Whilst waiting for a train…
In February of this year I bumped into an old friend in Barnsley Interchange. It transpired we were both on our way to the same event in Leeds. During our train journey our conversation turned to our health and I mentioned that I was thinking about getting more exercise but was reluctant to attend a gym in case I did more harm than good. (I also thought an old fart like me would be really out of place with all the gym rats pumping iron!) Andy then mentioned that he had recently joined a small charity as Chair of Trustees, He started telling me all about the Barnsley Long Term Exercise Support Group and their facilities in Royston.
A few days later I popped along and met Steve. Following my induction I started attending the two evening sessions. It was exactly what I was looking for. Friendly, helpful advice and smiling faces!
I had joined as somebody diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Over a period of 2 years I had managed to get it under control but was keen to prevent progression into complications including heart problems.
- At least 68 percent of people age 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease; and 16% die of stroke.
- Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.
As I learnt more about the other members and their health problems I discovered how ignorant I was about cardiovascular disease. Fortunately the internet has placed at our fingertips access to knowledge in a way that, as a kid, I would have thought pure science fiction.
So, in April of this year I was on the British Heart Foundation website learning more about heart conditions and preventing heart disease. It’s a great resource and does wonderful work. They fund vital research and it’s powered by volunteers and fundraising activities. I wanted to help and thought buying a T-shirt wasn’t quite enough so I signed up for the MyMarathon event.
“You have 31 days to complete 26.2 miles, whenever and wherever you want. Whether it takes you 4 hours, 4 days or 4 weeks, with MyMarathon – You decide the pace and you decide the place.”
I did like the “you decide the pace and place” bit. I’m no Mo Farah and the last time I actually ran a few miles was over 30 years ago. But I do walk about 5 miles a day so thought it would be possible on the basis of “walk a mile” and “jog 50 yards” (more of a shuffle really). To make it a bit more of a challenge I decided to do two half marathons over a weekend.
The BHF make it very easy to allow people to sponsor you. They give you your own web page (mine’s at https://mymarathon.everydayhero.com/uk/DonGentmarathon). My very kind sponsors were able to visit the page and make donations online. With their generosity I raised £278.55. (And a BIG THANK YOU to you.)
The BHF also suggest how you can track your efforts and link to the page showing the miles done. I used a mobile phone app called Strava. To plan my route I went to https://www.plotaroute.com/ a free resource where you can request a route and distance. I wanted a circular route from my house for 13.2 miles. It works out a number of routes and you choose the one you like best. It can be downloaded to your mobile phone and with the wonders of GPS tracking it offers very detailed map instructions when walking.
So early on a sunny Saturday morning 21st May 2016 with some fruit and nuts, and armed with my mobile phone, I switched on Strava and my GPS tracking apps and set off. It was a great route through the Yorkshire countryside mostly on bridle paths and footpaths. I didn’t complete at a blistering pace but I did complete and was home for lunchtime. After a bath and a nap, I was ready for bed.
The next day I repeated the walk but deviated slightly from the route and added a bit extra to the distance. The joy and satisfaction of completing MyMarathon is immense, a real challenge with the funds raised going to a very worthwhile cause. I plan to do it again next year and then for my 70th year I quite fancy the Skydive fundraising event.
That should cure my acrophobia.