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178 %
raised of £1,500 target
by 52 supporters
Mark Ashton avatar
Mark Ashton

Mark's London Marathon for HemiHelp

Fundraising for HemiHelp

178 %
raised of £1,500 target
by 52 supporters
  • Team members: Mark, Nat, Eleanor, Abby
  • Event: Flora London Marathon 2009, 26 Apr 2009


We aim to help every child with hemiplegia to reach their full potential

Charity Registration No. 1085349


Thank you everyone for visiting my page. I'm adding frequent updates.

Eleanor, my daughter, the little girl in the picture is perfect in every way, but had a bleed into one side of her brain when she was tiny. One side of her body works much better than the other. Hemihelp have given us support and advice at times when we've been really low. I want to make them a lot of money, because they've given me more than all the money in the world.

The story so far-I managed to get a place to run the London Marathon for Hemihelp next April. I am to running what Prince Phillip is to international diplomacy but I wanted to do the best I can so I started training. I bought proper running shoes, and "The Rough Guide to Running".

09/11/08 Did my long run for the week this morning-8.24 miles in 1 hr 41 minutes. I was going for the the ten miles but made a bit of a mistake in my route planning and got the distance wrong. Also, it was drizzling with rain all the way round and at times I was up to my ankles in mud. Even Abby was ready to stop by the end, and she usually loves a walk/run whatever the weather. Later we went to a running shop to get some winter training togs. I am now the proud owner of a pair of leggings, the lady in the shop said that all serious runners have leggings (uttering the immortal line "you'll go faster in your leggings, it all comes down to wind resistance!"). I felt I looked like a superhero in my leggings, there's no denying they are snug-fitting. It's possible I'll be too embarassed to actually go out in public wearing them. I also got a couple of sachets of carbohydrate gel to try. It's worth carrying them to keep me going for the full marathon distance, but they give some people stomach trouble so I need to try them before the big day. The last thing I need is bowel trouble when I'm wearing my leggings! Donations are really coming in now. Thank you to everyone who has contributed, it really is appreciated.

16/11/08 Ran my first ever race today, thanks to Emma and family. The Barnsley 10k starts and finishes in Royston. I didn't set the world alight time-wise (1hr 3 mins or thereabouts) but the point was to enter a race and pace myself to complete the course. I enjoyed it as well. I wore the leggings, but I admit I wore a pair of tracksuit trousers over them. I'm not ready to go public with my leggings yet, but they do make running easier and more comfortable. Last Friday I got changed for a run at my parents' house and my mum saw me in my leggings for the first time. I swear she looked disappointed, as though she never thought any son of hers would be getting ready for a Friday evening by putting his leggings on.

 20/11/08 Donations are really coming in fast now. Massive thanks to all of you who have given some money for Hemihelp. The collection tin at reception is starting to rattle nicely when it's shaken. I had a stroke of luck this week, a friend offered to get some raffle prizes together for me-and he's already managed to get a ball signed by the Barnsley team along with several other prizes. With help like that we should be on course to make a lot of money for Hemihelp. I've started swapping training stories with the other Hemihelp runners as well. Nice to speak to people in the same position.

29/11/08 Had a quiet week running-wise. The problem is that now I've built up my mileage a bit it takes longer to do a run, so I'm trying to find 1-2 hours to do a training run and that's not always possible on busy days. Planning a longer run tomorrow if Abbey's got the paws for it. Had a £25 donation handed into reception this week which has taken my total up a bit. I know who it was but I won't embarass her here, suffice it to say I'm very grateful and I'll thank you next time you're in. Natalie and I have booked accomodation in London for marathon weekend so we're not having to travel too much before and after the event (benefit to being members of RCGP, with their base next to Hyde Park).

28/01/09 Happy new year! I'm really sorry it's been so long since I've added anything. The truth is that December was a quiet month for the old running, apart from running my second race. I covered the Denby Dale 10k on 21st December. Two things should have warned me I was going to suffer with that one. Firstly people are very generous to practice staff before Christmas so as well as not training I'd been living on a diet of mince pies, biscuits and chocolates. Secondly, in a place called "Denby Dale" I shouldn't have been so surprised it wasn't flat. Really I need to be entering races in places ending with the word "plain", "meadows", or "plateau". The course in Denby Dale defied the laws of physics, I started and ran up hill for an hour and 6 minutes then arrived back at the start. I swear there was not a single downhill bit so how did I get back to the same place I started from? In the new year training has really gone well (touch wood). I'm increasing my once weekly "long" run by a mile a week for the next couple of months, and doing 2-3 shorter runs in the week. Last week I was on holiday so I managed a 13 mile run on Tuesday (which I was due to do on the previous Sunday) and no short runs. Consequently I tried to run 14 miles last Sunday to get myself back on track and I ran out of steam. Literally my legs stopped working after 12 and a bit miles. Tonight I ran 7 miles faster than I've managed before (1 hr 11 minutes since you ask)  so hopefully I'm back on track. There's some flexibility in the latter stages of my training plan if I feel I'm increasing the distance too fast. I need to focus on fundraising from now, the total's been a bit static the past few weeks. Time to organise the raffle and the fishing competition!

10/02/09 Kirsty is really driving the fundraising effort forwards. Dearne FM have donated a raffle prize, fishing match tickets are selling well, and raffle ticket production starts this week. I spoke to a lady from the Barnsley Chronicle today and a photographer is coming to take Eleanor's picture tomorrow. Hopefully we can make Hemihelp something like the amount of money they deserve. In order to sell raffle tickets wherever and whenever we want we need a "small lottery licence" which I'll apply for tomorrow.

08/03/09 Sorry there's been a delay between my last entry and now. The fact is training is progressing and not much of interest has happened. I just keep plodding around the streets or on the treadmill several times a week. Enjoying feeling fitter. Really proud of what everyone is doing to raise money. Special thanks need to go to Karen and Nigel for their remarkable efforts collecting raffle prizes. Raffle happening 18th April-the weekend before the marathon itself. Thanks to Kirsty for not only drumming up some fantastic raffle prizes herself but organising the licence we need to run the raffle and producing the tickets. People are so generous, I emptied the collection box on reception last week and got £100 out, this week I emptied it again and got £137!! I also have a very generous £100 donation from a friend to bank and then add to the total. A further £150 has been promised from elsewhere. We have the fishing match, the boxing glove auction, the raffle, and the race night coming up. I'd better finish! Massive thank you to everyone.

15/3/09 Did the Silverstone half marathon today. I was definitely ready to finish by the end-I don't like the thought that in 6 weeks time I'll be effectively running that far, then turning around and running back as well. Mind you, as Natalie says, everybody finds a marathon hard. Half marathon took me 2 hours 20. Based on that I should be aiming for a five hour marathon or thereabouts. That'll do me.

27/4/09 So it's over. Brief summary first: finished in 5:42, Eleanor quite likes her medal, big thanks to everybody who's helped, supported and contributed. I still have some quite large amounts of money to pay onto the website after I've banked them and a cheque to send directly to Hemihelp. I know Dave still has some money to put in as well so I reckon the final score for hemihelp should be not far off £2500-3000.

     So, the actual final message. When we found out about the injury to Eleanor's brain we all felt helpless. Physio, Paces school, occupational therapy and all the rest will help her to be all that she can be but something happened in a split second before she was even born that has blighted her whole life and we can't do anything to change it. Hemihelp is a charity that helps children with hemiplegia and their families, their internet forum was a huge source of support to Natalie and me when we first found out that Eleanor's life wasn't going to be how we always assumed it would be. I've never been a natural runner, I don't like running much, and I certainly never had a marathon in mind. But last September I thought I'd like to have completed a marathon before I was forty (in 6 years). It was a vague idea, on a list of "things I'd like to have done" and I wasn't training, didn't want to train, and had other things on my mind at the time. Natalie read the list, and found out that Hemihelp had vacancies for people to run the marathon for them this April. Natalie is the best thing that's ever happened to me, she knows exactly how to encourage and motivate me, and all the best things I've ever done have been done as a team with Natalie. The marathon and the fundraising became something people could do for Eleanor. We had all wanted to do something for her, but there had been nothing we could do. Now we had a chance to show how much we loved Ellie by raising money for the charity that helps children with Hemiplegia and their families. Everybody gave their time, money and effort to raise money for the charity, with Ellie as a mascot. People I've never met broke my heart with their generosity, putting themselves out for our little girl.

     So I'll put the medal away this afternoon and give it to Eleanor when she's older. I'll write a letter as well, whilst the feelings are all still fresh, and put it with the medal-so that when she's old enough to understand, she'll know that people who loved her came together when she was very young to do something special in her name. I'll write about how mummy came up with the idea, and daddy trained and ran further than he thought he could. Aunties and uncles ran raffles, fishing matches, seed catalogues, gave money, supported. Grandmas and grandads brought all their friends to a race night and raised a load of money, gave prizes to the raffle, sold raffle tickets. An awful lot of people who've never met Eleanor gave an awful lot of money, raffle prizes and time to make the whole effort a success. And I know Eleanor will cry when she reads it and want to thank you all with her whole heart. So on her behalf, thanks a million to everyone, whatever you've done.

     I suppose I should include an account of the marathon itself. We travelled down on Saturday had the afternoon with Mike and Kate-lovely and relaxing before the nerves kicked in that evening. From Harpenden we went to the Hemihelp pasta party near their office in central London. The restaurant was a hundred yards or so from the MI6 building, which is possibly the least unobtrusive base for a clandestine organisation anywhere in the world. It has dozens of antennae on the roof and a bigger wall around it than Buckingham Palace, hardly the anonymous building in the James Bond books. It was lovely to meet Helen from Hemihelp who's been fantastic throughout, and some of the other Hemihelp runners. Unfortunately we couldn't stay late because when Eleanor decides it's bedtime there's no use arguing. When we got to the Royal College where we were staying, they'd given our room away assuming we weren't coming. They declined to throw us out on our ears because we had a baby with us, and we spent the night in "the penthouse" where the College president and bigwigs stay when they're there overnight. The next morning I ate three weetabix, a nutrigrain bar and a banana to get some fuel in the tank. I also drank about a reservoirs-worth of water then set out to cross London to Greenwich for the start. As everyone probably knows you line up in a prearranged part of the huge pack of funrunners then shuffle forward towards the start line and start jogging as you cross it. First few miles were great, the crowd are amazing, from start to finish people are shouting your name, giving you high-fives from the pavement, handing you sweets, jelly babies and Mars bars. The atmosphere is unbelievable. By mile 11-12  was hot and tired, and a little voice in my head was telling me that I wasn't even halfway there, how could I possibly hope to do this etc. From that moment on I was walk-running all the way to the finish. Even though I've run further in training once I started to have those thoughts I was lost. I drank way more than the 2 litres I'd planned to drink on the way around (I lost count of how many bottles of Lucozade and water I took from the support teams) but despite drinking pints and pints I was so dehydrated it took hours and more water after the finish before I managed to go to the toilet. By mile 18-19 I was running a few hundred yards then walking. Then I saw Haruko and Ken, the Japanese medical students. I didn't know they were coming. They'd caught the train to London, walked around Hyde Park till they'd found a B+B the night before, then found their way to the course and waited hours, scanning the faces of the first 30000 or so runners until I came along. It was a real pick-up and I managed to run for a while afterwards. In the last mile I was walking until I saw the sign saying "800 metres to go". Even though I was knackered I knew that Helen and the other ladies from Hemihelp were going to be waiting on the final 200 metre stretch to cheer us home. Male pride (the same urge that makes you suck your gut in when you walk past women at the beach) determined that I had to be running when they saw me, but by this time my legs were cramped up, I could only manage tiny strides. So I rounded the final corner taking tiny footsteps, but desperately wanting to look impressive, so my knobbly little legs were going like pistons, and my feet were just a blur. I was probably moving at about a mile an hour. I smiled and waved to Helen as though I was loving it, and had always planned to cross the finishing line looking as though my shorts were too tight. After the finishing line you walk up a little ramp and someone cuts the timing chip off your shoe, then-just for a laugh-as you come off the ramp a really nice smiling lady gives you warm congratulations (which is impressive considering I must have been about the 5000th person she'd congratulated that day) and places a heavy medal around your neck. The weight of this (if you're me) makes you stagger off to one side because, let's face it, you've just run a marathon. As you reel sideways somebody else hands you your goody bag which contains an apple, a T-shirt, some cold drinks and other treats. Now loaded down you walk about half a mile to the assembly point to meet your friends and supporters. I swear there were people who finished the marathon looking quite fresh who were needing medical attention between the finish and their friends!

Today, the day after, I feel okay. In fact I feel better than okay, I feel really great, because all my friends and family have been ringing to make sure I'm alright and congratulate me, and friends and family are the best things in the world.

                        So this is the end of the marathon fundraising, I said it was a one-off but Helen and the team were fantastic and the temptation to do it all again in a few years might just prove too much. I wouldn't dream of doing it next year, too soon to ask you all to dig deep again, but maybe soon after that, before I get too old, and if Eleanor has a younger brother or sister who'll also want a medal like his/her big sister's............................


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