Written by Sam Appleyard
On Saturday 28th November—with three weeks’ notice—I ran my first marathon to support this year’s Movember campaign. I’d only ever previously ran a 10k. But on Saturday I ran from my hometown of Hartlepool to the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle Upon Tyne, 42.2km, in just under six hours.
Was I prepared? No. Was it sensible? Probably not. Did I grow the worst ‘beard’ ever seen? Too right I did. But it was worth it. We raised £1400 in donations for a fantastic cause. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so I thought I’d share an insight into what it was like—and why I was stupid enough to try it.
Movember is an inspirational campaign. Hundreds of amazing people help to fund national projects which support men’s health—physical and mental.
Now I’ve had my own mental battles. I’ve had many a day when I physically cannot get out of bed, when suppression becomes an unconscious act and, out of nowhere, I felt more alone than I’ve ever been. I’ve pulled myself from my lowest point before with the support of others, and Movember is an opportunity to help others in that position do the same. 3 out of 4 suicides in the UK are men. I had to do my bit.
Movember does a substantial amount of work in the fight against prostate and testicular cancer—two of the most common cancers in the UK. I’ve lost several family members to cancer and, a few years ago, I had my own run-in with a lump on the ol’ crown jewels. Thankfully, after a check-up, it was cleared as non-cancerous. But that uncertainty was terrifying and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, nevermind the real thing.
Why A Marathon?
I’m not built to run. I’m smaller than average, built for shot put and rugby (what the kids might call ‘thicc’). I ran a few times in the summer, hitting between 5–10k. But for the past two months, I’d been lifting in the gym and eating well. In summary, I was far from an ideal runner’s physique.
So, when I finally decided I wanted to do something for Movember, I knew it needed to be something big otherwise no-one would donate. But I also wanted to challenge myself. So I thought: ‘what’s the hardest physical challenge I could put myself through?’. Realistically, of course.
I was on Google Maps one day and I thought it was pretty cool how Hartlepool, my hometown, was around 26–27 miles away from Newcastle, my home away from home.
Put the two together? An idea stupid enough to raise a decent amount. And that challenge would be enough to put me just far enough out of my depth.
So What Was It Like?
In preparation, I ran a few long-distance runs—even running a half-marathon to my surprise! Even though I only had three weeks, I think I prepared my body pretty well for the stress of long-distance. On the day, for the first 21k, I felt in good shape. Lungs were good, knees, hips, ankles; all good. I was feeling confident.
But then after 21k, in unfamiliar territory, at around the 23k mark… pain. My lower body felt like it was going to fall off. And I started to think and cry to myself ‘sh*t, I’ve still got 17k to go’. I’m not going to lie to you; the doubt crept in. I didn’t think I could do it.
But with a few ibuprofens, some glucose frubes, and several notifications that people were still donating mid-run, I made it to the next checkpoint—and then the next one, and the next one. From the 23k mark, all the way to Gateshead at around 39k, I was in a constant battle against my inner urge to stop: to take the comfortable option.
The turning point? I saw the Tyne Bridge in the skyline. With the finish line in sight, I embraced the discomfort and saw out the homestretch at pace. As soon as I stepped on the bridge, 200 metres to go, all I could see was a small crowd of friends and family. I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I started sprinting towards them, crying my eyes out (share your emotions fellas, it’s good for you). I hit the 42.2km in the middle of the bridge and was graced with a spray of fizz to the face… thanks Dad.
What Did I Achieve?
For myself, firstly a reminder that I have the best support circle around me, and that when I’m having a down day, the people who shared, donated, and especially those who waited on the bridge are there for me.
Secondly, I ran a bloody marathon. A physical challenge that required six hours of suffering. I pushed on, I endured the pain, and I was mentally strong. I’ll treasure this as a reminder whenever things get tough.
Lastly, and most importantly, we raised £1400. That money is going to change, and save, the lives of men up and down the country. The campaign saw countless shares, raising awareness and support for the growing issue of the fact we lose a male life to suicide every minute. Together, we did our bit to make a difference.
Worst part about it all? I’ve set the bar now. Next year I now have to do something even bigger.