The Journey Begins

On April 5th 2019, I ran a 6 day ultra-marathon in Morocco, the Marathon des Sables. It was incredibly tough, but its far from being the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

On March 2nd 2018 Janice, my wife of 27 years, was driving home from work. She suffered a brain haemorrhage and was found unconscious in her car by one of our neighbours. She was taken to hospital, where I was told that she was unlikely to survive the night.

During that seemingly endless night, the decision was taken to transfer my wife to a different hospital. Surgeons there performed a 4-hour operation on her, after which I was told she was unlikely to gain consciousness.

Janice was in a coma for a week and her prognosis was not good. Miraculously, she then came out of the coma and to my delight was able to recognise me and her other visitors. The brain injury she had sustained left her unable to swallow, so she had a tracheostomy tube fitted, to keep her airway clear. As a result, she was unable to talk.

As she recovered from her operation, my wife was transferred to a hospital near our home. During the three months she spent there, I visited her daily, often for 12 hours at a time. After a struggle over funding, I was able to arrange for her to be taken to a specialist neural rehabilitation centre.

The centre was 50 miles from our home. I had to drive 100 miles every day to visit Janice, but it all seemed worth it when she began to talk in early September. Then on 28th September I went to visit Janice and found her apparently asleep. She didn’t respond when I tried to wake her. She was rushed to hospital again.

That evening, I was told that Janice had suffered another catastrophic bleed in her brain. There was to be no operation this time, the chances of success being too slim to put her through further trauma. Janice passed away the next day, on 29th September 2018. From the time of Janice’s initial brain haemorrhage until her death over 6 months later, running was what kept me going.

I ran my first marathon in 1981 and I’ve been running ever since (although I swore, lying exhausted on the ground after finishing that first marathon, that I would never do it again). It’s turned out to be the best therapy I know, helping to protect me from depression and anxiety.

Early days of marathon running

Throughout Janice’s illness, I kept increasing the miles I was covering, running ever longer distances. After her death, I had one weekend when I felt as bad as I’ve ever felt. I knew that I had to do something if I was to keep going. I turned to running, deciding that the Marathon des Sables was the challenge I needed. Training for it would give me something to get up for.

Janice worked in Blue Cross Grimsby animal hospital for 40 years. She was a great part of the team there. I decided that I would use any publicity attracted by my race to raise money for the charity where my wife had worked for so much of her life.

Janice outside Blue Cross Grimsby Animal Hospital

The Marathon des Sables gave me purpose. I had to get up and train for the race each day, which takes a lot of preparation. And raising money for Blue Cross added meaning to the challenge. I felt strongly that I was doing it for Janice.

I enjoyed the challenge too. It was exciting to meet everyone involved and to do something I’d never attempted before. So I’m going to keep taking on more challenges. I think Janice would be glad to know I’ve found something which is helping me to keep going.

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