Happy New Year!
Older readers (and by ‘older’, I mean those who have followed my blog and/or Facebook page for a little while – perhaps even in the years BW (Before Wicks) – rather than those readers who might occasionally complain about their winter fuel allowance and the fact “all music nowadays is just noise”) might recall that I have, over the past decade or so, set myself a variety of challenges to raise money for Kidscan.
I first became aware of Kidscan – a children’s cancer charity based in Salford – way back in 2013, through my involvement with an online Stockport County fans’ forum. At the time, they contacted us to see if any of our group might fancy taking part in an event (from recollection, it might have been the Manchester half marathon, but the specific details elude me now) and, while none of us could participate, whether through unavailability or the fact we simply couldn’t run, I decided to look further into the amazing work Kidscan were doing.
My reasoning was that, at the time, ‘the C word’ was having a massive impact on my wife’s family, with one of her cousin’s children – who was only six months old – battling cancer.
Cancer in all its forms is a horrible disease for anyone to face, but imagine a frail little baby going through it (and the torture his poor parents must have been suffering). And, while I am pleased to report he battled like a little warrior and has since made a full recovery, I was only too aware that many families are not so lucky.
Look, this is meant to be a light-hearted (hopefully funny, on occasions) blog, and I’ll try to inject some humour shortly, but there is absolutely nothing even remotely amusing about children living with cancer, so please bear with me while I throw some facts in your direction.
- 2,400 children and young adults will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
- 20% (one-fifth) of those will not survive.
- 60% of those who do survive will be left with long-term effects caused by their treatment.
- 25% (one-quarter) of all children diagnosed with cancer will not reach their thirtieth birthday.
I’ll just let those stats sink in for a minute.
When I first became aware of Kidscan, none of us knew whether my wife’s nephew (it’s close enough, and much easier to say that “my wife’s cousin’s baby”) would battle through his ordeal, or whether he would become one of the unlucky ones, and I felt that, if I could do anything to help a small independent charity in their fight against such a horrible disease, then I should.
Shortly afterwards, I came up with the idea of organising a sponsored walk based around my love of Stockport County (which was, after all, how I first became aware of Kidscan), and I decided it might be fun to gather together a group of like-minded fans for a ‘Hatters Hike’ (‘The Hatters’ being Stockport County’s nickname) from our Edgeley Park home to the upcoming away fixture at neighbours Macclesfield Town.
Ok, that’s only a distance of roughly thirteen miles, but I wanted to make the walk achievable so as many fans as possible could participate. And so it came to pass that, along with a good friend of mine (who we shall call Gareth because, well, that’s his name), on 30th March 2013 we led a group of eighteen County fans – as well as my dog Bexley – from Edgeley Park to the Moss Rose in Macclesfield, raising over £1,350 in the process.
Indeed, such was the success of the first ‘Hatters Hike’, we replicated the event a couple of years later by walking to an away match at Hyde – and back again.
Then, in 2016, Gareth and I decided to adopt a slightly more ambitious challenge, by embarking on a 1,000-mile road trip around England visiting all the football grounds in Stockport County’s league in just one weekend. I wrote two blogs about our trip, if you’d care to read either (or both) of them, because it’s safe to say we went on quite the adventure:
Having had a year off, in 2018 I decided to turn my attention to a running challenge instead and, since my first ever 10k in the latter months of 2017 hadn’t in fact killed me as I had initially feared, I decided to see if I could run ten such events throughout the calendar year, again in aid of Kidscan.
I won’t share all the blog entries I wrote here, but they’re easy enough to find on my page if you were so inclined to have a read, and if you can’t find them just drop me a line. The short version is, despite badly injuring myself in training, collapsing at the finish line of the Whitchurch 10k (before being taken by ambulance to hospital), and completely fucking up my right hip, I managed to run all ten events in under fifty minutes (my personal target), and swore I was then done with running forever.
Running, I might have mentioned a few times, is insufferably shit.
Still, my wounds healed, and so, in early 2019, with the 10k challenge still ringing loudly in my knees, I decided to set myself a personal target (not for charity this time, just in case I failed) to try and run the length of the M6 – which is just over 232 miles – in one calendar year. In hindsight, I wish I had done the challenge for Kidscan, as I met the target and could have raised money while doing so, but I really wasn’t sure if I’d make the distance and would hate to have let the charity – and myself – down.
Gareth and I did then moot the idea of repeating our road trip around the country in 2020, due to the fact County had been promoted at the end of the 2018-19 season and so we now had a new list of football grounds to visit, but a little thing called Covid put paid to that idea.
In fact, Covid has pretty much fucked everything up since the early stages of 2020, meaning any group activities – or lengthy travel – has been best avoided. So, with the urge to rekindle my Kidscan fundraising in 2022, last week I decided to hunt for a new running challenge.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – I can’t hate running that badly if I keep doing it. But, let me assure you, I detest running with an unbridled passion, and my only reasons for setting myself these ludicrous challenges are as follows:
- I’m desperately trying to lose weight and, having shed three stone throughout 2021, I plan to keep that momentum up so I can hopefully be ‘ripped and buffed’ for our holiday abroad this summer. Ok, my chances of becoming ripped and buffed are slim at best (excuse the pun), but if I can at least avoid distressed beach goers trying to push me back into the sea I’ll consider that a victory.
- My hatred of running is usually matched (or, at least, partially balanced) by the chocolate and alcohol calories it earns me on MyFitnessPal each time I go out. Yes, I love chocolate and alcohol enough to put myself through torture to earn it.
- If you’re going to set yourself a fundraising challenge, at least be a man and make it difficult. The key word here is ‘challenge.’ There would be absolutely no point trying to eat 1,000 Jaffa Cakes for charity, for example, when I could smash that shit out in a weekend.
- While I detest running, it turns out I’m not totally fucking useless at it (hospital visits and other injuries aside), so my options for trying to get fit are rather limited.
Anyway, the problem I encountered when searching for a new challenge was that, once you’ve run the length of the M6 in a year, the next target needs to be bigger and better, but there aren’t any longer motorways in the UK, and I knew I wasn’t going to manage running Land’s End to John o’ Groats, so I struggled to think of a suitable distance short of simply trying to complete, say, 250 or 300 miles.
Then, earlier this week, I was browsing Facebook (as I so often do of an evening), when I spotted an advert for the ‘Valhalla Virtual 350k Challenge’ and, following a quick Google search to put this distance into terms I could comprehend, it turned out to be roughly 217 miles.
Now, while this is a slightly shorter distance than the M6, so it goes against my earlier statement of ensuring the next challenge is ‘bigger and better’, I equally have to bear in mind I am now two years older, and those two years have seen me put on a load of weight (then lose it again) during a global pandemic when I wasn’t really exercising and when most of the fucks I previously gave deserted me.
So, ever-so-slightly swayed by the frankly AWESOME medal and running shirt on offer for those who complete the challenge, not to mention the online discount I received for entering during the (invariably bollocks) ‘limited time only’, I decided to go for it and signed myself up.
Except, when the confirmation e-mail came through, it transpired I had read the rules incorrectly, and I only have six months to complete the distance, rather than the full year I was expecting. Which means, rather than running just over four miles each week from now until the 11th July (that being six months from the date I registered), I have to run an average of 8.5 miles instead. Yikes.
Ok, in truth I’ve been running around eight miles each week for most of the past year, so it’s certainly achievable, but my worry is that I have no margin for injury, illness (including any bout of the dreaded ‘rona) or any time off due to either holidays or weather-induced CBA* attitude.
*Can’t Be Arsed.
So, there it is. I have to run at least 8.5 miles a week, every week, for the next six months.
Bloody hell. What have I got myself in for?
Oh well, it’s for an extremely good cause, and for that very reason I will make damn sure I complete it, because there’s no way I’m letting anyone, least of all Kidscan, down.
If you’d like to read more about my challenge, simply keep updated on my progress every now and then or, best of all, donate to my target, here’s a link to the JustGiving page I’ve set up for the event:
Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading x