It’s here – one day until the desert! MDS 2017….

…and how excited am I? Very excited…actually I can’t believe 5 years have been and gone and here I am having a delicious brunch prepared by my lovely mummy, sitting in my kitchen in Cornwall all ready to set off once more to the Sahara Desert!

I said farewell to work colleagues and patients on Tuesday, and was wished “happy holidays” and “good luck”.

I’ve scrambled around Wadebridge gathering the last minute bits of kit/food/stuff that I need to take to the desert.  I’ve been through my kit and rucksack several times…trying to argue the case for every item I am taking, sawing off the handle of my toothbrush to save a couple of grams in weight here, explaining to Mummy what the venom pump is for, and also how I will manage with only one wet wipe per day to clean myself with.  The difference between this time preparing for the desert and the last two times is having Mummy watch me pack my kit.  It’s the look of horror on her face when I say I only need one pair of pants for the whole week that makes it all worthwhile!  We are having a lot of giggles interspersed with her saying every so often “I’m so worried about you, I don’t know why you want to put yourself through it all again!”

And that brings me to you, all my wonderful friends and family, supporters, colleagues old and new, and patients.  You have all been so wonderful in supporting me again, and helping me to raise money for Medecins Sans Frontieres – I am currently nearing £2,000 which is just fantastic, so thank you all so so much – you are all brilliant. If you would like to make a donation please go to http://www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Runhurryharryrun 

So, I fly up to London tonight and have the stylish luxury of staying in an airport hotel, as I am on the 7am flight to Ouazuarzat in Morocco.  There are two flights of runners after mine.  All my tent boys are on the second flight (Kevin, Aiden, Mark, Matt & Alastair).  On arrival in Morocco we then have a 5-6 hour bus drive to the bivouac. As first person from my tent to arrive it is my dubious responsibility to bags a good tent! No pressure!  We are fed by the race organisers on Friday evening, and all day on Saturday throughout which we have our admin & medical checks.  And then from Sunday 9th April we are self sufficient relying on whatever delicious nutrition we have deemed calorific and light enough to bring to the desert! MMMMmmmmm! Right now I am indulging on some local toast and mum’s homemade marmalade – and a very fine vintage it is this year!

From Sunday 9th April, when the race starts, you my good supporters will be able to follow the race live on line, and as technology has improved you will be able to follow me closely as I “run” through the desert, and cross each day’s finish line, where there is a web cam to capture those painful moments! Here is some blurb from the race organisers as to how follow me and the race:

My running number is 813

You will want to send supporting emails and track my progress during the race – you can do both of these via the organisers’ website:   live.marathondessables.com  and you can pre-register to follow me.

 HOWEVER, none of the facilities will go live until Saturday 8 April, so if you click on it now, you won’t find anything! Once they are live, the instructions are easy to follow. You will need my running number for the email – number 813.  If you have any problems using the site, please call 08444 874064 and speak to Sarah in office hours.

All competitors are issued with a GPS tracker that will allow the staff on the course to track their position, to monitor if they are off course and it also has an SOS facility in the event of emergency. The GPS tracker also allows friends / family to track competitors progress in real-time. You should be aware, however, that on rare occasions the tracker may lose signal or have battery power issues. This is usually a short term issue and should not be a concern for anyone following the race. Runner’s positions are updated approximately every 10 minutes and it is not unusual for a competitors position to remain static for a while….!!!!
Please, please please send me an email during the race – it is a very important part of each day when we receive emails from back home.  I have kept all the messages I received in 2007 and 2012, and it is lovely to reread them and to know that for one week no one in my family did any work at all.  It is moving and nostalgic to read the messages my wonderful daddy sent me, and gives me an idea of what he might send me this time if he were here – although he probably thinks along the same lines as everyone else “bonkers”! 

I will be sending my one email a day to my brother Nick, who will post it here on my blog – so watch this space!

Right – I have to go and pack my rucksack one last time so signing off here and wishing you all lots of love….

Harryxxx

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Heating up for the desert….two weeks until MDS2017 (whoop whoop)

Finally, the temperatures this weekend have been soaring to about 18C out of the sea breeze, and there has been no rain! In fact it has felt positively Saharan, well almost, give or take about another 15-20degrees.

But, seriously, compared to last weekend it has been heaven to run in the sunshine and to have even needed to wear a bit of sunscreen!

My long runs this weekend and last weekend took on the same path from Rock along the beaches towards Daymer Bay, up onto the Greenaway cliffs, across Polzeath Beach and then heading out along the coastal path towards The Rumps, Pentire and along towards Port Quin.  It is the most beautiful run no matter what the weather.  However, along with the weather, each time I run this route it is always different.  Last week as I rounded the corner towards the Rumps, and decided to head out to the dip between the two Rumps to wave to Daddy, I saw a fire engine.  This is not the most anticipated of things to see as you come raround this particular headland.  Before I saw the fire engine,  I did come across this somewhat stubborn and immoveable obstacle:

Well, they are quite tame pregnant ladies, and after a friendly pat on the nose, I ran on and so encountered the fire engine. So it turned out that the fire engine, was part of a larger group which included the coast guard and special animal units of each, and the local farmer.  This excitement and activity was due to one of these silly cows who had fallen down the cliff into the sea.  


She had spent the whole night down on the rocks as rescue attempts were hampered overnight by high tides, and then to cap it all, the silly cow swam to a small island which they couldn’t get a boat to.  So all in all it was quite a mammoth rescue attempt, but she was eventually winched back to safety up on the cliff tops where she happily scampered off and munched on the luscious green grass.  But judging by the site that met me yesterday morning as I rounded the headland towards the Rumps it might not be the last time one of these pregnancy ladies flies too close to the wind.  They are either very stupid or the grass in certain areas is out of this world:


Still, I don’t blame her…the sun was shining, the gorse is blooming…

and the sea is glistening like diamonds…


Ah, the desert is beckoning. Endless sunshine, sand dunes, blue skies, and camels instead of cows! (must not think about blisters, wearing the same clothes for a week, carrying a rucksack, and living off freeze dried food)! 

So I have reached £1000 in fundraising for MSF so far which is utterly fantastic. I simply cannot believe how wonderfully generous everyone is being – you are all amazing, and I am so very very grateful. Every little bit of support will help to motivate me up and down each sand dune, jebel and across each plain.  Although, don’t think I haven’t picked up on the theme of comments you leave on your donations – “I’m insane” seems to be a recurring theme!!!!!

I’m beginning to concoct my desert playlist – I’m not a big fan of running to music, but it is essential I have discovered in the desert to have a backup of some music to pick up the old pace when all other motivations are failing.  Rag’n’Bone Man has become my running mojo this time, cos after all folks when the going gets tough “I’m only Human after all!”But any y other recommendations are welcome….

I will be emailing out soon the link via which you will be able to send me messages in the desert – of encouragement, abuse, mockery, motivation – any message will be greatly received and will definitely stop me falling down a cliff in a Cornish cow style!

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One month until stage 1 of the MDS 2017

There it is…in one month’s time I should hopefully be tucked up in my sleeping bag, (it gets dark early in the desert), having eaten a delicious freeze dried meal of shepherd’s pie and a mug of rooibos tea!  I hopefully won’t have developed any drastic blisters on day one and there should be some good banter in and around the tents with other runners from the Uk and around the world…I am still establishing my tent mates but slightly winging it this year.

So, as more people at work become aware that I am taking on this “ridiculous” race (not my words), it is time to put it out there as to why I am running the Marathon des Sables for a third time.  Well, firstly, I decided back in 2007 that it would be a fun thing to try and do every 5 years, and secondly, well it is one of the most beautiful places in the world that I have ever been to, and two of the most amazing and memorable weeks of my life I have ever spent – the first time was the catalyst that led me to becoming a nurse, so you never know what might happen.  But also, I do feel that I need a really good challenge to once again ask people to sponsor me for a good cause – and I think the cause I am running for this time is rather special.

It is nearly 8 months since I moved to Cornwall to work at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust in Truro in oncology nursing and it has been and continues to be a massive adventure. Each day at work is different, fun, sad, tough, rewarding and I am lucky to be working with a wonderful team of nurses and looking after an extraordinary group of patients.  I am frequently asked by many of my patients what do I miss about living in London. Whilst there is very little that I miss, I do miss the rich cultural diversity of London that on a daily basis has the ability to remind you that your neighbours are not just those that you live next door to, but those who might be millions of miles away in war torn countries, & less privileged countries. It is all too easy living down here in Cornwall to forget the rest of the world or sometimes even the rest of the country. 

So when I embark in one month’s time heading off somewhere across the Sahara Desert to run 150miles over 6 days in what is still rightly billed as The Toughtest Footrace on Earth, the Marathon des Sables 2017, what will hopefully be motivating me and inspiring me to keep running, putting one foot in front of the other, to share rudimentary sleeping quarters with about 7 other runners, to carry my life on my back through the heat, is that I will be running for Medecins Sans Frontieres. (Doctors withou Borders).

Working for the NHS in the current climate is definitely a daily challenge. I am privileged enough to have worked in one of the most wonderful and efficient hospitals in the UK – Guy’s & St Thomas’s in London. The Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro is no less wonderful but I am far more aware of the strains on the NHS and the services we supply to the public. In my department we have people on waiting lists for chemotherapy treatment because we simply don’t have the resources to see them all as they need it – there just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough trained nurses.  But today, we only have to turn on the tv, or read something on Twitter or some other social media to know that even in the cash strapped chaos of the NHS that we are still so lucky. There are people in places that aren’t even reported about that don’t have access to the medical facilities we have.  

Medecins Sans Frontieres go where most other aid agencies won’t or cannot go, they often have such meagre facilities to work with but they still carry on. They often work in war torn cities such as Aleppo in the middle of bombing raids and still carry on. Hospitals they work in are targeted and hit, and they still go back, they still carry on. They work with refugees and migrants all over the world and treat each and every human being as precious and valuable and with respect. I sadly overheard someone say recently that all refugees coming to the UK should be sent back where they came from and that we didn’t need them here and I felt so sad to hear a fellow Brit have that opinion. We have so much, and if someone thinks that it is worth the risk crossing treacherous seas in barely seaworthy boats to seek refuge or a better life, to end up in a squalid camp or asylum seeker’s centre then it feels like we haven’t progressed much since WWII.  

It would be so easy to raise money for a UK based charity but I hope you will feel as I do that our neighbours are all around the world and with famine, disease, war and political unrest in so many parts of the world giving healthcare to those that don’t easily have access to the most basic medical care is a worthy cause. The healthcare workers who work for Medecins Sans Frontieres are an incredible bunch and do incredible work. They inspire me everyday to be the best nurse I can be and I hope somewhere down the line I might get to work for them – but for now I just hope to raise as much as I can to help them in their valuable work and I hope that by doing something as crazy as a third Marathon des Sables you might be inspired to sponsor me – it will definitely motivate me up those sand dunes!
To sponsor me please go to my fundraising page:

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/Runhurryharryrun 

Thank you so so much.

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What’s a little run in the rain…bring on the desert please! MDS2017.

So last week’s training was in bright chilly springlike sunshine with a 19-20mile run from Greenaway to Port Isaac up and down the hills on the north Cornish coastal path, discovering that I don’t really like blueberry flavoured energy drinks:


With the sea turquoise blue in places reflecting the bright blue sky.  The wind would drop around some dips and bends in between cliffs and then would wip up into a frenzy.  I’m not normally one for putting on the winter layers when I run, but my ears were distinctly pleased to cover up!  And in the spring sunshine always just around the corner is a spectacular site like this:


…with no one in site.  And then around the next bend especially towards Port Isaac you hit the dreaded steps….

..and they seem to go on an on forever.  The odd cow always seems wryly amused or more likely completely disinterested as I “gallop” past, although I feel more like a tired pack horse rather than a nimble race horse.

Today however the weather was distinctly inclement and at times visibility was pretty low, and where last week the sun had dried out a lot of the mud it was a rather slip sliding affair.  Mud you might say is good training for the sand dunes as you slip in it just as much as on the loose fine dunes in the desert, but it is definitely more treacherous and the cows have a lot to answer for where they churn it up around styles and gates…


A bit wet on the run today – ears glad of buff covering again keeping out the very misty sea rain.

It’s always ironic whilst out on my long runs, you don’t see another person walking or running for miles, so I think I am safe to side step off the path, squat down and have a quick pee, but sod’s law, there is always someone coming just as I am pulling up my pants! The other ironic or more annoying occurrence is what happens when you do meet other people out on the path.  Last week, quite near towards the end of my run as I rounded the cliffs back towards Polzeath it is a lovely down hill section, but there is a sudden uphill section that is quite steep and involves a few steps.  Of course as I hit the end of the downhill section, I meet a family group with young teenagers, parents etc…who all comment “well done” and stand to the side as I go past.  I know they are watching me so I have to then continue running up the steps and forthcoming cliff path until I am out of sight! After 18 miles that is quite exhausting – but alas all we runners have our stupid pride!

Running across the sand towards Rock today at the end of my run, I have to confess the prospect of a Sunday roast in Blisland Pub with my mother and sister was a very warming and welcome thought!

Just over a month to the Sahara desert…simply can’t wait!  And the good news is that my wonderful local cobbler is going to rise to the challenge of securing my desert gaiters to my trainers, even if he did look somewhat bemused at my request!

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Eerie night time running…

So, in preparation for the Marathon des Sables it is quite good to get used to running in the dark.  During the last two times I have run the MDS, I have always quite enjoyed the sections of the race that end up being run through the night.  Not least because you mentally reach a stage where it becomes quite surreal.  I always go down bizarre mental tangents and become enthralled with the small pool of light thrown ahead of me by my head torch and the almost sci-fi green laser beam thrown into the air from an all too distant check point.  You have the glow sticks marking the route every few hundred metres appearing like little glow beetles on the horizon that occasionally disappear as you drop down between sanddunes or rock outcrops.  The moving glow sticks attached to the back of other runners that muddle in with the markers and make you feel like you are following some strange elvish trail in the dark in Middle Earth. (I admit that it might just be me that thinks this!).  The only noise is your own breathing and efforts as your run/hobble/shuffle through the desert’s complete darkness before the crazy stars start to light up the sky.  

Running in the dark along the Camel Trail in Cornwall is a slightly different kettle of fish.  For starters, simply because it is January  and not a desert, it does feel a whole lot colder (even though the desert can reach freezing and below at night).  Tonight I ran a quiet run of 9 miles towards Bodmin from Wadebridge and back.  As I set out from Wadebridge, the last light of the day was just fading and I had my head torch on.  Unlike running at night in London, there are very few street lamps once you get outside the town’s limits and literally none along the Camel Trail and very quickly all I can see is the pool of light and the odd twinkle of the first few stars as they appear.  It isn’t silent though, as the River Camel burbles alongside the trail, although in the dark it loses some of it’s poetic merriment as the shadows of the trees occasionally loom darker than the inky sky behind them, creating eerie shapes and a sense of running through long tunnels.  Every now and then a light from a cottage twinkles through the darkness and the smell of wood smoke  pervades the air.   However, I find that what takes most of my concentration and attention is trying to spot the odd pile of horse poo!  The light from my headlamp is bright but everything is lit up in black and white and several times it isn’t until I tread in a rather soft mound or kick a rather large but soft lump that I realise I am upon and past the horse poo.  I giggle to myself as I run, imagining it is just one horse that has left a trail of dung but in reality it is probably several!  I also hope that it is only horse poo and not the rather nastier and smellier dog poo which also frequents this trail (but is mostly picked up by convivial dog owners!). I say to myself as I completely miss seeing another pile of dung that it is like yomping through small clumpy bits in the desert where the occasional sand dune  tricks you in the dark – but it isn’t really.    As I turn back towards Wadebridge having reached my halfway point, the noises of the river at night, and the occasional rustle in the undergrowth are joined by the hooting of owls who seem to be having some sort of intense discussion – they are perhaps just greeting each other  for the night’s activities.  But, I like to think that perhaps they hare having a debate about something, maybe the hilarious notion of Trump as president of the USA!  On the way back the stars are brighter and as the lights of Wadebridge grow brighter I am surprised as I run past the bird hide – there are three people sitting in there…I can’t really imagine what birds they are watching and I suspect they may be some of the Wadebridge youth hanging out.  This seems even more likely as a young teenager walks past me as I go past the first street lamp as I re-enter the town.   

It is as surreal running at night here in Cornwall as it is in the desert, and as beautiful.  But totally different and there are more owls and a lot more horse poo!

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Last run of 2016….

So – having not written for a really long time, not since the London Marathon, it is clear that my new year’s resolution for 2017 is to get back to writing and see where it takes me.

My last run of the year was along one of my now favourite trails down here in Cornwall – one of my quick go to runs.  Out in the murky damp gloom that was the weather in Wadebridge this morning along the Camel Trail towards Bodmin.   A quick 10 miles at a comfortable gentle pace.  It’s a beautiful part of the Camel Trail, all along the river, passing the Camel Vineyard and some of the old disused railway stations such as Shooting Range Platform, and my favourite Grogley Halt – all of which make me feel like I am running in some parallel dimension where I should meet the characters in the Famous Five and share a bottle of grog!   Instead I meet a lot of cyclists from varying abilities it has to be said – those that have just set out for a fun and slightly wobbly cycle along the path, to those who are head to toe in cycling gear and I imagine cycling further than the Camel Trail allows. The odd horse rider, walkers, anglers, numerous dogs and quite frequently I am accompanied by the little chap in the picture below.

Anyways, today I met all of the above, some with a cheery hello, a greeting of Happy New Year, and some with just a nod.  But always a little less crowded than the route to Padstow.  It is the perfect running route, fresh, beautiful, full of birdsong and always inspiring.   For the runs of 2017 – watch this space, as hopefully they will be quite a lot to watch as there is a lot in the pipeline!

In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR, may it be happy, healthy and above all peaceful.

Below is my sometime running companion:

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London Marathon 2016 – the best race on earth!

Officially my London Marathon time 2016 was 04.28.37…. So, after everything it was a fairly respectable time! That’s a million times faster than I thought it was going to be.  My family, who were following on the marathon App apparently thought I set of like a bull out of a gate, but from my perspective is was steady all the way through until about mile 20 where I began to flag.

The day dawned grey, drizzly and cold – you wouldn’t have thought a week or so ago we were hitting temperatures in London of near 20.  I had a warming bowl of porridge and a steaming mug of coffee and headed to the bus stop.  I met my first fellow marathoner getting on the number 48 for London Bridge, called Bal from Leeds running his first marathon.  Then suddenly arriving a London Bridge Station there seemed to be an increasing number of people wearing running gear – albeit with a fair few layers on – and all with the same kit bag.  Bal seemed relieved as I am not entirely sure that he was convinced I was showing him the right direction to go in – don’t know why he wasn’t convinced!  Arriving at Greenwich it definitely felt cold and several local pubs were selling tea and bacon rolls.  Bal & I headed into the park.  Having not run the London Marathon for 8 years it has got some changes to the set up.  There is more checking of your number before you go into the park, which only runners are allowed into, there are big screens up showing all the different starts as they happen, and there are improved (ish) loo facilities.  I don’t know if any other race has started this, but female urinals is a first for me.  Basically, there were two great big square canvassed rooms (without a ceiling), a female urinal and a men’s.  At the entrance to the women’s on tables were cardboard funnel contraptions for women to use to stand at a urinal in the tented area!!!!! The idea of this is to speed up the normal ridiculous queuing for loos that normally goes on, by allowing several people to have a pee at once – well call me old fashioned but I feel a bit long in the tooth to start trying to pee like a man standing up. So like a few other women and calling on my time from running in the Sahara Desert I simply crouched down in the corner and peed like a normal woman!  Less mess, easier and by the judge of things a lot quicker, if less hilarious.  You might find it strange that I write about this, but it is one of the important aspects at the start of a marathon – as you need to pee far more times than can surely be normal…nerves mainly, and the hope that you empty your bladder so that you don’t need to go during the race.  Anyways, enough of that!  I sorted out my final bits of kit and as the sun was beginning to peep out and warm things up, handed in my kit bag whilst munching on a flapjack with all the claims of giving me enough energy to see me though any physical challenge I could dream up, and made my way to pen 4.

Pen 4 is for the runners aiming to run a race finishing in a time of about 3.30 – 3.45. Yes, I know, ambitious – but when I decided to run the marathon, and had my place confirmed back in October, I had planned to toy with the idea of running somewhere round this time or even a PB.  Fat chance now!  That aside, being in a low numbered pen means you get over that start line in just a few minutes rather than the 10-20 minutes those back in pens 10+ take.  I had a chat to a runner standing next to me from Brighton, dumped my horrible Third Space running jacket as I was now warm enough and shuffled forward with the masses as the start gun went, as we all gave a wave to the sky knowing that Tim Peake was setting of in space at the same time.  It took me 2-3 mins to get over the start line, I hit start on my watch and I was off.  Now I picked a nice steady pace that I didn’t feel was too fast, although it is tempting to keep pace with everyone around you, I know that would be disastrous as everyone around me was setting off at their intended sub 3.45 pace and I would have badly crashed and burned.  I settled into a comfortable pace of around 8.45 minute miles and relaxed, and started to enjoy myself – the crowds were already out making noise, as were some wonderful bands, people playing music out of pubs, off balconies.  I remember seeing a couple standing watching with their big dog (possibly a Rhodesian Ridgeback), and he was facing the oncoming runners barking madly at us – I like to think it was a positive bark!  At about mile 3-4 I ran for a while with a lovely man (who’s name I have forgotten) chatting about the horrors of cancer and why we were both running.  It is a crowded race beyond belief and there is quite a lot of jostling the whole way, elbows being nudged, and I was amazed how many times someone would catch my heels.  I might sound a bit snotty here but my personal opinion in the London marathon is that mobile phones and possibly music devices should be banned.  I think there is nothing more annoying than someone having a phonecall whilst in the middle of a race, and those listening to music, well not only are they missing all the wonderful atmosphere of the crowd and snippets of conversation going on, but they are also oblivious to what is going on around them and cause half the jostling. Gripe over!

Rounding the bend to the Cutty Sark is one of the most wonderful moments of the race, you hear the noise of the crowd grow like some sort of hungry monster and the sun was shining making the old boat look resplendent in all its glory.  If you are feeling good at this point, and I was, it is elating and almost puts an extra bounce into your pace – almost!  Soon after that hitting the streets in South London through Surray Quays and Rotherhithe I began to focus on wondering where I might see some of my supporters – I was hoping to see my niece Matilda somewhere between mile 7 and 10, and was scanning the crowds as much as possible, but it is tough, as I was also concentrating on working things out like when I was going to have my next energy gel, listening for when my name was shouted out, and simply keeping a steady pace glimpsing down at my watch every so often.  My watch was throwing me off a bit, as I told me I had reached each mile sooner than I had, the GPS seemed somewhat off, it would bleep the mile which would be at about 100-200 metres further on, and this distance increased substantially witch each mile – the relief was that it seemed to be the same for quite a few people judging by the beeps you could hear all going off at similar times. Suffice to say I missed Matilda, and she missed me 😦  still I knew she was there and in my head heard her yelling.  I think at this point around mile 9 I was overtaken by a man dressed as a rather large strawberry!!  

Water stations are a bit of a hazard with other runners suddenly slowing down, sidestepping across you, arms thrust out grabbing the bottles from the wonderful volunteers, and then the discarded bottles which are still quite full being inadvertently kicked, exploding if they are heavily trodden on, thrown badly – just one of the obstacles alone the way, they at least don’t eject sticky liquid like the lucozade stations!  I took on water at every other water station, going by my desert method of little and often, keeping hold of my bottle until it was about half empty before getting rid of it.

Tower Bridge was approaching as my 2 hour mark approached.  I looked out for my friend Lin and her family but again missed them, the noise of the crowd as you approach Tower Bridge is even louder than the Cutty Sark and again the sun shone out brightly as I turned the corner… The colours of all the charity banners and balloons are fantastic, and you feel incredible as you head over the bridge, the noise of the crowd so loud that names are indistinguishable and I found it quite emotional, and had a huge boost as I ran past the Maggies Centres cheering team just on the north side of the bridge before  turning right to head out East.  So I had missed Matilda, and Lin & Co….and I wasn’t expecting supporters on the way to the Isle of Dogs or around Canary Wharf.   They are quite long miles, and I began to focus.a bit on my legs and how I was feeling, reaching halfway at mile 13.1 I was aware that I had only 3 more miles to go before I reached the distance of my longest run and I was beginning to feel tired.  A Gandalf ran past me at this point complete with pointy hat and staff – I could have done with some of his magic!  But you find boosts in strange places and from odd things – one being spurred on from this point every time I passed someone who was already walking and looking in trouble, another being amused by a rather bizarre group of Morris Dancers on the side of the road! The bands along the way are simply brilliant, loud with brilliant beats boosting your rhythm & pace – but Morris Dancers!!

The miles through the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf are tough especially when you are heading out that way and towards sites like the O2 arena, you just continually feel like you are going in the wrong direction.  When I have run previous races in the Sahara I apparently sing to myself although quite loudly according to other runners.  Instead of singing during those tough miles from about 14 to 20 I let my mind drift off to the Sahara desert or the cliffs in Cornwall remembering particular stretches and try to imagine that is where I am running – it works for a bit during each mile,  distracting from the longing for each mile to go past.   I also imagined the frantic communication going on between my family as they followed my race number online each time I went over the 5km timing markers – and as I approached mile 20,  I admit I was beginning to fade a little as my muscles began to feel tired and a tad tight, I slowed down feeling a bit low, wondering if I was going to spot anyone in the crowd. I decided to chill for a bit and walk to mile 21 where I was joined by an American girl with very heavy looking fairy wings…we chatted for a bit and then when mile 21 approached we both began to try and run again.  I was just getting back into the rhythm again around 35km when I finally saw one of my brothers, James and launched into an emotional bearhug as seeing him gave me a big boost – he said the others were just up the road. Now just up the road can have many interpretations,  and to my mind it seemed quite a long way up the road before I spotted Nick, Rita & Bertie just before the underpass to the Embankment.  They had set me a challenge, and were situated on a high raised bit of road so I had to jump up to be enveloped in a big hug and lots of encouragement before gingerly “jumping” back onto the road and setting off again with more boost in the system and the knowledge that Catherine & George were just up ahead in amongst the wonderful crowd that lines the Embankment.  I was flitting from running to walking as it was becoming increasingly hard to maintain a consistent pace.  Somewhere between mile 25 and 26 I saw my sister Catherine and nephew George and had an emotional hug, both me and Catherine crying.  The last couple of miles were emotional as in my head I started to see and hear my daddy…the crowd were amazing as I kept hearing my name and the words “you’re nearly there, it’s just around the corner, keep going”. As I rounded the bend I scanned the crowd as much as I could for my ridiculously tall nephew Luke, my little niece Emily and Mummy but the marathon gods were against me and we missed each other, and then it was the home straight to the finish line.  That stretch of the race where you feel like you are an elite athlete sprinting for the line – in reality it is quite the opposite, but I did look to the left and in the media area I saw Sebastian Coe and waved as if I knew him – I think he shouted “”Go on Harry”, but I may have been delirious at that point! And then I was over the finish line and suddenly it is all over.   The emotion at that point is almost too much to describe, I burst into tears of joy, sadness and relief…the race Marshall looked a bit worried but I smiled and then had the medal put over my head and felt like a gold medalist.   I did it Daddy,  in under 4.30, and I missed you every step,  but as I went to meet my wonderful family and get the biggest hug off Mummy I felt like I had the biggest smile – everyone who crosses that finish line is a winner, you see all of humanity in the marathon and supporting the marathon, there is no other event on the planet that creates such an inspirational atmosphere.  It is said that when you cross the finish line your first thought is Never Again…well my. thought is bring on the next one.

And, of course a big thank you to everyone who supported me, sponsored me and sent me messages of encouragement – you have no idea how much you helped me get across that finish line.  And well done to all my fellow runners, you are all one in a million, and my condolences to the family of Captain David Seath who died.

Thank you everyone XXXX

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