Andrew Cregeen tells us about running for the Dubai Marathon in October 2017, and what inspired him to do it!
I first became aware of the Dubai Marathon back in August of last year. As someone who is fairly fit, but never ran any further than half marathon distance, it tempted me for a few reasons.
My friend Macauley (Macca) was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia a few years ago. We have a special connection to Dubai, as it’s where Macca’s sister Gemma and brother-in-law Mark live. I was planning to visit them around the same time as the marathon; it’s also a bit left-field as a location to choose to do a marathon! So, why not attempt it, raise funds for Ataxia UK and complete a personal life-goal of my own at the same time?!
My training began back in October. The first stepping stone to cross was a local half marathon held each year at the end of November. I shaved six minutes off my personal best with a time of 1hr 43 – happy days! Feeling good, I soon increased my running distances to 15 – then 17, then 20 – miles, but then started to suffer with the dreaded “runners’ knee;” I’d being running too far, too soon! So in December I had to scale the distances back, running no further than 10 miles on a single run.
Christmas and New Year came and went and it was suddenly January: less than a month to go, and time to increase the distances again. At three weeks before the marathon I completed a 17-mile run without incident, and the following week a 20-mile run without incident. Great, now to start the ‘tapering’ process! If my 20-mile training pace could be matched in the marathon, I thought, I could finish in four hours (though four and a half hours might’ve been more realistic), but more fun was to come . . . .
On the Friday, exactly one-week before the marathon, I was struck down with flu-like symptoms and spent the next three and a half days bedridden. At one stage I was wondering if the entire trip would have to be cancelled, and pictured the fall out that it would cause. On the Tuesday – departure day – I visited the doctor and was told I had had a particularly bad cold with a bit of viral tonsillitis. Yippee, it wasn’t flu! He said I was free to travel and to give the marathon a go, though I was likely to fatigue a lot sooner. Undeterred, off to the airport I went!
The trip and the run
I arrived in Dubai on Wednesday, still feeling nothing like my normal self, though very happy to see Gemma and Mark. Wednesday became Thursday, Thursday became Friday and there I was stood at the start line, still in a bit of a zombie, dream-like state. Here we go!
The temperature was a relatively cool 13C at the start line. Great, I thought, as the first couple of hours shouldn’t be too bad. Only two miles in though, and my running vest was completely drenched… ah yes, the humidity! More miles passed and I noticed I was a little off my training pace. I wasn’t bothered; after the illness, I focussed only on getting to the finish line rather than my finishing time.
At half way the early fatigue that the doctor had warned me about set in. Damn. I walked for a quarter mile to compose myself, taking extra fluids and tried to jog again. Another mile later, I was exhausted again. Walking for little bit, jogging for a mile, walking for a little bit and then jogging for a mile: repeat whilst taking extra fluids, energy gels and painkillers! More miles soon passed and before I knew it I could see the finish line and hear the crowds cheering in the grandstand. This was the time to smile, take it all it in and savour the moment. Job done!
After finishing I collected my finisher’s medal, collected my belongings and met Gemma before having a short lie down on the grass! I posed for some photos before we headed back to Gemma and Mark’s for an afternoon and evening of celebrations.
I set up the Just Giving page at the start of December and have been taken aback by the generosity of the folk here on the island (and indeed from further afield), and by Ataxia UK and their messages of support. A local company, Haven Homes, made a very generous donation. This peaked on the weekend of the marathon itself via social media, when news of me finishing was shared along with the fundraising page by numerous people and even local sports reporter The Sports Package. There was a significant jump in the donations that weekend for which I’m very grateful. At the time of writing, the total raised stands at £1,615, with the £500 from my employer still to come, making a grand total of £2,115!
For my final thoughts, I’d like to thank everyone for the donations, the shares, the likes, the retweets and the words of support. Thank you everyone!