Oliver took on the Barcelona marathon in March 2017 in aid of his second cousin Dylan, who has alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency:
I had planned to do this a long time ago. It was a cause that meant a lot to me because of Dylan but I've kept not quite getting round to organising it. I had mentioned it to people to try to create a little contract with myself. To get the ego involved in a “well, I've said I'll do it so I have to now” sort of way. But I hadn't found much interest or excitement from others for such a challenge and other commitments took my attention. Crucially though, because of this, I was open to receive when a friend mentioned they were running the Barcelona marathon and would I be up for joining them? Weirdly, in retrospect, this organic messy process created what I'd consider my top piece of advice for anyone doing something similar – find a buddy or two! Adam and Bonnie were my personal heroes throughout.
Adam, Bonnie and Oliver with their medals
Running through pain barriers in sleet and snow is not fun. It just isn't. It's hugely fulfilling and rewarding once done, with all the good drugs pumping through your veins, but it isn't fun in the doing. Aside from picking a cause that you are deeply motivated/emotionally connected to you're always going to need as much extra support and motivational help as possible and fellow runners have their favorite runs to share with you, nutritional and stretching info that you haven't tried yet, a human sat nav that can guide you home anywhere in London (maybe this is just Adam) and empathy to your personal aches and pains as they share their own. We even took the luxury of a holiday on the Norfolk coast for Bonnie’s birthday and went for a run every day! And that's just in training.
On the day, I hit a wall around 22 miles. It was a moment of “I can't finish this, I'm going to have to walk”, which I probably could have done in the 6 hours allowed but I'd have regretted it, but Bonnie was having none of it! She simply pointed out how small 6km had seemed in our training and that we were a very short way away from the long home straight and told me to focus on getting round the next corner and then just one step after another. Towards the end I did a similar thing for her with the finishing line. We ran the entire race under 4.5 hours as a result.
Hitting 'the wall'
The other important info that helped me finish on the day, which is often overlooked in expectations, was the enormous crowds and well-wishers and seemingly endless volunteers providing refreshment services at regular intervals all the way round. I know I'm an overly emotional actor luvvie, but it really does make one quite emotional. On a number of occasions I found myself welling up at the abundant giving of human spirit. The cheering begins from the first kilometer, which feels a little weird, misplaced and over the top, particularly as foreign people mispronouncing your name make you wonder “how many people are in this race with my name?” and as it becomes apparent they are definitely talking to you “how do all these people know my name?”. I assure you that by the 45th kilometer you'd have children with every single one of them. Every cheer, every whoop, every chanting of your name (it's written above the number on your chest btw) is like music to your exhausted soul. And then about 500m from the finish line, my Mums face appeared in the crowd on the last bend to shout encouragement. I burst into tears. Bonnie grabbed my hand to steady me for the final straight and we finished the corner and the race hand in hand. As the photos will attest, I had rallied a little by the time we actually got to the finish line!
Crossing the finish line
Would I do it again? Yes. Is it easy? No. I probably wouldn't bother if it was. In fact, our next adventure is doing the coast to coast in Scotland over 2 days, involving cycling, running and kayaking. Here is the basic deal for me – I challenge myself in order to raise money for a wonderful life altering cause and in the process have to get fitter and stronger, however temporarily painful, whilst building stronger bonds with buddies. For me, it's a no brainer. An old friend of mine used to say “pain is weakness leaving the body”, well, if that's true I left a lot of weakness on the streets of Barcelona and will be shedding even more in Scotland come September. Fitter. Stronger. More productive. Here's to our physical and mental growth!
A new medal for Dylan!
My 10 point plan for doing an event for charity:
- Find a cause that speaks to you deeply
- Find one or more buddies
- Choose an event
- Research and design a training plan
- Set up your fund raising page
- Give video updates on email and social media to provide progress reports and encourage sponsorship
- Research event day plans/itinerary
- Make sure you are properly prepared – respect the events difficulty
- Enjoy the feeling of “nothing to do now but do it” on the day
- Enjoy the meal of champions with your buddies post event and then rest and recuperate for at least a week!