walker not a runner

It’s with great sadness that I have to let you know that I won’t be running the London marathon on 21st April. I had final tests at the Brompton yesterday and while I’m ‘extremely fit’ (had to get that in there) my heart’s not good enough for me to run the marathon, or any marathon or half marathon ever again. It’s time to hang up my running shoes after a pretty good career. I’ve had the pleasure, yes pleasure, of running the London Marathon, Barcelona half marathon, Royal Parks half marathon (twice!), Reading half marathon, Run to the Beat, the Great North Run, Great South Run and Bupa 10ooo. I’ve got a good collection of medals and I’ve still got cartilage in my knees so there are some positives to this news!

The delightful exercise test I took yesterday.

The delightful exercise test I took yesterday.

You may wonder why, if I’m fit and have done all these runs in the past why I can’t continue my hobby. I’ll try and explain the technical health bit…

I have dilated cardiomyopathy which means that my heart is weak and enlarged which means it can’t pump blood as efficiently as a healthy heart. Since I was diagnosed in 2008 my heart’s steadily decreasing in function and yesterday I found out that it’s got to the point where they need me to take drugs to try and limit it getting worse. If we now add in my ulcerative colitis, which causes weird electrolyte activity affecting the heart, as well as limits the amount of nutrience I can absorb from my food it becomes more serious. I lack in a lot of crucial vitamins and iron, which often makes me feel very tired, dizzy and faint. These are also vitamins that the heart needs to function as best it can.

So, even though the rest of my body feels fit to run, my heart can’t hack it and it’s very dangerous to strain it by running silly distances. People always say to me, ‘oh you’re a natural runner’. I can tell you now, I think we’ve proven that I’m not and I find it bloomin’ hard lugging myself round a half marathon course, let alone a marathon!

What happens next? Well while I explain the health bits easily and joke about it, I’m crushed. I don’t know whether it’s the marathon, the loss of running or just knowing I’ve got these diseases I can’t control. I’ll moap about a bit and feel sorry for myself. I’ve lost my favourite hobby and as silly as it sounds I have to morn it. I have to accept that my ticker’s worse than I thought and decide what to do about the marathon. I want to keep going, I want to walk it (that’s been given the nod by my heart doctor for those worriers). Ben and I have raised £2.5k and I want to keep fundraising. I just have to work out whether I’m mentally strong enough to get over the not running. Training up till now, running 3 times a week since November, running 15 miles on the weekend and constantly gearing up for the marathon is engrained in my brain. Stopping now and giving up would be easy but I like to make my life that little bit more challenging. I can see myself walking it, raising more money, getting more people signed up for organ donation and raising awareness of the diseases. While it’s hard for me, remember there are thousands of people with this condition that are much worse off. They need organs RIGHT NOW. They can’t get out of bed, let alone walk a marathon.

Trying to understand my echo results.

Trying to understand my echo results.

I’ve cried all the way through writing this. Please appreciate that it’s hard for me to share this and I’m not normally someone to publish this sort of information. This blog’s been a challenge for me. I’m doing this for the reasons I listed above and would love it if you could:

1. Sign up for organ donation

2. Register to give blood

3. Tell your friends and family to do number 1 & 2

4. Sponsor me and Ben

Thank you for your support. Please share my story.



The training’s still on hold so I’ve been using my time to maximise the fundraising! And what fun it’s been! It’s a fundraisers dream to be given items to use for fundraising and I was lucky enough to be given an amazing donation of over 50 handbags from a high street favourite.

Sales going well last Thursday!

Sales going well last Thursday!

We decided to hold a handbag sale in Oxfam House with the stock we had. With over 700 people in the office we were hopeful we’d sell a few bags. With a little bit of design, marketing and word of mouth we were set to go. The sale was due to start at 11.30 and at 11.25 we had colleagues looking at the bags wanting to start buying. The image to the right was taken at 11.35! Women were surrounding the handbags and they were flying out of our hands. It was amazing! Within 20 mins we’d sold 90% of stock and made £900. Ben couldn’t believe how much women loved handbags – he finally believes it’s not just me!

We want to say a massive thank you to our anonymous donor who made it possible as well as thanking everyone that came and bought a bag. We hope that you love your bags!

So that’s £2500 raised now, half way to our £5,000 target. If you’d like to sponsor us and keep us going while we can’t train please click here.

Next up it’s an Auction of Promises at work with some colleagues that are walking Oxfam’s Trailtrekker. If you don’t work at Oxfam and would like to make a promise let me know on l.fenner@hotmail.co.uk. Promises currently include things like cake baking, picture framing, dinner parties, dog walking, babysitting. Promises will be auctioned in Oxfam House on 8th April.

Thank you everyone.

We’ve hit £1000!

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone that’s sponsored us to date. We’ve hit the £1000 mark!

My recent cake sale at work raised £200.

My recent cake sale at work raised £200.

Last week I held a cake sale in Oxfam House. 13 of my wonderful colleagues baked cakes, brownies, muffins and even pinwheels (?!) for the cake sale. At 12pm we set up and by 2pm all of the cakes had been sold. We made a tidy £200 and all our customers were very satisfied.

Right now I’m planning the next fundraiser which is a handbag sale at work. I’ve had about 50 leather handbags donated and hope to sell them for between £20 and £35 next week. We hope to raise about £1000 in one go! Will keep you posted.

Me in hospital last weekend.

Me in hospital last weekend.

The training itself is currently on hold as I’ve been told not to run for 2 weeks because of some chest pains I’ve been having. I was in hospital last weekend. The doctors can’t see a correlation between my illness and my running but they’re looking into my results further. It’s unlikely that running is making it any worse. Frustratingly they don’t know what it is. They hope to give me an answer on whether I’ll actually be able to take part in the marathon on 12th March. Until then, I have to limit my running and exercise in general which is extremely frustrating. I’m also going to have to go on drugs to limit the worsening of my heart. All in all pretty rubbish.

So, the training plan’s taken a blow but to keep me distracted I’m focusing on the fundraising. It’s made me wonder why I run marathons anyway – I enjoy the fundraising bit the best!

Help us get closer to our £5000 target and sponsor us here.

On track

Another 10 miles run on Saturday and after last week’s 14 miler Benny and I are feeling like we can actually do this marathon. I’m please to report no chest pains or heart symptoms although the UC is making running and general day to day not so good. It seems that long distance running means I have a permanent flare up. I’m not giving up though. Through stitches, stomach cramps, blisters and needing the loo on our 10 miles this Sat we invented our team moto; Team Fenben: we don’t stop! And we didn’t.

Runs are getting so long now I’m getting bored of the music on my iPod. So I’ve started listening to a new album every run. It’s expensive but it works. I zone out and quickly get into my ‘plodding state’. That’s when I run so much that it becomes so natural just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and rock along. I’ve never meditated but I’d imagine it’s quite a similar feeling.

We’re at that midway point where running’s ok and the distances are bearable, we’re also getting faster. The next few weeks will start to get tough as we become exhausted by our training. I’m already waking up everyday with the dull ache in my legs knowing that I’m going to have to run again that evening. My list of reasons to be motivated is right by my bed!

Motivation always comes back to the fundraising and charities. This week I had 40 leather bags donated to me by a very generous high street retailer. I’m going to do a handbag sale at work and
hope to raise around £750. At the moment Oxfam could use the money we raise to buy blankets, stoves and hygiene kits for Syrian refugees who’ve fled war and are living in freezing refugee camps this bitter winter. Oxfam’s work is literally life saving for these people. Real refugee stories on the Oxfam website have inspired me to go out and run in the cold this week. The work is amazing.

11 weeks, £4,200 to raise. Sponsor us here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/fenben
Find out more about Oxfam’s response in Syria: http://www.oxfam.org.uk

All clear!

Yesterday I visited the Royal Brompton hospital in London for my 6 monthly MRI results. This is the magical place that has looked after my brother along with the rest of my family on so many occasions.

In 2008 my brother was fitted with an ICD. Much like a pace maker, this mini internal defibrillator works to monitor heart rate. If the heart dips below a certain bpm it’ll shock it back to life. In the same year The Brompton started monitoring mine and my mum, dad and other brother’s hearts too. This was also when we started helping with research into inherited heart conditions.

In 2010 my family spent a month going back and forth to The Brompton while my brothers health was deteriorating. Whenever I visit I remember the day he was moved by ambulance to Harefield hospital where he’d later have his heart transplant. He was so ill then that he could have suffered cardiac arrest on the journey, so they whisked him through London to Harefield. What a day! Luckily he got there fine and that’s where he stayed for the next 2 months waiting for his transplant.

Sometimes people forget that heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer. These 2 hospitals work to look after those suffering with the disease and undertake ground breaking research. Hopefully you can see why it’s so important that we support these hospitals and want to fundraise as much as we can.

Yesterday I met my consultant who talked me through my most recent results (and showed me an MRI of my whole body which was in sane!). The bad news is that my heart has got weaker again but they want me to keep exercising. So much so I’m allowed to run the marathon – as long as I take it easy and watch out for certain symptoms. Wahoo! High on this news, I went and walked down The Mall to get me all pumped up for race day. It bought back memories of last time I ran the marathon and really put the fear in me!

So with the all clear and a new found fear of this 26.2 miles, it’s all about cranking up those miles and getting that fundraising pouring in. Just 12 weeks, £4.5k to raise and over 350 miles to run!

You can sponsor me and support the Brompton and Harefield here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/fenben

Motivation needed!

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quieter than normal these last few weeks. I blame the January blues! I’ve still been keeping to the training plan: 3

The big one! Just 10 weeks away.

The big training run! Just 10 weeks away.

runs a week, slowly increasing the longest run at our estimated marathon pace. The main problem I’ve faced is a total lack of motivation. After a long day at work one of the last things I want to do is go back out in the cold. So I’ve been thinking about different ways to motivate myself. So far I’ve come up with:

Fitness and weight loss. This should be a big motivator for me. I love being fit – something to do with defying my tummy and heart problems. I’m also very conscious about my weight and put on a good few pounds over Christmas. So really all this training should be something that I really want to do.

The achievement. I’ve done the London Marathon before. The first time it was really important for me to complete it, this time it doesn’t feel quite the same. In 2011 I ran part of the route with a lady who’d had a heart transplant 5 years before. I’d never met her before that day. If people can push themselves like Anne did, then why on earth should I be so lazy? I know that I’m very privileged to be running with a ballot place and able to take part in the marathon and I have to make the most of it.

Fundraising. This has always been my biggest motivator as I’m so passionate about the charities we’re supporting. So far we’re doing OK with our fundraising. It’s so nice to know that sponsors believe in you and want you to succeed but what we’ve raised isn’t enough to make us leap up and run out of the front door. I find it hard to explain how motivating it is having the fundraising behind you. As your runs accumulate and you get more and more tired the only thing that can truly make you want to keep running is knowing how much it’ll help others. So the more you raise, the easier it is to run.

Food. As I mentioned I like to watch what I eat so training a lot is a great excuse to allow myself treats I wouldn’t normally have. Last week after a 10 mile run we had fish and chips – delicious! Each long run we spend atleast 10 minutes discussing what treat we can have that week. We’re even considering writing a list on our training plan to get us through the  long runs in February and March.

We’ve also come up with a few tricks to keep us on track; we’re challenging ourselves to 3 runs a week (and have joined Jantastic with the rest of the Oxfam runners). If someone doesn’t hit their target they get teased and have to do the washing up for the week ahead! When we run together we’re looking to improve our mile average. So far we’ve got our long run down by 10 seconds a mile. Most importantly we’re going to start making some serious moves on the fundraising to have that money behind us like a jet booster! Watch out for an event near you soon.

From now I vow to be motivated for the 2013 London Marathon!

If you’d like to sponsor us you can at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fenben

I’d love to hear your suggestions for motivation. Please feel free to leave a comment.


Running with coughs and colds

This week my training’s been interrupted by an ear infection. I planned to run 2 x 6 miles during the week and an 11 miler on Sunday.

I ignored my grogginess, grabbed a nice head band to look after the ears and went out running twice! 2 x 5 miles. On both occasions I’ve had to deal with the old runners’ conscience battle, ‘Am I too ill to run or just avoiding the cold and rain outside?’

I think a lot of runners beat themselves up about being lazy when they decide to take a break for illness. This comes from the pressures of a heavy training schedule and a daunting challenge ahead. This force can often make people run when they really should rest.

So my question is; How do you know when you’re being lazy vs. actually too ill to run?

When people ask me about illness, I always advise not to run if someone’s feeling under the weather, “rest up and let your body recover till you’re feeling better” I’d say. But is that an easy route out of a training run?! The thing is I never listen to my own advice and I’m starting to wonder whether it’s is the best thing to advise. Almost every time I’ve been out when I’ve felt under the weather, a run has made me feel much better mentally and physically. I feel stronger in fact.

I’d still say, you know your body best so use how you’re feeling as a true indicator of whether you should exercise or not. My advice: Get out there and run, you’ll soon know whether you’re too poorly to keep running!

Training challenges

This week’s been really hard for training. What with the snow, various Christmas drinks, a very busy week of work and a flare up in my colitis, I’ve found it really hard to find the time and energy to get out and run. I’ve managed 2 early morning runs which have been absolutely freezing! Ben and I have a long run planned tomorrow which will be a good run in the bank.

Whenever I have a flare up my energy is completely zapped and I feel really sick. Sometimes running can make this better, sometimes it can make it a lot worse. At these times I struggle to find the motivation to run and that’s when I think of others who have much bigger challenges every day of their lives but still get up and get on with what they have to do. These are the people I run and fundraise for and that’s why every bit of fundraising we do and sponsorship that we get helps to get me up off the sofa and out there running.

I’m taking the right medication and eating the right foods so hopefully my flare up will go away and I can get back to training properly! I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading x

Sponsorship and training all kicking off

This week’s been really interesting. I’ve learnt a lot about fundraising, networking and how Ben and I are going to be training together.

The great news is that we’ve had a few online sponsors (www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/fenben) from people that we don’t even know. It’s shown how talking to everyone about the challenge that we’re doing and the causes we’re raising money for really does work. Thanks to all those that have supported us to date.

My treasure map at work (previous blog post) isn’t going so well. It’s been there a week now and only 3 people have chosen a square. Outrage! However, tomorrow is Oxfam payday and I’m going to send a nice promotional email round. Fingers crossed for some more responses.

I’ve been on 2 training runs this week so far and even managed to fit one into my working day yesterday. It turns out that a cheeky 10k at 4pm then heading back into the office (in full lycra!) is a bit weird for my colleagues. Showing them blisters and other horrible parts of my feet didn’t go down too well either. I’ve learnt the boundaries now!

It looks like Ben and I will only be doing one run a week together which is probably for the best. That’ll be our weekend pace run. We did the first on Sunday and stuck to our marathon pace exactly (9 min miles) for 7 miles. We were really happy with that!

I’ve done some more work on my blog as well so please have a look around and read all about why Ben and I are challenging ourselves to this marathon.

As always, thanks for reading. Lucy x