Marathon Man

I’m Mike Kelly and this year I’m part of the drive by the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF) to raise HUF 10,000,000. This money will provide a special bus for future Hungarian paralympians and the London Olympics is providing the perfect backdrop.

This, in brief, has been my story up to now.
I’ve been rasing money for cancer research for six years. For six years I have been asking friends, neighbours and often near strangers to sponsor me. I promise to train hard and complete an extremely demanding 42.2 Km run. They promise to donate 10, 20, 50 pounds. Whatever it is they can spare.

Trust is hugely important – that I will keep my word. That I will train and complete the run to the very best of my ability. And, crucially, that the organisation for whom the money is being raised is beyond reproach and ploughs the money into exactly what it says it will. The integrity of the organisation is sacrosanct. The RBIF, then, is the perfect organisation to work with! Their record speaks for itself and I’m proud to be part of the team organising this year’s amazing event.

Up till now it’s gone something like this.
’I’m going to run 42.2 kilometers. Please give me a little money which will help save lives, the lives of children and adults alike, potentially for years and years to come. I’ll do the hard bit, the miles and miles of training and the big run itself, you make a contribution. Please?’

’Umm,yes, ok! Put me down for x pounds please.’ And that’s it. I’m off. The first donation, or promise of a donation, and the adrenalin is flowing. The will to train is there in my thinking, in my heart and soul. Another long road ahead but so much good to be achieved. The training begins. This is easy. A few kilometres here and there. Then the bigger distances – not so easy. Aches and pains in places you’d almost forgotten about. The calves, the shins, the hamstrings. Then a turning point. I’m fitter, much fitter than I was a few weeks ago. I can up the pace, go for longer.
Then the next big step. A half marathon on a Sunday morning when it’s minus 5 outside. ’Do I really want to do this? It’s so warm and snug under these blankets!’ Yes I do, because ten people have already made pledges to the cause. I have given them my word. I have given the charity my word. Up you get!

And so it goes on for weeks and months. Till the big run. All the training has been done. So much will come down to how I’m feeling on the day. We’re off! Thousands of people running, even more to cheer us on. The first few kilometres are easy, relaxed, soaking up the atmosphere. The odd wave and high fiving the hands of smiling kids along the route.

At 15 kilometres I feel it a little but all going to plan, a good strong steady pace. Then the half-way point. Psychologically an important landmark. I’m a bit concerned, I shouldn’t really be feeling discomfort at this stage but I know from experience, I remind myself, that all big runs have their ’moments’. See it through. Nice deep breaths. ’You’ve done the training. It will pass.’ And, for a while, it does.
At 25 kilometres I’m not so bad again, I can do this. I spot a few people I know. That’s a boost. Perfect timing.
But at 30 kilometres it’s starting to hurt again. A different kind of hurt to earlier. This is becoming hard, I’m really having to dig in but there’s still 12 kilometres to go! Dread and fear slowly rising.

At 34 kilometres – ’Why am I doing this again?!’ By now every step is taking so much will power. So, why?
Then the answer surges through you and gives you the extra something that no amount of training can give you.
This IS saving lives! Me finishing WILL help poeple who won’t otherwise be helped. I have met the doctors face to face and they have thanked me, have told me that without the money raised by me running and you donating their research and subsequent breakthroughs simply wouldn’t be possible. I’ve seen the gratitude in their eyes. They come to the after race meet just to say thanks and talk about their work. Their groundbreaking, incredble work. I’ve just a run a marathon yet I feel so humbled.

Why? Because I want my darling sister Claire to live. I want her to survive cancer, I need her to live, my brother needs her to live, her beautiful young family and husband need her to live, our mother needs her to live. Will my running these last few agonising kilometres help her? I must believe that, I do believe that, and not only Claire but thousands of others, maybe hundreds of thousands of others. Am I losing my mind? Is this deep, intense exhaustion confusing my thinking? Actually, no. No it’s not. This IS the why, absolutely. But I’m feeling it so more acutely now because of the extremes my mind and body are going through. The ’why’ is simply clearer, it’s pure and simple now. An undeniable truth. Emotion is bound to surface and it does. Tears now join the sweat. Good is being done and will continue to be done. I WILL get to the finish line.

There have been personal benefits as well. Of course there have. The training means I’m fitter and thinking more clearly about many other things in life as well. I’m more focused and positive and of course this good energy is felt among family and friends.
But is that what gets me through the agony of the last 5 kms? No, not at all. It’s certainly helped me train when the chips were down. But what gets me through this wall of pain is knowing how many good hearted people have donated to the charity, have put their faith in me to do this. I will not let them down. Nor the people who will benefit directly from this huge effort to reach the finish line.

Those first few short training runs in the bleak mid winter, that first offer of support and all those that came afterwards – it’s all lead to this defining moment. Me crossing that finishing line and knowing it was all so very worthwhile.