That’s all folks

cheers

This is going to be my last blog post about my 2013 London Marathon adventure. It’s been emotional!

I started this blog because I wanted to capture the experience of running a marathon and fundraising for charity. I happen to have Ulcerative Colitis and Dilated Cardiomyopathy which (until now) I’d never really told anyone. I hoped that I’d raise awareness of the diseases that effect me and my family and in turn possibly help others suffering. I didn’t expect to have quite so many things to write about and would never have imagined the blog to be as popular as it has been. I have always hated the way that I write and have very little confidence in it but I would recommend blog writing to everyone, just jump in and do it!

I want to say one final massive Thank You!!! Thank you if you’ve sent me a nice message, sponsored me, asked me about the diseases, donated to the auction, cheered me along the marathon, cuddled me at the end of the marathon, hugged me when I’ve been upset or if you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve read my blog. I’ve never felt so supported in my whole life and I can’t believe the power of a blog!

The PR is still coming in and we’re hopefully going to be in some women’s magazines in the near future, so look out for us! I’m going to have a little break from silly exercise challenges and fundraising for a bit and work out how best to focus on the things I’m most passionate about when it comes to hearts: organ donation (opt out campaigning), heart screening of young people and research into turning heart disease around. I’ve enjoyed the blog so much that I’ll start a new blog soon, probably called ‘Lucy Lives Life’ – watch out for it on my social media.

Please don’t forget that when this blog’s long gone, there’ll still be young people dying of heart problems every week and there’ll be people dying while waiting for organs that are out there, just not on the donor list. Please continue to spread the word and use my family’s story as an example of how tragedy can be turned around simply by filling in an online form and telling your guardians. Today is Jack’s 3rd anniversary of his heart transplant and just writing that has made me burst into tears quite hysterically. You’ll never know how meaningful that silly organ card is until it happens to you, so please keep talking about it.

Thank you and bye for now xxx

We did it – thank you.

It took us 6 hours and 47 minutes but we did it. Boy did I underestimate how hard that would be! Much like our walk, this blog post is a long one! Let me try and explain the experience.

Me and mum at the start - looking cocky!

Me and mum at the start – looking cocky!

Getting off the DLR at Greenwich with thousands of other participants, the atmosphere was electric with nerves and excitement. On the walk up to the runners entrance in the beaming sunshine we saw an old friend Nat who I’ve not seen for a few years. Boost number 1! We left dad as we went into the runners area – sneaking mum in with us as she should have been at a different start. As we queued for the loo (for 20 mins!) we spoke to other runners all excited and nervous just like us. We dropped our bags off, snuck into the same starting pen and before we knew it, it was 10 minutes till the start of the mass race! Next came a really beautiful moment where the whole crowd of runners and spectators fell absolutely silent for Boston. At the end of the silence there was a huge roar and applause. It was very moving and a beautiful tribute to those that were injured and lost their lives last week.

Before we knew it we were crossing the start line. I gave Ben a big smacker on the lips and he was off, running into the distance. And our race began. It was pretty amazing being overtaken by thousands of runners. It took till about mile 8 before the actual runners stopped overtaking us. Then we were with the runner/walkers and the real walkers. It was a lot quieter and the atmosphere was different. By this time mum and I had already removed as many clothes as we could because it was so hot. ‘Those poor runners’, we kept saying. To this point the crowds had been amazing. We’d had our names shouted hundreds of times already. Loads of Eastenders shouting so passionately ‘go on Lucy, go on Sharron’. Lots of small kids holding their hands out for high fives. Mum loved it! If you ever take part in a marathon you must put your name on your shirt, it makes the experience unforgettable.

Now the whole time I’d had a headache and had also been feeling extremely tired and light headed. I put it down to these new pills. I’d been moaning a bit to poor mum but wasn’t really telling her how I was feeling because I didn’t want her to worry or make me stop. I was holding out for mile 12 as I knew London Bridge would be an epic site to see and would lift our spirits. And it was beautiful!!! The London Marathon is worth doing for that view alone. Amazing crowds and stunning views. Coming off the bridge we knew we were half way and that we were very likely to see Ben pass us in the other direction. That was worth walking for! At mile 14 Ben crossed past us (he was at mile 22). We had a quick chat and a cuddle and off he went looking strong! We walked on, at this point entering into the Docklands.

Tower Bridge!

Tower Bridge!

The crowds were still quite strong all through but we knew this would be the quieter bit of the marathon. The sun also went in which was disappointing! We just kept going at our 15 minute mile pace. At this point I checked my phone and saw I had something like 120 Facebook notifications, twitter messages, texts and missed calls from all of my amazing friends and supporters. I didn’t realise there were so many out there!!! You kept us going, thank you so much. Mum and I quickly agreed that mile 16 was a big moment, only 10 to go and that when we got there we’d feel better mentally. By mile 16 we’d been walking for 4 hours.

The marathon kept rolling on and we kept walking, stopping for a brief loo break and a chat on the phone with dad and Ben. We started moaning a lot around mile 19. Our feet were really sore and mums hip was really starting to hurt her. Again I hadn’t told mum but I felt very faint. By the time we hit mile 22 I was looking out for St Johns ambulance in case I needed to stop. I remember walking past one around 22.5 miles and questioning whether I should actually stop and get my blood pressure tested. I didn’t – instead I had some juice to drink and I felt a bit better.
Then it was the moment I’d been waiting for, seeing my best friends. Corinne and Megs were about half a mile apart from each other. I hugged them so tight and bless them they asked ‘how is it?’. I said ‘its horrible!’ so we moved on quickly as not to lose momentum. Keep walking I was chanting, as we’d both developed bad blisters and mums hip finally went and she started to limp. At 25 miles we saw dad and his friends and mum cried (so cute!). And that was the best bit, that final mile. Past Big Ben round the corner and onto the home straight. There were still beautifully thick crowds of people telling us how strong and amazing we were. As we turned the corner Buckingham Palace to our left and the finish to our right we started to well up. For me, all those months of training, the ups and downs, the friends and family that I knew were a very short distance away, so close. We crossed it, we paused for pics, had a cuddle and cried a lot. I will never forget seeing my mum get a London marathon medal placed round her neck and her saying in her high pitched south London voice ‘I don’t believe this!’.

Mile 22.5

Mile 22.5

The marathon had been tough but beautiful. I’d gone from feeling like a fraud for walking it to feeling proud for completing it. I definitely couldn’t have completed it without my amazing mum, who at this moment is still limping around with a badly damaged hip. All of the messages our supporters have given us in the lead up and through the race genuinely kept us going and nothing showed this better than our next experience.

We walked out into the crowds where I met Benny who hobbled his way over with his sister Cecsa, her husband Chris and kids Georgia and Harry. They all gave me and mum such great cuddles. My friends Bob and Nick were there too. Bob had waited around all day to see us come in: legend! We strolled up to the British Academy, walked in and I couldn’t believe it, all my work friends and the Oxfam volunteers were on the stairs cheering us. Me and mum just burst into hysterical tears! It was such a brilliant thing to see. Definitely one of my favourite marathon moments! Erika, Kate, Aggie, Alex, Kulzum and Suz all came over for a cuddle. It was amazing (I know I’ve said that a lot through this but it all was so amazing!).

Hugging Suz at the finish.

Hugging Suz at the finish.

So it’s done. Ben’s completed his first (and probably only!) marathon. Mum completed the marathon at 59 years old. I’ve done my second London marathon, completely differently to my first and my stupid diseases didn’t stop me.

If you think we’re worth a sponsor you can donate here. I’m going to rest now and I’ll write one final blog post sometime this week. Thanks for your support.

12 hours

In 12 hours I’ll be in Greenwich waiting for the marathon to start. Crikey! It’s been a roller coaster. Back in October 2011 when I got my ballot place I decided I’d run London again in 2013. I’d done the marathon that year for Oxfam and The Brompton and raised £20k. I don’t think I could ever have imagined it turning out like this. When I wrote my blog title ‘ups and downs of my marathon journey’ I didn’t think it would be this up and down!

In October last year I encouraged Ben to sign up to London and we started training together. Every weekend we’d do our long runs together which slowly grew from 6 to 13 miles. We ran through shit loads of snow this winter and were really excited about achieving this together. We raised money through cake sales, handbag sales and an auction of promises. We’ve had an amazing amount of generous sponsors throughout our marathon.

March 8th we ran 15 miles and felt strong. March 12th I was told I couldn’t run the marathon. I didn’t know what to do with that information but within the space of a week we had a place for mum, lots more sponsorship, PR coverage secured, mum and i had walked 13 miles and Ben had done his first training run alone.

I’m not one to be openly soppy but…I am so proud of Ben. Through bad knees, bad news and bad weather he’s trained for this marathon. He’s got to get up tomorrow and run 26.2 miles with all of the amazing 30,000 other runners. When he crosses that finish line he will have achieved something absolutely amazing and I’m sad I won’t be there to hug him. But he will have his family and his Oxfamily there to look after him. Ben’s looked after me so much through all of this. He is amazing. Please look out for him if you’re cheering. He’s hard to miss at 6ft 7 with a bright green Oxfam vest on. Go Benny!

To everyone who has sent me a nice message, hugged me when I’ve been sad, walked with me, sponsored me, donated a prize to the auction, a cake or a lot of handbags (!) – THANK YOU. I feel like I have a massive group of people behind me pushing me through. Soppy but true.

Speak to you tomorrow!

It’s tomorrow!

Our race day outfits: cheer if you see us!

Our race day outfits: cheer if you see us!

It’s pretty tense in the Fenner house this morning. Tomorrow Ben has to run his first ever marathon (with poorly knees) and mum and I have a 7-8ish hour walk ahead of us. It also happens to be my 20 year old brother’s house party tonight (while we’re all out in London – nice one Tobes) and as you can imagine, dad’s just a little nervous!

Team Fenben feeling pretty nervous!

Team Fenben feeling pretty nervous!

Tomorrow you’ll be able to track us all through various mediums. The London Marathon offer a service from 7am. If you go onto their website you can enter our race numbers (44663 (Ben), 18681 (mum), 44634 (me)) and it should automatically tell you where we are on the course. If you’re coming to watch the marathon and were thinking of looking out for us, here’s a breakdown of (very roughly) where I think we’ll be when:

Ben – 44663

Mile 6 Cutty Sark: 10.50-11.05am, Mile 12.5 Tower Bridge: 11.50-12.10, Mile 15-19 Canary Wharf: 12.15-13.00, Mile 22-23 Tower Hill: 13.20-13.40, Mile 25-finish (Oxfam British Academy) 1.50-2.40

Me and Mum – 18681, 44634

Mile 6 Cutty Sark: 10.30-10.50am, Mile 12.5 Tower Bridge: 13.20-13.45, Mile 15-19 Canary Wharf: 14.10-15.50, Mile 22-23 Tower Hill: 16.20-16.45, Mile 25-finish (Oxfam British Academy) 17.00-18.00

(It’s kind of just kicked in a. how far this is and b. how bloomin’ long it’s going to take us!)

I would recommend watching from Tower Bridge (although very busy) as you get the chance to see people twice at mile 12.5 and 22. It’s also then easy to get to the finish line. If you’re not in a hurry for the finish, mile 15-18 is also a good place to spot people twice. If you’ve not cheered at London before, expect massive delays in getting around. There’s literally millions of spectators! If you do manage to see us and take any pictures, I’d really appreciate if you could tweet them with the hashtag #lucysmarathon . I’ll be tweeting from @lucyfenner on the way round (as long as my battery lasts!) so you can see the experience from the ground.

Thank you for all your absolutely amazing messages of support. We’ve all never felt anything like this before, thanks to you we’re all motivated to keep going and get on with this marathon. If I see any of you tomorrow on the course, be warned, I’m very likely to cry! Happy tears though.

And one last push, if you’ve been meaning to sponsor us and haven’t yet, let’s smash this £5k target today! We’re on £4887!!! Our page is here.

And one more time for good luck THANK YOU!

A set back

I’m currently on the train on my way to the London marathon expo. I wanted to try and explain my emotions at this point but first, an update on my heart.

Yesterday I was at a conference at the Nectar head office when the lovely Bethan from The Brompton called. I ducked out of the room to find somewhere quiet to take it. Bethan told me that my 48 hour ECG results had come back and had picked up another abnormality with my heart. She explained how I would have to go on new heart drugs as a matter of urgency. I’d also have to change my marathon plans and instead of walking it fast, walk it very slowly. As you can imagine I was quite overwhelmed at this stage to be hearing that there was yet another problem and another change to the plan. Especially when I was just starting to come to terms with what the weekend was going to be like for me and my family. A lovely nectar lady called Anna found me and looked after me with a cuppa and a cream egg. Legend!

This morning Bethan contacted my doctors and I’ve already started taking these new drugs. I’m also booked in for more tests in the near future. Bethan’s called St George’s (who look after all medics for the marathon) and told them about me and mum. Hopefully it’s quite clear to see how absolutely amazing The Brompton and the staff there are. Just fabulous.

So the good news is that we know about this other problem and we wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t doing the marathon. I’m also on drugs that should stabilise my heart rhythm and protect the heart. The bad news is that there are side effects (like with any drugs) and this may have an impact on my day to day life – it may not. It’s likely to make Sunday a bit harder for me as my blood pressure will be very low.

Enough of the serious stuff, it’s time to get in the zone. I’m going to walk into that expo hall with Ben. We’ll both be proud to be doing the marathon and will celebrate with the Oxfam crew on stand 170.

Over the next few days I’ll post lots of photos of my experience on here and on twitter. You can follow me @lucyfenner or search for the hashtag #lucysmarathon

Thanks for all your support, donations of prizes and money. You’ve all been brilliant.

1 week to go

This time next week I’ll be in a hotel in London preparing for the marathon which will be the very next day. It may seem surprising but since I was told not to run the marathon I’ve not really thought about the event itself, I’ve been much more focused on the fundraising and awareness, making sure that I use this opportunity to get as many people as possible to get their hearts checked and sign up for organ donation. The good news is, it’s working. We’ve raised our target of £5000 and the PR has been going really well. Of course I want to raise more and get even more PR!

Sophie my PR friend has done an amazing job of sharing my story and subsequently I’ve been interviewed by The Surrey Advertiser (out this week), Elmbridge Guardian, Oxford Journal, Harefield Gazette and The Daily Mail. It’s been a super weird experience being interviewed about such personal things, especially talking in detail about what Jack went through with his transplant. It’s paid off though. I’ve had lots of contact from people with cardiomyopathy, people that have very sadly lost loved ones because of heart conditions like cardiomyopathy and various charities who are pleased to have more coverage of this subject out there. So I’m going to keep going as long as it lasts.

48 hour ECG recording

48 hour ECG recording

As you may have read in the coverage, I’m really passionate about heart screening in young people and want to tell you about the brilliant work of a charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). They do free ECGs for anyone between 14 and 35 across the UK. If you anyone you know suffers from any heart symptoms at all; breathlessness, palpitations, water retention – especially when exercising, please speak to your GP or book in for an ECG with CRY. Around 12 young people die of possibly preventable heart defects every week, if they’d been screened their condition could have been managed, like mine is. I’ve spent 2 days this week wearing an ECG monitor (right). I’ve had to sleep with it on, go to work and attempt a run in it too. The Doctor’s are just watching how my palpitations change over this time to see how serious they are. I should get the results next week. It’s obvious but I’m going to say it – without my screening I wouldn’t have these tests or the drugs that I’m on and I’d be in much more danger than I am now. Get screened if you’re worried.

So now it’s time to focus on the main event as it creeps up! I need to get in the zone and start to imagine walking the marathon patiently, it taking 7 hours (not the planned 4!) with me and mum wearing our t-shirts declaring our dodgy hearts (below).

No matter what, I know that it’s going to be an amazing event with thousands of people taking part for thousands of special reasons and I can’t wait to be part of it again!

Our marathon t-shirt design

Our marathon t-shirt design

A long week

This week’s been a funny one. It’s the launch of a large project I’ve been working on for the past 4 months so I’ve been really busy at work. You may have seen it: Oxfam’s launched a partnership with Nectar. Clever! I’ve been working on the auction which is on Monday. We’ve got some amazing donations and the team I’m doing it with (Amy, Janine and Alan) have written and designed amazing promo materials (see poster below right). Then there’s the marathon…on Saturday Ben had his longest run and I cycled along side him giving him sports drinks, gels etc. Then mum and I walked 21 miles on Easter Monday along with my crazy friend Corinne who came along ‘for fun’. Finally there’s all of the press interviews I’ve been doing.

Our auction poster

Our auction poster

The 21 mile walk was OK actually. It was freezing cold and stupidly windy but we got through it in 5 hours. We were proud of ourselves! Through the walk there were points where we were a little disheartened. For example when we’d walked 10 miles, 11, 12 and 13 seemed to go very slowly. I started to picture and talk about what we’d be seeing on the London marathon route at that point and how it’d be much better on the day. Secretly knowing that miles 13-18 are actually really quiet and we’ll probably get pretty bored. Anyway, we did it and we’re now confident that we can complete the marathon in 6.5-7 hours on the big day…which is less than 3 weeks away!

And the exciting news is that press teams are actually interested in my story! I had an interview with 2 newspapers this week and have another lined up for the end of the week. The first one was the Daily Mail in which I’ll feature next Tuesday. It’ll be an article covering heart conditions in young people with my story as the case study. I’m really pleased that such a large audience will read my story and hopefully understand more about heart conditions in young people and the need for organ donation sign ups. Today one of the local newspapers published my story online.

Thanks for all your support and sponsorship. It’s absolutely frickin’ amazing!

She’s in!

We’ve got mum a place! Thanks to the lovely Katie and Oxfam, mum is going to be able to do the marathon with me. It’s exciting! We went for a training walk on Saturday not knowing whether she’d get a place or not. It was snowing the whole duration of the walk. Mums hands went numb and swollen by the end but we did it. We walked 13 miles with no training! Pretty good for my (almost) 60 year old mum! Legend.

Before the walk - already freezing cold!

Before the walk – already freezing cold!

While we were walking we started to plan race day. One of the things we want to make sure of is that people know we we’re not able to run the race. I don’t think I can handle the ‘keep running’ cheers. So, we’re going to get t-shirts saying ‘my heart won’t let me run’. I’m going to make a banner saying ‘our hearts won’t let us run’ and the logos of the charities we’re supporting so that when we walk past the telly cameras we can put up our banners.

At work I’m continuing with the fundraising. I’ve had some extremely generous sponsors giving money as well as promises. Yes that’s right, promises. Some friends at work are doing Trailtrekker in June and we’re holding an Auction of Promises. We’ve had donations such as ‘a cake every month for 6 months’ and ‘a week in a holiday home in the Alps. On 8th April we’re holding the auction offering a free lunch to thank those that have donated and bid on the promises.

12 miles in. Cold, snowy and bored!

12 miles in. Cold, snowy and bored!

I know I’m always asking you lovely people for things but this is another important one. A great charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young have a petition to get change policy on heart screening of young people. Over 600 young people (under 35) die suddenly each year due to heart conditions like mine. If young people are screened for these heart diseases their lives could be saved. You can sign the petition here, it’ll take just 30 seconds.

And as always if you haven’t already, please sign up to the organ donor register.

Thank you all for your continued support and sponsorship. It’s amazing!

a fresh start

Thank you to everyone who’s read my blog since my news last week. So many of you contacted me, sponsored me, signed up to give blood and committed to organ donation. I was overwhelmed by the response. After pondering for a while I’ve decided that I will definitely walk the marathon!

So here we go again: training round 2. With just 4 weeks to go till the marathon I’m starting to train for a walking marathon. All completely different muscles and mental strength needed. The mentality is going to be the hardest to sort out. I knew that I could run a marathon, I’ve done that before, I’m not sure I can walk one! I’m going to be upset, frustrated, bored, lonely and will have to put up with crowds shouting ‘Keep running!’. It’s going to take me 6+ hours. I really hope the crowds and support hang around long enough to egg me on. I’m going to need it!

Well are you?

Well are you?

I know that I’m very lucky to get a ballot place in the London marathon and to be able to walk it. I can’t pass this opportunity up. To make the most of it I’m going to create an awesome, mega motivational playlist (any suggestions please send them to me!), take a camera with me and I’m desperately trying to find a drop out place so that my mum can walk it with me.

Mum’s are the best aren’t they? As soon as Dr Prasad told me I couldn’t run the marathon last week, she jumped straight in, ‘I’ll walk it with you!”. Mum’s got cardiomyopathy too so it’d be the two of us heart cripples beating it together. If you know of someone that’s dropped out of this year’s London Marathon and not yet given their place back to the Virgin London Marathon, please get in contact if you think they may let mum have their place. Thank you.

The other part of the plan is to get as many hits to my blog as possible and spread my story as far as I can. A kind friend in the PR team at work has written me a strategy and press releases for my walking marathon and we’re going to try and get coverage in as many magazines, blogs and social media areas as possible, all to raise awareness of cardiomyopathy and the urgent need for organ donation. As lots of you told me you’d signed up to organ donation from reading my blog, I’m spurred on to get as many people involved and signed up as possible. We can save lives! Simply spread the word and encourage others to sign up and you’ll be helping to save the lives of people like my brother who was a fit 20 year old just before he needed his heart transplant. If you have twitter, please RT my blog and use the hashtag #lucysmarathon

I’ll keep you posted on the training, support and general shenanigans of my new found challenge!

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