My husband is a runner. A crazy, keen, committed runner. He can stumble out of bed hungover and still manage a 10 miler before I’ve even made it downstairs. He can put his suit in his backpack and run a marathon home after a full day at work. He has even twice run one hundred miles all in one go, no stopping or resting. Nowadays he takes running seriously; there is a chart on the wall detailing how much he has to cover weekly, running blogs are his entertainment of choice as he falls asleep, and over half the downstairs shoe rack is filled with muddy running trainers in various states of disrepair.
He wasn’t always a runner, the mountains and hills are clearly his mecca, but as we’re living in flat South Northamptonshire, he’s had to skew his previous passion. He took up running two months before I became ill with pulmonary hypertension in 2013. Encouraged by my brother-in-laws’ marathon début, and because he loves nothing more than a challenge, he entered himself in to a marathon with four months to train. At the start it was all a bit of fun, and he was like any new runner, huffing and puffing after a few miles, and doubting whether he’d be ready in time. However I then got very ill overnight, and suddenly running had a new function. Instead of just being an interesting aside to life, it suddenly became his escape. His escape from life with a wife who suddenly can’t walk and is barely functioning. His escape from having to care for her 24/7. His escape from promptly becoming the housewife, the breadwinner, the advocate. And that’s where running has stayed for him for the past three years. At least four times a week, he’ll come home from work and change in to his running gear, and just have some time for himself. Running allows him to escape.
A fellow PH blogger once noted that when people get a serious illness like PH, it is equally life changing and devastating for the partners. Their life and future, hopes and dreams also changes overnight. They’re there at all the medical appointments holding our hand. They’re the ones left to cuddle us when we’re an emotional wreck. They’re the person who washes our hair or cooks our dinner when we can’t manage. Family and friends visit, help and support us. But it is the partner who is living the life with us, beside us, all day, every day. And so I’m thankful that through running, Phil has found a way to escape it all, even if it is just for a couple of hours.
Running has turned out to have another incredible benefit. It turns out that Phil is pretty good at it, and being the determined, stubborn, competitive guy that he is, he keeps pushing himself to do harder and more difficult running races. And because we have such wonderful, supportive and generous friends, he’s been able to raise lots of funds for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) by asking for sponsorship. When I first got diagnosed with PH, we made a vow that we would try and collect money each year to support the small charity that was there for us in our darkest hour. We are not doctors or researchers, so instead we hope that by fundraising to finance some of their work, we are helping to get us one step nearer to a cure for PH. Sometimes you need to be proactive, to stop yourself feeling helpless. In 2014 he raised £500 by completing four running races. In 2015 he raised £4600 by running 100 miles non stop. And then last weekend he ran 113 miles in the hills and has so far raised £6500.
The preparation for this race hadn’t gone completely to plan. For three months, he’d stuck to his training timetable, running 800 miles in 12 weeks. However a month before the event, he injured his calf and so had to stop running until the day, missing the final critical peak weeks. In fact, a decision about his participation wasn’t actually made until the weekend before the race! Furthermore his week of recce in the hills had been thwarted by one of my hospital stays. However we remained positive as a poor dress rehearsal is often followed by a fabulous performance… 🙂
The Hardmoors 110 is a gruelling race. He ran for 113 miles, which is four and a half marathons, across the North Yorkshire Moors. He climbed 6000 metres, which is the equivalent of 3/4 of Everest. And he did it all in 28 hours- non stop. The route was along footpaths in the hills, requiring head-torches and maps (and despite all this preparation he still did a 3 mile detour at one point!). He ran continuously for a day and a night, only stopping for mere minutes at checkpoints to meet his wonderful friend Pete, who was his support crew. It was the hardest, most brutal challenge of his life. A couple of times he was sick from exhaustion or just rolled himself in to a ball after almost collapsing, but still he plodding along. The sun heated him, the dark froze him, the hills energy-zapped him, the sunset cheered him. And he kept going, checkpoint by checkpoint, determined to raise money for the PHA.
Whilst Phil was out completing this mammoth task, I was back home, waiting by my mobile for regular Whatsapp photographs and messages on his progress, so I could pass these on to his friends and family. It would have been nice to have supported him in person as in previous races, but as my health is not too great, instead my lovely Mum came to stay to keep me company. Knowing how depleting and exhausting these races are (Phil once collapsed on me), as the race progressed, my anxiety levels rose. The adrenaline of the day exacerbated my symptoms, so I spent the 28 hours with almost permanent palpitations (don’t tell my cardiologist!), increased breathlessness, and I managed a mere three hours sleep! I have a history of getting poorly on Phil’s race days now- clearly stress is bad for PH! However the wonderful messages of support for Phil on facebook kept me buoyed, and as soon as he crossed the finish line my symptoms lessened, and I just needed a couple of PJ rest days to recover.
I am incredibly proud of my super-human husband. He’s a carer, he’s a friend, he’s a supporter and he’s super at cuddles. But he’s also a runner, and for that I am very proud and glad.
Thank you to everyone who donated, we really do appreciate your support. The money collected will go a long way to help people with Pulmonary Hypertension, and I hope it will bring us one step closer to finding a cure. If you would like to donate to the PHA still, then please go to our fundraising page : https://www.justgiving.com/PhilMarshall113miles. Thanks.