(Kay Hack and Gary Kendall)
My New Year’s resolutions for 2019 were the typical combination of the achievable (250 parkruns milestone), the adventurous (A-Z of UK parkruns) and the aspirational (get parkrun times back in the low 25s!). January started sluggish enough with my slow times being put down to Christmas ‘good living’ followed by post-Christmas hectic work schedule.
As my times continued to go south, I started to think there was something wrong. Prompt action by Springwell Club runner Colin Brennan, who directed me to my GP for full blood tests, led to an early diagnosis of Leukaemia (AML). I completed a further two parkruns at Portrush before the start of my treatment began. My finishing time of 43.57 for parkrun #233, although one of my slowest 5Ks, became the benchmark for my road back to health.
I started six months of treatment at University College London Hospital in early March. In between the bouts of chemo I managed to complete parkruns at Clacton, Finsbury Park and Hampstead Heath. In the midst of my treatment I drew upon my memories of the beach at Portrush and its status soon became aspirational, an escape from my bed-bound treatment room. The achievement of my 250 milestone became a particular focus as it would coincide with 100 days since my stem cell transplant.
My return to parkrun at Portrush on the glorious North Coast was a feat of head over health. The old adversaries of soft sand and wind were a much more severe challenge, but finishing a 5k walk on the wide open space of the beach became the sweetest achievement (initially swiftly followed by an afternoon in bed). I’m still working towards my pre-treatment time of 43.57, but I’ve taken my times down from about 75 mins to 47.09 since I got home. Someone has probably already framed the theme of this piece – progress is like running; just take one step at a time.
At the start of the year I was hoping to get my 250 milestone t-shirt by spring or early summer, that plan has been revised but I’m back and my 250th run will take place on 21st September at Portrush.
I am incredibly lucky to be reaching my 250th run, thanks to a stem cell donation from my brother. Many are still waiting for that chance of life. I would urge you to do two things this Saturday . First of all join us at Portmagic for parkrun and secondly consider registering as a stem cell donor https://www.dkms.org.uk .
Finally I want to thank all those who volunteer to marshal at parkrun – especially the tail-walkers whom I see much more of these days.