one mile to walk around this venue twice. We had also been invited onto the pitch for pictures afterwards. Like many venues, the staff at the Oval had welcomed us with open arms and had asked what they could do to help us to help others. There was a few of us, we had been joined by the Hill family. Archie Hill was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in 2008 at just 3 years old. Duchenne is a severe degenerative muscle-wasting disease. Selflessly, Archie and his family had asked to ‘Move a Mile for Muscles’ with me to raise much-needed awareness and funds. Archie has put himself up to help others more than once. Alongside other boys with Duchenne, Archie and the group took their fight for Translarna (the first treatment approved for the underlying cause of DMD) to the very top and knocked on 10 Downing Street asking for answers on access to rare disease drugs. Just like Tommy, I consider Archie to be courageous and he should be an inspiration to many at such a young age. We were also joined by our friend, Steve and family, Steve has Becker Muscular Dystrophy but was up for the challenge. 
Again, I need to talk to distract myself from the pain and this mile was over before I knew it but again I was full of gratitude and thanks for all that had joined us, I was starting to realise that this would never had been possible without the encouragement from friends and the ongoing support was priceless, I really wish I could have bottled that. After the Oval in London I knew that I would get a break, a clear month off, time to do a lot of nothing. I have never felt like I have needed a break more than now, all reserves, in every respect were spent and gone.

Surrounded by the inspirational Hill family, Steve and Kerrie on the Oval cricket ground.


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