Wednesday, 21 May 2008

UPDATE: The handover!

Last Friday I travelled over to Belfast to meet up with Sebastian and watch him handover Heartbeat's half of the funds raised - £2,853.55.

The nice gentleman receiving the cheque is his consultant, Dr Andrew Sands.

Thanks so much to him and to the Clark Clinic nurses - who also know Sebastian so well - for making us both feel very special.

Unfortunately Sebastian is not able to make it across to Leeds until later in the year so the Children's Heart Surgery Fund will receive their cheque by post later in the week. However, I have promised that Sebastian will call in to the LGI to say hello when he does make that trip.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed in any way to the success of Running For Sebastian which, like this blog, is now officially over!

PS If, for some reason, you would like to read my ramblings on impending fatherhood and other random issues, feel free to log on to my new blogsite - White Stuff - at Go on.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Mission accomplished

It's done.

I crossed the finishing line yesterday afternoon in four hours, 20 minutes and one second exactly and for the last ten miles it hurt like hell. But, to my mind, surely that just reinforces why the race is worth doing; if it was easy, what would be the point in you sponsoring me?!

All the things you hear and read about the wonderful atmosphere are absolutely true. The spectators are lined three and four deep around almost the entirety of the course and it does make a huge difference when things get tough.

Although, despite the huge crowds and the vast number of runners, I was still reminded of what a small world we live in. Seconds after crossing the finish line and getting my medal, the first person I bumped into was Clare Johnston, landlady of my local bar back in Coleraine! Brilliant.

Most importantly, all the money that has been so kindly pledged and donated over the last few months can now be rightfully claimed on Sebastian's behalf and given to the two nominated charities.

The total currently stands at over £5,200 and I know there's still a bit more to come in yet. Indeed, Sebastian and his little sister Katie raised more than £100 themselves with a bucket collection in their own street on Saturday afternoon.

I spoke to him straight after the race and said that the medal was safely around my neck. However, when I go across to Northern Ireland in May to join him in presenting the cheque to Heartbeat, it will be placed around his. That is where I intend to leave it.

Thank you to everybody who has helped the two of us in any way over the last few months. It has been an incredible journey and hopefully, as a result of your enormous generosity, we will be able to do some good.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Cometh the hour, runneth the Barry

Well folks, not long now.

Tomorrow morning, I set off on the 10am train from Leeds to London King's Cross. Following a quick check-in at the hotel, it's over to the ExCel Arena in Docklands to collect my number. After that, goodness knows what, although pasta (still bleugh!) will undoubtedly feature.

Come Sunday, it's breakfast at about 7am and then off to Blackheath for the start of the race at 9.45.

It would be wrong to say I'm not nervous, I am. But I'm more numb than nervous.

I say that because I'm genuinely still in shock at the amount of kindness and generosity I've witnessed at first hand over the last number of weeks and, in particular, over the last few days.

We live in an age where cynicism rules and probably with good reason. But, thanks to the scores of people who've supported Sebastian and I since we started out on our little venture in January, we've reached a level of sponsorship we had neither right nor reason to expect.

I'll get the glory on Sunday if I manage to cross that line. In reality, the glory belongs with all of you.

On behalf of us both - thank you so much.

PS I'm due back in Pudsey around Monday teatime so, if you're bored, log on to see what happened

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Out on the streets with Mad Eliz (Lizzie to you and me)

I always thought there'd be a twist in the tale in the final hours leading up to race day. Tonight it came.

I arrived home an hour and a bit ago to find a series of pictures e-mailed to my PC, one of which you can see above.

The girl on the left is Mad Eliz Brown - Eliz is pronounced "Lizzie" (nope, I can't work it out either).

Eliz is a great pal of Sebastian's who contacted me a few weeks ago to say she had plans to raise a few quid. This afternoon she struck.

Eliz had tee-shirts designed, decorated some buckets, grabbed Sebastian, her lovely little boy Jacob (holding the bucket) and her neighbour Jill (right) and off they went around the streets and doors of Coleraine.

To this point, they have terrified local residents to the tune of £235 with the hope of more to come when the sun rises. Good people of the town beware.

Eliz, you're a legend. You're also completely and utterly mad (and no, I'm not taking that back!)


What's more, for the first time, I can say with good reason that we might just make it to the magic £5,000.

If you haven't already donated, please, please, please do your bit to help us get there.

And if you happen to live in Coleraine, watch out for mad people with buckets roaming your neighbourhood. I can't guarantee they won't bite.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

There's always someone worse off than yourself

The training is finally at an end.

All that's left now is a brisk 26.2 mile cruise around London on Sunday morning and the job's a good 'un.

Which brings me to Jordan.

If ever there was someone in need of proper support, it's her. And I now have every sympathy for the girl (come on, hear me out!)

As a result of my unfortunate collision with a Rottweiler in Bradford last year, I've been wearing quite a heavy support on my right knee throughout my training.

Then, in January, I developed pain in my left foot and have had to strap it up ever since. Three weeks ago, the arch of my right foot started to hurt. Cue some more strapping. And finally, the Saturday before last, my left knee "went" - and a support was found for that too.

Up until the short training session I've just finished, I was hoping to only wear a light strapping on my right knee for the race itself and nothing else (other than my vest and shorts, you understand - there'll be children present. Plus, despite the obvious similarities between the two of us, I'm not actually Jordan). But the pain is still there in my other knee and both feet - and my right knee is actually sorer now than it's been for months.

I also heard some man on the radio this morning saying he was determined to cross the finish line on Sunday even if he had to use his eyelids. But given the amount of money I've had to spend on running shoes over the last few months, I'd prefer to complete the distance on my feet. Oh, and I'd like to retain just a hint of dignity if at all possible. So loads of strapping it will have to be.

At least I can console myself with the knowledge that, once the race is over, I can throw my supports away.

Poor, misunderstood, victimised Jordan doesn't have that luxury - at least until after her next reduction surgery planned for June (according to my sources).

The freak!

Monday, 7 April 2008

The vest of both sides

I tell you what, let it not be said that this blog isn't really exciting.

I mean, where else are you likely to be treated to photographs of a vest from two - yes two - different angles? Riveting stuff.

Anyway, thanks to the efforts of my very skillful mother and a nice tee-shirt shop person in Portrush, the above is what I'll have draped on me for a large part of Sunday with the number 19259 pinned on the front (I have to pick that up on Saturday).

We've also had a few very good days on the fundraising side of things and, as I write, the total now stands on the brink of £4,000.

I've said it so many times over the last few weeks, but the generosity of all of you who have pledged or given money is incredible - and we're not finished yet...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Running to the pub

We're down to a week.

This time next Sunday I should hopefully be somewhere beyond the 20-mile mark and thinking of beer. (Some people have told me a pint is the last thing I'll be craving once I'm over the line but I don't think they know me very well).

Following my little difficulties over the Portugese cobbles last weekend, I've been back out on the velvet roads of Pudsey twice in the last three days - four miles on Friday, six miles this morning.

All that's left now are two 20-minute jaunts tomorrow and Wednesday and the training is officially over. It's a little hard to take in (unlike my first pint which, I can assure doubters, will be taken in very easily next Sunday afternoon).

Meantime, seven days of abstinence from all things fun now awaits me. (Does anyone REALLY think I'm not going to have a shed load of beer next Sunday? They must be drunk!)

Friday, 4 April 2008

Backroom banter

Safely back in Pudsey now and don't I know it!

Regular readers of this rubbish (if there are any) may remember, back in January, me introducing you to Andy, The Backroom Barber.

As you might expect from someone in his profession, Andy can talk. He is also one of the better swearers I've heard around these parts - and it is a very competitive industry I can assure you.

I've been banging on about the Marathon every time I've seen Andy over the last few months and, on my last visit, he very kindly kept me his copy of the Pudsey Times which featured a nice story on what Sebastian and I were up to.

Sensing a hint of vulnerability, I struck.

"So, can I put you down for a few quid then?" I enquired gently.

"I'll give you a streamline haircut for free and you can donate what you would've paid to the fund," he replied without a breath. "But you're not getting a ****ing tenner if that's what you're after."

A very fair deal from a very fair man I'm sure you'll agree.

The above picture was taken by me just a few minutes ago from Andy's famous chair - opposite the mirror. I think it's quite arty.

Thanks to Andy for being a sport and, if you're reading this, you're not getting a ****ing penny back if I break my leg on the day!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Cobble wobbles

I´ve now made an executive decision to hold off until I arrive home tomorrow night before taking to the streets once again. The clue is in the picture.

As previous visitors to Portugal will be aware, the country is obsessed with sticking those little cobbles everywhere. They might look good but they´re a pig to run on. (In fact, running on a pig would be instantly preferable).

They´re clearly the reason why I hurt so much after running on them on Saturday and Sunday - and yes I know, on reflection, it´s a bit obvious but I´m not always the sharpest implement out there.

On other matters, I´ve already broken my second pair of sunglasses and I´ve only been here just over five days. I can´t help myself.

No matter how many pairs I buy - and I´d put myself up there with Post Spice over the years - I manage to break them all. (Unfortunately I also look as ridiculous with them on as she does).

My "Ulsterman Tan" is holding little prospect of me being mistaken for a local - and it´ll be gone in a day when I get back anyway. Conscious of the fact that I´ve got to wear a vest on the big day, I´ve been making a special effort to lie in the sun. But it´s pink and it´s white - no brown in there at all.

Finally, huge congratulations to Marty Quinn and his Coleraine team for their Irish Cup Semi-Final win over Donegal Celtic last night. Hopefully I can make it across for another big day out at Windsor Park at the beginning of May. Come on the Bannsiders!

Monday, 31 March 2008

Happy Birthday to me

Yes folks, I´m 36 today. How depressing.

I remember feeling particularly low when I hit the big 30. I discussed the situation with the then MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Ken (now Lord) Maginnis.

"Barry son," boomed Ken in his customary manner, "I remember feeling just like you do when I hit 30. Then 40 and 50 came and went and I barely noticed. Suddenly I hit 60 and realised I was an ol´man." As ever, the great man put his finger on it. I promise to lift my mood from here on in.

I did my ten miles yesterday and my previously sore right knee and sore left foot now have new friends: my sore left knee and sore right foot.

A 20 minute "speed session" (I don´t know why they´re called that as I can never get any speed up) planned for tomorrow is definitely out the window. But that might be a bonus given I´ll be having a little glass of something tonight. After that we´ll have to see.

For the first time, I´m able to say the Marathon is "next" week - a sobering thought indeed.

Although perhaps not as scary as being reminded I´ve just turned 36.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

They just keep banging on

Short greetings from the Algarve - I've only got 10 minutes before my time runs out in Bernie´s Bar.

Talking of running, I went for one this morning like a good boy. Funnily enough, it's a little hotter here than in either Pudsey or Coleraine. Cold at night, though.

One thing it´s not is tranquil. There seems to be some sort of happy clappy convention thing going on (no doubt it´s not called that) and the attendees all appear to be staying where we are.

They´re deliriously pleased with themselves, very noisy and - much worse -many of them play the tambourine. Very loudly. All. The. Time.

ve heard a rumour they all leave tomorrow and I really hope it´s true. (Is that unkind? Don´t care if it is!)

10 miles in the morning - might try and run over one or two of them on the way out.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Off on Babymoon

Have you ever heard of a Babymoon?

I certainly hadn't but I'm apparently just about to go on one.

Vanessa and I are due to give birth (it's a shared thing!) in less than three months so it'll be a fair wee while before we'll get any distance again (although clearly I hope to cover just over 26 miles on 13 April).

So we're doing what loads of couples have done for generations and going on one last holiday on our own.

However, given that it is 2008, it has to have a cool name.

Here's how one American company describes what we're supposedly doing on its website:

"One of the most important factors for a healthy birth, mother, baby and family is the relaxation, peace, serenity and health of the mother and partner. The latest trend to complement the prenatal care and health and enjoyment of the mother, partner, unborn baby and the bonding and romance of the couple is the pregnancy honeymoon known as Babymoon."

So there you have it. It's not a cheap and cheerful week in Portugal with the help of Jet2 and Sun4U. It's Babymoon.

We're back in a week and, needless to say, the running shoes and shorts are packed with the sun cream.

I'll try and find an Internet cafe to let you know how serene my hangover is.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

There's no place like home

Just back from the Easter trip home and I can't believe how much money we raised.

On top of the cash I had already accounted for and was simply picking up, the good people of the Triangle added another £750 to the total in a single weekend. It's quite incredible.

Thanks to everyone involved - friends, family and those I'd never met before. Sebastian and I are immensely grateful to you all.

A special mention to the good patrons of Portstewart Golf Club who, after some gentle persuasion from Derek who was an absolute hero, donated more than £150 in a whip round last night. You're brilliant.

On training matters, I did manage the planned 20 miles on Sunday and the North Coast was indeed as beautiful as ever. The rain also managed to hold off for almost the entire three hours - I should stop being such a pessimist.

A real bonus for me, at the end of the longest run I'll do other than the race itself, was being greeted by Sebastian and his equally cute sister Katie (as the above pic will confirm) when I reached the end.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm starting to feel quite emotional about the whole thing now and it's hard not to get carried away. I'll therefore shut up at this point!

But in short, it's definitely a case of so far so good - although clearly we're not over the line just yet.

PS Thanks Ceri

Friday, 21 March 2008

The long road home

I might've mentioned this before, but the whole marathon training thing is really starting to hurt now.

I went out for a 45-minute session this morning during which I was supposed to run three individual miles as hard as I could with three-minute jogs in between. The problem was, every time I attempted to up my pace my legs looked up at me and whispered, "Barry - go away." (Thankfully my legs are very polite).

This Sunday is the big one in terms of training, three hours or about 20 miles in one go.

Funnily enough I've been looking forward to it for two reasons. First, things get easier after this as I move into what the experts call the "tapering" stage. Next week's training is only half the distance I covered this week, the week after half as much again. I only have to go out twice in the last seven days with rest and pasta (bleugh!) taking priority.

Second, I get to run around the North Antrim Coast - Vanessa and I are heading back to Coleraine tomorrow until Tuesday. If there is a more beautiful sight in the world on a sunny day than the road from the White Rocks beach in Portrush to Bushmills then I haven't seen it. Unfortunately, the forecast is for anything but sun although I remain optimistic I won't die of exposure. Not certain, but certainly optimistic.

Whilst home, I also expect to pick up a fair bit of cash raised by family members and friends who have also been working very hard to help Sebastian and I in our endeavours.

And then, of course, there's Sebastian himself. Although I've spoken to him countless times over the last few weeks, I haven't seen him since New Year's Day.

He told me the other night the first thing he'd do when I walked in after my run on Sunday was punch me in the stomach. Hmmm.

So long as he doesn't punch me on my legs, I don't really mind. Much.

Have fun 'til Tuesday.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Testing the vest

Among the many pieces of advice you receive in the official London Marathon magazine is to try out your race day kit in training to check it's comfy (or words to that effect).

The one piece I hadn't tried out so far (everything else seems comfy enough) was my vest which is understandable as I've only just bought it.

As you'll see in the pic above (and no that's not me in it), it's a bit dull at the moment. However, I have big plans.

Once I'm finished, it will have my name and the Heartbeat logo on the front with Sebastian's name and the Children's Heart Surgery Fund logo on the back. My mother is sewing on the logos this weekend (that's what mothers do!) after she's cut them off the respective tee shirts I've been given by the charities. (I wonder if Lewis Hamilton's mum has to do this with sponsors' logos every time he gets new overalls. I would say yes).

My new friend Liz is then hopefully getting her friend in Portrush to do the names. (The race organisers suggest you put your name on the front of your vest so the crowd can shout for - or at - you, their choice). Meanwhile, having Sebastian's name on the back is something I want to do for obvious reasons.

I wore my virgin vest on a six mile run tonight and can confirm that it is indeed comfy. No doubt you'll all be relieved at that news.

The next step is to wash it a couple of times to "soften it" (according to the advice) before I take it to Northern Ireland on Saturday for tarting up.

So there you are, ladies and gentlemen, that's my vest. Exciting stuff. No, really.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Diddly aye do'h!

It's St Patrick's Day.

However, unlike every other St Patrick's Day since I reached adulthood, this year I was going to be good.

Finish work at a reasonable time, come home, get changed, go for a run, have a shower, have some tea, iron a shirt, watch some telly, have some sleep - I'm doing the London Marathon you know.

Nup, never going to happen.

Instead, it was off to the pub, drink some Guinness, drink some more Guinness, roll home late, burn my tea, burn a shirt, fall in bed, get up stupidly early in the morning for my run instead ('cos I missed tonight's and have to work late tomorrow night).

What's worse as I write is that I've only actually got to the roll home late bit, the rest is yet to come.

Hope you had fun if you were out. I did and thanks to Kate, Carson and Kevin for that (all of whom have sponsored me).

I'm now off to burn my tea.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Wheelie embarrassing

Only four weeks to go now and thank goodness for that.

I've had sinusitis for the past two days and didn't sleep more than a couple of hours last night, not exactly ideal preparation for a 19-mile run this morning. But I made it round and that's all that matters at this stage.

However, later, whilst crumpled in a heap on the sofa, I flicked across to the coverage of the various Sport Relief miles taking place around the country. The images prompted me to break out in a cold sweat. Let me explain.

Two years ago I ran the last Sport Relief Mile along the Embankment in London. The problem was, none of my friends down there would do it with me so by the time I got to the start line I was a little bored. When the gun went, I thought to myself, "what the hell, it's only a mile so I might as well get a bit of a sweat up." I therefore took off as quickly as I could (although clearly there were many better runners than me so my extra efforts might very easily have been missed by the cheering crowd).

Then, about halfway down the course, I noticed a familiar figure some distance ahead of me. It was Ade Adepitan, best known to most as the deadlocked guy who featured in the BBC wheelchair dancing sequence a few years ago. You know, when the announcer says, "and now on BBC1..." and off they go. I think you've got me.

Anyway, I spotted yer man pushing himself down the road with all his might. Suddenly there was only one thing in life that mattered to me - I had to beat him. For the next three minutes or so I ran quicker than I'd run since my early twenties. At one point I thought my head was going to explode. And the result? I just nicked him on the line, even taking the precaution of dipping like an Olympic sprinter to guarantee my crown. I felt wonderful, what I hero I was!

But a few seconds later, as I was being guided round to get my goodie bag, I caught the appalled stare of an old friend I used to work with who was acting as a steward and had seen my antics. She looked me straight in the eye, smiled and shook her head. The reality dawned. I wanted the ground to eat me.

Needless to say, I don't think Ade himself noticed me at any point and if he had I'm sure he wouldn't have cared.

But there again... thinking back, a few minutes after the finish I remember him doing a TV interview in a particularly cheery manner. Hmmm. Actually, now I hope he did notice me. I beat him fair and square and he'd better just accept it. How sad is he? Tch!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Raising a glass to the Two And A Half Club

Thanks to the generosity of "a well-known global drinks company" which sells Guinness, I'm now through the £2,500 barrier.

Naturally I'm rather pleased. It just sounds like a lot of money - say it, "two and a half thousand pounds" (hope you did) - and clearly we're not finished yet.

This little landmark also provides an admittedly lame excuse for me to tell you about my mate Ben and the Two And A Half Club.

Ben's a Cockney Diamond Geezer whose dad drives a London cab. We also fancy ourselves as the next Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (don't laugh or, on second thoughts, perhaps do 'cos that's the whole idea) and hope to have the pilot episode of our first sitcom written by the end of June. More of that another time.

Anyway, you know how you get to a Wednesday lunchtime and you realise you've done two and a half days of the working week (assuming you work Monday to Friday) and there's just two and a half days left to the weekend? "The Hump," as Chris Evans called it on the radio the other day.

Well, in one of Ben's many previous jobs whilst still living in that London, they had the Two and A Half Club which had only one rule/activity. Every Wednesday lunchtime to mark the occasion, all members had to meet in the pub and drink two and half pints before returning to their desks.

What a great idea and, like most of the best ideas, it's simple! I trust you feel better for me sharing that with you.

Oh, and watch out for our sitcom.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Shoe problem solved

Isn't she lovely? Yes, my friends, this is a picture of one of the new running shoes I was forced to buy earlier today.

And I think it is a she because I'm assured it (and its friend) will keep me upright when I'm dying for another drink after making a mouth of myself for several hours in front of a big crowd (work it out).

Thanks to Steven at Shoes Unlimited in Bradford for doing me such a generous deal - just the latest of many acts of human kindness I've been on the receiving end of this week.

Now for the road test - seven and a half miles tonight...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Doing all sorts of do's

The pace of this whole thing is really starting to quicken now (unlike the pace of my running which still isn't exactly singeing my eyebrows).

As you may have read elsewhere, I've been fortunate enough to receive the support of proper Yorkshire celebrities Dickie Bird and William Hague - both of whom were also prepared to put their money where there mouths are located. Two top men.

Then this afternoon (which you obviously won't have read), I received an e-mail out of the blue from someone back home who I know is as fond of Sebastian as he is of her. She has a couple of terrific fundraising ideas - one of which is brilliantly off the wall - and is now in the process of hopefully getting the necessary legal approvals to make things happen. I'm sorry for having to be cryptic on this but as soon as I can say something more I will.

Another friend - my mate John (aka Batman) - is as I write in the process of trying to secure the agreement of another celebrity backer who, if it comes off, will send this whole thing into orbit. Again, I'll tell you when I can and it might not happen. And if it doesn't, I'll probably tell you anyway because I'll be annoyed.

I also received an e-mail today from my old friend Lydia Kerr (nee Davidson). Lydia and I have known each other for many years, having spent seven of them walking past each other in opposite directions on the Old Bridge in Coleraine as we made our way to school. Bizarrely in this small and crazy world we live in (particularly for Lydia who is both small and crazy and sometimes bizarre), she not that long ago married my even older friend Andrew Kerr whom I first met in reception class at Macosquin Primary School.

Lydia is one of the few people I know (other than my mother) to have confessed to reading this blog - you've no idea how good that makes me feel. Let me repeat - someone, somewhere (other than my mother) reads this rubbish and that's great (the feeling, not the content which is clearly pretty poor).

And not only did Lydia tell me she reads this, but she even passed me the advice of her desk buddy Chris in relation to my running shoe dilemma which I told you about yesterday. Chris, it transpires, is also doing the London Marathon and the same thing happened to him i.e. he put his toe through his running shoe. In my book, this makes him more than qualified to give his opinion. And what is Chris's view? Buy new shoes. I've never met Chris but I think I like him. Chris, if you're reading this, thank you my friend -it's settled. Tomorrow I am going back to the running shoe shop.

And Lydia, if you're reading this, I hope you like my picture of your lookalikey Betty Boo. When I receive your cheque, I will bank it in your joint honour.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

In a bit of a hole

I've had a "wardrobe malfunction."

Running doesn't require much in the way of equipment other than a good pair of running shoes. So guess what I've found a hole in? You guessed right.

I bought a new pair in the sales at the beginning of January and for the last two months they've served me well.

Then last night I discovered that my right big toe had worked its way through the top of my shoe. It's not the whole (or hole for that matter) way through, but it's halfway there. This is not good and it leaves me with two options.

One, do I perserve and hope that the problem doesn't worsen and the shoes see me through the next four and a half weeks to race day?

Or two, do I fork out another probably seventy-odd quid for a new pair and start the process of breaking them in which is a task in itself?

On sober reflection it's going to have to be the latter as there's no point in coming this far, risking the shoe splitting the week before the race and then not having another pair ready to jump into. AAAGGHHH!!!! £70 it is then.

I said right at the beginning that I would cover all the costs of this little Marathon adventure myself and that includes replacement shoes.

However, I'll feel much better about my mishap if you can find it in your heart to send me some sponsorship money - all of which will go to the charities.

You might as well.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Caped Crusader swoops in

Five weeks 'til race day and a weekend visitor has just departed.

John Fulton, best man at my wedding almost three years ago and best mate for as long as I can remember, arrived on Friday and is now en route back to Cardiff where he currently works for the BBC.

We went to school together in Coleraine and despite the fact that we've lived in various different locations since those distant days, we've managed to remain in close touch throughout.

And as ever when he arrives for a weekend in Yorkshire, we didn't see much of it.

He met me straight from work in Bradford where we went directly to the pub until shortly before closing time and then taxied home for a pizza.

To his great surprise, I was up early yesterday morning as I said I would be (I'm doing the London Marathon you know) and ran ten miles as planned. Then it was back-to-back rugby and football on the telly before food was served and more drink was drunk - we never left the house.

Then today it was a pub lunch and away for him (and shortly off to bed for me).

Not a sophisticated weekend I'm sure you'll agree but unfortunately very much what's expected when we get together. Most importantly, it was a laugh.

Tomorrow reality - and the training programme - returns with a vengeance.

And yes, that is us dressed as Batman and Robin.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Money flows in as Paula's chances go down the loo

The London trip paid off handsomely thanks to the generosity of some very nice people - I raised £236 over the course of Tuesday evening. But that was not the end of the story.

I arrived home last night to find a cheque waiting for me from two extremely kind relatives back home. And then this morning, when I checked my e-mails, I found another incredibly generous pledge from an incredibly decent Scottish friend living in Yorkshire.

Sincere thanks to all of them and indeed to everyone who has dipped their hands in their pockets thus far. You're brilliant.

On a lighter note you may have heard that the Toilet Queen herself, Paula Radcliffe, has today withdrawn from the London Marathon.

This is a shame as her involvement would have attracted a lot of media attention in the last couple of weeks before the race and made it easier for people like me to raise money.

It also robs us of the chance to hear all the old jokes about what she did or didn't "do" on an Athens pavement four years ago (not to mention what we know she definitely did do on a London street a few months later - see above if you can't remember).

But there is an upside.

At least there's now one less girl who's going to beat horribly me on the day.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Off to that London in search of gold

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I'm just a handful of rich person's change away from breaking through the £2,000 barrier in money raised.

So where better place to spend the next couple of days than London, the so-called financial capital of the world.

I've got some work to do down there but I've also taken the opportunity to arrange to meet a few people who will hopefully be persuaded to donate to my fund.

Needless to say I'll let you know how I get on - once the hangover is out of the way, of course.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Nice to have an old friend back

Six weeks to go now and I've just completed and 17 and a half mile run - this is getting silly.

Thankfully I've been reunited with my cheesy iPod who's been to rehab to be dried out. Actually I made that bit up. Yes it has dried out but only after spending some time sitting on a radiator after last Sunday's soaking. And it certainly made this morning's long trek go a lot quicker.

The likelihood is that you wouldn't like the contents of my iPod. And I'm pretty certain most joggers would hate it - do you know of anyone else out there who takes to the streets to the strains of Lyin' Eyes by The Eagles?

Followed, more than usually, by a bit of Neil Diamond and perhaps a quick burst of Debbie Gibson? And then some Howard Jones? Jimmy Somerville anyone? Or what about a touch of Erasure?

There is slightly more "respectable" stuff on their too - Snow Patrol, REM, Amy MacDonald who I love - but, in general, cheese is the predominant smell.

Which reminds me, it's time for a long, hot bath.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A pleasure to watch the Rhinos charge

Despite being a rugby union man at heart, I've tried really hard to get into rugby league since moving to Yorkshire four a half years ago.

It was therefore a real privilege to be at Elland Road last night to see the Leeds Rhinos lift the world club championship after a 11-4 win over Melbourne Storm.

There's a great feel about a big rugby league game. It's a real family affair with mothers and daughters as common a sight as fathers and sons. Everyone seems to turn up ready to enjoy themselves, come what may, with the clubs also deserving great credit for the efforts they make in putting on additional entertainment before the game and at half-time.

And then there's the players. Unlike their footballing counterparts, there seems to be a complete absence of big shot egos and a real appreciation for the supporters who pay their wages - which are absolute peanuts in comparison to what the likes of John Terry and Wayne Rooney are accustomed. Most of them also tend to live in the local comunity, rather than in mock Tudor mansions far away from "ordinary" people.

Last night's game was a real battle of wills in horrible conditions and the Rhinos, led by their inspirational skipper Kevin Sinfield, deserved their win and the title of best rugby league club on the planet.

As a result, Rhinos fans went home happy. But even if their team hadn't triumphed, I reckon most of them would have done so anyway. That's the rugby league way.

On marathon matters, I was out for short so-called "speed" sessions both yesterday morning and again today. Tomorrow morning, as ever on a Sunday, I'm due to run for the longest time I've ever managed - in this case about two hours and 40 minutes. Needless to say I'm not looking forward to it. At all. But hey-ho!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

A Sharp piece of Yorkshire eccentricity

To avoid detaining you too long, I didn't mention in my last blog that I'd just returned from the dentist in Leeds after having a tooth pulled.

These are never the most pleasurable of occasions but, moments before climbing into the scary chair, I did have time for a grin.

I was waiting in the reception area with only the nice lady behind the counter for company when the door swung open and in walked a family of husband, wife and two boys in their early teens.

"Sharp's the name," announced the father of the party before they all sat down around me complete with nervous smiles.

I couldn't resist. "So, do you all have an appointment?" I asked, well aware that the answer was none of my business.

"We do indeed," announced a very pleasant Mr S, "I reckon they're bound to give us a discount one day if we all come together."

"So it's a regular thing, then?" I continued.

"It is," he replied. "Every six months. Then we all go out for a Chinese to treat ourselves." The other three Sharps nodded and smiled in confirmation.

"So, who gets to go first?" I enquired. We were getting on famously by now.

"Me," boomed the father. "I'm the most scared so I insist on going first." Again, the rest of the clan nodded and smiled.

"Mr White, you can go up now," said the receptionist. Suddenly reality returned as the reason for my visit clunked me between the eyes (well, yanked me by the tooth to be completely accurate) and I was off.

Twenty minutes later I walked back down to reception, with blood on my lips and my mouth stuffed full of gauze. As I paid, I looked across up at the Sharps.

The smiles had gone, although hopefully not for long.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it

A huge thanks to Gillian Haworth and Debbie Leigh for the piece in today's Yorkshire Evening Post which, if you haven't seen it, can be accessed at:

The story in the hard copy was accompanied by the same pic of Sebastian and I you see on this site.

However, last Wednesday I wrote that something funny had happened to me. Well it certainly did that afternoon when I went to the Leeds General Infirmary to meet Sharon Cheng and her collegues at the Children's Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).

My good friend Gillian, the news editor, had very kindly booked a photographer just couple of hours earlier. Unfortunately, given the short notice, I turned up in a suit having come straight from work. When the photographer arrived he took one look at me and said hopefully, "I take it you've brought your running stuff." No was clearly the answer which meant we had to improvise.

To cut a long story short, I ended up swapping my shirt and tie for a CHSF Katie Bear tee shirt. And, to hide my suit trousers and black shiny shoes, was forced to climb inside a five-foot high greeting card and then duck out from the side in a "peek-a-boo" style every time the camera was pointed. In a second set of pics, Sharon joined the fray to hold my shoulders lovingly and give the impression I was being much more heroic in doing the marathon than I actually am. Throughout this 15 minute pantomime - which was going on in one of the main hospital corridors - we kept having to hold our poses to allow what seemed like countless perplexed visitors and patients (some of them looking none too well) to pass by.

I remember at the time recalling that episode of The Office in which David Brent dresses up in an ostrich outfit for a particularly cringeworthy photoshoot before being told by the snapper that he probably couldn't use the pictures anyway. And so it proved in our case too - through no fault of the YEP photographer, I hasten to add.

Before he left, I asked him to use my camera to take a simple pic of Sharon and I standing beside the card and you can see it above (as well as my suit trousers and shiny shoes).

On a slightly more serious note, it was obviously a great privilege to visit the CHSF. Sharon and her team do a magnificent job and, by sponsoring me, you can help them to do a lot more.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Edge was as big as a hedge

Seven weeks to go and what started as Sunday Bloody Sunday is now ending as a little more of Beautiful Day after the trip to see U2 3D.

After a seven mile run in reasonable enough weather yesterday morning, I began my scheduled 15 mile trek at 10am today in the middle of a huge downpour. And although it settled down a bit after about three quarters of an hour, the damage had been done - I was drenched through and my trusty, cheesy iPod had drowned. Dead as a Dodo. It also meant I had to spend the next 100 minutes running in silence, making the training even more dull than normal (and, as you might guess, it's normally very dull indeed).

Also, when I got home, I took off my sweatshirt to discover blood stains all down my tee shirt after (get this) cutting my nipple (nice). People keep telling me to slap on the Vaseline to protect against this sort of thing and I did but obviously not enough. Next time I'll know better.

Anyway, quick steep in the bath and then off to the National Media Museum to see Bono and the boys. Very entertaining and, in terms of scale, The Edge was as big as a hedge - even his little woolly hat was enormous from where I was sitting.

The glasses they gave us all to wear - that's Vanessa and me in ours up above - made us all feel like Bono himself which was a nice (though admittedly not deliberate) touch. Well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Big Bono in Bradford

Just home from work and pondering an hour run in the morning and a two and a half hour run on Sunday - aaarrrgggghhh!

As something a little different on Sunday afternoon though, Vanessa and I are off to the IMAX cinema in Bradford to see U2 3D.

If you haven't heard about this, it's basically a film made up of several shows from U2's 2006 Vertigo tour.

As the PR bumph proudly states, it is apparently the "first live-action movie to be shot, produced, and screened exclusively with digital 3D technology" (whatever that is).

However, much more exciting for me is the fact that you get to wear a great big pair of comedy glasses and to watch the film on a screen measuring 48 feet high (14.63m) by 65 feet (19.81m) wide.

Im assured there's no truth in the rumour that the huge screen is only necessary to get all of Bono's head in.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A funny thing happened to me today...

Yes, a funny thing did happen to me today but I can't tell you about it yet.

However the result is I'll probably raise some extra money for this whole Marathon thing and, plus, it was actually a laugh.

So, if you want to know what it was, keep your eyes on this site. And, while you're waiting, check below for details of how you can donate.

Go on.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A cold front (and back) beckons

I don't know what it's like where you live you but, in Pudsey, it's a little bit nippy.

-1 is what the latest weather report says but it feels much colder than that.

So, with football on the telly, I thought I'd delay tonight's 35 minute "speed session" until first thing in the morning when it'll be warmer. It's bound to be. Isn't it?

I've just checked the forecast. It'll be -3 when I'm due to go out.
Excellent news. I'm so happy.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Albert Steptoe, that's me that is

Eight weeks to go and it's starting to hurt now.

I ran somewhere between 15 and 16 miles this morning and it wasn't fun.

Despite having just three rather than the usual four sessions on the training schedule this week, I've started to feel incredibly tired and was really dreading the long "Sunday run."

But, you know, I got round and although I'm shuffling round the house like Albert Steptoe and my right running shoe is stained with blood after nicking my toe, we're getting there.

Most importantly, I've received another £146 in pledges over the last 24 hours so, again, there's no doubt that it's all going to be worth it.

This is definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done though.

Friday, 15 February 2008

To whine or to wine - that is the question

Hard week at work and a very hard long run to "look forward to" on Sunday - ugh! That's the downside.

On the upside, I've just arrived home to find a very nice cheque from some very nice people in Coleraine. And I've opened a bottle of wine.

So, on balance? Bring on the weekend!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Pasta joke

I remember hearing David Beckham say some years ago that the worst thing about being a Premier League footballer was having to eat pasta for breakfast.

He went on to explain that it only happened in advance of a lunchtime kick-off but, still, an interesting insight from someone not known for providing interesting insights.

I have never eaten pasta for breakfast but I have had it for tea a lot recently. Not that I like it but for a few more weeks I'm a "marathon runner" and that's what "we" are supposed to do. Oh, all right - Vanessa's been making me eat it against my will. Or so I had convinced myself.

But then, this evening, a funny thing happened. Vanessa's not around and on nights like this I get to call into Asda and choose my own tea (what an exciting life I lead).

So what did I choose? You can see where I'm going with this but I'll tell you anyway - yes, pasta. And not just one ready to eat job but two (it was buy one, get one half price but even so).

I'm going to have one now - chicken tagliatelle - and I'm sort of looking forward to it.

Something's happening to me and I don't know if I like it. Or do I? I'll chew it over and get back to you.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Time for tomorrow

A couple of Guinness, a drop of wine and now my physical aches are not so bad.

On the downside, I've just watched the last ever episode of The West Wing, probably my favourite TV programme of all time.

I was working long hours in the House of Commons when it first arrived on our screens in 1999 and, after watching one episode and loving it, decided to hold back to watch it in sequence when I had more time on my hands.

That point arrived about three years ago and, although the "more time" well quickly ran dry, I kept at it. 150-odd episodes and seven DVD boxsets later, it's now over.

If you're a fan of The West Wing, you'll know exactly what I'm going through. If you're not, you should be.

In the very last scene, Mrs Bartlet asked the now ex-President what he was thinking about. "Tomorrow," replied our hero.

It's now time for me to do the same - I've got work in the morning!

Pint of Black for White

Nine weeks to go now and today I ran 14 miles, the longest distance I've ever managed in my life.

It's also more than half the distance of the Marathon itself and I'm still in one piece - just - which must be a good sign.

I'd love to tell you how great I feel but, in truth, I feel dreadful and my right groin muscle is killing me. But, as soon as I finish this, I'm going to treat myself to a wee pint or two of Guinness so expect my spirits to rise.

As I said in my last post, I've been away for a few days - up in North Yorkshire for Vanessa's birthday - and the break has allowed me to reflect back on the last couple of weeks since the fundraising began for real.

I can believe we're almost up to £1,500 and, although I hate to tempt fate, my target now is to double it. Fingers crossed.

Right, it's Guinness Time...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Oh baby

It's been a good 24 hours.

Since yesterday afternoon, several very good friends have added around £800 to my appeal fund - taking the current total to more than £1,400. It's incredible.

Also, last night my sister Gwen - Sebastian's mum - called to say The Chronicle back in Coleraine had run the story of me doing the Marathon on the front page, complete with full details of how people can donate. For this I am eternally grateful to Chronicle editor John Fillis - a top man. If you have logged on to this site after reading the Chronicle story, I hope you too will send me a few pennies.

And then, at lunchtime today, my wife Vanessa and I went to the Leeds General Infirmary for the 20-week scan of our first baby, due at the end of June. Unsurprisingly, that was fairly incredible too - have a look at the pic and decide for yourself. (I'm assured it IS a baby - really - and that its head's on the right).

Reality will kick back in again in a few minutes when I go out for another training run. However, given the support I am receiving and the amount of money coming in, it doesn't seem such a big effort.

And once the Marathon is run and the cash handed over to the charities, I can turn my attention to impending fatherhood - an even scarier proposition.

PS I'm heading away tomorrow for a few days but will be back on Sunday in time for a two-hour run. I'll check in again here after that - if I can get up the stairs.

Monday, 4 February 2008

You'll never beat Big Davy

What a great night for the Bannsiders!

Tonight I had the surreal experience of sitting in my living room in Pudsey watching Coleraine FC make their live Sky Sports debut against Newry City. And I wasn't alone, Vanessa and I having invited our neighbours Jo and Mark over to share the moment - and pies at half-time.

The Coleraine players battled as if their lives depended on it. Marty Hunter and Darren Cassidy were terrific, but star of the show was the old man, Davy O'Hare, in goal. Gerry Armstrong said he'd had the game of his life but, like other Coleraine fans, I've seen Big Davy play that well many times before.

The only downside of the evening was the commentator suggesting that the idiot who invaded the pitch was a Coleraine supporter - he wasn't and clearly came over the fence from the Newry end.

But other than that, it was perfect night for the great people now in charge of a still great club.

Well done to everyone at The Showgrounds - you've made one exiled Coleraine fan very proud (and very nostalgic)!

Oh, and yes - I was wearing my Coleraine shirt.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Chocolate eases the pain

Not long back from a 12-mile run and I'm a hurting more than a bit.

If you don't know how this London Marathon training caboodle works, basically the organisers send you a magazine which includes three suggested training schedules - one for good runners, one for people who aren't necessarily good but committed and one for those who just want to get round. Each demands that you go out 3-5 times a week and so far my training has jumped between the latter two schedules depending on what's on the telly.

To be fair, there isn't actually a huge amount of difference between them with the main similarity being the "long run" on a Sunday. Last weekend I had to run for 80-90 minutes; this morning it was for 90-100. As it turned, I ran for 103 minutes or three laps of a four-mile course.

Apart from the pain and the funny looks you get from passers-by - I'm not what anyone would regard as a "natural" distance runner - the worst thing about the long runs is the boredom. Thank goodness for my iPod and its 800-odd cheesy tunes.

But when it's over you do feel good about what you've done. And then you've got a great excuse for eating chocolate, LOTS of chocolate...

PS Following events at Twickenham, perhaps my comments about the Irish rugby team were a little hasty - at least we won (ahem)

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Rubbish Ireland!

Just finished watching Ireland limp past Italy in the Six Nations rugby.

From a parochial viewpoint, I was delighted that fellow Coleraine man Andrew Trimble (pictured) had a good game. But he was one of the few.

Time for Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan to go? Without question. Although he won't.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Thumbs up for Mozza

"I hope this hasn't spoilt your Wednesday," said Morrissey with more than hint of irony three songs into last night's gig.

"Stick around - it will."

We took his advice but it didn't. He and his lively five-piece band were much more fun than I expected. Mozza himself was hilarious.

"Thank you to you, thank you to me...and thank you to Asda," were his closing and perhaps most surreal words of the evening before singing his final number. And then he was off.

I've no idea what makes that man tick but it's good stuff.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Heaven knows Andy's miserable now

First thing this morning I was the recipient of some good old-fashioned barbershop wisdom.

Went to see Andy, The Backroom Barber, who gives me a two back and sides and a bit off the top every three weeks for “five and a half, mate.” Can’t be bad to that.

This morning I mentioned I was heading off to see Morrissey in concert at the Doncaster Dome.

“I’m not a fan,” Andy announced. “I hear he’s living in America now. Britain’s not good enough for him.”

“If you ask me,” he proclaimed, “this country’s better off without the miserable ****.”

I’ll tell you after tonight’s performance if I think he has a point (!)

Monday, 28 January 2008

So far so good and I'm feeling smiley

Although I've been physically training for the Marathon since last July when I was allowed back on to a treadmill, the last 36 hours have felt like the real beginning of this whole thing.

Finalising the set up of this blog yesterday morning was the first step. Then I went for a 10 mile run, the furthest I have gone since my doggy difficulty more than a year ago. And then, over the course of today, the moral support and pledges of money have started to come in - and at a much faster rate than I could ever have wished for at this stage.

I e-mailed my Facebook friends late yesterday afternoon asking for donations and many have already come back to say they'll help. Bless them all - it's brilliant and hopefully the beginning of a trend.

On the downside of my existence, my wife Vanessa and I are now down to just 18 more episodes of The West Wing before the whole epic is at an end. I love The West Wing (Vanessa likes it but I'm not sure there's any kind of real passion in there. I might be wrong but, you know, a man can kind of sense these things).

We (she really wasn't keen at the beginning) first started season one on DVD about three years ago and now only what's left of the seventh and final season remains. And then, who knows what's next. Conversation, perhaps? Nah, it'll never come to that.

I jest of course - no, really - because I'm feeling smiley. It's been a good start to this whole Marathon lark.

Here's hoping for more good fortune - that leads to a fortune for the two charities.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Welcome to my blog - and please keep your dog on a lead!

In exactly 11 weeks time, I will be shuffling along a road somewhere between Greenwich and The Mall in search of the London Marathon finish line.

It was a line I had hoped to cross in 2007 when, after three unsuccessful applications for a place, I finally got accepted. My plan to run had been hatched many years before that when Sebastian, who's now 10, was only about two and not at his best. But it took me quite a while after that to pluck up the courage to apply. Then the three rejections, before getting the good news - I was in!

I started putting my fundraising plans in place, stepped up the training and all was going well. Then, one Monday in mid-January, I was walking head bowed across Centenary Square in Bradford. My destination was the sandwich section at nearby Boots. I didn't make it.

As I reached the centre of the Square, I suddenly noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something dark coming towards me at speed. Next thing I knew, I was three feet in the air. As I landed, I felt severe pain in my right knee - which I later discovered to be a damaged anterior cruciate ligament. The dark thing which hit me was a fully grown Rottweiler which had been let off its lead (unlike the one in the picture which is rather sensibly wearing his) to chase pigeons. Naturally I swore loudly at its owner as I was carted off to the local A&E - it was the one bit of pleasure I had that day so I'm not apologising!

What followed was several weeks on crutches, several more weeks of physio and no 2007 London Marathon. Hopefully, come Sunday 13 April 2008, I will finally make it across that line.

Welcome to my blog, by the way. I hope you find it fun. More importantly, I hope you sponsor me.