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There are many MANY things I’d rather do than run a marathon.
Some of these include:
- Get a Hollywood wax, repeatedly
- Watch the latest Alvin and the Chipmunk movie on repeat
- Spend weeks and weeks and weeks extremely sleep deprived
- Lose my phone
- Sleep in dirty sheets
- Drink cold tea
Running, you see, is one of those things I just don’t get. I grew up going to a very sporty school and because I was skinny I was expected to compete in Athletics: it got to the point where I would hide from my PE teacher in the library so he couldn’t force me to go to lunchtime Athletics club. I always walked our entire weekly cross country run and have had nothing to do with running since, bar a short-lived go at my local running club’s beginners course (I dropped out, I didn’t like the sweating part).
BUT THEN. Recently I had an email from the fundraising team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a place that treats Elfie for her lifelong genetic condition, asking for volunteers to run the Marathon on behalf of the hospital. I’d had a couple of glasses of wine and thought to myself: what better way to fundraise for a place that is so dear to us than do the one thing I hate most in the world? Genius, Alice! And so I sent in my details.
I promptly forgot about my application and went on happily with my running-hating ways, until Tuesday of this week when I had a phone call from Great Ormond Street.
They’d only bloody picked me to represent them in their marathon team. Holy shit.
I went through an incredible spectrum of emotions: shock at the realisation of one day soon having to run 26 miles, excitement at the idea of taking part in such an iconic event and then lastly happiness at just what a difference I can make to Great Ormond Street and the children it treats. I had a bit of a happy cry and told Elfie what had happened: “this is for you”, I said.
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the most special places in the world. We’re there twice a year for appointments as well as one annual overnight stay for monitoring. I also go along without Elfie once every six months for a seminar of updates and research on Adrenal conditions, which is what she has.
The work that goes on there is astounding. Our Doctor, Professor Hindmarsh, has dedicated his life to simplifying and improving the lives of children with Adrenal conditions, trying to unravel the little genetic quirks that lead to the diseases. The ward doctors there are all wonderfully warm, as are the nurses and healthcare assistants, and the play specialists on each ward that take the poorly children’s minds off where they are and what they’re doing are brilliant.
In our time at Great Ormond Street we’ve met both Spiderman AND Mr Bloom, and Elfie has learned how to play many new board games and Wii games. Her stay is never a walk in the park but she genuinely feels like it’s a positive place to be, and to create that environment in a hospital I think is magnificent.
Visiting Great Ormond Street with Elfie is the most humbling experience. Having a child with a medical condition means you have to make a certain amount of mental and practical adjustments, but I feel so lucky that I’m able to control and treat her health with the help of her endocrinologists, and because of their care she’s overall a healthy little girl.
Other families aren’t so lucky. I’ve seen some of the most heart-breaking things on those wards, the poorliest children. But I’ve also seen some of the most uplifting: the steely grit and sometimes dark humour that you find in parents of children who are very poorly, the children themselves who are the bravest people you’ll ever meet. It’s tragic but it’s magic.
Which is why, come next April, I am going to run those 26 miles with a massively full heart, knowing that I am doing the best thing (worst thing?) for me to help this magnificent charity. I’m terrified – but I’m excited!!
I’m starting to put together my training plan this week with the helpers of my trainers at my local David Lloyd. It’s going to become not just a place for me to luxuriate in the Jacuzzi, but a place I’ll be visiting regularly to work on my health and fitness. After taking a break from any exercise since July – I had a terrible chest infection – I’m going from a complete standing start. First step will be couch to 5k (I’m not sure I could run 1k at the moment) and then the real work begins.
As much as I need to run, I also really want to elevate my general fitness. My training programme needs to be diverse so I don’t get bored and so I’m looking at a combination of SYNRGY360 classes, swimming, yoga and free weights. And it’s fab I can do this just around the corner with qualified personal trainers at David Lloyd. They’ll be sick of the sight of me!
I will, of course, be bending your ear when my training starts in a couple of weeks, and will be coming back for regular updates. But for now, wish me luck! There’s no hiding in the library for this one.
I’m fundraising via JustGiving where you can read more about Elfie’s journey with Great Ormond Street.