James took on the mighty challenge of running 12 marathons over 12 months in aid of supporting people with ataxia. Here is his journey of races across the world.
Why I decided to start fundraising for Ataxia UK
Last year marked 10 years following the passing of my father to Cerebellar Ataxia (ACA) and whilst sharing memories with my Mum, I was faced with the reality that there is 50% chance of my brothers and I developing ACA. That’s when I began fundraising for Ataxia UK running 12 marathons over 12 months, marking the 12 years my Dad suffered with ataxia.
One, Two, Three tick!
My first marathon in Nuremberg had me up at 5.00am to a fresh morning of 8 degrees. I wore my Ataxia UK T-shirt with my dad’s photo on and ran through the most picturesque Franconian Swiss mountains. The streets were filled with supporters, musicians and dancers. When, towards the end, I had a sharp pain in my knee and told myself: “come on James, this is the first one, it will be fine,” and finished in 3 hours and 37 minutes.
Physio sessions and five weeks later, I found myself in Zagreb for the second marathon. My partner is Croatian so I had heaps of support around the race. I finished without a hiccup and celebrated with my family afterwards.
Marathon three was on the coastal town of Deal, and oh my, was that a cold morning! But before I knew it – marathon 3 – ‘tick!’
The Netherlands’ Marathon was filled with supporters and my eldest brother came to watch from Australia. Another favourite was The Great Breweries Marathon in Brussels – at the finish line we were awarded a medal and a 4-pack of Belgium beer!
No giving up!
My friend Louise joined me in Dubai for my next race. I dropped out after struggling to keep up and ran an unofficial marathon a few days later in Australia. After completing half the challenge, I came down with shingles and was advised by the doctor to reconsider continuing. But I knew at that point I was not about to give up.
Getting back into it
My next run was in Italy and I finished in a good time – I was getting my stride back!
I broke my four-hour record in the Southampton Marathon and Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Running in northern Wales was a wet race due to rainfall days before, some of the route was completely submerged underwater. What does one do when you are faced with a stretch of the route underwater? Run through the water and get waterlogged shoes!
I completed a marathon around the grounds of Hever Castle then one in Scotland which had great scenery.
The final was tough – in the Swiss Alps, among turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains. ‘Mountain climbing’ left me feeling exhilarated – at times I was literally running above the clouds! At one point I hurt my ankle and had to crawl, it was brutal. This last marathon pushed me beyond my limits but made me feel what it’s really like to be alive. It had most impact on my life and made me realise that if I end up with ataxia, life is to be lived and I will take every opportunity to live my life as full as I can.