I first discovered the Willow Foundation when they became the partnered charity for my employers, Red Letter Days.
Willow is the only national charity currently working with seriously ill young adults, aged between 16-40, in order to offer special days away from the day-to-day life that a serious illness brings.
Set up in 1999 by Bob Wilson OBE, former Arsenal goal keeper, and his Wife Megs the charity has fulfilled over 13,000 special days. For those faced with life threatening illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease and Huntington’s disease (to name a few), a “special day” offers the opportunity to return some normality to their lives; lifting spirits, allowing family time away from hospitals and giving that much-needed source of strength to get through the dark days.
I started getting involved with the charity, representing Red Letter Days, back in 2013 running my first ever 10k run at Hatfield House and raising £120 for the charity.
The following year I came back to run the race again – raising a further £180.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 I set up a new fundraising page for Willow as I decided, thanks to a new level of fitness, to run several events over the two years – including OCR races, Half Marathons and a multitude of 10k races (including Willow Warrior). During this period I raised £380.50, which I was incredibly proud of.
Then towards the end of 2016 I decided to enquire about charity spaces for the London Marathon. Having entered the ballot system I did not actually think anything would come of it. I received official notification in October that I did not get in from the London Marathon organisers and felt a sense of relief. Running a marathon is on the bucket list, however at the same time to train, run and complete it is something that is way beyond anything I could fathom. So for brief period the relief set in, until I got a call from Willow themselves a few days later. Happily informing me that I had received a charity place.
I have never felt more terrified in my life. Driving home that night I had mixed emotions; excited to be able to tick the London Marathon off my bucket list and fear. Fearing what was to come. The months of training and panicking about just one race. This is bigger than anything I have ever done before – and I have clocked up a lot of the last few years.
In the lead up to Christmas I kept telling myself the real works starts in January. And guess what – January is here and the Marathon consumes me. From food, to training, to fundraising – my thoughts throughout the day are mostly about the Marathon. These thoughts include “Am I running enough?” “How is ‘x’ running that many miles already?” “Why am I so tired?” “What should I be eating” and the most frequent thought – “How am I possibly going to run 26.2 miles.”
So, in the hope to raise more awareness for the charity and to help distract me from the thoughts going through my mind, I write this post as a plea.
A plea for all my friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances to dig deep. Sponsor me. Help me believe in myself and in doing so help me help make a difference.
I am running in memory of those who have been lost, for those who have lost loved ones and those who have battled or still battling at life threatening illness.
97 days and counting!
For Uncle “Rusty” – may you forever be with us.