Brighton Half 2013

21/02/2013

Following an amazing performance in the Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday 17 February 2013, Maggie Chipperfield tells us about why she ran and how she made it through!

I know it goes against all the stereotype of a Surrey girl, but Champagne does not sit well with me.  Neither does Prosecco, Cava or indeed Lambrini.  The bubbles tend to go straight up my nose, I get very giddy, very quickly and all sense of rational decision-making floats blissfully out of the window.  However, I think you’ll agree that it is the only thing to drink when celebrating! So during a summers evening at the Evans’ we were sipping bubbles and celebrating the success of P4P 2012.  Topics of conversation changed and we began talking about Alun’s London Marathon success in 2011. He talked with so much enthusiasm and passion that I began to feel that I too could take on the lifestyle of a serious runner! He slipped into conversation that lots of his colleagues were taking on the Brighton Half Marathon in 2013 and maybe I should sign up. After proudly relaying his marathon stories, and with the bubbles going straight to my head, I began to feel like thirteen miles was really just a jog round the block and that actually a bright red sweaty face might quite suit me!  And so, at midnight, after those couple of glasses of champagne, I switched on my laptop and before I knew it I had signed up for the Brighton Half Marathon…

This might sound like a completely irrational decision but theres a bit more to it than that. Let’s go back four years… no probably more like eleven years. Patrick Evans was my best friend and my first love. He had an amazing ability to make me feel like I was the most special person in the room and he always made a way to make me laugh uncontrollably without really trying.  No matter what was happening in other parts of our lives we always knew that we had each other. It was an unconditional and precious friendship. 

This all changed in 2009.  Losing Patrick was the hardest things I have ever had to go through and it changed my whole world.  There were countless months when I thought things would never get better and I would never feel like me again.

 

Following Patrick’s death, Catherine, Alun, Louise, Rory, and Hugo set up the Patrick Evans Foundation in memory of Patrick’s passion and love for causes closest to his heart.  Through the tireless support as well as fundraising from family and friends the Patrick Evans Foundation has been able to fund projects that directly affected Patrick when he was alive, and help change the lives of his dearest friends and family who are still here.

Sometimes when life gets tough it’s easy to get angry that Patch is not here for a chat or a cuddle or a laugh. But the Foundation helps us remember that actually he is still here; living in the work of charities and causes that he loved, for the people that he loved. It made sense to do something challenging for such a wonderful cause, for such a wonderful person

In the past two years, some of Patch's and my closest friends' lives have been uprooted by the terrifying reality of cancer. Their bravery, strength and support for their families has been an inspiration, so as well as having Patch as my inspiration, I also wanted to do something for Cancer Research.

The countdown.

I hate running, not even a little bit, but with a furious passion. In fact all exercise is very low down on my agenda, (unless it is dancing over enthusiastically to very loud music after a drink or an occasional heated rounders tournament at school.) So I knew this Half Marathon would be one of the toughest challenges for me to ever hope to achieve. 

My first obstacle was training during the winter. Running in mud and snow and sleet has not been fun. If you’re reading this and also considering doing a big run, book it for the summer so that you don’t have to train during the winter! The treadmill quickly became my new best friend and the gym became my second home.

My second biggest obstacle was my attitude to running. I quickly came to realise that if I tricked myself into thinking it was a dance-athon / karaoke-athon then I could run/dance/sing for quite a long time without stopping. This, unsurprisingly, resulted in many funny looks from other runners and members of the general public. Particular apologies need to go out to the poor man in the gym who was a one man audience to a very loud and quite angry rendition of Taylor Swift’s ‘We are never ever ever, getting back together.’

My third obstacle was running gear. Sportswear was a completely alien concept to me. I had never had any need to even step foot in a sports shop and I had laughed out loud at my brother when he spent ten pounds on running socks. (Little did I know then how I would come to love running socks!) I splashed out on proper running trainers; my tiny trotter feet finally coming up trumps as I only had to pay half the price for children’s trainers. I was winning already! Together with my unconventional mix of running, dancing and singing training was going well… I felt like I could conquer the running world!

Fun-draising

My fundraising page had been set up months in advance of the run, during my first flush of excitement but I must admit it had slipped by the way side. I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t have sponsored me until I’d seen photographic evidence of actually crossing the finishing line! But I couldn’t believe the response I was getting. Ten pounds from an old friend from university, then five minutes later my phone would vibrate, another generous ten pounds from a school friend, five minutes later my phone would go again, another ten pounds from a work colleague from Leeds. I could not believe how generous friends were being.Each person that had so generously sponsored me not only realised how much of challenge I had given myself but more importantly was giving because of the charities. They either knew Patch or his family, they either had cancer themselves, had a loved one who had suffered and died from cancer, or were currently supporting someone who was battling cancer. It was getting to the point that I had to turn off my phone because each time it went off I was welling up. The generosity from you all has been phenomenal; words cannot do justice to how much it means to me and how far it will go to making a difference to so many lives.  Thank you so much.

Ribbons

I had taken my new found love of sportswear to a new level; I wanted to redesign my running top so that I could incorporate all the names and messages of loved ones who had sponsored me and who had been directly affected by cancer. The response was overwhelming. I was receiving messages for ribbons from friends in Leeds, Birmingham, London, even messages in different languages.  The cancer was indiscriminate of age, sex, size, but the message of love was all the same. It was inspiring. I felt so proud that I was carrying all these precious memories, names and messages of so many loved ones. Thank you all so much for giving me that privilege.

The Run.

5.20.BEEP BEEP BEEP!

 As soon as I heard my phone alarm blasting into my ear I was up. Somehow I had managed to sleep all through the night so I was ready and raring to go. After a particularly shaky start to the day (missing the rail replacement bus, leaving our breakfast-of-dreams in the car and surviving a death defying cab journey) I was at Horley ready to be united with fellow runners Louise and James.   Standing at Horley station was like being part of a secret agent running club; all the legging-clad men and women had a secret glance, a secret nod to each other, we all knew where we were going and what we were about to do. Our mission if we chose to accept it: to run thirteen miles in the shortest possible amount of time, without falling over (mainly my own personal secret mission!)  I was getting very, very excited.

By the time we had arrived in Brighton my energy levels were through the roof, the pure excitement of being part of a much bigger event was too much to bear and in true Maggie form I was bouncing down the street. I never thought I would have felt this excited about running. As we were handing our bags in my phone kept vibrating, another ten pounds donated and then another twenty-five pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I was determined there was no way I was going to let this tiny little run defeat me.

High on life and itching to get started I struck up conversation with another runner who was racing in fancy dress as a teddy bear. Never one to miss a photo opportunity I asked if I could try on his massive teddy head.  If he can run in this enormous furry head, I thought, surely I CAN DO IT!

When the buzzer went off I wanted to bound ahead but Lou was amazing. She had prepped me with her experience during ‘Run to the Beat’ and we agreed our motto was slow and steady wins the race. As we approached the one mile mark we saw the giant hands of the Patrick Evans Foundations logo. I could not believe how many friends had trekked it down to Brighton to come and cheer us on- it was the best feeling ever!

In celebration of seeing our supporters Lou then started shedding clothes…to keep cool! Someone around the mile and a half point must have picked up a delightful orange hoodie that was thrown in a truly dramatic style to the side of the road. Note to all spectators, if you want to update your collection of hoodies, tracksuit bottoms, gloves or hats just wait by the road side of a half marathon. The amount of clothes people were shedding was insane.

At mile three I hit my first wall. I honestly didn’t think I could keep running and as we were gradually going up hill my legs were beginning to ache. Louise was outstanding. She did not let me stop, she kept it steady refusing to allow me to opt out. I had broken through my first half marathon wall. I was a real runner! The next three miles were amazing and going over the cliffs looking out to sea was stunning. Again, I never thought I would say this about running, but it was so serene and peaceful. We were also going downhill, so it felt like we were running at double speed, a bit like when you walk on the travelators in airports. I felt like a super hero!

At mile five we saw friends Andy and Chris whizz past us at the speed of light, then James who had managed to shoot off in front of us! It was amazing to see them doing so well!

Coming down the cliff (which shall hence be referred to as ‘super hero hill’) it was lined with Lucazade bottles, drums, flags, supporters shouting names and children handing out sweets. Feeling like I was floating on air I high fived the children, took the jelly babies and whooped all the way down the hill.

Waiting patiently at the bottom of super hero hill, not knowing what was going to hit them were Rory and Mike. I jumped on Rory, so happy to see a familiar face but was quickly reminded by him that I needed to KEEP RUNNING! At mile eight we could see the blue hand of the logo over the tops of the crowd - we were getting closer! I had reached a state of full delirium at this point and there was no going back! I danced my way through the eighth mile knowing we were on the home stretch.

At mile nine suddenly I heard a voice: ‘Maggie!’ coming from the flow of runners coming in the opposite direction. Joe Wainwrite was shouting my name. Cool as a cucumber he gave me a hug (whilst we were running on the spot) looked at his watch and rocketed off to the finish line with the line ‘Sorry Mags can’t stop, got to do two miles in six minutes!’ 

This encounter definitely gave me the illusion that the next four miles were going to be a breeze. Oh how wrong I was. Cue the second wall. Or as I like to call it: The Wall of Doom.

Miles ten to thirteen were horrendous. Louise was not feeling well and so we stopped to take off her tracksuit bottoms, (she was wearing shorts underneath!) This involved trying to hide behind two vans and bending over to take off trainers and tie up shoe laces, a task I had massively underestimated. As soon as I stopped everything started to slowly seize up, I could feel every strand of my muscles cementing together. 

At this point we were trying to justify the final three miles. We agreed that the final mile no longer existed because we would do that on pure adrenalin. That leaves just two miles. We had done the first mile in less than ten minutes so actually we only had to run for a maximum of twenty minutes. This was the logic of two very desperate ladies longing for the end, clinging on for dear life! I have no idea how much longer we ran for but I would put money on the fact it was much longer than twenty minutes!

At twelve miles we saw the blue hands of the logo, drifting like a mirage over the crowds. It was getting really tough now and all I wanted to do was give up. But Louise kept pushing us on. She zoomed off to the finishing line but I was really flagging. At 800 metres to go Wonderwall started to play on my shuffled playlist. The song friends and family has become synonymous with Patrick. Oh how I cursed! Of all of the songs iPod, do you really want to make me cry at the end of these horrendous three miles?!Seriously?!!! But right there and then I was filled with the proudest feeling that Patch was watching and cheering me on right to the end. Right on cue as the tears started welling (full on, one hundred per cent emotional wreck now!) I saw and heard friends from work on the side line shouting my name. It was like I was in the Truman Show; the emotive soundtrack playing, friends all placed exactly where I needed them to be, exactly at the right times. That last 700 metres were the hardest and longest metres I’ve ever ran.

Passing that finish line was the biggest feeling of relief I have ever had but what an immense feeling of achievement!

Going from genuinely completely hating running to managing 13 miles, is a huge achievement for me and I could not have done it without you. I could not have done it without all the support from all of you who came down to cheer us on, to all of you who so generously sponsored and to Louise for running by my side and not letting me give up.  Looking down and seeing all the ribbons, with names and messages for loved ones, and knowing that the money we had all raised would directly help some of these people kept me running. I am so proud to have done it for them.

I’m also so unbelievably proud of my fellow runners Louise, James, Andy, Joe and Chris, you were all amazing!

For that feeling passing the finishing line, seeing everyone’s faces, knowing how much money people had so generously donated = Brighton Half Marathon was completely and utterly worth the pain.

To support Maggie in her fundraising efforts visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MaggieChipperfield