Samantha Tucker has decided to embark on a fundraising challenge with a difference – to run 10 marathons in 10 days in May, to raise funds for Hadassah hospital’s world-leading MS research.
Over the next few months, Sam will be writing a blog for us, detailing her preparations for her mammoth challenge, starting with this weekend where she will be running in two marathons…
Just a few weeks ago, I found myself running along the exotic Edgware road eating slices of pineapple in one hand balancing pistachio baklava in the other. Unlike the other pedestrians, I was out training, and midway through a 15 mile loop when hunger struck.
The Baklava took me back to Israel and the Jerusalem Marathon when the delectable scents of the spice market drifted from the old city reviving my tired body. Some moments later, in Battersea by now, torrential rain began, and I was reminded of running through New Delhi during monsoon season. New Year was spent in the wilds of Northern Ireland, running around Slievanorra mountain in a snow storm, with my kind brother driving ahead to lead the way. The delights of training aren’t always as sensory or exciting, but without fail they make for memories and a way to explore place by foot.
I haven’t always been sporty, and often think of myself as a marathon runner in disguise. I ran my first in London aged 19 for Norwood, and learnt the hard way that Vaseline should be applied before running that far and special socks must be worn. I ran London again the following year, just to see if 26.2 miles would still feel like concrete had been injected into my thighs. It did, but I also connected with that feeling of weightlessness for the first time, of miles passing and my smile getting bigger.
Not only is taking on a running challenge a great way to fundraise for charities close to your heart, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity; shoes and an open road.
My running journey to date has seen: 30 odd half marathons, 7 road marathons, 5 ultra-marathons (any distance over 26.2 miles) including the 86 mile loop of the Ridgeway over 3 days, many trail ones as well as an exciting 31km race in Switzerland through the mountains and a 40 mile run to mark my 25th birthday.
I currently log about 40/50 miles a week with three gym sessions and have got used to the horse style hunger that accompanies this lifestyle and the frequent comments from others about being completely mad.
As George Sheehan says, “the obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life”. Running has always offered that with its solace of repetition and mind-body connection.
Mind-body connection is vital, though as you stream along with your heart thudding in your chest, the domino dark and lights of your mind, you come to realise that it doesn’t really matter whether you want to continue or not; the battle is won or lost in your head long before your legs respond. We are at once stronger and weaker than we look. Running is humbling, at times delivering crippling cramp, hitting the well documented “wall” and feeling that your energy levels have plummeted, (Jaffa cakes before leaving the house is essential), and that you definitely cannot run or walk another step, let alone the miles remaining.
Running continues in automatic, except in these moments when we are reminded of our humanity, as smudges of yew trees on a familiar route take on epic cartoon proportions, or most surprising when I recently came face to face with a fox.
In between the red hair, bristles and 2 dark eyes, we had a moment, the Fox and I, a cross roads of fear and tranquillity before it examined this lycra-clad human and hurtled down the steep bank leaving me alone again.
Sometimes I can create a world of dreams, other times demons, hardly expecting the reverie to be interrupted except by another thought stream or physical signal; an ache, hunger or thirst.
I’m taking on this challenge to run 10 marathons in 10 days for Hadassah’s research into Multiple Sclerosis for many reasons. I know people with the disease, I work at Hadassah and am aware of the incredible treatments being researched and trials carried out, whereby Hadassah staff deliver 50% of all clinical research undertaken in Israel.
Pushing myself to run these marathons with their peaks and troughs will not be automatic, there will be an awareness of pain, a daily acknowledgment of the body’s failings and graces.
By joining with me to raise £100,000 and fund Hadassah Hospital’s vital research into Multiple Sclerosis, the red fox, that obstacle in a path patients have passed a hundred times before without stopping, can be navigated better.
High from January’s promise of a fresh year ahead, I’ve reccied the route around Lake Windermere (where my 10 marathons in 10 days will happen) by running the course two days in a row and had a valuable training weekend. Call them resolutions, or sporting tips, I’ve already learnt a few things that should serve me well in May:
1-Visit a pet shop asap: Glute activation can prevent injury, for the non-runner, this means, all those intricate bands of muscles that wrap around then hips, buttocks and lower back can impact movement, speed and appropriate alignment. By rolling a small rubber dog ball, or foam roller around the affected areas, breaking down tension and knots in the muscles, stronger musculature should follow.
2-Purchase clown shoes: During the course of a marathon, feet will swell and expand. Shoes should be bought at least a size bigger to run in. With a streak of 10 marathons ahead, very large (clown) shoes will be needed at the end.
3-Wax- The physiotherapy team on hand each day will need full access to the legs: to wrap, massage and potentially apply kinesiology tape to areas of injury, this has properties of very sticky sellotape. Any leg hair will make this application and removal torturous, as dwindling leg hairs are inadvertently ripped out.
4-Calories in should be massive: long distance running is a practise in picnicking- Failure to get enough calories in to recover adequately for the next day can make for a huge energy deficit, not something to be faced with at the start, middle or finish line of any marathon. Eat a lot and eat often! During the 10 marathons, feed stations/water bottles will be placed every two miles around the course, which is 12 opportunities to attach biscuits, sandwiches, flapjacks, gels and even flasks of tea, to be eaten and drunk on route to stay well fuelled.
5-Recovery starts immediately and that means being cold: The legendary ice bath that looks like a horse trailer from the outside will be my home for 10 minutes after each marathon, gradually increasing to 20 minute sessions, as the inevitable leg decay begins, and pain threshold increases, freezing iced water should relieve running stiffness and make me good as new*!
*Not quite new: but good enough.
What is it with us Jews, and our incessant interfering in conversations we overhear, our desire to carry the mitzvah flag high and do good deeds for all and sundry? (Or is that just me? Sometimes it goes too far though. I spent a flight back from Belfast on January 2nd carrying a stranger’s aftershave praying that I hadn’t consented to be a drugs mule. Story for another time.)
Here’s the scene:
Oxenholme Railway Station, Lake District, ticket office waiting room, a rainy Sunday afternoon. I’ve just run two marathons in training for May and am super chilled out, with that nice warm feeling in the legs that they’ve done something. I open a packet of crisps, bite into an apple. My train has been delayed.
A business man with several cases is queuing at the ticket desk for ages, he eventually gets to the front.
Man: ‘This queue is crazy, my train is in 6 minutes! I need a car parking ticket for 2 days.’
Ticket Office: ‘Sorry Sir, we only let people park for 36 hours’
Man: ‘That’s no good! I don’t have time to go and re park my car, I’ve got to get the Glasgow train or I’ll miss tomorrow’s meetings. Do people come round and check, are there parking attendants?’
Ticket Office: ‘Sometimes, but not always.’
Man resigned to his fate: ‘OK… I’ll just have a 36 hour ticket then, risk the fine.’
4 minutes until man’s train.
My brain snaps into action. Can running save the world? I put my snacks down and tuck my giant rucksack against the wall:
3 minutes to train
‘Excuse me…. Can I help you? I’m a runner.’
He looks shocked.
‘I can run’ I repeat for confirmation. ‘Why don’t you give me your keys, I’ll put the ticket in your car and meet you back here.’
Is this a car thief in disguise?
I’m holding his keys by now. ‘What’s the make of the car?’
Man: ‘Blue Golf’
I recall his instructions as I move. It’s raining really hard, and the car park is still a way off. He’d never have made this cross tarmac dash in a suit and brogues.
I locate lot 110, jab a button on the keys and throw the ticket into the dashboard. He’s going to miss his train. I run back, covered in rain, coat flying behind me.
He’s there, with his train delayed by 2 minutes, saved by borrowed time.
Keys are returned. He opens his wallet, containing mostly banks cards, and a note, which he hands me. ‘That was really kind of you.’
‘No, I can’t take that’ I pause, suddenly inspired, ‘but actually I’m running 10 marathons in 10 days around Lake Windermere for charity.’
Before I can pull out a business card with my fundraising page on, he’s gone, calling ‘thank you’ over his shoulder.
I sink back down on my seat in the waiting room, breathing hard as the others in the room survey the nutter.
Here’s the thing, we have a little more time to think than 2 minutes and we are not too late for anything, least of all a treatment for MS. Back to my first thought, can running save the world? A little bit at a time!
What have you got planned for the next 14 days? From January 24th– February 6th, I’m running 5 marathons! Two in Birchington on Sea, The Viking Coastal Series, which is a 6.7 mile loop four times, repeated the next day. The following weekend: Pilgrim’s, 33 miles for 2 days running along the North Downs Way in Surrey. To finish, Enigma marathon in Milton Keynes on a Friday morning around Lake Caldecotte.
We’ve got this £100,000 fundraising target for Hadassah UK supporting Multiple Sclerosis Research. Seems fitting that a disease that restricts movement could have money raised for it by a normal person like me, running and moving excessively. How does one prepare for this feat? Purchase tuna and wraps to eat halfway round. Run a fair bit. Sleep a lot in between. Get some power songs on an iPod; failing that, embed power thoughts in your head. I’ve always found the mind wins or loses the battle long before the legs give up.
I’m training in dark and light, wind and rain, sun and snow, please support generously as I prepare in my quest to run 10 marathons in 10 days in May!
Donations can be made at: http//www.hadassahuk.org