I’ve probably told this story a billion times but here we go again.  Great North Run last year made me so ill even before the race started that I had a really really bad experience.  It was such a struggle that I thought I’d never be able to run large races again. Then Run Disney France saved me.  They allowed me to start with their disabled runners and it made such a massive difference.  I felt like a normal person again for the 5k and 10k.  I was really ill for the half so I did struggle but without the disability start I wouldn’t have been able to run at all.

When I decided to race 52 marathons in 52 weeks this year I emailed the larger races to see what disabled facilities that had and asked if the accept hidden disabilities as a disability.  Many organisations don’t.  Manchester and Brighton were both fantastic.  Manchester just implemented a disability pen at the start that year and we were slotted in between groups so I still had all the congestion but I didn’t get ill at the start. The congestion made me ill after a few miles but I could deal with it.  Brighton was very similar, they put me in their VIP start area. 

I knew the three World Majors, Berlin, Chicago and New York, and Marine Corps would be tough though Just because of the sheer volume of runners.  The Berlin marathon start was probably one the worst experiences I’ve had (you can see my video here but it’s quite long) so I was very apprehensive coming to Chicago.  I didn’t need to be.  It would end up being my favourite marathon of the 88.

So, first off, I’d like to say thank you

Before I even got to the US the communication from the AWD team was amazing.  They told me in detail exactly what would happen from the expo to the finish line.  It was a perfect plan and it pretty much went exactly as it was meant to.

At the expo we had our own stand.  No lines or runners to navigate to try and figure out where to go when your brain is stuck in a water fog.

At the expo we had our own stand.  No lines or runners to navigate to try and figure out where to go when your brain is stuck in a water fog.

With our race bibs we were given a wristband in order to access the AWD area at the start and finish.

Ay 5:40am yesterday I went to the Hilton and then was escorted through all the runners and security to the AWD area which was inside the Art Institute.  There were seats, toilets, drinks but the best thing about it was that you were away from the noise and crowds of the race start.  We also left our bags there and they got taken to the AWD finish tent.  We went outside about 15 minutes before our start and watched the extremely organised and efficient craziness of getting the wheelchair race ready.  We could also see the elites and the first wave warming up too.  It was pretty amazing, an experience I know that I was very lucky to have. 

After the wheelchairs had gone we lined up on one side of the start line and waited for a man to say go.  We started at 7:23 so it’s the first time ever that my chip time is greater than my gun time.  A very strange experience when you’re running past the race marker clocks and have to add 7 minutes on.

It was pretty much just us for the first two miles.  It’s a very strange and unique experience I think to run a World Major on a completely empty road.  Even the Elites don’t get that because they’re surrounded by so many bikes and trucks and pacers.  It was quite a sight to see when they went past just after the two mile marker (I’m a blur in the background of the live feed). 

Whilst it’s incredible to see the stride and the power it did make me feel quite claustrophobic for them but then again I have to be able to see the ground in front of me to be able to run (or walk).  Thanks to the AWD program I pretty much had space in front of me the entire race.  I could run, and feel free and normal.  I felt like how I used to feel before I got ill, like I was on an evening playing field with everyone else.  I didn’t have to worry about my illness, I could just focus on the run and enjoy it and by golly I did.  I clapped, thanked and high fived so many volunteers and supporters when I could.  I couldn’t talk or see in the last 10 miles so I couldn’t give my thanks back but I still listened to all the people cheering my name.  Pretty epic is an understatement.

As soon as I crossed the finish there was people with AWD signs waiting for me.  They handed me over to a very nice woman named Stephanie who navigated the crowds and helped me collect my stuff on the way to the AWD tent.  At Berlin two weeks before it took me about 40 minutes to get out of the finished area.  I was pushed and knocked so much that by the time I got out I was really ill.  I thought my head was going to explode for the dizziness.  At Chicago it took maybe under 10 minutes and that includes stopping for a photo.  I got a bit more ill from all the people by the time I got to the tent but when I got there I could sit down and take as much time as I needed to recovery before facing people again.  I think I sat there for maybe 40 minutes.  The volunteers were so lovely.  They just made it all seem so very normal, we weren’t in the way or a bother and yet them helping us makes such a massive difference to us.  I hope they realise what an incredible amazing thing they are doing.

Sometimes I wonder how long I can keep running races as I get more ill.  I know that every race can’t be like Chicago but if they could just be like them a little then maybe I’d never have to quit.

I’ve got Niagara Falls, Marine Corps and New York next.  Niagara is much smaller in comparison so I didn’t email them.  Marine Corps responded and said start in my normal pen so I’ll most like be walking that.  New York though seems to have a very similar program to Chicago so I’ll let you know how it goes. 

I do get a people trying to find a polite way of asking what is wrong with me (other than my normal issues of being sarcastic and annoying) and so I have written out my (boring) story.  Please feel free to ignore it.

I’m racing 52 marathons in 52 weeks for
Warrington Disability Partnership. There’s only 13 marathons left to go! They are a very special charity who do amazing things for local people so if you can spare any cash please feel free to sponsor me.