Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fuck Me Shoes


There was a work networking event. At LK Bennett.

I thought I was safe. I thought their shoes didn't fit. I thought that if I stayed near the shoes I would be OK. I thought that even though it was pay day I would be safe.

And then I tried shoes on. Bad idea. When I first lost weight I was gutted that my feet hadn't got any smaller. I still hated shoe shopping because no normal shops stocked shoes in my size. But although that was annoying, it was safe. I couldn't be tempted by expensive, impractical but utterly buyable shoes.

Except, now my feet are conspiring against me. I saw shoes. I tried shoes on. I thought "mmm... these feel nice. These look nice. I got paid today".

That is a bad thing to think. Particularly when they are plying you with fizzy wine.

"You do realise that sale shoes are non-refundable?". I nod my head, too far gone with lust for the shoes to argue. I hand over a card (it being pay day, I justify it to myself by using a debit card rather than a credit card). I spend far more on a pair of shoes than I 've ever considered spending on shoes before.

But they're lovely. I'm nearly 30. I'm an associate. I'm grown up. I deserve a pair of bow down and worship shoes.

I might not want to be fucked as such, but I want the shoes. Oh god, I want the shoes. And now, wrapped up in tissue paper, and in a posh bag, I have them.

I don't know when I'll dare to wear them without worrying about stepping in a puddle, but I have them. They're mine. And I'll stop stroking them in a few weeks time.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not so bad

This weekend actually turned out not to be as bad as I'd feared. The situation in Blackpool isn't great, but at least everything seems to be calmer now, and in reality we might not have to go through this for too long. You can see her slipping from being someone with a terminal illness, to someone who is actually dying from it. That's not a nice thing, but maybe it's better than this sort of limbo.

I raced today too. I signed up for a 10k to give me something to aim for after the marathons, but my legs have felt lethargic since I got back. I've put on a few pounds, and my legs are still recovering, so I was half thinking of pulling out. The thought of getting up early on a Sunday when I have so few opportunities for a lie in wasn't too tempting. But some people from running club were forming a cheering squad (complete with banners with my name on them!) so I didn't feel I could disappoint my public. I actually did a lot better than I was expecting, my PB is 47:09, and I was expecting to struggle to get under 50 but actually finished in 48:12, so a lot closer to my fastest than I thought I was.

I went to Hansa's for a veggie lunch, to get some fresh veg into me after the nutritional black hole that is Blackpool. Yesterday I ate (white) toast for breakfast, half a pizza, chips and apple strudel with custard for lunch, and crumpets with cheese, and a little bakewell tart for tea. That's not exactly 5 a day... I can't believe that I'm now so hooked on getting my fruit and veg fix that I stopped at the services on the way home and raided M&S for a salad! I used to stop at the services for chocolate and now I hunt out lettuce. Is this a change for the better?

My eating does seem to be getting a bit better. My weight is jumping around all over the place at the moment, but I'm feeling like I'm getting into more of a routine and getting a handle on this thing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bad week

It seems to have been one of those weeks that is as grey as the weather.
My mood wasn't great on Monday after the Sunday bus not a train fiasco, and then went downhill when I heard that Mike Gregory had died. Although I only met him fairly briefly, running the Great North Run with his wife Erica to raise money for him left me with a great deal of respect and sympathy for the whole family. You could tell that Erica would have done anything for him to get him back how he used to be, and that they still believed that there was a chance of a cure. Some of the details she told us about their daily life were heartbreaking, and you knew that Mike's brain and personality were still there, but trapped inside a body which was shutting itself off bit by bit. The news shook me up more than I expected.
Then on Tuesday I made an ill advised attempt to escape for an hour or two by means of alcohol. We had arranged a cocktail making experience with some clients at work, and I drank rather more than I was intending. Which also led me to eat more than I was intending, which was not good on a number of levels. Why do I still try to deal with stuff by trying to drink myself into oblivion? And because I was spending my time behind the bar shaking cocktails I'd dumped my bag, with my phone in it, in a corner. Which was also a bad idea.
It's probably the thing I hate most about modern technology, the fact that people can reach you whenever they feel like it. There are times when I want to be contactable (and I got a new phone so I could be contacted in New York), but also times when you would prefer to be able to switch off. I had made a big mistake. I hadn't told my mother I was going out, and what time I would be back. You would have thought, given that my mother lives in Spain, that she doesn't need that degree of information every time I step out of the house, but yes, she does at the moment. She tried to phone me at home, then on my mobile. Which I didn't answer. She then sent increasingly frantic text messages, and managed to convince herself I was lying in a ditch somewhere. When I could have just switched it off because I'd gone to the cinema, or might have been stuck at work.
To be fair to her, she was rather flustered, and possibly not thinking straight, but I am 29 and more than capable of going out without getting permission from her in advance. So I got into a taxi and called her back on the way home to see what was so urgent. A clearer head would have helped, but I got the gist of it. They'd let my grandmother out of hospital. In other circumstances I suppose that would be really good news, but as things are at the moment, it's the last thing that anyone, apart from her, wanted to happen. She didn't like it there and wanted to come home, but without support structures in place there is no way my grandfather can look after her.
My mother was furious about how it had been handled. The nurses had told her she could go home, and she was dressed and packed by the time my grandfather arrived, leaving him in the position of accepting a fait accompli, or trying to reason with her and explain why she couldn't have what she wanted. They hadn't carried out any proper assessment of what help they needed once she got home, or given him the chance to have any real input into the decision.
They left him to struggle with getting her home, working out how to get her to and from bed and the toilet (the first time they attempted she couldn't get off it, decided to crawl back to the front room and then couldn't get up again - they were considering calling the fire brigade at one point). Although he had been promised help for half an hour twice a day, no-one came yesterday because she had been discharged in such a rush. And today when one person did come, she decided it was a two person job. So it takes two people to help her get out of bed when they're trained in it, and spend their working life doing just that, but a 79 year old man who uses a walking stick is expected to do it on his own when they're not there? Is he meant to just leave her lying in her own shit until they come to clean her up?
She probably doesn't need medical treatment as such, and she's not strong enough any more to try to escape from the house (at the moment she's barely strong enough to get out of bed), but doesn't she deserve a bit of dignity, and to be looked after by people who are capable of dealing with her? It feels like the system is trying to wash its hands of her, with no consideration of her, or my grandfather's needs.
Trying to deal with the flurry of emails and phone calls from my family about all this wouldn't have been easy at the best of times, but with a hangover, Wednesday wasn't fun either. And I can't even count down to the weekend because I'm going over to St Annes and I dread to think what horrors will await me. I feel utterly unqualified and unsuitable to deal with this sort of stuff, but then I realise that none of us exactly have a choice, so what right do I have to try to shirk my share of it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

RIP, Mike

That's about all I can say at the moment. Thoughts go out to Erica and the boys, and I keep wondering why life is so unfair.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sinking In

Because of my unexpected day in, I've finally got round to watching my recording of the BBC's coverage of New York. They don't mention us, but I've still found myself getting quite emotional watching it. Remembering the various spots round the course where things happened (where the batteries were changed, where we overtook Larry the Lighthouse for the third time), remembering the crowds, hearing the commentators say what a huge event it is, it's finally started to sink in what a fantastic thing it was to do. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was a wonderful thing at the time, but it's one of those things that doesn't diminish when you re-live it two weeks later.

I do feel hugely privileged to have had the opportunity to do this. It's something that I could never have imagined when I started trying to run. I had vague ideas back then that running would be a good thing, but I didn't have any idea what sort of running that might be. From my house to the next lamppost felt like a long way, and even walking 26.2 miles would have been very, very daunting.

And now, I don't just run marathons, I help other people run marathons, and I run tolerably fast marathons. I've got to the stage where I've had to separate out my medals. Call me sad, but I hang all my medals over a corner of the mirror in my bedroom. The mirror was tilting slightly, so I ended up putting marathon medals on one side and anything less on the other, which balances it out a bit. I never thought that the marathon side of the mirror would exist, let alone have four medals draped proudly over it.

As far as I can tell, I've not got a place in FLM through the ballot. Or at least my cheque hadn't been cashed last time I looked, and it would have been by now by the time I got in. But I do think I have a good chance of a club place. The way the rules work, you have the best chance in your first or second full year of membership (ie where I am now). If you haven't been a member for long enough you don't qualify, but equally once you've run FLM you drop down the pecking order. This year I meet all three of the main criteria, and last year everyone who fell into that category got a place, with the ballot only being needed to decide who from the next group down (who met two criteria) would be reserve. This year it's slightly different in that there are only two places decided like that, and one at the discretion of the committee, but even so, if I was on the committee I would say that I'm deserving of a place. Maybe I'm biased, but I do deserve it, I do.

I do have back up plans though, if I don't get a FLM place I'll do Blackpool which is a couple of weeks later and means I don't need to worry about accommodation, or transport, or food, or even support from my family for the first time in a marathon. That leaves Stockholm. I'm still tempted, but not sure. I quite like the idea of a birthday mara, but if I do Blackpool there's not much time to recover (it's not so bad if I do FLM as I have those extra two weeks). If I run with Matt and the NY gang that's fine, because I'll run at their pace, but if they're not doing it, should I still do it or should I go with my original plan, which was to find an activity holiday where I'd be thrown in with a group and would hopefully make more new friends. Decisions, decisions.

This is a bit of a stream of consciousness, sorry. Red wine is involved.


Today was meant to be my first attempt to do a more adventurous journey on my bike, and spread my wings a bit in an attempt to prove that when I'm using public transport I'm not reliant on someone picking me up at the other end.

I've been going over to Blackpool on the train quite a bit, but have usually ended up getting a lift to and from the station or the hospital. Actually, it is easily walkable to either my sister's or my grandparents' house from St Annes station, but we then tend to go to the hospital too. On Sundays there don't seem to be trains on the St Annes line, so instead I decided to be more adventurous. I would cycle to Leeds station, put the bike and myself on the train, go to Blackpool and cycle from there to the hospital for afternoon visiting, before heading back. I'd get a bit of exercise, opportunity to read the paper on the train, and I could be smuggly green.

First flaw in the plan, the weather forecast wasn't looking great. But I've exercised outside enough over the past few years to be able to repeat the mantra to myself "the weather isn't the problem, it's unsuitable kit". And if there's one thing I have lots of, particularly after my buying spree in America, it's exercise kit. So I layered up, put some dry clothes in my bag if necessary, and headed out.

I got to the station at 9am, soaked and a bit chilly but in plenty of time to get a ticket and some coffee before the 9.35 departure. I checked the boards. What 9.35 departure? Ah, slight problem. There's the 9.35 to Hebden Bridge, but that's quite a long way from Blackpool, or it was last time I checked my map. I checked at the ticket office. No trains. A bus from Hebden Bridge to Blackpool. And last time I checked, although bikes are free and not a huge problem on trains, they don't go down well on rail replacement buses.

So I could leave my bike in Leeds, struggle over the pennines on train, bus, train, and then beg for a lift from Blackpool station to the hospital, or I could turn round and cycle 5 miles back home, getting even colder and wetter than I already was. With the hectic schedule I'd had recently, part of the attraction of the route I'd wanted to take was that it was a direct train, where I could just sit, read the paper, and chill. I wouldn't have that option if I had to change to and from the bus, so I made a quick call to my mum, turned round and cycled home.

At least I tried, I suppose, but I should have known better than to trust a train timetable.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Ah, there's something nice about being an associate at work. It makes walking through the office in lycra (as I tend to do when I get changed then realise I've left my cycle helmet on my desk) so much easier.

First of all, the trainees and secretaries are now worried that I have more authority. I don't, obviously, but it doesn't harm to let them think that if it means they don't make fun of my arse.

Secondly, everyone knows I'm entitled to free parking. Before when I cycled, maybe they just thought that I was being tight and didn't want to pay for parking in town. Now they know it's a deliberate decision to commute using my own muscle power rather than taking the easy option.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd willingly walk round the office in running tights, but now I'm almost proud of it. As long as they don't look at the wobbly bits too closely, until I get rid of them again!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bits and pieces

You know when everything suddenly falls into place? This week I've been considering various options of things to do for my 30th next year. I wanted to go on some sort of activity holiday, as I'm now more confident of joining up with a group of other, likeminded, people, sharing a room with a stranger etc. I've been rummaging around in cyberspace and had come up with various options.
Meanwhile, emails have been flying backwards and forwards about Stockholm, which might be Matt's next marathon if he decides to do another one. I'd said that I'd do it without checking the date. Today I looked on the internet, and bingo. 2pm on my birthday. What could be a better way to spend it than running a marathon with Matt and the (majority of the) New York team?
The worrying thing is that, having got the idea into my head that running a marathon would be a nice way to spend the day, I'm now tempted to sign up for the race anyway, even if Matt and the team don't want to do it. Those voices in my head are starting again, and they usually win.

Stockholm is a lovely city, after all...
Meanwhile, it seems that fate has dealt my grandmother a cruel hand at the moment. It turns out that the confusion and madness is essentially an age related, degenerative thing, and that it would have happened anyway regardless of the cancer. It just happens to have manifested itself now, which is extraordinarily bad timing.
The question is where do we go from here? My mother and sister feel strongly that my granddad can't cope with having her at home, but she is desperate to get out of hospital. Would a care home be any better, or would it be even worse? Does it depend on how long the cancer is likely to give her (which is a question that the doctor treating her at the moment just can't answer)?
You can see my grandfather's heart slowly breaking into little pieces. He spent the weekend in tears, and showed far more affection and emotion in public in the course of a short visit to the hospital than I've ever seen him display. I don't know how he will live without her, but I'm not sure he's strong enough to live with her either.
And finally, as this started off as a weight loss blog, I have a confession. My clothes are tight, and I'm about half a stone (7lb) up on where I was a couple of months ago. That's no surprise really, my exercise has gone down during a month of tapering and recovering, I've been comfort eating, and I indulged quite a bit in New York and Amsterdam. I haven't been able to get into a routine, I have been away at weekends when I would usually cook up batches of healthy stuff, and my ability to get to the supermarket to get fresh fruit and veg seems to have been very restricted.
I've done better than I might have done in the circumstances. I've been eating rubbish by my standards, but it's a long way from takeaway pizzas and McDonalds. I haven't dived into 200g bars of chocolate washed down with a bottle of wine. Tinned fruit in syrup isn't as good as fresh fruit, but it's better than a slice of cheesecake. But even so, my diet could be a lot better than it has been, and it's time to take control of the situation.
Equally, I'm still a size 12 and a stone below the top of my healthy BMI range. But that doesn't mean that I feel good at this weight. It's funny, a couple of months ago I was worrying that I was getting too thin, but now I've put a bit of weight on, I'm feeling that I want to take it off again. I suppose it's all part of the process of finding a comfortable weight - I haven't really had any regain before so haven't been through that process of working out where I start to feel too heavy.
It's not exactly rocket science. On mara training mileage I could have multiple treats in one day. Now I need to remember that just because my brain is used to eating them, it doesn't mean that I need them, and I have to *gasp* choose between them depending on my hunger rather than eating them all. If I bring food into work and I'm not hungry I need to remind myself that there's no obligation on me to eat all of it.

I will get control of this before it gets out of hand.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Shortly after posting my race report I disappeared over to St Annes again. The situation with my grandmother isn't good. By the time I saw her on Friday, she was weaker than she had been, and very very confused. She's back in hospital. What I missed, and what my family didn't tell me until I got back, is that she went through a phase where it was more than a bit of docile confusion, but involved her running up and down the street half dressed, ranting and raving, and needing the police and ambulance crews to come and calm her down. My mother is almost relieved that she doesn't have the strength to do that at the moment.
I had hints that something was wrong when I was in America, but Mum said that it could wait til I got home, and didn't give me the gory details. What surprised me, though, was that instead of worrying on my own, and withdrawing into myself, I actually talked to other people about it - even though they were people I'd barely known a week earlier. I made sure my mum called me with the update before we went our separate ways from Heathrow, so I had someone to talk to if the news was bad. I always tend to keep my worries to myself, so to feel so comfortable with comparative strangers really was unusual for me.
I don't tend to be hugely sociable, and the thought of spending a week on holiday with strangers was a bit daunting, but somehow we became a team, and a close one at that. We went round New York together, we shared jokes, we looked out for one another, and I had a better time than I can remember having for ages. I actually managed to switch off from all the stress of home and work, and just lived in the moment, young and free in New York.
I've never really been part of a team like that before. All utterly focussed on the same thing, getting Matt round safely, and all helping each other to do it. We became more than a group of individuals, and bonded like never before.
Well, all of us except one. For all the talk that we were a team, and that we would stick together, there was a rift the size of the Grand Canyon in the camp. None of us would dare deny that the guy organising the trip had done a fantastic job to pull it off and make it all happen, but that does not give him the right to behave like an arse to the rest of us. For large portions of the trip, his main concern seemed to be making sure that he was in shot when the BBC were filming, and making sure that he was surgically attached to Matt. The rest of us were little more than bodies and a source of funds for the trip, without individual personalities or concerns. Our offers of help were turned down, and we were given the minimum of information about where we were meant to be, when, and how we were meant to get there. On the morning of the race he sorted out transport for Matt to get him to the buses (and he naturally travelled with Matt), and gave us no clue how to get there - which turned out to be walking as the subway and buses weren't running so early.
Maybe it was built up into more than it actually was, because we were stressed about the marathon, and I was worried about the situation at home. It was only after the race that we started to relax, be ourselves, and have some fun. Maybe if he'd been around then, he'd have loosened up a bit too. But that didn't happen, and that's the thing I can't forgive him for.
At the end of the race, Laura, Gina and Paul (who had been helping her) had just about caught us up at the 26 mile mark, and moved slightly ahead. Chris wanted us all in a line behind Matt as we crossed the finish, but by that stage Laura only had one speed, and to stop or slow down would have led to her legs seizing up. There was time for Matt to overtake her slightly to get in the right position. Chris had a go at Laura, which led to a memorable shout of "fuck off Hawkins". We didn't know how seriously he'd take it.
I didn't go out with them on the Sunday night. I'd had one drink in the hotel bar, but when we got to the restaurant and were waiting for a table I realised I didn't fancy anything on the menu, shortly before the room started spinning and I fainted. After that I rested in my room for a bit before nipping to Starbucks for hot chocolate and a cake. On the Monday morning most of us went for breakfast together, and on the way back we walked past Chris, who looked the other way and pretended not to have seen us. That was the last we saw of him.
On Monday evening we texted him to see if he wanted to come for a meal with us, and he said he had other plans. We asked what they were and when they'd be finished, so we could meet up later. No response.
On Tuesday morning we were getting quite worried because no-one had seen him for 24 hours, he wasn't answering his mobile, and he wasn't in his hotel room. A few hours later we finally tracked him down - in England. He hadn't bothered to tell anyone he was leaving, and it took a while to work out where our flight tickets were. I'd say that sitting at JFK waiting for a flight home is a bit more than "other plans", when we texted him on Monday evening. Even worse, it turned out that he'd made these plans on Saturday night, so the whole time he was lecturing us out on the course about sticking together as a team (which we were doing, but for Matt, not him), and shouting at us because we were "running in the wrong place" and meaning people couldn't see Matt, he was actually planning to leave the rest of us, but wasn't planning to tell us. Some team spirit, that.
I can forgive him for going home if he wasn't enjoying himself. I can't forgive him for going home without giving us an explanation, and worse than that, not telling us when asked directly what he was doing on Monday night. And spending 7 hours running a bloody marathon without thinking to tell us that all his talk about team spirit was a load of hot air.
Although at the end of the day though, it's him who missed out, so tough.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Marathon

Right, instalment 1 of the New York tales. First up, I have to say that it was the most amazing experience of my life, on so many levels. Not just for the race day experience, although that was the best marathon I've ever run in terms of enjoyment and the sense of achievement, but for what I learned about myself, how I interact with other people, how teams work, what matters to me, and where I want to be. And also, because of the sheer amount of fun I had. I managed to leave my current troubles at home surprisingly well, and it was lovely to have a chance to let my hair down for a while.

But first up, it's time to talk running. Or the marathon part of the running, a couple of us also ran the International Friendship Run on the Saturday, and we went out for a team jog round Central Park on the Thursday we arrived (or five out of six of us did, but that's a different subject), but the marathon was the big one.

The first thing we had to deal with was how early the start was. The clocks changing did give us a welcome extra hour in bed, but having to meet in the hotel reception at 5am for a race that started over 5 hours later was excessively early. But to get over the bridge to the start that's the time we had to leave to get the buses, so that's the time we met. Matt's parents cycled to the buses, Matt, some carers and Chris got a lift from one of the guys at Team Reeve (or at least his driver), and the rest of us walked. We were on the AWD (Athletes with Disabilities) buses, and had to clamber over wheelchairs to get to some seats. Most of the people on the bus were in racing chairs, and going off in the early starts, but because the bus was accessible we were put on it too, even though we were on the main start. The bikes made it on too, as I don't think Chris and Glenda fancied cycling to the start as well as the 26.2 miles back!

At the start there was then a fair amount of hanging around. It was pretty cold, and I'd bought some cheap tracksuit bottoms to wear over my running kit, as well as my Achilles Guide t-shirt and a space blanket. I wasn't officially running in the marathon, and if you look in the official results you won't find my name. I was registered as a guide, rather than as a runner. Of the seven of us, Matt was registered as a runner, three of the other runners were registered under their names, and three of us were registered as Matt's guides. We still got all the goodies at the expo - the finishers t-shirt, and the medal at the end as long as we finished with the person who we were meant to be guiding, but it was made clear that we were running for the disabled athlete, not for ourselves, and the way we were registered reinforced that. If we were caught running without our athlete, or finishing without him, we could be removed from the course and denied our medal. We had no right to be there without him, and we had to look after him if we wanted that medal!

The start area was huge, although we didn't do that much exploring, both to save energy and also because Matt couldn't get onto the grassed areas anyway. I probably ate a bit more than I sometimes do before a mara, because I knew that I would be on my feet for longer, and I wouldn't be pushing myself as hard to mess my stomach up if I ate too much. Plus the bagels at the start were free...

There was another reason for the lack of exploration at the start. It quickly became clear that the battery in the chair was running down far quicker than expected. Matt had been up even earlier than us to get ready for the race, and before the start he was worried about how little power he had left. The original plan had been to change batteries at 13 miles, and we had Matt the wheelchair guy waiting there with batteries for us, but Matt was worried that he wouldn't make it. There were a couple of frantic calls before the start, and at one point I was worried that Matt wouldn't want to start at all, it took a bit of persuasion for him to take it one mile at a time, and to see what happened.

Unlike the Great North Run where we were right at the front, although we let the faster runners go past before filtering out, this time the race director wanted us to start right at the back. The main reason for this was the bikes, they were very worried about letting the bikes onto the course at all, and they wanted us at the back so we didn't get in the way. But we still seemed to get over the start faster than I expected, and certainly faster than if you're at the back of FLM or the GNR. The start really was spectacular. I'd seen the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from the Staten Island Ferry a couple of days earlier, but I hadn't been expecting the weather on the day to be so perfect, and the views back towards Manhattan to be so spectacular. That really gave us a sense of where we were, and where we were going, and sent a tingle down the spine.

At first we were OK, and were overtaking runners quite nicely. But the situation with the battery was never far from our minds and we tried to get in touch with the wheelchair guy and get him somewhere earlier on the course. There were constant frantic phone calls, as he tried to work out how he could get closer to us when all the roads were closed, and a surge of runners was coming up it. We kept on going, but Matt was getting more and more worried. We started to give the chair a helping hand. Gently at first, more as reassurance than as a significant form of propulsion, but more strenuously as time went on. As one of the stronger, more experienced runners I felt like I should take on a large part of the burden and let other people concentrate on running, so I tended to stick behind the chair, pushing it, with the help of one other person, with the others switching responsibility between them.

Matt was getting worried about it. He knew that we were slowing, and asked us to stop at the side of the road. The wheelchair guy wasn't in sight, and he knew that the chair wouldn't make it to him. This isn't a lightweight, racing wheelchair, by the way. I think when it was being loaded onto the plane they said that it was about 160kg, and that's without Matt's weight and the weight of the ventilator. It's a chunky piece of kit. Matt told us to go on without him because we were slowing him down. At this point there was a universal chorus of nos. We were a team, and the only reason we were there was for Matt. Matt couldn't simply follow us at his own speed, because he needed people with him. The three guides amongst us couldn't go on ahead anyway because our only right to run was if we ran with him, and none of us had gone into the race intending to race it. We had gone into the race to get Matt to the finish, and we told him that if he pulled out, then so would we. After a nervous few moments, Matt agreed to go on, although he still wasn't happy about the battery situation.

To be honest, I don't remember too many details up to mile 11. I remember frantic phone calls, and I remember pushing the chair. I remember our BBC camera crew catching up with us at about the 5k mark, taking a shot as we ran past, then sprinting down the road to try again. There are occasional snippets, the gospel choir in Brooklyn, the eerily quiet Jewish area, the guy racing on artificial legs who was sitting at the side of the road adjusting them. The Team Reeve runners who ran past us and cheered us, having met us at a lunch event the previous day. The crowds. But mainly I was focussing on reassuring Matt that if the worst came to the worst we would carry on pushing him, and telling him that the new batteries would come before any of us were willing to give up.

Then finally, the call we had been waiting for. In a flash of inspired, but unorthodox thinking, Matt found a way to transport himself and the batteries towards us. Sunday was the first, and very likely the only, time I'll ever be rescued at mile 11 of a marathon by a short cockney wheelchair mechanic in a rickshaw. We found out where he was waiting, which was a mere block or two away, and let out a huge sigh of relief when we saw the rickshaw parked up in a side street. It turns out that Matt had had the ride of his life from his driver, Mo, across football fields, with games in progress, along busy roads, and over bridges. But they'd made it, and in his excitement to get started with the battery change Matt managed to fall out of the rickshaw rather than stepping out gracefully...

But our relief was short lived. As we took the opportunity to take on some food, some of us turned round and saw what had probably not been too far behind us, but which we'd been blissfully unaware of. A police car with the sweeper bus behind it. I hadn't actually read the race booklet before the race - because I wasn't registered to run as such I hadn't been sent a copy of it. But even though the finish line was open until something like 8 hours, the sweep bus was travelling at 6:30 pace. If the roads were re-opened we simply wouldn't have been able to carry on on the pavement, with the constant ups and downs. We needed to be on the road, and we needed the roads to be closed. While Matt worked on the batteries, a party was sent to the police car to beg for time. They succeeded. We got two minutes, and a bit of leeway beyond that when they saw that we were almost done. Disaster averted, we set off again.

Relieved of the responsibility for pushing, it was time to start enjoying the race. We were very much at the back of the race, and maybe the crowds as well as the race itself were thinner than they had been a couple of hours earlier, but the crowds that were there, and the runners around us, went wild when they saw us coming through. We started overtaking people who had gone past us while we'd been pushing the chair, and we got a bit of confidence. We had a few good miles, and got into a rhythm. Being in a thinner crowd there was less need to send people ahead to clear other people out of the way for Matt, so we could just weave a path through, and concentrate on enjoying the atmosphere and keeping everyone's spirits up. The stronger runners concentrated on winding the crowds up, so that the slower ones could take the benefit of it, and concentrate on running. I say running, for me it was a pace that I could power walk or jog, and I switched between the two, but some of the girls did need to run to keep up with us.

We went over the Queensboro Bridge, and knew that we had the BBC waiting at the end for us, to take some more "action" shots, and to do an interview once we'd passed the half way point. We did a bit of GNR inspired singing while we were going through the bridge, but I started to notice that one of the girls was falling back. She'd fractured her elbow and hadn't been able to train as much as she'd have liked, and was starting to struggle. I dropped back to check that she was OK, and made sure that other people knew to keep an eye on her. We got to the end of the bridge, did the interviews, and headed up first avenue.

This was by far my favourite part of the race. I really could concentrate on enjoying the crowds. Past the bars there was a lot of noise anyway, but when they saw Matt coming they went up a notch. Then we cheered back and they got even louder. It really did make us feel like heroes. People were asking what Matt was called, although I felt for the kids who didn't understand why he didn't high five them when they wanted him to. A couple of us went to the side of the road to hug a guy with a sign saying "free hugs here", we did high fives, we got given sweets, and it was fantastic. However, all the girl who was struggling kept on saying was that it stretched out a long, long way in front of us, and that there was a long way to go.

Having recovered from his own "I want to drop out" spell, Matt was in his element, and had started to focus on the rest of us. He was constantly checking how Laura was, adjusting his pace to let her catch up, and making sure that after our determination that we'd finish as a team, we did that. Laura was a star. I've never seen anyone with such a look of determination on her face. You could see the pain by looking at her, but you could also see that there was no way she was going to give up. She was a little behind, but never out of sight, and never left on her own, through the Bronx and then back into Manhattan and down 5th Avenue towards the park. As the pace got more comfortable, there was time for more of a chat with the other runners. There was Larry the Lighthouse, there was a bloke from Bedford, there was a bloke running in military uniform who kept saluting us (you can see him on the video the BBC did). And, on 5th Avenue there was a woman who came up to us to say that she'd seen one of the features on Matt on TV before she came out, and that she was so pleased to have met us.

Meanwhile, I was doing all the atmosphere, enjoyment type things that I don't normally get to do in races. Doing an aeroplane run down 5th Avenue, singing along with the bands, clapping my arms above my head, enjoying the party. Checking on Matt, checking on Laura, and persuading everyone that four miles isn't that far really. It was starting to go dark, and it was getting colder, but the end was in sight and we were going to make it, even if we had to carry or push people.

Having made up some ground on the sweeper bus, it seemed to catch us up as we got into Central Park, but never overtook us. I was aware of the lights, but knew that by this stage, reopening the roads wasn't such a concern, and that we were going to make it.

Or were we. At about mile 24 Matt's ventilator gave a worrying sounding bleep. The main battery had gone, and it had switched to internal power. It was still working, but it made us aware that we were up against time issues. We didn't have the luxury of being able to take as long as we wanted. We weren't running for a time as such, but we needed to finish before the batteries gave out. At this point we needed to make decisions. We'd been keeping the pace slow to make sure that we didn't drop Laura, and Matt was adamant that we wouldn't cross the line without her. But we needed to get Matt there as soon as possible. We couldn't put his life in danger. Our compromise was to pick the pace up a bit, and hope she'd respond. If not, we'd get as close to the finish line as we could, and wait, in the knowledge that at least we were there, with carers waiting for us on the other side, if the situation got tenser.

When you spend time with Matt you look past his disability. He's such a strong personality, and he defies his limitations to such an extent, that you sometimes forget how fragile he is. Running those last two miles with the ventilator beeping was a powerful reminder of why people in his condition don't tend to compete in marathons.

We got to the 26 mile marker, and slowed to wait for Laura and the others who had gone back to help her keep going. She hadn't dropped too far behind, and caught up with us in time for a final push for the line. Her words as we approached the line were memorable, but part of a different story, for another day. As we came up to the line there was a slight incline, and Matt asked me if I'd push him. If you look at the finish photos or the video the BBC did (linked below and well worth a look) you'll see me pushing that chair over the line (probably to the mortification of the wheelchair guy who wanted to use the run as a powerful advert for what the chair could do), and I was honoured to be asked.

Our official time was 6:48:40, closer to 7 hours than our original 6 hour limit, but not too bad considering the situation with the battery. Matt, his parents and the carers embarked on a desperate dash to the hotel to get him sorted out (I had been worried that the course actually went very close to the hotel in the last mile, and that we might have needed to pull out at that point for his health, which would have been heartbreaking having got him all that way), I unpinned Laura's number and got someone to take her back (ironically in a rickshaw, transportation of choice when the roads are closed, clearly!) while I went to collect the bags and made my own way back.

And then, having felt fine all the way round, I had one drink in the hotel on the way for a meal after the race and promptly fainted. I don't know whether it was the length of time on my feet, or not paying as much attention as normal to taking my dextrose tablets with having so many other things to think about, but it wasn't pretty. One of the other runners was a nurse, and took my pulse and sent Matt the wheelchair guy to get something sweet, like Kendal Mint Cake. He came back from the bar with a cocktail. Ah well, it was a very sweet one...

New York

I'm back from New York. There will be lots more pictures and stories to come, but for now click on this link and watch the video...