Well – this is over a week late in the writing and I suspect it is in some ways because I can’t believe / don’t want to believe, it is all over.
My last run was in Newport and was really down to the organisation of Chris Davies and the Lliswerry runners. He organised for me to run a 5k before the official parkrun on Dec 21st so that I could total 10k. I was joined by a number of friends and family at 8am including Luca’s very lovely aunty and also Llewelyn – photographer and Santa extraordinaire. The atmosphere was distinctly festive and there were many costumes as well as Luca T shirts present. The run itself was entirely forgettable for me! I had been ill all week (again!) and had managed one proper meal before the run – I was absolutely running on empty and I had to keep on an on saying Luca’s name in my head in order to keep myself going. Fortunately, Luca (and Zack, Sian and Mo) had all come to cheer us on (well, this is what I kept telling myself whilst watching Luca totally engrossed in any computer game on offer!!!)
I was so so glad that there was a break at 5k and Chris announced my challenge to what must have been around 200 runners for the official parkrun. Everyone was lovely – thank you especially to Ruth Phillips who ran with me a lot of the first 5k as it was really only a trot for her. Thank you also so much to Janice Chappell – who is one of the loveliest people I have ever worked with and who despite knees that should never really be run on, put in the training and ran with me most the way (except when I couldn’t keep up!) all for Luca.
Thank you also for Kerry and Jorja Grace – not only for running with me but for allowing me to go over the line ahead of them when I know that both could have easily run very good times if they hadn’t been running for me and for Luca.
After the run, we all assembled in the coffee room and sang carols. It was an amazing day. My very very lovely work had turned out in their millions (well it felt like it) and run the last 5k of my challenge with me. They had also brought a cheque to donate a great deal of money to Luca’s funds and presented it to me at the carol singing (actually they had to try twice as the first time apparently they made a lovely speech and then when they asked me to come up, I was absent, having taken my niece to the toilet! great timing from Jorja and me!!) Anyway, I cannot thank them enough, not just because of their donation but also because of their interest along the way, their support and their team spirit – I count myself as very lucky to have found them! Additionally – the girls at work had donated to Luca instead of giving Christmas cards and their generosity, support and interest has also meant a great deal.
The generosity of the Lliswerry and parkrunners was humbling – both in spirit, in donation and in their welcome. At one point I remember just looking at the scene – Luca and Zack playing on the floor, everyone chatting, Nas collecting donations, mam looking for her “lost” camera (wouldn’t be a scene without it!), Dad doing well to cope in a noisy busy atmosphere that is a nightmare for anyone who is partially hearing and using hearing aids as those of you who suffer will appreciate. I also was accompanised by my best friend from school who has been an absolute star supporter of both me and of Luca(as she pointed out – we had not seen each other for 20 yrs and then we have seen each other 3 times in as many months – all down to Luca!) Her husband had trained especially for the 10k and ran with me for both – unbelievable commitment – again inspired by Luca. Gareth Andrews, my friend from climbing Kilimanjaro also made the effort to come from Bridgend to run the 8am and 9am runs – so appreciated.
We all left Tredegar House on a high – an amazing end to the challenge and an amazing start to Christmas. In the evening, my family had an awesome quiet gathering with Luca and his family – I shall never ever forget that night and the amazing gift and the lovely words spoken by Mo – it has has been a pleasure and an honour to join them in their journey towards securing Luca’s future.
On Boxing day, I was allowed to do a lap of honour at Rodney Parade at half time in the Dragons vs Blues match. This was special for so many reasons. I am indebted to Mark Jones and Mike Sage who arranged this and let me and 4 “hands” (Meryl, Mo, Nas and Kerry) take over the pitch at half time. The reception was awesome, the programme write up was lovely (thank you Phil James) and the match was amazing. I cannot believe you let us do this for Luca and both he and Zack had an awesome time – you are all complete stars. It went in a blur – mostly because I was trying to keep up with Jorja Grace who seems to have developed into an athelete over this last year!
I got to share this occasion with Luca and Zack and their family and this made the ending of the challenge even more special.
Over the last 69 weeks I have met so many lovely people, re-met many long lost friends and felt the true support of having a close family nearby. I would like to especially thank the following and any omissions are genuinely unintentional. So here goes – many many thanks to the following:
Keiron O’Donovan – physio at Jump in Manchester, for helping me prepare for this challenge. The poor soul must have got fed up with my repeated contacts with new injuries whilst I was in training. I remember clearly the day he told me that some of my many aches and pains were actually a result of training and not the fact that I had truly injured something – his reassurance and help with rehab set me on the right path and I used his teaching throughout.
Mam and Dad, Kerry, Paul and JG – your love, support, transport, maps, guidance, word games, pronunciation, comments on trees, traffic cones, life and the universe, have totally kept me going. Especially thanks to Paul for driving me at weekends when he drives all week for a living and could probably have done without it.
I truly don’t believe I would have made it to the end of the challenge without all of you.
Sarah and Geoff Banks thank you for your support and hospitality and run accompanying – so glad I found you! Tracey James and all the partners and staff at work – amazing support on all levels.
Steve Prosser – my awesome masseur – definitely kept me together physically and mentally!
Wendy Guppy, Lisa Jayne Ryall, Nic Rodriguez, Jenny Finch and Kim Owen – your constant supportive comments and your words of encouragement from start to finish really helped me to keep going.
Kim Gregory, Helen Gadsden, Lisa Wiles, Matt Cawson and Aunty Vi for your help with accomodation, driving me to places and accompanying me on runs – you were and are spectacular!
Tracy Pinder for all her help with ideas and advice for advertising my challenge.
Johnny Leota – one of the loveliest guys I have ever had the pleasure to work with – thank you for growing your hair, shaving it like Mr T and going over the try line with your hand raised for Luca on TV – you are truly a good man
Special thanks to Lliswerry Runners and particularly Chris Davies for giving up so much time and effort to arrange my last 2 x5k 10k run! Without them we could not have done it and with them it was festive, awesome, filled with lovely people, welcoming and completely memorable.
Danny and Nia Lydiate for your unfailing support both before the challenge and during it (that goes for Jemma Gustafson and Natasha Louca Jones too!)
Rhod Gilbert for advertising my challenge on his radio show and also on his web page and Wynne Evans for buying my T shirts for me at the beginning of the challenge.
The South Wales Argus, Wales online and Wales on Sunday for helping with raising the profile of my challenge.
Healthspan for your bursary helping me to fund the challenge and also for all running with me in Bristol.
Leicester Tigers for allowing me to run round the pitch at half time and also Tigers Images for the amazing photo of me and JG – haven’t looked that young for 20 years!!!
Richard Parks for being my best friend ever and also for laughing at me on a regular basis after he made me run my first ever 10k nearly 2 years ago and was there to hear me say I would never ever do anything like that again!
Finally to Mo Syed, Sian Williams, Naseem Syed Luca and Zack – thank you for allowing me to be part of your life – it has been an honour and an privilege to have met you and to played a small part. Your gift is on my wall in pride of place. I hope you will allow me to continue to accompany you on your journey – love to you all.
PS – I SADLY DIDNT REACH MY CHALLENGE TOTAL OF £69,000 – I therefore have to keep going until I do – more details to follow! …………………………………………………………………………………………