Shona Cannings Great North Run – The Journey

2nd August 2014 and I turned 49 I knew this was going to be a challenging year ahead. Youngest son Torin off to Uni so family life was changing forever. I also always had in my mind that I needed to do something special to celebrate reaching my half century – this was all the more important to me as my Dad died just a week before he reached 50 of an undiagnosed cardiac problem.

I had dipped my toes in triathlons, Park Runs and a few 10k’s but never trained consistently for an event but had always said I would love to run the GNR so with that seed sown in my mind -reinforced by watching the 2014 coverage I decided that would be my challenge for 2015 as long as I could get a place.

Both Stephen and I entered the ballot and I also contacted Cardiac Risk for the Young and asked to be considered for a charity place. I started attending the Quibell Track sessions as a safe place to run at night in winter and got lots of support both from my fellow runners and the coaches Oliver Jacqui and Jeff. I entered a couple of runs the Poppy Run in Manchester (whilst Stephen was at the Velodrome) and the Robin Hood 10k trail run at Sherwood Pines and enjoyed both.

New Year’s Day 2015 saw a slightly fragile me running to Messingham to collect the car after a Gary Horner NYE party and my first 3 miles of the year done. I decided I had to set myself a monthly target to keep myself motivated and running 50 miles a month so 600 for the year seemed a nice round number so it was game on.  The weather didn’t help but soon enough we were in Feb on target and ballot result day!!!

I was so excited and had Stephen checking to see if anything had gone out the bank every half an hour. At last I was home from work and could read the e mail myself = I was in – unfortunately Stephen wasn’t but this was never going to be his A race so he happily agreed to be support crew. At this point Kerry Padley said she would be going and started to offer me advice – this would be Kerry’s 13th GNR so I knew this support was going to be so valuable. I contacted CRY who had offered me a charity place and said that I wouldn’t need their place but would raise funds for them – this took the pressure off re fund raising as I had no minimum amount to cover.

March saw the weather start to improve and more regular runs – until fate intervened and Torin was rushed to hospital (Manchester Royal Infirmary) with suspected meningitis – I still struggle now when remembering that middle of the night journey across the Pennines not knowing what was happening. Over the next few days we had a very poorly boy and had to learn very quickly about the various strains of meningitis, of how Torin is severely allergic to most mainstream antibiotics  and once viral meningitis was confirmed what that might mean for the future . Several things became very clear – Torin was very lucky that his girlfriend and flatmates recognised his symptoms and got help very quickly – that the help that came also realised the severity of the situation and drove him straight to the hospital not waiting for an ambulance and that the hospital treated him immediately – he was already being treated by the time Erin his girlfriend had booked him in. This response meant that Torin had a great chance of full recovery – things could have been very different if everyone hadn’t responded the way they did. I sat during the long hours at the MRI reading up on meningitis on charity websites on my phone and realised that although viral meningitis is the less severe type the effects are described as a non-traumatic brain injury –with people left with memory loss, mood swings, severe fatigue and headaches. Torin made a great recovery but has some long term effects – certainly not as severe as they were initially but still life changing for him and he is currently awaiting a neurology appointment to support him with his studies and life in the future.

Torin came home to recover and we started to come to terms with the shock of the last week. Sunday was the Gainsborough 10k but we both gave away our places as weren’t sure if we would be home from hospital – we were but were not in the right place to even contemplate running. I did go and watch and support Truan (eldest son) who was running it for his works team and  he managed a good time despite hardly any training at all. !!!

It took another week before I was emotionally able to get out for a run – I then ran three days in a row to try and get my head sorted out. Stephen and I had booked on the Offthatcouchfitness Mallorca training camp and I had been looking forward to some runs in the Spanish sunshine. As the date got closer I was really struggling with the thought of leaving Torin behind and the day before we flew had a complete meltdown about leaving him. Torin however is a stubborn soul (don’t know where he gets it from) and said if I didn’t go he was going back to Manchester anyway so there was no point in me staying behind. Eventually persuaded although very fragile I found myself heading off to Mallorca. It was just what I needed – sun, great support and the opportunity to run in beautiful conditions. I managed to run 32 miles as well as ride over 100 miles in 6 days and do my longest ever run of 11 miles. I returned home refreshed with new friends and ready to face the world again.

I had been enjoying most of my runs but not necessarily the after effects with real stomach issues after my long runs. I experimented with timings and variety of pre run food  and gradually found what worked best for me – I actually think the main thing was my body adapting to the length of the run as much as anything.

In mid-May I felt I needed to test out my legs in a race and at the last minute went alone to the Casringtom 7 + – it was a great race in beautiful surroundings but much hillier than I anticipated but I managed it without walking and was happy with my progress. By this time running was becoming part of my routine – trying to run at least 3 times a week with my regular run routes 4 and 6.5 miles with occasional long runs added in to stretch my legs.  The other benefits of running were definitely the stress relief I found – I am an over thinker and work in a stressful environment – thinking through problems, ideas etc. during my runs seemed to work for me. It’s a good job I don’t ever send those e mails I compose when out on a run.

Following Torin’s illness and the vital support I got from the charity Meningitis Now I decided I wanted to split my fund raising between them and CRY and contacted them and set my fundraising page up.

The next few months training passed without too much drama and I had a week’s break when on scout camp – one because the weather was so bad and secondly because Scout camp is no holiday and I was feeling very tired. This actually turned out to be a really positive break as my average pace improved no end following the break.

My 50th birthday passed in a haze of Prosecco and suddenly I was thinking about tapering. My plan was to do my last long run on Bank Holiday Monday but it being Britain that was a complete wash out so it was on the following Thursday that I did my last long run 12.4 miles – less than a mile to add on to ensure I could complete the GNR – I was ready