The name ‘DiAthlete’ hadn’t even came about the last time I was on the Isle, I was a recently turned 19 year old that had some unfinished business with the island in 2010, having attempted to run around the heavily inclined coastal route in July 2009. I didn’t succeed my goal at the first attempt, falling around 25 miles short in a 2 day challenge. In 2009 I had suffered two torn ankle ligaments shortly before enduring the grueling ultra marathon, which hampered my progress a great deal. I also faced a restricted time schedule with a planned music gig that I hosted on the first evening and a ferry to catch home on the next evening, it was never going to be an easy task. To add to it the extreme weather of fog and rain occurring and limited road signs, there perhaps was plenty of reasons as to why I didn’t make it around the full distance in 2009!
It left a bitter taste with me. The year before, August 2008, I had started something, running 29 miles in 3 hours and 1 minute along the Thanet coast in Kent. The feeling of failure sent my momentum crashing. Many people congratulated me, in fact the only ever award I’ve been given for my work in diabetes was for that effort, by Diabetes UK who I was supporting. I didn’t agree with it all though, I hadn’t achieved what I said I would do and the salt in the wounds was the fact that I had suffered a very bad hypo in the process, ending my first day of the run.
In 2010, to come back, it meant a lot. Perhaps, in a sense, more than any other challenge. It was about proving to myself that I could do it, that I could beat diabetes in any test, and by reaching that finish line in 2010 I gained that belief. So today when I endure even bigger extremes in my challenges, it is now about proving to others that they can beat their diabetes in any test through life too – by showing them my extreme examples.
My running and training has been a little halted since the success last year over in the United States, where I completed 7 marathons in 7 days around Long Island, NY. There were signs of shin splints coming on and also with a busy working schedule as a tour guide, I have to adapt to find time to keep it all going. The main aspect is not to lose a grip of what matters. And to me what matters is keeping the cause of diabetes positive, both in my own life and to others around me.
Whilst arranging a schedule of late where I’ve had the pleasure to meet many communities around the UK in the past few weeks, I’ve also been cramming in work to keep myself funded too – so it has been quite tiring but I wouldn’t change the things I can do for the world. It’s always an honour to meet communities in this cause all over the world. I’ve been up to Altrincham and Cambridge, had a local event in my home hospital, Queen Mary’s and also went to Slough. Coming up is a trip on Wednesday down to Ashford to speak to a school with a recently diagnosed type 1 student – and that’s what counts, it doesn’t matter if I am travelling to support one person, a small group of 10, or a full house of 150, if I can personally encourage another in their condition from my experiences, then why bloody not do that? It’s the best thing to be able to offer something to the world and that’s a gift worth treasuring.
On the Isle of Wight I took the ferry across and had this weird feeling, those memories of the events 5 and 6 years ago. It had me thinking, this is life. Whether its 5 years ago or 50 years that passes by, it is what we do that lives on within us and tells a story about us – time will just keep rolling on regardless.
I was excited to return to a place where I had many emotions and memories.
You can see when looking at the island from the ferry deck it is quite a large size. I did well to run around that! Then again, I could look back behind me at the other big island, Great Britain, and say something similar, to more of an extreme…
I once ran the bloody length of that one!
Sam Brooks hosted the event on the Isle and I really appreciate all her work to organise it all and encourage her local diabetes community on the island. And also to Sue and Neil Bailey, who welcomed me to stay at their house. It had that 30/30 factor about it, where I look at the success of my John O’Groats to Land’s End challenge and know it was down to the community support – people who didn’t remotely know me, never having met me before, prepared to put me up a night or drive in support for the whole day to carry my bags and be a helping hand. I had never met Sue and Neil but there they were, welcoming me over, feeding me dinner, what great and generous people.
It was an absolute honour to have Paul Farrelly come over too for Sam’s event in the evening. I’ve known Paul since 2009, when I was given that award from Diabetes UK for my original Isle of Wight challenge. Paul was a speaker and he inspired a teenaged DiAthlete in the making to become just that really, with his positive attitude and adventure story of a 30 days cycle from Portsmouth to Istanbul. We were both diagnosed in 2000, both have had crazy 30 day adventures and when in a rowing boat at the same time once, both played a part in capsizing a row boat in front of the onlooking Sir Steve Redgrave!
(It was Paul’s fault initially!)
The event was great. There was a decent attendance there, one lad didn’t even have or know anybody with diabetes – he was just interested, which was good to see. And it was great to team up with Paul, we make a great team by being able to pass on interesting stories, great adventures in a relatable style to motivate others around us.
I also by chance caught the Winchcombes over there too, who happened to be on a weekend trip – who had a cycle on the 30/30 challenge, Kev cycling in support for 4 days and being a good help in the routes too.
On the Sunday I had a late return to the mainland, so had planned to run a few miles – reliving a few memories from 5 years earlier. I did more than relive a few memories, I went on to run around nearly a marathon! In recent weeks I’ve started up more training with support from Lisa Jackman, who has taken me on for a Yoga fitness routine. The aim is this could improve everything about me, prolong my running years, better my core strength and possibly even help strengthen my long term diabetes control in doing so. My body has taken a battering over the years, I won’t deny that, and I’ve never had professional support behind me to do the things I have done. As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t done anything remotely major since the U.S challenges last September. When you go over 6 months without anything big on, you need to recapture yourself – mentally more than anything else.
There has been a few rejections of sponsorship for my international plans I am building and intend to fulfill. Doing this run, I decided to test myself out again. Rid that feeling of can I still do it?
Why am I questioning myself? Look what I have achieved! But there is that element when you receive the rejections, or go a long time without being out there. So again on the Isle of Wight, I guess I had something to prove.
Boy, did I go out and prove it!
Instead of running just a few miles to keep fit, I went on and ran close to a marathon in distance – and as I know full well, it is extremely hilly over there! None stop. There isn’t a moment of flat land to run on, more often than not you are climbing the hills.
I kept going, like Forrest Gump, I just felt like running!
With a check on my phone, when I started I didn’t recognise the significance of the date: 10th May. Every year on the 10th of May I find myself doing something extremely positive. Speaking at an event last year, running from Carlisle to Workington the year before on the 30/30… the thing is, it is a date that has a meaning. In 2011 a very positive character named Michael Machin passed away, he had married my Auntie Tracy in hospital a few days before in a difficult time for my family on the coast. It was a sudden occurrence really, his lungs failing, nobody expected it. The Summer before, Tracy, Michael, my cousin Jess with more of my family and some friends were with me on the Isle of Wight, cheering me on as I completed that challenge.
10th May is also the date my Grandad Harry died, when I was a young boy. My first ever public speaking gig, if you like, was at his funeral, aged 6.
Running along the Isle from Cowes to The Needles, taking a silly wrong turning (as expected) along the way, I was lucky not to join them on that date! I had forgotten about the roads without pavements! But there were no near misses, thankfully this time!
I wanted to test myself and perhaps wondered whether this might be a bit far too soon, given those shin splint signs in recent times. But I’d been doing the stretches Lisa had told me, taking more care of my body, so I was eager to kick on and see. I had no challenge on, so could stop at any time, or perhaps aim to make a fair distance down to Yarmouth and stop if it was playing up.
No such problem, at all!
Out of the blue, I went out and ran the best part of a marathon – not feeling a pain at all.
Something isn’t right with me, really! Who bloody runs that far just off the spur of a moment and feels fine??
Blood sugars weren’t perfect but were not far off it. I dropped to a 3.9 on the journey, this is because I took 10 units of Levemir, in my anticipation of only running 4 miles when I first left. I came across a shop which had a sign saying it would close at 1pm, I arrived there at 12.45 and it was shut! But luckily there was a helpful pub nearby, where I sat in for an orange juice and they gave me a few chocolate wafers. I then came across Sam on the route, who had some additional supplies, including a loaf of fruit bread. I had the lot!
80gs of carbs consumed with around 6 miles to go to The Needles, blood sugars at 4.8 mmol/ls. Surely, I wouldn’t need anymore!
I opted to remain with water instead of lucozade, as I had eaten so much carbs. I probably made a bad call there, as it was hot – I got absolutely sun burned! Once arriving towards Alum Bay, nearing The Needles for the final mile (and some massive cliff tops to climb) I had another test and to my surprise, despite the massive load of carbohydrates I was just 4.1 mmol/ls in my blood sugar levels.
Without any supplies on me, I decided to alter my pace in a method to make my liver release natural glucose into my system, temporarily spiking my blood sugar levels to see me finish. This meant, after running such a long way, I found myself sprinting, jogging, walking for a patch, every 10 seconds. The change of endurance could trigger that ‘adrenaline effect’ to release the natural glucose in my body.
It worked. I made The Needles and completed the challenge with a level of 6.2 mmol/ls – and to finish at run in the 6s, it doesn’t get any sweeter than that!
Some pics from 2010 Challenge and Event on the Isle of Wight: