Thursday, April 24, 2008

Emotionally drained

Many thanks to everyone who left such kind comments on my previous posts.

I am feeling totally drained of emotion since the London Marathon. It's talking about dementia and remembering what it did to mum that's done it 'cos it all comes flooding back at this time. Physically I'm fine and resumed my training schedule 2 days after but I just can't get my crafting head back on. My Autumn Rose project was going great guns and I was up to the armholes/neck but I just don't feel like picking up my needles yet. I picked up a crochet hook last night and did a bit of twiddling then tried a bit of cross stitch but just didn't get the buzz.

Hey ho. I'm sure my enthusiasm will come back soon.

Yesterday I went to Brighton with Emma from the Alzheimer's Research Trust who was doing a presentation to a group of people who are doing some fund-raising for them. She focussed on the work they do and then passed over to me to talk about my experience with mum. I've talked about it so many times that you'd think it wouldn't effect me but there's always something that I recount that brings the horror of it back to me. At one stage I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes just filled with tears and I had to take a deep breath before I could continue. The people were all very kind and thanked me for sharing my experiences and I hope it helped them understand more about the disease.

In the meantime Marina very kindly emailed me to say that Virtual Yarns have restocked and so I have ordered the Oregon Cardigan in the 'autumn' colourway so that's something to look forward to.

Only another week and it will be time for my next marathon. Hopefully that will perk me up a bit.

Oh and I've just remembered - my scarf has now gone off to Terry Pratchett who has very kindly agreed to be photographed wearing it before it's auctioned by the Alzheimer's Research Trust. I'm hoping that the association with Terry will encourage people to make generous bids. I tucked a little note in with as well for whoever gets the scarf just explaining why I did it, telling mum's story and thanking them for bidding plus giving washing/care instructions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Weighty Issue!

I knew that my arms ached more than last year and when I saw the scarf I knit last year next to the giga-scarf of this year I just had to weigh them.

Last year's scarf and needles weigh in at a lightweight 160g.

This year's scarf/wrap/stole/shawl thing and needles weigh in at a massive 765g!!!!! Small wonder that my whole upper body was screaming for mercy at the finish line.

This Morning

It was all just a blur really. Did the marathon, came home, fed the animals, ate and then went to bed then got up again at 4:30am! Tried to make myself look presentable, remembered to take my medal and my completed scarf, then it was off to London again for the This Morning programme on ITV. This time I was collected by a car with blacked out windows! I didn't realise they were blacked out until Mike told me later that he couldn't see me once I'd got inside so he just waved at the car as I left.

The driver was lovely. He and his wife had moved to London from Serbia 12 years ago and he loved the area we live in 'cos he came from a farming community. We chatted all the way there (he's had lots of famous people in his car as most of his work is ferrying people to and from the TV studios) and made really good time until the inevitable delays started. There was no warning on the radio but the traffic was at a standstill. I didn't worry at first as we only had 6 miles to go and it was still only 7:30am and I wasn't expected until 9am. At 8am when we had only moved 1/2 a mile I did get a little restless and the driver started playing with his sat nav to find alternate routes. Each road we tried was as bad. Finally he doubled back and went a totally different way thus avoiding the problems and we arrived at the studios just 5 minutes after 9am so no worries really.

He was very sweet and showed me where to go to gain entry then I was on my own.

The entrance to Studio 8 was not at all glamorous and looked just like the loading bay at a department store with all sorts of junk piled up with a little cubicle for the Security guard to sit in. Whilst I was waiting outside for an escort to take me to the studio I noticed a small group of people by the entrance. I thought they were just smokers, banished to the outside for a quick fag until I saw them pounce on someone heading our way - they were autograph hunters and they busily thrust their books and pens at a cheerful Brian Blessed who chatted with them and then came to wait with me. He teased the security guard, who obviously had no idea who he was, by giving him several false but famous names before finally helping him out and telling him who he really was!

No sooner had I gone inside than I was ushered outside to some makeshift tents set up alongside the river Thames. As usual for this week of media attention, the Masai Warriors were present, all wrapped up in their blankets against the bitter wind.

There has been much interest in their shoes, which are made of car tyres so I couldn't resist a close-up of them!

In the far tent there were 3 massage tables and Michelle (the stilt walker) and I were asked to sit on them so that it looked as if we were getting a massage whilst Philip Schofield interviewed us. I had been asked all sorts of questions about the Alzheimer's Research Trust and why I run marathons etc so I was quite disappointed that it turned out to be mainly a PR exercise for the London marathon and Guinness World Records. I suppose I shouldn't grumble really as it gave the Alzheimer's Research Trust a bit more publicity and exposure on national TV can only be a good thing. Philip Schofield was very sweet and I did manage to mention that I intend to auction the scarf for the charity and the camera zoomed in on their logo so that was useful publicity. We were presented with our Guinness World Record certificates by Craig Glenday, the Editor of the GWR book. It was a temporary certificate with just the record that was set but without my name on. The official one will be sent to me later (as soon as we got home MIke put it up on my office wall for me, next to my previous one).

Here I am with Philip Schofield. He was very charming and happily posed for photos with everyone.

The poor massage girls had been standing outside in the cold wind for 2.5 hours and they didn't even get to do a proper massage on any of us! We'd all been told we were going to get a massage as a special treat and I was really looking forward to it but it seems as if they were just part of an elaborate 'set' that was staged for the occasion. Never mind, whilst we were waiting to go on air, one of the ladies very kindly got stuck into my neck and shoulders which were very stiff and sore and she really loosened them up for me.

I was given this little bag with some goodies from the Body Shop, all for soothing feet and legs. Very nice too! I did notice on the label though that it says 'Press Use only, not for resale' so again, it's all about PR and marketing. I suppose I can't complain too much as that is exactly what I was doing!!!

The other people being interviewed were 'Blind Dave' (as he likes to be known) and his running companion who have just completed 7 marathons in 7 days on different continents (he has a lovely guide dog!), Buster (the elderly man mentioned previously), the Masai warriors, Michelle (the stilt walker - she did really well and got round in 8:32 or thereabouts) and the 24 (or was it 25) members of the Metropolitan Police who ran the marathon chained together - an amazing achievement as they had a real mix of abilities.

Once the interviews were over some people headed off but others had to wait for a taxi home so we adjourned to the Green Room. It always sounds rather glamorous when you hear about it but in reality it's just a plain old rest room, full of junk with tea and coffee making facilities. There were some scrummy chocolate brownies on the table that had been made on the show earlier so we all dived into them! This is Brian Blessed with Craig Glenday and one of the Policemen in the background.

And here I am with Brian. He is a really big character and great fun to chat with. I love larger than life characters like him. Doesn't his beard match my hair colour well?

Finally, I couldn't resist standing in front of the 'Hall of Fame' montage with photos of all the TV stars. I think I'm a bit long in the tooth to get my photo up there though!!!

Marathon Day

There is only one problem, if indeed one views it as such, of living out in the sticks in that getting into London is not a quick journey even though it is only about 55 miles away. That difficulty is quadrupled on the day of the London Marathon as 35,000+ runners and their supporters descend upon the capital city. The first train of the day doesn't get there early enough for any interviews etc so the only option we had really was to get a taxi, which although expensive works out cheaper than staying overnight in London. So we were up at 4am and ready to leave at 5am so we could get right to the start before the roads are closed off which is a complete nightmare.

So at 6:45am Mike and I were deposited safely in Blackheath village which is only a short walk away from the 'green' start where I would be meeting the people from Guinness World Records.

Thankfully, the enterprising shopkeepers had opened already so we were able to take shelter in a pleasant cafe and have a warming coffee plus I had a pain au chocolate (YUM) as I hadn't had time for any brekkie before we left (oh, all right then, I'll admit it - I forgot in all the excitement of getting ready!). There were toilets too so we both took advantage as queueing for the portaloos at the start is horrid and actually using them even more so as one can imagine. At 7:30am we headed towards the start, stopping outside the pub to see if any other forumites from Runner's World were around and then headed off to the start.

The Common itself is criss-crossed with paths which were all covered in mass of runners all heading to their respective starts - 'red', 'blue' or 'green', each with its own coloured blimp flying high above so one could easily see where to head. You can just make out the green blimp above the balloons if you look carefully.

The sun was starting to come out but it was pleasantly cool and thankfully no rain yet. En-route we walked past the usual barrage of balloons in funny shapes. It was quite windy and one of them seemed determined to head for the skies before the occupant of its basket was quite ready!

I loved this scary looking monster balloon!

Arriving at the entrance to the green start we suddenly realised that we would have to part company as Mike would not be allowed in. Of course my nerves were taking hold by then and I wanted to go to the loo again so I had to go through and queue for the loo whilst Mike waited patiently outside - there's a lot of waiting around involved for our long-suffering spouses and supporters. On my way back I met Blisters and Runner Bean (we all have silly nicknames) and then outside we were joined by Johnny J a special chum from RW.

We decided it was about time I got my knitting gear loaded and so Mike carefully tied all my balls of wool onto my apron. The weather forecast was for heavy showers and so we'd boxed clever and put all the wool into small plastic bags with handles to tie onto my apron. I did a test run to see if they were positioned OK, Mike did some minor adjustments, secured my race number and then I was ready for the off.

Does my bum look big in this?

I always get emotional when I give Mike a hug before we part at the start and I started to get a bit teary. Then we separated and Mike headed off into London whilst I picked my way through the bodies sitting/standing/stretching in the enclosure to find my way to the Celebrity Area where the Guinness World Record people were waiting to register all of us wannabes. I watched Gordon Ramsey (chef), James Cracknell (Olympic rower and adventurer) and Ben Fogle (TV Presenter and adventurer) being interviewed, saw Floella Benjamin (TV Presenter) arrive plus several other actors etc whose faces I recognised but whose names escaped me.

There were lots of photos taken with various other GWR wannabes - girls dressed as Superwoman, a Father Christmas, 3 Firemen in full gear, 4 of the 'convicts' who were joined together last year and 2 clowns. Then I had to cast-on my 30 stitches ready for Scott Christie to count them and check my needle size etc before the off.

The sun kept coming out and it was warm but as soon as the clouds passed over it went very cold and I was quite shivery. Then it was nearly time for the off and I went and stood at the back of the pens as instructed. The starter went and we were off. The beauty of going from the green start is that you get over the start line quite quickly - I was right at the back and it only took 2 minutes. When I started from the blue and red starts it took me 10 -15 minutes to cross the start line. The system is that you wear a 'chip' on your running shoe and as you cross the line you run over some mats which activates the chip and your actual start time is recorded rather than the clock time. Throughout the course you run over similar mats so your 'splits' (the time you take to run each section) are recorded. It also serves as proof that you have actually covered the whole course and not cheated!

I started knitting as soon as I crossed the start line and settled into my slow, methodical rhythm, counting my stitches all the time in case I dropped one. People kept running past and wishing me well or exclaiming "You're mad!" Quite early on I was joined by Harriet from the Alzheimer's Research Trust and it was lovely to have a chat as it passed a few miles. She had intended to run it last year but sadly had to pull out due to injury. When we got to about mile 7 she spotted her partner and supporters so she stopped for a chat with them whilst I carried on. It rained a bit and my knitting got wet and became rather heavy. I wasn't worried at this stage because there wasn't any great length to it and the sun soon came out anyway.

The yarn I had chosen this year was thicker than my last effort because I found the thinner yarn dug into my hands in the latter stages and I thought the thicker wool would be easier on my fingers. Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! It was really awkward to handle and just got heavier and heavier as the knitting grew. I'd swapped my bamboo needles that I'd had problems with due to sweating in the heat, for lightweight composite ones and they at least were comfortable. By the 1/2 way point I really began to regret the extra weight of yarn. It had felt fine around my waist as I actually carried about the same amount last year. The problem was the weight on my forearms. I stuffed the completed knitting into my apron pocket to take some of the strain but that didn't make much difference. Oh dear. It became obvious that I was not going to have a comfortable second half.

Many runners from Runner's World and Fetch went past and said hello when they recognised me - too many names to remember (Cazz, Pammie, Mouse to name just a few). Many went past and said they'd seen me knitting last year and wished me well. One lady (from Fetch I think) said my balls of wool looked like multi-coloured candyfloss and that was a great description of the yarn! So many runners went past and said that their mother/father/aunt etc had suffered or was suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia and thanked me which brought a tear to my eye. It is such an emotional roller-coaster with all the runners striving to achieve their goals and the collective support is phenomenal.

I passed several groups of ART supporters and they all clapped and cheered which lifted my spirits then at mile 14 I saw Michelle and her group but I only dared stop for a quick hug and a photo before plodding off.

I knew that if I stopped and anyone was nice to me then I'd break down in tears and would find it hard to carry on. Michelle later told me something very funny - they handed their camera to a man standing alongside them and asked him to take a photo of their group. The man seemed surprised and exclaimed "You want me to take a photo of you?". Only later did they realise it was the actor Ian McKellan, aka Gandalf from Lord of the Rings! I love that Bertie Bassett is in this shot as the yarn I was using is called "Allsorts"!

Near to Mudchute station, I saw masses of blue balloons and the signs for the Runner's World supporters and I looked out for Support Group 1 who would be trying to spot me me but I couldn't see them. However, I did see several other supporters and I gave them a big wave and they waved and smiled right back. After mile 17/18 I had my real low point 'cos it rained. Not only did it rain heavily but it threw hailstones at us as well. By this time my knitting was very long, very wide and it was impossible to fit it all into my apron pocket. It felt like a lead weight hanging from my arms. In fact I really couldn't feel my forearms by that stage. This time the rain lasted for ages and I really started to struggle to pull my wool along the needles. Even when it stopped it was awful because of the weight with all that water in it.

I gave myself a jolly good talking to and kept thinking about why I was doing this. In times of trouble such as this I recall an image of my mum the week before she died. A living corpse, laid out on her bed, with staring eyes and no reaction to her surroundings. I remembered how awful it was as the dementia took hold of her. The periods when she knew something was wrong and nothing made sense to her. Her frustration and pain. How it had changed our lives. I thought of all the other people who are going through the same thing right now and their carers. I looked at her rings and prayed for strength - this time I was wearing her engagement and wedding rings. I thought about my lovely husband and imagined him telling me to keep on going and how proud he was of me. I dug really deep and I clawed my way back even more determined. I squeezed out as much water as I could and wrapped the scarf around my shoulders, tucking one end under my sports bra to secure it. As all my new balls of yarn were safely tucked up in plastic bags they remained nice and dry so were easier to work with.

At mile 22 I passed the support crew of Fetchies from Fetch Everyone and what a tremendous welcome they gave me. I waved to them all and they just stood there clapping and cheering. Behind my sunglasses (which I kept on throughout the rain and hail) there were many tears of gratitude. Thank you Fetchies, you were absolutely brilliant and you'll never know how much I needed that boost right then.

Miles 22 - 25 are a bit of a blur. I knew if I maintained my pace I was on target to get below 6 hours (my cut-off time) and my yarn was nearly all used up. The crowd was absolutely amazing and people were still out cheering and shouting their support even though the weather was horrid. It's the crowd support that makes the London Marathon such a special event. Without them it wouldn't be anywhere near as successful. At one point I overtook the 4 Irish Guards (we were passing oneanother throughout) just as 1 of them was dropping out. They were running with full backpacks which I believe weigh around 31/2 stones and he just couldn't carry on. The disappointment in the remaining group was palpable and I told them they were brilliant and to dig deep and just keep going. I hope it helped.

At mile 25.5 I knit my final stitches as I used up all my yarn so I draped my scarf over my arm and upped the pace, finishing with a bit of a sprint with my scarf held high above my head. Now I'm calling it a scarf but because of the thicker yarn it is more like a shawl/wrap as it was really wide. Oh boy was I glad that was over - 5:55:03 so as close as I could get to my deadline. Then I had to report back to the GWR adjudicator, Scott Christie and Amarilis Espanoza, to have my scarf measured (162cms) and then photos taken before I could go and meet Mike who was anxious to hear how I'd got on. When Mike finally saw it he could hardly believe how big it was!

I collected my medal and goody bag but then had to go all the way back down the Mall because there wasn't a tee shirt in the bag and there was no way I was going to miss out on that. I quickly got out of my wet shoes and into clean, dry clothing and we headed off for the train home. Mike had very thoughtfully bought me a cheese sandwich and a yummy muffin to tuck into on the way home and they went down a treat.

Sadly, we couldn't really hang around and be sociable as we needed to get home for the animals and then to get an early night as I needed to be up at 4:30am the next morning to get back into London for the ITV show This Morning.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A new Guinness World Record

There is so much to write and photos to upload which will take me a while but in the meantime - I DID IT!

162cms of very heavy, wet scarf, knitted whilst running the London Marathon in 5:55:03

Full story and photos to follow plus an interview n ITV's This Morning programme.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

FLM Photo Shoot

The good news is that Mike was able to come with me which made me feel heaps better. The morning started bright and early with me getting up at around 5am so I could feed the animals and then get myself bathed and dressed. Tinker resigned himself to a day alone as he recognised the 'going-out' signs. He took up residence on my side of the bed in the hope that me not being able to make the bed might somehow cancel our trip.

We'd allowed 3.5 hours for the journey, even though it should only take about 2 hours 'cos 'you never know what might happen'............Well 'it' did happen and when we arrived at the railway station we discovered that there had been delays earlier due to ice on the tracks and the trains were running 3 minutes late (or so they told us!). We weren't unduly worried as we had plenty of time. However, the train was on a go-slow for the first half of the journey until we merged with the main line and we really started to worry that we'd be late. Finally it went up to full speed and we arrived at London Bridge with enough time to enjoy a riparian walk along the Thames to Tower Bridge Hotel which is where the Press Conference was being held. That was all very well except that I'd planned on snatching a cup of coffee and a croissant for my brekkie when we arrived but I didn't have time.

It was very blustery but thankfully not raining so it was a pleasant walk. When I first moved to London may years ago I worked in an office in Hays Galleria alongside London Bridge so I know the area well. This is a view across the Thames. I love the different shapes of the buildings all squashed together. The cigar-shaped building is affectionately known as the gherkin! I always think the pink coloured building looks like a fairy tale castle.

This is HMS Belfast. She has played a very important part in our naval history, serving throughout the Second World War. It's really interesting to walk round and take a look below deck.

Quite a nice view of Tower Bridge. There is an exhibition centre there now and it's well worth visiting as it has an interesting history. The hotel can be seen in the background on the left hand side.

City Hall, home to the Mayor of London. I think it looks like the tail-end of an armadillo burrowing into the ground!

When we arrived at the hotel, the Press Conference with the elite runners was in full swing and there were photographers, celebs, wannabes and FLM crew bustling around all over the place. We signed in and got our passes and were directed to a room to await our turn with the paparazzi. Behind me, beneath the FLM sign, you can see Amanda Holden (a TV actress) and to her right is Buster who is claiming to be the oldest man to run a marathon. He was trying for a Guinness World Record but has not been able to provide any documentation to support his claim.

A wannabe 'fastest Elvis' and a young man who intended to bounce a basketball all the way round the marathon with me and last years scarf sandwiched between them. I have no idea how he will manage to bounce his ball amidst 35,000 runners without either losing it or impeding other runners. We shall see!

The same line-up plus Buster (as mentioned above) and his personal trainers (aka work colleagues) from Pimlico plumbers. Whilst Buster's actual age is in doubt, he is obviously an old man and to complete the marathon will be a fantastic feat.

Elvis mistakes my knitting needle for a microphone!

This is 22 year old Michelle who is going to walk the marathon on 4 ft high stilts. She has done a 1/2 marathon on them in 4 hours and is hoping to complete the full marathon in between 8 and 10 hours. Fantastic stuff.

One of several Masai warriors who have come to take part in the marathon to get sponsorship for a project to bring water to their village. There has been much media interest in them. There is a brief article here and I love the headline - "The marathon is easy. There are no lions"!!!

Then it was time to head off to the Expo at the Excel Centre in Docklands to collect my number, chip etc. whilst Mike went off into London for a look round. On my way to the railway station I couldn't resist snapping the Tower of London with washing hanging on the line. Classy!

The entrance to the exhibition. It's very slick and well organised so that you collect your number and chip and then walk around the stalls of exhibitors before collecting your goody bag at the exit. I didn't spend long there as I wanted to get home before the rush hour.

One high spot of the Expo was finding Mick'n'Phil inside. They were on a high from having won a prestigious award from Runner's World the night before, the Jane Tomlinson lifetime achievement award. Very well deserved it was too. Even better, after many years of trying to get in, they have subsequently been allowed to take part in the marathon on Sunday on a trial basis. Previously wheelchairs being pushed have not been allowed to take part.

A couple of sights I snapped from the railway: the Millenium Dome and Canary Wharf (the tallest building in London)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Just had my invitation to the official Flora London Marathon photo call on Friday. It's very exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time. Last year I really enjoyed it 'cos Mike came with me so I felt quite brave but this year he can't be there as he has work commitments so I'll be on my own.

So, there will be all the serious athletes and other Guinness World Record attemptees along with a fat, middle-aged woman with her knitting!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We've got snow!

Well, yes OK, it may not be a huge amount of snow but down here in the South East of England it is quite a rare event and even more so in April! This photo was taken when I started updating my blog and the one below just as I finished.

I got my run out of the way much earlier and it was soon over as it was just an 8 miler 'cos it's the London Marathon next weekend. I won't be doing much running or knitting ahead of the big event as I need all my strength. I've been getting bad twinges across my neck and shoulders from knitting and crochet and I asked Mary Massage Lady to concentrate on that when I went for my pre-marathon massage the other day. She also had a good old poke around in my right hamstring and ITB -OUCH is all you need to know!!!

Here's the latest on my jumper. I'm 1/2 way through the second repeat of the circle motif and I find it really absorbing. I expect there may be a few ripping moments when I get to the steeks but I'll worry about that when I get there.

This next week will no doubt include some more publicity and media events. I just wish at least one of the photos of me could make me look OK! What the heck - it's all great publicity for the Alzheimer's Research Trust. I just wonder what on earth the weather will be like this year though - it was baking hot last year and knitting was really difficult with sweaty hands.

I just had to add this photo from this evening. I just looked out the bedroom window to check on the horses and the sun was shedding a glorious pink glow everywhere. That's Kizzy trying to munch the grass through the snow, bless!