Monday, 16 September 2013

My Great North Story The Final Chapter

The Greatest Race Of My Life

15th September 2013 the day had finally arrived, after 9 months of training my moment to remember my daughter Jasmine was actually here.

The previous day marked Jasmine's first birthday, it was a day packed with emotions, we marked her day with a family gathering at her garden where her headstone was fitted in perfect time for the occasion, we released 15 balloons to send up to heaven along with our thoughts and prayers.

She also got a visit from her little brother Joel making it a bitter sweet point in my life, it wasn't long before I was setting off on the long journey to my hotel in Newcastle with my Mum, Dad, sister Danielle and my dad's partner, providing me with support for the big day.

After a nice sleep in my humble travelodge surroundings, it was time to make the last minute preparations for the final chapter of this journey. Waking up at 6:30am is not normally my kind of thing,but on this occasion it felt right, off I went to get drenched in as pure water you can get in my surrounding providing a source of comfort to the butterflies waking up in my stomach.

I had a custom made running shirt done special for the race, with a photo of my precious angel on my chest, it was at this point an overwhelming sense of pride kicked in, a look to the sky and I felt ready.

9am we arrived at the start of the biggest run of my life, and one of the first people i seen was the legendary Colin Jackson,

if ever there was a sight to hit home the enormosity of this event that was it, one of the greatest hurdlers off all time and here I am rubbing shoulders with him, unbelievable start to the day.

Shortly after my sister and mother secured me an interview with radio tyneside where I was able to tell my story and promote the 2 charities extremely close to my heart, I think I have finally achieved celebrity status? well if being on the radio wasn't enough I also managed to get on to BBC 1 and I think it is safe to say I definitely have a face for the big screen!!

Time waits for no man and it was time to walk the 1000 metres from the start line of the run to my starting point pink zone K, this was the last of the zones so there were at least 45,000 people in between me and Mo Farah, quite why I thought I would give him such a massive head start I don't know but next year I might do something about that!
There was a moment where runners were asked to stop and think about the people who we were running for, this almost brought me to tears, I again looked to the sky a gesture I done so much more through out day, and had a pre-race talk with my Daughter, by 10am all the participants were in place and the warm ups began, thousands of people in unison waving hands, squatting, jumping around, from the back it really was quite a sight and all finished up with a bit of gangnam style dancing amongst the masses.

10:40 arrived and Mo was off, I didn't see him and for reasons I will explain later I failed in my mission to catch him. Slowly but surely I made my way towards the start line my heart rate increasing with each meter closer.

The horizon in front of me was awash with colours, purples, pinks, greens, penguins, scooby doo and men with sinks and fridges on their backs, only in a mass event do you see inspirational people like this. You are stood in the middle of the worlds biggest story, chapters contributed by every single participant, if you could get every story into one big book, it would be the most awe inspiring read filled with love, grief, determination, blood, sweat and tears. It could be as powerful as some religious readings, it would show you can achieve anything, that the world whilst it has it's downside is filled with fantastic people, one massive community sticking together for the greater good.

I finally reached the start line after what seemed an age but what a way to start as I was lucky enough to high 5 a world and olympic champion in the form of Christine Ohuruogu, that really set the wheels in motion and I was off on my 13.1 mile journey. The Jasmine Journey.

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, cadence ok running? check!! Now time to take it all in, within 500 yards of the start line there were already families stood outside cheering you on, this was not what I expected at all I thought I wouldn't see anyone until I was crossing the bridge, it was amazing that despite the weather people were giving up hours of their day to make help every single runner, what fantastic spirit. It wasn't long into the race when I seen first hand the sense of family runners have with each other as an older lady tripped over when mounting a kerb, in a split second 6 other runners broke their stride and stopped to help her up and make sure she was ok and encouraged her back on the way, I guess it is things like this that really emphasise what the greatest half marathon means.

Soon enough I was crossing the Tyne Bridge, such an iconic part of the race, the crowds gathered along the paths cheering everyone one, I don't think I went 10 meters without being cheered on by the public. I felt I was coasting along everything was going fine just taking it all in lapping up the atmosphere with every stride.

By mile 5 I had to stop for a toilet break, which took at least 10 minutes off of my finishing time amazing that these things do not happen to you in training, after that I was back on my way and feeling good. At mile 6

I was on the right side of the road to see my entourage which certainly put a smile on my face, it was fantastic to have their support at this time.

Then I hit mile 7 and what went from 7th Heaven went to 7th Hell as my knee completely gave in, agonising pain ripped through me and a feeling of distraughtness hit me hard, why did this have to happen to me now? I still had just under half the way to go, a quick look up to Jasmine to ask her to help me through and a quick text to my wife who provided support from Northampton, installed in me a steely determination to make it to the end no matter what. With a combination of power walking and what must have looked like a comedy sketch when I attempted to run I sauntered off on my way to 13.1 mile heroism in my mind.

The miles to my astonishment felt like they were coming quick, you almost feel like they had measured the course wrong but the sheer volume of people hides the roads so you never get daunted by a long stretch of tarmac which certainly helped the cause. As each mile passed the cheers from the crowd took more effect on getting me by, I was so glad that I had my name printed in large font on my t-shirt as crowds called me out by my name really pushing me, with every bit of encouragement I would run a couple of hundred meters until it was too painful to do so, and it was back to walking pace.

I know I have mentioned the crowd so many times already but it is to me what makes the great north run, the bands on route playing steel drums, an Elvis impersonator, children as young as 4 shouting oggie oggie oggie and holding their hands out for high 5's like you are a film star or something, people stepping out of their houses with biscuits, oranges and ice pops to hand out to runners, honestly it warms your heart these kind of gestures from strangers, showing great pride in their city, It will always stay with me.

The last 2 miles were a real mix of emotions, I was so close to the end yet in so much pain, I was fighting with the quitter inside of me, luckily the fighter inside came out on top, the sight of the red arrows as they performed loop the loops and love hearts almost a signal that Jasmine was proud of me for carrying on.

as I reached the top of the last hill a nice cool sea breeze hit me, I knew then my moment was here, this was the last mile, I text my wife 1 more mile to go and she replied telling me this was Jasmine's mile, as I said in previous blog post I was saving the last mile for her. A tear dropped from my eye and I tried to run the whole mile, but I couldn't manage any more that 10 seconds a time with out the pain being too much so every minute I just ran as much as I can until the last 100 meters when I made a late dash, running through the finish line, I kissed the photo of Jasmine and pointed to the sky, that was for you I said, how I did not break down in tears I do not know, but I had done it, I was a Great North Finisher and the proudest father in all the land.

I limped off to collect my bag of goodies included my medal and t-shirt sat down on the grass and thought of my achievement, it is a hard enough challenge when fit let alone when your knee goes half way into the race, I felt satisfaction with a slight tinge of disappointment of not being able to run the whole thing.

My finishing time was 2 hours 40 minutes and 40 seconds, pretty good and that concludes my great north story. It has been a roller coaster and I am now looking forward to a few weeks of rest.


As it stands at the moment, I have raised £1281.00 or £1539.75 including gift aid, which will really go along way in supporting families struggling with the loss of a baby and I can not thank everyone enough for their generosity and their belief in me.

Until next year I bid you all farewell

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Weeks 31 & 32

The Longest Mile

It is exactly one month to the day until I take on the biggest personal sporting challenge yet. Reflecting on where I was at the point of starting my training to now, and I can only feel proud of what I have achieved, the mentality to stick to something, the drive to succeed along with physical changes, like losing 2 stone. If anyone reading wants to make a difference to their life and do something that will help others, I can not recommend entering into a half marathon enough

Over the last 2 weeks I have upped the anti with the training, the objective was to reach 12 miles, and so like it became that on a Saturday morning at 8am I went off to my training ground Pitsford Resevoir along with a good friend from work, who has been dragged into the running world by me the poor fella, to achieve the target I set out I would need to complete approximately 2 laps round.

It is a testament to the training that a 10k run is no longer a gruelling challenge but a nice run and as so it made the first lap nice and easy, the feeling of ease continues until approx 8 miles, then the lactic starts to kick in almost screaming at you to stop, a bit like the old monster from the shreddies adverts, you end up relying on your fluid intake to keep your ailing legs at bay, a strong mentality is required at this point, I find taking it a mile at a time helps, just thinking only 10 more minutes the it is mile 9 .. 10 .. etc. There was one thing that I wasn't prepared for and that is the hunger pain feeling kicking in. Reading articles your body can store enough carbohydrates for an hour and a half worth of exercise after that it rely's on you topping it up.Now I didn't have a bite to eat with me so I had to make work keeping a bottle of lucozade to last.

Eventually the end was in sight and the man from my nike plus running app read out 12 miles completed time 2 hours, I had done it and the time was not too shabby either, it was kind of a euphoric moment when I hit the milestone and now I know I can definitely do it I am going to savor the last mile that will be dedicated solely to Jasmine, Bring it on.


This week I received my running pack including number and timing chip. I will be joining the pink brigade and starting from the K area which means I will be starting right from the back 56,000 runners in front of me that will be some spectacle. This is because when I filled in my entry form I said it would take me nearly 4 hours as it was all an unknown based on training I should do it in about 2 hours. So just incase you see me on BBC look out for runner 51376.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Weeks 29 & 30

Back In The Game

It has been a pretty good couple of weeks, the shins seem to be weakening in their fight against me, perhaps they have run off at the thought of challenging me as I have ramped up to what I have affectionately called Project Sparta. I am sure the message got passed down my veins and their reaction was a bit like woah I don't wanna be messing with Barker the Spartan man he sounds tough. So all is well now and I am positive it will stay that way until I take part in the biggest half marathon in the world in just 7 weeks!

Since the shins have retracted I have made good use of this by completing 6 and 7.2 miles in the last 2 weeks, I have cut down the running to once a week to keep injury free. I can not tell you what a relief it is to be completing this mileage again, honestly I can not quite explain enough at how frustrating it is to have to stop mid way through your training, it is probably a bit like going to enjoy a cuppa tea and a chocolate hob nob only to find out that there is only one hob nob and that one has gone all soft and dry and has lost the very essence that makes it the best biscuit, incredibly frustrating especially when you are trying to be good with your diet and will have to wait a couple more weeks to treat yourself. I hope you now understand the frustrations.

So in short I am back timings can improve but for now it is getting the distance in, one lap of Pitsford hurt a little bit next journey 8 miles.

Butterfly Release

As you all know one of the charities I am running for is Children are Butterflies, and since I last wrote my family and I attended their annual butterfly release, hosted at Ivy Cottage in Hollowell. The thinking behind this event is pretty awesome, Ann (Director of the charity) nurtures the butterflies herself from caterpillar to butterfly and handles them with care so in time they can be released in memory of families lost babies.

So the setting for this fantastic event was in a back garden and what a garden it was, semi-wild I believe it is referred to, abundant with wildlife and colour and treasured by the owners who from what I gather were inspired to do this for their grandchildren, some fantastic ideas have been implemented including painting up an old caravan based on the railway children story books and using it as a play house. If any one is into gardens then I recommend visiting on one of their open days

And so with the weather holding up for all the families in attendance it was time for the butterfly release, the names of each child read out and the families going up and holding a butterfly in their hands before releasing them into the wild, I think we were the last ones to go up and release our butterfly. I held the butterfly safely in my hands and went to release it, but my butterfly did not want to go straight off, it decided to land on my chest instead, I think it was Jasmine giving me a hug and acknowledging she knows she is always in my heart a real poignant moment for me

A special thanks to all at Children are Butterflies for arranging this event and long may it continue bringing some joy to bereaved parents

Big News

Today there was a big announcement, I can only presume Mo Farah heard I was doing the great north run and thought that man could do with some competition and so he and Gebrselasie have decided to enter in the race, more fool them sabotaging their careers coming up against me, I jest but hey how incredible is it to say that I have raced with these legends in what looks like it is going to arguably be the best Great North Run yet.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Weeks 26,27 & 28

The Great Man

Its been a few weeks since I last wrote a post, sometimes life just throws things at you that move you off course on the path you are travelling, normally that road is a bit quick sandy probably in the arctic, you just kind of freeze you move around a bit just for survival.

Since I last wrote sadly my wife's gramp Roy who I am proud to call my 3rd Granddad lost his fight to the big C, In the 3 years I have know him, I can honestly say I learnt a lot from him, firstly his attention to conversation, he always had something to ask you, and his strongest asset, something I would say he must have trained like a shaolin monk to learn was the art of listening. No matter how mundane the subject matter he always seemed interested, little things like how your working week was. I think anyone can make a conversation but only a few master it and he certainly did.

Since I started training for this run way back in January, he was one of my keenest supporters, having a passion for shoes it started from the moment I bought my 1st pair of aasics, he gave them the full inspection followed by the thumbs up seal of approval, always a good sign when a man who worked in shoes for such a long time approves, he would always ask for updates on how far I have run what my timing was like, and always safely encouraged me, Saying how well I was doing but to make sure I don't injure myself.

Well I tried not to injure myself but my legs just would not listen, I will really miss Gramps but I will use his energy and enthusiasm he had for life even at 90 years old, to do him and my daughter proud while they watch me from above

8 weeks to go

I can not believe that there is 8 weeks to go until I am lining up with 56,000 other runners as we set off on the 13.2 mile course. I think nerves are starting to kick in now, realistically I have 6 weeks of training to do, but with the shins showing no sign of retreat I have had to adopt a new regime this late on in the game, I am going to just focus on doing 1 long run a week and topping up my cardio with cross training, this seems to be the only choice I have at the minute, hopefully after a few long runs I will get back into the groove of things we will wait and see.

Since I last wrote the fundraising total has now surpassed the £500.00 mark I am overwhelmed by this, believe me it will make such a difference to the lives of bereaved parents

Right that is me done for now, stay safe

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Weeks 24 & 25

Rehab and Kinesio Tape

So I pick up where I left off, carrying on with attempting to cure these cursed shin splints. Over the last 2 weeks I have basically gone right back to basics, no running over 2 miles, with the clock ticking this is really really frustrating now and I am slightly getting nervous about the big event now.

The sessions I have been having with the sports therapist have been bearing some fruit, not quite your nice juicy fruit more baby fruit at this stage. I have loosened up all the joints around the ankle and the hip now which is good news and the treatment has stepped up with the usage of laser therapy and kinesio tape.

The results so far have lead to me running 2 miles feel comfortable not pain free, but a major difference it will be interesting to see how it holds up after a run of at least 6 miles. My goodness it is crazy how much I actually miss running that distance at a minimum. I have read a lot of doubt expresses about the use of kinesio tape but based on my experience I would recommend it to any one with a niggling injury they can not shift, if you are like me and you have hairy legs then removing the tape without it turning in to some sort waxing beauty treatment is a challenge in its self.

Hopefully with this treatment things will improve and I can up the distance again, a frustrated runner is not the kind of runner you want to see.


Sometimes visiting Jasmine's garden is one of the most relaxing places on earth a place that is good for your inner soul, then there are times where you realise you should not be here and actually the place is distressing. In the last 2 weeks they have started to build more gardens on a new row. Since Jasmine's funeral in October her row of neighbour's is now full there are 13 gardens in a row, this gives you a picture of just how many families are affected by child loss and each time a new garden is created a bit of your heart breaks for the other families. Nothing prepares you for the number of people effected and this is why I am running for the charities who will help to save lives. Once again I thank you all for your support so far.

Well that's me for the next 2 weeks, keep safe

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Weeks 22 & 23

Freak Toe

Well the frustration of the shin splints continued over the last 2 weeks, after the highs of getting a PB at the 10k bang the lows of the injury return. It seems that these shin splints are like hunger I can only keep them locked up til lunch.

I have decided that I need to get to the bottom of this so I have been to visit a sports therapist to sort me out, after an initial consultation it turns out I am a bit broken, too many sprained ankles in my youth seem to be a cause of the issue. This was pretty much expected what wasn't was his reaction to my big toe, The look on his face was incredibly puzzled as he struggled to get to terms with the fact I have a bend in it he even had to ask if it was a genetic trait that he has never seen before, turns out I am a freak toe! Plenty of training on them to sort it out.

I am hopeful that in the next two weeks I will be back out running pain free less than 90 days to go time is getting tight.

Fathers Day

This week for me has been one of the hardest since it all happened, the whole week leading up to fathers day, I was stressed out about it and probably my most emotional since christmas, I had never dreaded a day coming round quite so much, You just can not get past the fact that I should have been waking up and spending the day holding my little girl and showing her off.

You get this feeling every day but when it is a day special for fathers it really reinforces everything. The day came and quite how my wife managed to find a way to write a card I do not know, It must have taken some incredible strength for her to do that, it is one of her best qualities.

Well it turns out that Jasmine is pretty clever and managed to send a parcel to me through air mail I guess and boy does she know her daddy as what did I get oh yes a Thierry Henry Legend cup, perfect. A trip to the cemetery just me and my girl was to follow and in a way that not many people would understand a feeling of calm and peace flowed through me. The hour of me and my girl I will always remember and I feel blessed as a Father to have had that time with her.


To end this week a massive massive thank you, as I have now passed the original £400.00 target I set everyone's support has been incredible and heart warming,

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Weeks 20 & 21

Back on the run

2 weeks without running to some people may sound like a nice 2 weeks, no pain, no effort, no forcing yourself to push a few extra yards in the pouring rain, purely relax in the house watching Britain's got talent and the voice or something. There was a time when I would have whole heartedly agreed but 21 weeks on from when I started I can safely say I missed it quiet a lot.

It was so frustrating for the injury to follow so shortly after I had just managed to do 10 miles, 2 weeks worth of running was replaced by cycling on the exercise bike 20k at a time followed by a good weight session and ending with 30 minutes on the cross trainer, it is not quite the same even if it is useful to keep your fitness levels up.

So since returning from injury I am breaking back into it slowly for a couple of weeks and have managed two 2 mile runs so far, amazing to think that 12 weeks ago I would have been really happy to have managed that but now I know I have the distance in me it kind of feels like meh! This time it was a mixture of relief as I managed to complete it with no repercussions and some satisfaction knowing that I am back in the game, roll on Saturday lets see if I can manage at least 5 miles

2 pounds to go

Also in the last 2 weeks I had dropped 2lbs and am now just 2lbs off my goal weight of 13.6 stone which would equate to a 2 stone weight loss happy days

Well that's me done for this week short and sweet and don't forget you can sponsor me by visiting .My money giving page £13.00 off of my target now and with your kindness I would really really love to smash that figure out of the park, Take Care