Archive for 31/10/2011

A Warm Welcome in the Boardroom

As my team, my brother Constantine, and the Trussell Trust and Foodbank representatives were led to their seats for the second half of the match, Frank and I were led by Chloe Turner across the road to where I could have a much needed shower.

Though I had hoped to be in and out in a matter of minutes, so as to see part of the second half, it was easier said than done – any movement was difficult. Untangling the bird’s nest of my hair took 10 minutes alone. By the time I was washed and wrapped in warm clean clothing and had limped back to the stadium, the match was almost over – we could hear the last cheers as the Canaries won the match.

We were reunited with our group and led up into the boardroom for the post match celebrations. On entering the boardroom clapping started, as we were welcomed once again.

I had previously wondered how on earth I’d manage to make it through an hour and a half on my feet chatting with everyone – well I shouldn’t have wasted a thought on that. The warm reception made sure that my energy, strength, and high spirits kept me going – I felt none of the exhaustion that was to hit me later.

Delia Smith instantly came over to congratulate me and to have a chat – after having followed her recipes for many years it was a delight and an honour to finally meet her. We chatted for a long while, after which I presented her with a copy of my book, “The Smile of Endurance”. I was delighted to also receive a copy of her latest book, “Delia’s Happy Christmas” (and thrilled when I discovered a chapter on vegetarian Christmas treats!).

I also had a book for David McNally, and after presenting it to him, proceeded to spend a long time chatting with him, his wife, daughter and Constantine.

The company, the knowledge that I’d achieved the challenge, and the wonderful welcome kept me full of energy, and before I knew it, it was time to present the Mayor of Salisbury’s letter, and the symbolic bag of tea to Grant from the Norwich Trussell Trust.  I had carried the letter and the tea with me as I ran – both arrived in better shape than I’d expected!

It had been a wonderful way to tie up a truly memorable arrival after what had possibly been my toughest challenge to date. As Frank, Mark, Lluís and I all made our way to our hotel, after having said goodbye to everyone, we were exhausted but brimming with laugher, wonderful memories and amazing experiences. It had been a team experience from start to finish, and we felt even more united than we had when we had set off three days earlier.

Happy Halloween to all and …Kilometrate!

The Half-Time Whistle at Carrow Road

And so after a quick stop off at Norwich Foodbank, I found myself shuffling around in a holding pattern outside the Canary’s Carrow road stadium after being greeted by NCFC’s Chloe Turner. I was frozen despite the glorious day, and could hardly get my legs to work at first. After a few minutes though of trotting in the sunshine, the heat started to seep back into my wasted body, and my excruciatingly painful muscles and joints began to warm up again. Chloe’s welcome, and the excitement of having completed my challenge in time for my official arrival at half-time, seemed to have sent my nausea packing. I was feeling better by the minute.

Frank and Lluís had been led into the stadium via the director’s entrance while I waited by Gate 7 along with Chloe and Mark.

My brother Constantine was led out of the Stadium by the ushers (he’d been watching the game), and I threw myself at him for a quick hug before the ushers led him off towards the Director’s entrance by the ushers, where he would join Frank, Lluís, the Trussell Trust delegate and David McNally, NCFC’s Chief Executive – Mark and Chloe would enter from my entrance.

Before I knew it the doors had opened, the half-time whistle blew and Chloe had organised a corridor of ushers to block me from the crowds as they left their seats.

I won’t go through every feeling, emotion or sound here – there’s enough to fill several pages, that will have to wait for my book, but suffice it to say that running out onto the pitch is a moment I will never forget.

As I ran the length of the pitch I could hear the announcer cheering me on, with every step the clapping grew louder. By the time I had turned left and had run in front of the goal post and turned left again to cut down the centre of the pitch, the crowd was cheering loudly. A roar went up as with a leap I crossed through the yellow and green ribbon. The moment I had been visualising all through the challenge was there, and it was better than I had dreamed of.

The fact that the challenge had been so tough made those minutes even more gratifying and magical. Constatine ran over to me and wrapped me in a bear hug, before I was surrounded my team, by the announcer, David McNallly and the Foodbank people. The team and I knew that we wouldn’t have time to celbrate there on the pitch – our celebrations would come later.

I floated through the next minutes as I went through the pitch-side interview, the T-shirt exchange with David McNally and the photo op.

Before I knew it as a final cheer went up my brother put his arm around me as we were all led off the pitch, in the highest of spirits.

It may have been brief, but that arrival will remain engraved in my memory and in my heart forever – you don’t have experiences like that every day, especially after so many hours of gruelling physical and mental hardship.

On Monday and Tuesday I’ll write about the post match celebrations in the boardroom together with Delia Smith, and the post challenge feedback, and on Wednesday I will be posting the fabulous challenge video.

Tonight a super raclette dinner here with Quim, Fede and their partners – have a wonderful weekend everyone!


Running Against the Clock

Having survived the second truly hellish night I began discussing with Lluís the possibility of my arriving on time for the half-time whistle at Carrow road. I had no doubt that I would make it to Norwich, but after all the problems and the exceedingly slow pace I had run during the night, I was terrified that I may not make it in time for the very narrow window of my planned arrival. He assured me that if I managed to pick up my pace and keep it for the 50 or so km that I still had left to run, I would be able to arrive as planned.

But I wanted more, I wanted to arrive a bit ahead of time so as to be able to avoid the tremendous stress of not knowing for sure. Lluís told me at what pace I’d need to run – a pace which normally would be slow for me, but in the exhausted condition that I was in, it seemed excruciatingly tough.

Nevertheless, I delved deep within myself and found the strength I needed – I did what I always try to, which is do the absolute best I possibly can. I reached for personal excellence. As long as I could physically run faster, I would, no matter how exhausted I felt, or in how much pain or discomfort I was in. I picked up my pace and struggled to keep it.

The next hours, while most people following the challenge via internet were now saying that I had done it, that it was now a sure thing, a piece of cake, were utterly shattering for me. I ran on along the A11 a rather dangerous dual carriageway, with Lluís behind me encouraging me all the time, constantly struggling to keep the pace, my eye constantly on my watch as I monitored my speed. It was a struggle which lasted from dawn until past midday – there was no respite. If I had slowed down at any stage I would have risked not arriving on time.

Details will come in the book, but it’s necessary to say here that the long road into Norwich ended as it had begun and had been throughout the challenge, as a true example of great team work. The police gave the team permission to drive slowly behind me, for my safety, so for the last 30 km, Mark had to drive the poor van at 5 miles an hour, foot ready at the break to stop whenever I did.

During the last 17 km I picked up my pace even more and began running relatively fast. It was mind over body, I ran oblivious to the pain and exhaustion, only focussing on arriving as early as possible. I only slowed when bouts of nausea threatened to overcome me.

Frank was by now on the bike and this increase in my pace had him delighted, as he was finally sure I’d make it on time. He’s seen me reach within myself when I’ve appeared totally spent, and he had hoped I’d be able to do the same this time also.

I ran pushing myself as hard as I could, music blaring in my ears, as Frank sang and cheered me on above the roar of the traffic.

At some point Jeremy of the Trussell Trust stopped on his way in to the stadium to hug me and cheer me on. There were several cheers, toots and encouragements from the other drivers; it seemed that news of the challenge had travelled. Every encouragement helped me a little more.

The route had proved to be considerable longer than we had planned, and as the challenge was for me to run 315 km, they decided that as soon as my GPS showed that I had completed the distance, they would stop me.

So there on the outskirts of Norwich, I had my first arrival, celebrated alongside roaring traffic together with the team. I had done it! Together with Frank, Mark and Lluís – I had completed the 315 km and I still had time to get to Norwich Foodbank and from there to the stadium…

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