Firstly, apologies for being slack with this. To say the week didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned would be an understatement!
I’m assuming (hoping) that most people who read my blog will be aware I finished it – and am not collapsed somewhere. At some point I will pull together a bit more detail, but I’m conscious of boring you, so will skip through days four to seven with highlights…
After a lack of rain on the Wednesday, I began Thursday in high spirits… only to have them swiftly dashed when the rain gods decided to punish me again.
My feet were in pieces by this point, but Compeed was my best friend and I had learned to power through the pain of the first couple of miles and then it dulled into an ache I could ignore.
Day four saw D with me on foot – the plan was to start that way – as I prepared to face a 35-mile day to Richmond. It was the longest of the week, and included Nine Standards Rigg and the Bog of Doom. To put this into perspective, Wayne’s advice to me that morning was to quote Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Turns out Nine Standards Rigg is the summit of Hartley Ridge, and has an ascent of 662m. Another goddamn climb. We diligently followed the signs for the route to use during the Sept-Dec months (to protect the vegetation)…. and I promptly navigated us wrongly. What ensued was an hour trek across shin-deep bog, swamp and tussocks, just to reach a path – any path.
The wind and rain blew in, knocking us sideways as we finally found ourselves on a path down (albeit for the wrong month)…. and right in the heart of the Bog of Doom. People get stuck and lost in this bog at the best of times. We were trying to wade thigh-deep through it in the middle of a storm.
The lowest point saw us huddled behind a cairn, struggling to stop the full-body shakes, as we ate a flapjack to power us on to civilisation. We made it out of there and the welcome sight of the van parked way below us, spurred us to run in for lunch. I also hit my 100-mile point about then.
The rest of the day didn’t improve much: the feet never quite dried out and the weather continued to play havoc. Our mileages were out again – our fell top detour may have had something to do with that – and I had to call it a day after 33-miles as we neared Marske. We’d already moved to road level about five miles earlier – adding on an extra mile, but relieving the pressure on my feet – and I remember trudging along behind D with tears streaming down face.
The ever-amazing, wonderful mum had dinner ready on the side of the road in the van so I could eat immediately, and the lovely Ruth and family had given up their house for us that night, so a hot bath and bed was greatly appreciated.
It couldn’t get any worse than the previous day…
It started off raining and grey and I desperately tried to put on a brave face, but I insisted on going back and retracing the last five miles into Richmond before beginning my day.
However, when I had completed that and then officially set off on day five’s 25-mile journey the sun came out. I felt good on the road (ignoring the feet) and ran in to Ferryhill – after a total of 30 miles – in good time that evening.
The amazing Andrew and Gareth of the Manor House Hotel were putting us up for the night and had arranged for the talented Connor – who came with equally talented friend Lewis, both pictured below with Rach’s dad Keith – to perform a fundraiser for The Brain Tumour Charity as part of my fundraising.
To top it off, Rach, husband Graham and her dad Keith all came along! It was a lovely night and great to see them and remind myself why I was doing it.
That fundraiser raised £100 too!
It should have been so good, but the agony of my feet had caught up on me. My little toe was so bloodied, swollen, blistered and purple that putting my trainer on had me sobbing. Trying to stretch had me silently crying and then I limped off…
As ever, it just took a few miles to ‘bed in’ my feet and I was able to press on. Yet more torrential rain hampered my progress though and I was thoroughly miserable. D was on his bike but my slow pace meant he was forced to frequently jump off to stay alongside me.
BUT, I had one goal: the Angel of the North. There, I knew Rach, Graham, her parents, her children and a friend Laura would be waiting for me. It spurred me on and the sight of them all brought a tear to my eye.
(It was also my moment of ‘fame’, as three women stopped me at the Angel of the North to give me money and ask if I was ‘the woman off the news’. I said I assumed so…. can’t imagine there are many other nutters like me!!)
The added bonus was a friend of Laura’s, from her running club, who also arrived to run the last five miles… and Graham was in running gear, to push Rachel alongside me too. Those five miles were amazing, with D, Rachel, Graham, Laura and Lisa. We crossed the Tyne Bridge, headed through the city centre and stopped at the roundabout beside the flyover over the motorway… the start of the Great North Run!
Rach got out of her wheelchair and together, hand in hand, we walked the 30 yards to that day’s finishing point… I was elated, emotional and overjoyed. It was a wonderful ending to a tough day.
This was it. Great North Run day!
D and I set off together, with an agreement to keep together. It was a slow and steady pace (with a couple of minutes added on for a toilet stop!!) but we ran 13.1 miles non-stop. I was fighting tears the whole way down the seafront to the finishing line: this was it, the end. I’d nearly done it.
It was D’s first ever half marathon and he did amazingly – especially as he hadn’t had the luxury of tapering down which most of the other runners had!!
After 2 hours 33 minutes and 59 seconds, we crossed the finish line, hand in hand. I absolutely would not have got through that run – or indeed the week – without him by my side.
Mum was stood at the fence, cheering us in and then, the absolute crowning moment, was Rach and Graham surprising me and appearing from the Brain Tumour Charity tent in the charity village. We clung to each other, both in tears. This was it. This was why I’d done it. For her, her family, and all those like them.
What a day.
What a week.
What an experience.
My fundraising total has exceeded my expectations, but anyone who hasn’t yet sponsored need not worry they’ve missed out (!). You can still donate here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/emilyjparsons
I’ve tried to thank everyone I can for their donations. If I haven’t thanked you personally, I can only apologise, but I am so humbled and truly, unbelievably grateful.