Part three in a series of 'Dark Days' posts in the 'Disability Diaries' Feature.
At the end of the last instalment of Dark Days, I had got to a point where I was starting to cope with day to day life. I still had bad days, plenty of them. But with the help of the anti-depressants, getting back to work and a change to a more healthier lifestyle I found I was beginning to accept and acknowledge that life for J1 and I was going to be very different from what I had thought it would be.
During my move to a 'healthier lifestyle' I had set my sights on undertaking a Charity 'Challenge'. I was investigating the possibility of signing up to trek the Inca Trail in Peru, with the aim of raising about £1800. A good friend also wanted to do it and the first step, before parting with registration money, would be starting to get fit.
Due to financial constraints I decided to get fit I had to start running. This was the source of many wry smiles from friends and family, for the main reason that I had always been rather vocal about being anti-running. I did what I always do when starting something new; purchased some reading literature on it. I bought my first of many Running Magazines and I enjoyed reading it. I gave me a lot of inspiration.
The most useful article I read was Top Things To Remember with Running. The key point that stuck with me, and still does when I run today : The first ten minutes are the hardest. I really clung onto this little pointer on those first few tentative runs. I stuck to a 'complete beginners' guide, which encouraged building up slowly. I would run for two minutes and walk for one. Soon I found I was comfortable enough to run for four minutes and then six and then eight etc.
It was after a Saturday morning jog that I came home to find my mail on the door mat. On a high from the exercise, I opened a large envelope from the charity I was hoping to do the trek for. It was a large advertisement for one of their other 'challenges' and it made me smile immediately : The London Marathon 2006. I knew instantly this was the 'challenge' for me. I completed the registration form, found my chequebook and walked the application to the post box.
I didn't tell anyone but the friend that had shown an interest in doing the Peru trip. He was happy that I had found something that had inspired me, and insisted that he still wanted to register for the Inca Trail. I found some literature on Marathon training programmes and started to train against that. I would not hear for sure if I had been allocated a place for the Marathon with the Charity until at least October so in the mean time I continued to build on my running and started to brainstorm fundraising ideas so that I was prepared.
I got the good news that I was going to be a London Marathon participant and euphoric told everyone. I think my parents were happier that I would be staying in the UK than disappearing to Peru. I had found my mum slowly starting to drop tid-bits of information in like 'Rather large spiders in Peru'. Although I wouldn't be going abroad I still had to rely heavily on my parents for support for all the training hours I was going to need to put in and for the fundraising target I needed to hit.
As with everything new all training and motivation started with gusto, but as the dark, cold nights started to draw in, going out for runs became less appealing. I was also going out more socially, as I was feeling much stronger. Although this was good in one way, it meant that I was drinking more, which was not conducive to focused Marathon training. Long runs were missed due to hangovers. Evening runs were abandoned in favour of spending the extra time getting ready to go out. Or I felt I couldn't ask my parents to have J1 as they had already looked after him so I could go out.
Then two things happened that made me realise the importance and scale of what I was doing. I had registered for my first run in the January. It was a 10 mile race. I wanted to get used to the etiquette of racing and thought it would be a good starting distance. The race came around much quicker than I expected and suddenly I was faced with the fear that I was going to be participating in a race that I was just not ready for. That filled me with dread. What if I just couldn't finish and then was lost? What if I came last? Not only last, but so long behind everyone else that the organisers had packed up and gone home?
At the same time the University where I was working ran a feature on a both myself and another member of staff running the Marathon in the monthly magazine. It was a lovely piece and displayed a beautiful photograph of J1. When this was published I noticed the donations on my 'Just Giving' page went up dramatically and small and large sums of money were being pledged by University staff, most of them I had never met, all with kind and supportive messages. It came screaming home that what I had signed up to do was real. It wasn't something I could just decide not to do. I had committed to it and I needed to pull my finger out and get serious.
Along with the Just Giving page I also did a few different fundraisers; the main one being 'Party in the Pub' - a childrens party for adults. This entailed a 'crisp and sweet only' buffet (big hit); giant games (also a big hit) and bouncy castle (biggest hit!). We held a raffle and did various other 'pay and play' games and this raised a huge chunk of my target. The support was overwhelming, everyone believed that I could do this and it was time I started to think that way as well.
I am glad to say that I did complete the 10 mile race. I also found that I loved the whole atmosphere of the event. Other runners were so friendly, and immediately interested in J1's story and the reason I was undertaking the Marathon. And it was the first time I really felt like 'A Runner' - and that was a label I liked.
After that I made a lot of effort to enter races, in a variety of distances as these were great motivation for me to get out training. Looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, I was out training and getting races under my belt but I only within my comfort zone. I only entered one half marathon and this really wasn't adequate. My longest run was about 16 miles, not really long enough or frequently enough and in the end I just ran out of time.
Whilst life almost became all about the Marathon for six months we were also making a lot of progress with J1 too. We now had the official diagnosis and this made getting the help he needed easier. I still do not know how those parents that care for children who remain undiagnosed cope. Along with appointments about equipment (always was and I fear always will be the toughest nut to crack), physiotherapy and speech and language therapy we also got access to a weekly hydro-pool session. This session meant we met other parents of children with disabilities and special needs - a huge support.
Soon April had arrived. I was feeling mentally and physically much better than I had for a year. I was proud that I had reached race weekend without injury and was looking forward to taking J1 to London for the first time. I was elated that I had not only reached but exceeded my fundraising target. I was ready to face my physical challenge of a lifetime, but never forgetting the lifetime of challenge that J1 was facing.