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

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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

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!

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.

Fun-raising

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.

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

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.

Thanks!

From the beginning…

Over the next 6 months I’ll be writing this blog in an effort to document the trials and tribulations of my 2013 London Marathon journey. I’m going to be completely honest about my experience in the hope that I encourage others to challenge themselves even if they find running hard – like I do.

I took part in the 2011 London Marathon. It was first ever marathon and I ran it all on my own, without stopping. Something I’m very proud of. It was hard but there is something horribly addictive about it that makes me want to do it again. I’m not sure whether it’s the challenge of doing a better time, the challenge of actually just completing it again or whether I’m trying to prove something to myself about my various health issues (more on that later). I do know that it’s definitely a great opportunity for me to fundraise for 2 charities that I’m very passionate about: Harefield and Brompton Hospitals and Oxfam. You’ll hear more about them very soon.

This time, I’m running the marathon with someone: my lovely boyfriend Ben. It’s going to be an interesting test of our relationship! So, we have less than 22 weeks to fully prepare for a marathon. Let’s see how we get on!