30 Sep 2013

748.08 - 790.53KM: Bewareth! He may be after you! (Robin Hood Marathon)

Yesterday I ran my third marathon of the year so far (and ever), the Robin Hood Marathon around the streets of Nottingham. It also marked the end of the ninth month of my challenge and left me facing the final quarter of the year with just over 200km left to run. The race also confirmed my long held belief that I have the looks that appeal to both genders.

My preparation before each marathon this year seems to be getting steadily worse. First there was a dodgy airbed in London, then illness in Norfolk, before a week of lots of unwelcome stress, very little sleep and terrible eating this time around. I had 'tapered' as much as I could going in, but when I often use running as my mode of transport to work and with the two races last weekend I was not as 'fresh' as ideally I'd hoped to be. This shouldn't have been a problem though, as with another two marathons lined up within a month I was very much planning on taking it steady.

I had set myself a rough target of around 4 hours, but without looking at a pace chart beforehand I knew I would be very much 'winging' it. I had 8 minute miles in my head as the pace to start off at, but expected I would probably be dropping the pace off significantly sooner or later. I wouldn't have to wait long, almost instantly my legs felt very heavy and I knew I would have a long race ahead of me. Over the course of the first 5 or 6 miles some old running injuries began to tease a resurgence, first my hips began to play up for a few miles before then a sharp pain at the top of my knee plagued me for another. Thankfully I was able to 'run' these off, but for a brief period of time I thought the race was in jeopardy, having previously spent almost a year out being unable to run with undiagnosed hip issues.

Hot from Behind
Thankfully I would soon have something to take my mind off the pain as a fellow runner felt the need to tell me that I looked "hot from behind" and that he had essentially mistaken me for a woman. Had it been the first time it had ever happened it might have been funny, but truthfully I think I've probably been hit on by more guys than women. People often seem to look past my hairy legs and broad frame and just see a leggy blonde. Needless to say I soon picked up the pace to put some distance between myself and my new found admirer.

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to run another lap at the Shakespeare Half Marathon and run the full 26.2 miles, ultimately being only a week after the London Marathon my body made the decision for me and I stopped half way as originally planned. In hindsight I probably could have continued as when the cut off point came shortly after 11 miles on Sunday I felt much worse than I did back in April. Had I simply been out on a training run I would have thought about calling the run short, but instead I carried on hoping to find my second wind.

My "It's nearly over" face

Mentally the Half/Full Marathon split at 11 miles was horrible as I had to keep reminding myself that those two miles to reach the halfway point weren't the 14th and 15th miles. Between the Robin Hood Half Marathon and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest last year, then the Notts 10 Mile Road Race this year, I had at some point ran the majority of this route, which came in handy later on in the race. Whilst I didn't quite 'hit the wall' I could feel myself getting slower with each mile, until around the 20th mile when my pace began to drop a fair bit again. At this point it became a case of counting down each mile. Others around me at this point had taken the tactic of alternating between running and walking, frustrating to keep getting overtaken by.

On longer runs I always have an ongoing battle between taking in enough drink and gels and trying not to throw up. Yesterday's race was possibly the most successful I had ever been with balancing the two, but I was still massively dehydrated and knew I should have taken an extra gel. I'm sure the Chinese I had the night before didn't help either, but that has become somewhat of a family pre-race tradition. 

Placing orders

The last mile of the race seemed to go on forever. As you crossed the bridge you could see the finish line but then had to run at least half a mile in the wrong direction alongside the river before a quick 180 and back towards the finish. With just a few hundred metres to go I spotted my family in the crowd and after making a quick request for an ice cream carried on to the finish line, before crossing just a few minutes over my 4 hour target.

This morning I felt surprisingly mobile. My hips are sore, there is the usual aches and pains, a nice conjoined blister on my big toe and some chaffing in a rather unspeakable area, but I still expected to be a little worse off. A few horrific sessions on the foam roller, a couple of protein shakes and some stretching and I'll be ready and raring to go again by the weekend. Maybe.

I realised on the train to Nottingham that I had missed the cut off point for registration for the Mablethorpe Marathon, meaning that the two marathons I run next month would have to be the Spires & Steeples and Yorkshire Marathon instead. It gives me a weeks rest and means I will be running 3 marathons in 4 weeks instead of potentially 4 in 4. Annoying, but it would have potentially been very risky at this stage to push that hard beyond my comfort zone. 

Not mental, rather just reacting to a VERY loud speaker

After some quick calculations earlier today I worked out that after running a 10K, the two marathons and the Great South Run, by the end of next month I will have reached 900km with two months to go. Running multiple races in a day and three in a weekend has meant that I am ahead of schedule at this stage and wouldn't need to run the 6 marathons to reach my target. I still will though, I'm hoping to keep up momentum and see how high a target I can reach at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how close I can come to the 1000km total without counting the solo runs. My secondary, unofficial target this year of running 52 races is looking slightly out of reach at this stage. So far I have ran 38 races in 39 weeks, but those few cancelled races earlier in the year could prove to be costly. 

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 42.45km | 26.38 miles
Time: 04:02:55
Official Time: 04:03:38
Average Pace: 05:43 min/km | 9:13 min/mi
Playlist: Deaf Havana
Goody Bag: Medal, Bottle of Water, Lucozade, Banana, Mars Bar, Lucozade Recovery Bar & Eat Natural Bar


View my run:

24 Sep 2013

729.92 - 748.08KM: The Art of 'Forrest Gumping' (Sandringham 10K & Hunstanton Beach Run 10K)

Yep I've done it again. Not content with running two races in a day once, or even twice this year, yesterday I decided to push myself close to burning out a week before the Nottingham Marathon by running two 10K races a matter of hours apart. That wasn't all though, as the weekend also featured lots and lots of cake as I held my second Bake Sale of the year as part of National Eczema Week.

First and foremost though the weekend started with a Bake Sale at ASDA Living in Lincoln as the culmination of my National Eczema Week celebrations. I had planned to publish either a new post or republish an existing post every day of the week, but after starting well I ultimately ran out of steam and time. I am close to finishing two of these posts, including one on the topic of my life as a Caregiver and how I basically don't have time to do anything (including finishing the post on the subject) and will share them both in due course this week.

Back to the subject of cake, it was the second Bake Sale I've hosted this year, and ever, after one back in May. This time round it was just Jenny and myself running, after our friend Hannah wasn't well enough to make the trip down, meaning that we both had a lot of baking to do. Much of our weekday evenings were spent baking things in preparation, on Friday we were both slaving away in the Kitchen until gone midnight and then up again at 7am icing the cakes. At 10:30, with our eyes barely propped open we were set up and ready to sell, and try not to eat, all the cake.

Tired, but ready for the cake frenzy
When I said that Jenny and myself baked all of the cakes that wasn't quite true, one of Jenny's colleagues donated some cupcakes and scones and after the initial rush had died down I rushed across to Bunty's Tea Rooms to pick up a massive Gluten Free Carrot Cake they donated. In total we raised a fantastic £136.79, once again well above our expectations, so if you bought a cake and are reading this 'Thank You'.

After getting home from the bake sale I had enough time to quickly wash up a small fraction of the mess we had made in the past couple of days before grabbing my running stuff and heading back home to Norfolk for this week's races. As of Friday morning I had no race lined up for the weekend, instead I left it until the last minute to make the decision, waiting to see which plans fell into place, having a backup plan of entering a race in Lincolnshire if I wasn't able to make it back to Norfolk. Thankfully my Dad responded to the bat-signal and picked me up on Saturday evening so I could run the localist of local races.

729.92 - 739.92KM: Sandringham 10K

Having secured transport back to Norfolk I signed up for the first race, the Sandringham 10K, in advance but in trying to register online for the second I found out that the online registration had closed and that the on the day registration would open at the same time the first race started. This then left me with a bit of a dilemma for a few hours as I wondered whether or not I would be able to sign up for both races. Though thankfully I managed to get in touch with the race organiser and after explaining the situation he said that even if there was only 5 minutes to spare I should be able to enter the race. Panic over.

Creatures in the Queen's Back Garden
With this worry over, I lined up at the start of the race relaxed and ready for a relatively comfortable 10K run. Having ran the race the year before I was mildly familiar with the route, so knew it would be two laps, but I had forgotten the finer details so it almost felt like a new race. The majority of the race took place through woodland, either on a concrete or dirt path, with a small uphill section on the road. Last year when I ran this race that uphill section stuck out as particularly tough, in hindsight this year it was a breeze and was barely an incline compared to some of my races this year.

Even when I'm taking it steady I still try and run 10Ks in around 45 minutes, so when I crossed the line 10 seconds over this I was happy enough. I pushed it a little harder than I should have done bearing in mind the second race barely an hour later on sand and this weekend's marathon, but I wasn't feeling too bad afterwards.

After crossing the line I waited a few minutes for my dad to finish before we then both jumped in the car and headed up to Hunstanton for my second race of the day, the Hunstanton Beach Run 10K. After Jenny suffered a suspected mini stroke last month it was a race I was desperate to do as it raised money for the Stroke Association.

Distance: 10.00km | 6.2 miles
Time: 00:45:10
Official Time: N/A
Average Pace: 04:31 min/km | 07:16 min/mi
Playlist: N/A
Goody Bag: Bottle of Water & Banana


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739.92 - 748.08KM: Hunstanton Beach Run 10K

A wet start
When I got to the race and saw the start line pointing in the direction of the sea I began to regret not packing my armbands. Any fears I had about the course were soon allayed as I overheard someone who had run the race last year explain the route to another runner. It began with a sharp right turn towards Hunstanton's iconic Red & White cliffs for about half a kilometer before then turning round and heading towards Heacham. At the beginning of the year I never anticipated running a race in my hometown village, so I was glad to take this challenge as close to home as I possibly could. I've ran across the beach a few times before, admittedly not as often as I might of if I still lived there now, so it was a route I knew very well.

The tide had not long gone out by the time the race started so it was to be a very wet and messy race. Being my second race of the day and just under a week before the Nottingham Marathon I was not in the mood to run at any kind of reckless pace. At the same time I never feel comfortable taking it too steady in races, and found myself in the front three briefly without realising. There was two distinct routes to take, either round or over the groynes. I chose to vary my route opting to jump over the groynes when the sand on the outside of them was too soft and wet, or round them when the groynes were too high to vault. This led to some consistent zig-zagging between both options as I opted for the safest route.

As I reached the second turnaround point at Heacham I soon realised that the route seemed to be measuring a little short. When the finish line came into sight my watched had barely ticked over 5 miles, so I was expecting the marshals to tell us to continue on to the first turnaround point, instead they were waving us across to the finish. With an almost dead straight out and back course it would have been difficult to run a shorter route if I tried, let alone by accident, so I'm fairly certain that we were supposed to continue on to the cliffs again.

Very dirty
When I began planning the year out I worked out roughly which number of races (and distances) I would need to run to reach the 1000km target. I always expect there to be a little discrepancy between the advertised distance of the race and the distance measured on my watch, due to (not) taking the racing line, nipping across to the side of the road for a sneaky pee or simple old-fashioned inaccurate measuring. Yet numerous times this year there has been races where I've crossed the line short of the supposed distance, forcing me to coin the term 'Forrest Gumping', where I continue running once I've crossed the finish line to get my watch to measure the full distance, much to some people's bemusement.

Most of the time I've only needed to run an extra 100 of metres or so, but the second race on Sunday measured over a mile short, making it a slightly long 5 mile race, rather than a short 10K. As it was over a mile short, I opted against adding that distance on myself and just took the 5 miles as my total. Annoying, but it was a bonus run in sorts anyway, so it all adds up.

Finally, this week I began thinking about next year and what I'll be putting my body through. Common sense would probably say that I should put my feet up for a little bit as I'll have earned the rest, at the same time I vowed to keep running until Jenny was 'cured' and I have some plans fermenting in the back of my mind. All I can say is watch this space as common sense very rarely wins out with me.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 8.16km | 5.07 miles
Time: 00:41:49
Official Time: 00:41:44
Average Pace: 05:07 min/km | 08:15 min/mi
Playlist: N/A
Goody Bag: Medal, Bottle of Water & McVitie's Medley Bar


View my run:

18 Sep 2013

National Eczema Week: Adult Atopic Eczema

This week is National Eczema Week (14th September - 22nd September). To mark the occasion I will be posting a series of posts every day of the week, either from myself or from my partner JennyToday's post is from Jenny's blog earlier in the year when she talked about the difficulties dealing with eczema as an adult when it is often considered to be only a childhood condition.

Adult Atopic Eczema (originally posted on 9th March)

As an adult sufferer of severe chronic eczema it's often hard to feel accepted and to know that other people are suffering the exact same thing due to the fact that most people's view of eczema is only from knowing it in its mild form. From having that stand point, I find many people don't really understand just what people like myself are going through on a daily basis. I've had a number of people congratulate me on creating this blog because they have finally found someone who is going through the same thing as they are. This is of course great as it means that I've had people to chat about the various highs and lows, what medications to use, how they cope etc.

Of course we have fantastic resources such as the National Eczema Society to go to, but sometimes it's nice to know that real people understand your woes and your need to get better to fulfill what could be considered a normal life. Not only this, but I believe that being honest and open about conditions, like I have with including images of my skin on a daily basis, and divulging the facts of how I have been forced to adapt and cope is also helpful in spreading awareness and even to act as a hub of information for other sufferers to gain some form of solace from.

I find many websites and even health services are more aimed towards children with atopic eczema and what parents should be doing etc. Where are the websites and services for those who have adult eczema? Eczema that only became a severe form in adulthood? OK, I understand that as an adult I don't need creams to be applied and that kind of thing (well sometimes I do if it's somewhere I can't quite reach but I seem to be a lot more flexible now!) but I still suffer from the other associated things. I cry when it is too much to bare in terms of itchiness and soreness, I do get embarrassed about it when people stare and say things, I need to have many tasks performed for me in fear of exacerbating my condition and making it worse. When I'm in such a state I feel like an invalid. I need to be constantly reminded not to scratch and even have force used against me if I'm undergoing a mad scratching frenzy.

As an adult, I feel we need more support than ever. Being a child you're under the care of your parent who pays for you to live; they pay the bills, ensure food is on the table and all those sorts of things that a child wouldn't ever have to even contemplate because they are exempt from the grown up world. An adult with atopic eczema will have such a hard time, especially if others are misinformed of their condition. I have been very lucky that work understand to a degree that when I'm bad, I can't come in to work, but that doesn't mean that things like my end of year bonus and my sickness record aren't affected by my inability to go in to work. It's these little consequences that annoy me as generally I will find myself unable to work on the days that work falls, and by the time I've recovered enough it hasn't even been a week and so I lose out on sick pay. Money that is necessary to fund my existence.

You may be wondering why I haven't applied for benefits if this is the case. Well, in actual fact I have. But because Shane is working we aren't entitled to anything. We have to live in the house we live in because it is modern, clean and large enough to fit in our possessions. But houses like this come with a higher price tag which we frequently struggle with some months. Don't worry our bills are always paid on time but working in an overdraft every month isn't exactly ideal.

If I didn't have Shane to support me I'm not sure how I would cope and I know there are many sufferers out there who don't have partners to support them. It is for this reason I feel that adult eczema should be more recognised. As I've said before, eczema isn't always a little bit of itchy skin that can be remedied, it can be so much worse; a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly battle of trying to control and regulate. The skin is the bodies largest organ, so just take a moment to take in the fact that someone who is suffering quite literally from head to toe is going through a very tough time.


17 Sep 2013

National Eczema Week: What if everything you thought you knew was a lie?

This week is National Eczema Week (14th September - 22nd September). To mark the occasion I will be posting a series of posts every day of the week, either from myself or from my partner Jenny. Today's post is from a new one from myself on the subject of Red Skin Syndrome and how sometimes the correct answer might just be the simplest one.

What if I told you everything you thought you knew was a lie? That North was South, green was actually a slightly purply colour, Mullets were terrible haircuts and that the medication you have been using to treat a condition has in fact made you worse and forced you to develop a worse condition that what it was being used to treat.

You would be confused and frustrated right?

3 and a half years of Wild Goose Chases
The above photo was taken by Jenny on her latest Dermatology appointment, it represents just three and a half years of hundreds of hospital appointments, test results and general notes since she moved to Lincoln. In just three and a half years of living here she has managed to have a file big enough to hold open most doors. Yet despite the supposed wealth of information between those folders whilst Jenny has been living in Lincoln her condition has got much worse, rather than better. Diagnosis' have been made, medication of increasing strengths prescribed but whilst things may improve for a brief period of time, the symptoms would soon come back and often much worse.

As with most things in life there comes a breaking point where something happens that either pushes you over the edge or forces you into action. I've mentioned this plenty of times in previous posts before, but this whole fundraising effort this year was born out of such a moment, when we had both reached, what we thought at the time, was an all time low with her health. At the beginning of the year I convinced Jenny to start blogging about her condition, to help me with my quest to raise awareness this year but also to help herself and others like her.

The response was almost immediate, friends who had no idea of the true extent of her condition were taken aback and more importantly, strangers reached out to her as they realised that they weren't alone. As the weeks went on one term seemed to crop up again and again from readers, 'Red Skin Syndrome', until it eventually became deafening. In short the suggestion from numerous readers was that the condition that Jenny was suffering from wasn't Adult Atopic Eczema, but rather 'Topical Steroid Addiction', meaning that her skin was addicted to the very creams she had been liberally applying in a quest to get better. I guess one way of looking at it is to think of it as the medical equivalent of painting over a crack in the wall. Sure, the crack will 'disappear', but it's not actually fixing the problem and it will continue to get worse until it is much, much more difficult to fix. The solution was to simply stop applying these creams and then with time you would be 'cured'. This seemed like being handed a 'golden ticket', after years of suffering could the answer really be that simple?

Not quite. The 'withdrawal' process that all those who stop using steroid creams go through is horrific and can last anything from a few months to a couple of years. When we first came across the term we spent hours looking through some of the sufferer's blogs both shocked at the pain that the people were going through and comforted by the fact that without fail they all described the same set of symptoms which matched up to Jenny's. The recurrent symptoms that we found included: red burning skin, intense itching, dry flaking skin, oozing skin, rashes/hives, difficulty regulating body temperature, exhaustion, insomnia, loss of appetite.

To find out a more about 'Red Skin Syndrome' including the science behind it, how to spot symptoms and the 'treatment' check out the brilliant video below.

Or for a more relaxed, Northern and comedic approach watch Jo's (Miss Kitty Fantastico) video on the history of her condition and treatment below.

Without even trying to dig too hard I was able to create a list of the following red skin bloggers:  PinklikeabeaconA Little ItchyTopical Steroid Withdrawal (Juliana)Topical Steroid Withdrawal (Louise UK)Topical Steroid Withdrawal // Red Skin SyndomeStopping Topical SteroidsGet thee hence EczemaLiving With EczemaRed Skin Recovery DiaryThe Open DoorSkin of RoseA Steroid Free LifeNo More SteroidsMiss Kitty Fantastico Defeats EczemaSteroid Free SkinHealing the RedJourney to Curing EczemaAnd the Earth ShookEczema ExcellenceGoing Natural MumEczemancipatedTomato Skin GirlTSW JourneyThe Boy, the Greek Fire and meLaleizelEczema or NotBoy vs SelfTopical Steroid Withdrawal JourneySteroid Cream Withdrawal35 Years of HellItchy, Red and MiserableThis Itchy LifeEczema in Hong KongEczema StrugglesElizabethssiteEczema HealingScratchy MonsterTopical Steroid Addiction and CureTopical Steroid Withdrawal Sucks and Curing Red Skin Syndrome.

If so many people are willing to put themselves through such pain you'd like to think that there is something to it, at the very least it shows the desperate situation that many eczema sufferer's find themselves in to even entertain such a radical treatment. Earlier in the year we decided we had enough evidence to begin the 'withdrawal' process, Jenny's health wasn't getting any better after exhausting all other types of treatment and medication it seemed like the only thing left to try. The decision was met with some scepticism from friends and family as it goes against the 'expert knowledge' of the vast majority of dermatologists out there but in truth it really felt like we had no choice.

"Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist."

Over the past few months I have come across some (un)healthy scepticism about the motivations of doctors and the mysterious 'financed by corticosteroid company(ies)' shaped shadow hanging over them, but this is something I'm neither prepared or educated enough about the situation to pass comment on. Maybe it is because I'm an idealist but I'd like to dismiss such 'crazy talk' as just that, but in truth I am also as cynical as they come.

I can't help but get angry when I read about how doctor's choose to specialise in the dermatology, not because they have a genuine interest in the subject, but because of the perk's of more time off or better pay, even if it means specialising in something that 'isn't important'. There I go, getting all angry and cynical when I said I wouldn't.

Jenny's decision to stop using steroid creams and go against the advice of her dermatologist was naturally a bit of a confrontational issue at her hospital appointments. In fairness I imagine there is nothing more frustrating for a doctor than the patient trying to over diagnose themselves, when true answer is much simpler. Also for a dermatologist to be told that the reason that their patients are ill and/or getting worse is because of their incorrect diagnosis must be hard to take, and I imagine that is why so many seem unwilling to listen. It can't be easy to be told that you are the reason someone has been going through years of suffering. Telling a dermatologist that their 'magical steroid creams' aren't actually able to make their patients better but are the sole reason they are getting worse is akin to the reaction when Christopher Columbus claimed the world was round*.

*OK, OK, I know the proof that that actually happened is flaky at best (non-intended eczema joke), but I'm making an analogy here so bear with me.

Even though Jenny went armed to her dermatology appointments with the published papers from Dr. Rapaport, the Doctor who termed the condition 'Red Skin Syndrome', these were dismissed outright without even bothering to read them. When Jenny even suggested checking the blog that she had been writing for the majority of the year, or even those from other fellow sufferers it was disregarded as the Doctor didn't like using computers.

As someone who has heavily integrated technology into their life it always confuses me when others are so unwilling to embrace technology into their life, it is however completely acceptable. However when a doctor almost outright refuses to use technology when their job pretty much demands it, I find that very frustrating. If all doctors had the same approach to technology and trying out 'radical' new treatment ideas we would still be drilling holes in people's heads.

Got a headache?
How about I drill a hole into your skull to make you feel better?
Something I feel that doctors almost seem to forget how much patients with a chronic illness rely on them for just that little bit of hope and how they can hang on their every word. As I've said I don't envy the difficulty of the jobs that doctors face on a daily basis, but, and probably simply because of how often Jenny has to go to hospital or the doctors, the number of times she has had some laughable and at times shocking experiences is crazy with misdiagnosis.

Personally I'm still a little bit sceptical about 'Red Skin Syndrome', there is always the danger of convincing yourself that something makes sense because you are desperate for it to. After years of numerous different diagnosis's, cycles of different medication and scores of hospital trips, we are both just desperate for any hint of a cure, no matter what it actually means.

It would be devastating to put so much emotional investment into a cure that could turn out to not exist, so for the sake of coping with the situation afterwards should after months or years of suffering Jenny's health not improve I have to remain slightly sceptical.

16 Sep 2013

708.64 - 729.92KM: The Greatest Half Marathon in the World? (Great North Run)

September was always due to be a big month for me this year, not just because it features Jenny's birthday and National Eczema Week but also because it sees me enter some high profile races as marathon season began to return. After breaking an 11 week streak of races every weekend how else would I mark the occasion of my 35th race of the year than the biggest and 'best' Half Marathon in the World, the Great North Run?

I mentioned in my previous post about how last weekend I was suffering with what I was hoping at the time would only be a brief cold. This however continued into the next week and along with a stress induced tension headache, complete with random nosebleeds on Tuesday, meant that when the weekend came I wasn't feeling as fresh as I had hoped.

The forecast before the race wasn't pretty; with torrential rain, low temperatures and 40 m.p.h. winds it's safe to say I was a little bit anxious about the weather on Sunday. The signs were there the day before as we were heading up the A1, once we passed Junction 49 the weather changed and started to get a bit 'grim' up North.

The North/South Divide
Going 'home' for the weekend was a big deal for Jenny, her health has hardly been good recently so it was never 100% certain whether or not she would be able to make the trip. Obviously being her birthday meant that she would be much more determined to get home, but with essentially being allergic to her mum's house and after only being able to last make the trip up North 4 months ago it always felt like it would be a case of being a flying visit if anything. Fortunately I am pleased to say that there was no significant reaction, whether this is simply luck or because her allergies are decreasing is unclear.

After taking to the roads of Lincolnshire on my own last weekend for my first Solo Run in 12 weeks, the 56,000 or so fellow runners I would have with me on Sunday would be a stark contrast. I didn't realise it at the time, but to try and give you an idea of the scale, the London Marathon, the largest Marathon in the World has around 20,000 less competitors. Despite being in Zone B, the furthest forward general entry participants could hope to be, behind the 'proper' runners and the 'celebrities', it still took me a good four minutes to cross the line. 

The Biggest Half Marathon in the World
I had no plan in place for how I was going to run the race, but once the race started I found myself keeping pace with those around me, so my legs had obviously decided they wanted a good workout. As ridiculous as it sounds I knew little of the course beforehand other than I would be running across the Tyne bridge, something I was a little apprehensive about. I make no secret of my fear of heights, or rather my fear of falling from them, crossing a bridge in a car is normally bad enough, so naturally running across it increases this fear exponentially. At London I had the same issue and almost ended up sprinting across Tower Bridge to get across it as fast as possible. As I crossed the Tyne bridge on Sunday the images of me falling off it 'Final Destination' style flashed in my mind more than once. Yes I know, I'm ridiculous.

Around the fourth or fifth mile I began to feel a little rough and ended up throwing up a couple of times, not for the first time this year. Was it my breakfast? Probably. I'm sure a can of Relentless and a Mars bar wasn't what Mo Farah had in the morning but I'm also sure the illness I have been carrying for the past week or so also had a big part to play. This then naturally had a big knock on effect for the rest of the race, I was reluctant to take in any more fluid or a gel as my stomach felt on the edge at all times. At various points I felt like I needed to step to the side of the road and sort out the disagreement I had with my stomach, but naturally I saw I was on for a good time, so tried to 'power' through it.

Breakfast of Champions?

As I came down the hill towards the coast for the final mile, I encountered the infamous winds that I had been anticipating for the entire race. This wasn't enough to stop my final push for a PB as as soon as the sea came into view I received the final needed boost to get me to the finish line. Conditions aside I knew it would be difficult to get a PB in the run as with each mile I could see the course measure 0.10 - 0.20 miles longer than my watch. I kept an eye on my watch as I edged closer to the finish and saw that when my watch measured 13.1 miles I had set a new (for distance) PB by 3 seconds before ending crossing the line with an official time of 1:37:39.

There was a huge sense of relief when I crossed the line, despite vowing to start approaching races sensibly a few weeks a go, yesterday's race was a very much impromptu attempt at a PB. Given my diet of fizzy drinks, cake and pizza the few days beforehand, illness and generally rubbish weather conditions shooting for a PB was perhaps a little unrealistic, but it's good to know that without much effort I could probably at least shave a few seconds of the time set in Sheffield. After the race I shuffled along in the cold to collect my medal and goody bag before then diving (or rather falling) into the car to warm up.

Standing still in the car park
Now for the really bad. The car park situation at the end was nothing short of diabolical. I had been warned prior to the race to expect queues, the signs at the car park advised runners to avoid leaving at 'peak times' (between 1400 - 1600), which we did. We were sat in a queue not moving for 30 minutes before this 'peak time' started and then continued to sit in said queue for another hour and a half moving at a rate of a car's length ever 20 or so minutes. Gradually more and more car's started to jump the queue and drive round to the front, until eventually one driver decided to make his own exit and moved some barriers to allow access to the road. Cue mayhem and hordes of cars shooting across from every possible direction, a horde we were unashamedly a part of. Had that one guy not decided to make his own exit, we'd probably still be sat in that queue now.

If after 33 years of running the event the best solution they could come up with to ease the congestion of runners trying to leave is to appear to have no organisation at all, then I worry what the alternative would be. On top of all that, to pay £5 for the privilege of being sat in such a queue is shocking. In fairness the weather didn't help the situation, had it been a nice sunny day I'm sure less people would've been in such a hurry to leave, but it shouldn't take me less time to run the 13.1 mile race than it does to try and get out of the car park.

Finally, this week is National Eczema Week (14th - 22nd September), every day I will be sharing a post from either myself or Jenny on her condition, take a look down for the previous posts. The big feature of this week though will be the Bake Sale I'm hosting on the 21st at ASDA Living in Lincoln, where I plan to have dairy and gluten free bakes, alongside what people would consider the 'normal' stuff. So if you're in and around Lincoln this weekend, please pay us a visit. We will also be very grateful of anyone willing to bake some cakes for us to sell, if you are interested feel free to get in touch.

As always, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can and please share news of what I am doing with others.

Distance: 21.28km | 13.22 miles
Time: 01:37:39
Official Time: 01:37:39
Average Pace: 04:35 min/km | 7:23 min/mi
Playlist: Masterplan
Goody Bag: T-Shirt, Medal, Powerade, Bottle of Water


National Eczema Week: Giving Up Is For Life - Not Just For Lent (Guest Post)

This week is National Eczema Week (14th September - 22nd September). To mark the occasion I will be posting a series of posts every day of the week, either from myself or from my partner Jenny. Today's post is from Jenny's blog earlier in the year when she talked about the impact her condition has had on her life and the things she has had to give up because of it.

Giving Up Is For Life - Not Just For Lent (originally posted on 16th February)

My friend Hannah found herself inspired by my blog and recently created her own to raise awareness to chronic illnesses in general, and to discuss her own conditions. You can find her here: http://theretiredbridgeburner.blogspot.co.uk/

She made a post yesterday talking about the things that she has had to give up doing or have restricted her from being able to do. Instead of writing a comment, I thought I would talk about things that have impacted my own life from having severe eczema.



This is one of the things that has affected me the most, and is especially bad during periods where I'm at my worst. It's also these times when you find out who your real friends are as when you're on your own for what feels seems like a constant basis you become incredibly lonely and this can be self destructive if you let it be. A simple "how are you today?" suffices, as although you know you'll probably not be alright, having someone asking means the world, as it means they're thinking about you.

Akin to this, when I am at my worst and unable to leave the house but have made plans for certain events, having to cancel can be excruciating. It causes worry on my behalf that I'm letting the other people down, which in turn makes me worse, but if I do go to these events when I am experiencing a flare I know that it will cost me days to repair myself again.

Since having become allergic to fur bearing animals this can also be difficult as well as it means I am unable to go to other people's houses for fear that I will suffer a severe allergic reaction. Many people don't seem to consider the idea that I may require hospitalisation if a reaction was to occur and so I tend to have to skip events or ask for a more neutral setting which can cause unnecessary stress on both parts. It's also a real shame because I love animals, especially cats :(


I've never been big on exercise but having heat induced urticaria has made it so much worse. Even walking around can be difficult, especially if I need to go up a hill. (I'm looking at you Lincoln Steep Hill!) Even swimming, which I used to do a hell of a lot of as a child, is out of the question as the chlorine affects my skin something chronic. It actually feels as though I'm having acid chucked at me and the drying-out of the skin affect is tenfold. Not ideal.

Going to Gigs/ Festivals

This is another one that saddens me. I used to give my all, sing and dance along to my faves like a complete loon, often while getting drunk. This just can't happen any more. Gigs are such hot and sweaty environments as it is without adding extra annoyances to my skin. So nowadays I tend to be selective of the gigs I do attend. Not just because of the effects on my skin, but also the driving factor... I get so tired, not necessarily because of the medication I take, but because of the level of bad health I have anyway.

Festivals are also a complete no-go for me now. Or at least the camping side of them. I've been attending Bloodstock Open Air since 2006 with 3 of the years being bearably fine to not have a shower everyday. Since my eczema took hold I can't even go a single day without washing the build up of skin and such off my body. I was fortunate to find a cafe nearby that offered a shower, albeit a rather disgusting shower, but it was still a step up from the portable ones at the festival. The lady who worked in the cafe was completely understanding about my condition and allowed me to have my showers for free. She is a complete sweetheart and I always attempt to pay her a visit for a nice cooked breakfast!

It's not just the shower aspect that does me in, it's the heat and humidity of the tent that also messes me up and the fact that I can't stick to strict routines with my skin. I mean, it takes me hours to get ready when I'm bad anyway so to add all the festival factors into the mix just isn't possible.

I now stay in a hotel.


I find intimacy to play a huge part with my skin. The heat of another person, even just sharing a bed with me is often too much to bare. Luckily we now live in a large enough house that if I am having a bad turn, which seems to be at least once a week right now, then Shane has somewhere else to sleep.


When I was younger I was pretty manic. I woke up at 6am every day, went to college for 9am, picking friends up on the way, where I did an intense Foundation Art course, finished at 4:30pm, and worked until 10pm most nights of the week. Now I'm lucky if I can get through a 6hr shift at work. It really saddens me that I'll probably never be able to carry out a full-time roll again as I'm not one to want to sit on my backside day in, day out. I want to be out there making my own pennies, getting the most from life... but it just isn't meant to be :(

What I Can Wear

Back in't day I used to be somewhat of a Goth. I used to frequent corsets and long floaty skirts, adorned in black and dark colours. I had black hair and a face full of make up. I miss that version of me. I was a shy girl but my clothes didn't say that at all. Ah well.

Nowadays, although I still have something of a penchant for black clothes I tend to avoid them unless I'm having a good skin day because the skin dandruff can be pretty damn embarrassing. I also find that I can't wear scarves or necklaces because they irritate my neck something chronic. Annoying because I have a massive collection of gorgeous necklaces that I just stare at in wonder and lust! I also have to avoid light or pastelly colours generally as these also highlight my condition which is annoying because they'd mask the dandruff!

I also can't wear much make-up any more. Liquid liner and eye shadows are certainly out of the question as they now cause burning and weeping of my eyelids. Foundation just clings to the flakes and exacerbates the situation so that is also a no-go plus I think it is better for the skin to breathe. Nowadays I will wear mascara, brow pencil and a teeny bit of eyeliner at the edges of my eyes, but even then sometimes I can't do that either.


I absolutely love crafting. I have so many creative ideas that I'd love to carry out but can't. I have an entire room dedicated to crafts in the hope that one day I will be well enough to do stuff. When I am experiencing a flare up crafting tends to make it worse. Doesn't matter what I do, it just causes me to flare. So sad as I have dreams of creating a business fueled by handmade goodies... Definitely still just a dream :(


My dermatologist actually wrote me out a certificate last June to say that I am unable to carry out household cleaning. As you can imagine everyone has been wanting to photocopy that and put in their own name. But the things is, I would clean if I could. Hell, my first job was cleaning my school for nearly 3 years! My allergies to dust are so severe that it brings me out instantly. Recently I've had to stop hoovering because it has created more dust settlement.


This one also takes it out of me probably due to the stress of the situation. It can take me days to recover. I'd love to go to America but I honestly don't know if I could do it without scratching myself to death by the time I got there. Similarly, hot countries are out of the question because of the heat induced urticaria. It often annoys me when people say they're dreaming of sun bathing on a beach in *please insert hot country of choice* because I know that would actually be my worst nightmare.


Wow. This post ended up being incredibly more lengthy than was intended but hopefully it gives more of an understanding as to why I can't do certain things. If anyone needs more of an explanation I'm more than willing to give it. You can also see how my condition has completely warped my identity, who I was, and the steps I have had to take just to cope, and why I am how I am now.

If you're an eczema sufferer what things have you had to give up?


15 Sep 2013

National Eczema Week: It's eczema Jim, but not as we know it

This week is National Eczema Week (14th September - 22nd September). To mark the occasion I will be posting a series of posts every day of the week, either from myself or from my partner Jenny. Today's post is my 'It's Eczema Jim, but not as we know it' post, where I tried to explain how there is much more to eczema than many people realise and how Jenny is (un)lucky enough to have experienced most of it's different forms.

Living with Eczema (originally posted on 8th July)

When I set out this year to run 1000km for the National Eczema Society, I also intended to help raise awareness of an often misunderstood disease. Jenny has done a fantastic job at this herself with her blog, I Have Eczema, which she started in January to give people a personal view on what it is like to suffer with the condition. Her blog has been met with an unbelievable response, with tens of thousands of views from all across the world.

So far this year I have more than lived up to the running side of the pledge, but I feel I have done little to try and raise awareness, this post is very much an attempt to rectify that. 

Four years ago, before I met Jenny, I like many thought I had a fairly good understanding of what Eczema was. It was a mild skin condition that gives you red, itchy wrists. My eyes were soon opened to the extent of the condition however, and I have since learnt of the truly debilitating effects that it can have on day to day life.

First off, I never realised that eczema was a branching term of a number of different skin conditions, all of which share many of the same symptoms. Jenny suffers from many different forms of eczema including, atopic dermatitis, sebhorreic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, neurodermatitis and dishidrotic eczema, alongside urticaria, multiple allergies, asthma and hayfever.

Atopic dermatitis: the most common form of eczema that tends to run in families. Common symptoms include dry, inflamed, red and itchy skin that when scratched can easily become infected. 

Sebhorreic dermatitis: a condition which causes red, itchy, flaky and scaly skin that affects the head, face and torso. In severe cases it can also lead to hair loss.


Contact dermatitis: an inflammation of the skin caused by the skin coming into contact with a certain substance. The skin will become itchy, red and at times dry and cracked. 

Neurodermatitis: a condition that creates an intense, unreachable itch. This inevitably creates an almost escapable itch-scratch-itch cycle, once the skin is scratched, the intensity of the itch increases. The scratching then potential leads to red, broken skin.

Dyshidrotic: a blistering rash, that appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet (looks like tapioca)

Jenny hasn't quite got the full collection, there a several common forms of eczema such as discoid, gravitational and asteatotic, as well as some rarer variations which she has been fortunate enough to have been free from. 

The combination of all these different conditions requires an extensive treatment and management routine. Currently on a daily basis Jenny uses Epaderm, Hydroxyzine, Fexofenadine, Chlorphenamine, White soft paraffin, Singulair, Ventolin and Aciclovir. The photo below was taken several months ago, but is a good representation of the amount of medication on hand.

The list of treatments that she has tried is even more extensive: steroid creams (in varying strengths), emollients, wet wraps, antihistamines, Protopic, Patch testing, IgE testing, Thrush cream, immunosuppressants inc; Ciclosporin, Azathioprine, Mycophenolate Motefil, Methotrexate, Singulair, light treatment, oral steroids, antibiotics, anti-scratch mittens, salicylate diet, chromate diet, avoidance, hypnotherapy and many others.

These medications can cause a whole host of different problems however. In the past year Jenny has contracted Eczema Herpeticum seven times as a result of her severely weakened immune system. Eczema Herpeticum is caused by the same virus that causes coldsores, that spreads through infected eczema and if left untreated can lead to organ failure. 

Her most recent bout was little over a month ago and was the most severe yet. What started as a slightly red eye on Saturday had spread to cover her entire face by the evening, until she was admitted to hospital on the Sunday where she remained until Friday.

Since I began this 1000km challenge and we both began to engage with the online chronic illness and eczema communities more, we discovered 'Red Skin Syndrome' and the fact that Jenny's suffering may not be the cause of her eczema, but rather the medication she is using to treat it.

Red Skin Syndrome is caused by an addiction to topical steroids, prescribed to rid the patient of their eczema. As the creams are applied they appear to work for a period of time before the eczema comes back, and more and more steroid creams are prescribed of increasing strength, until the patient's skin becomes addicted. The condition was discovered by Dr. Rapaport and is supported by just a handful of physicians across the globe, which begs the question as to why few seem open to the idea. Speaking to others, and from our own experience we have come across doctors who dismiss the idea that the suffering can be caused by something so simple. Whether this is stubbornness borne from a lack of faith in other's diagnosis or fear of inadvertently mistreating hundreds of patients is uncertain.

I have read numerous claims that adult eczema has only become a 'thing' in recent years, as it is typically a condition that only affects children, although I have been unable to find evidence backing this up. The truth is we both remain a little sceptical and we won't really know if it will work until Jenny has been through the withdrawal process

It wasn't an easy decision to make, but after months of deliberation Jenny decided to go 'cold turkey' on steroid creams around the middle of May. When you've exhausted all other methods of treatment multiple times any new treatment is seen as fresh hope. The withdrawal process is reported as being very tough and the most physically and mentally challenging period many fellow chronic eczema sufferers have been through. We saw the effects of the withdrawal almost instantly when Jenny spent a week in hospital with Eczema Herpeticum and the photo above was taken a week ago in the morning when Jenny woke to find her skin had essentially burst open in her sleep.

Many have been confused by the decision we have made, at times thinking it is almost wreckless. In truth we felt like we had little choice, no matter how long we waited we would have never have been mentally and physically prepared for what the next few months will bring. For as much respect and positive words I receive this year for my running I have to direct that all towards Jenny. It would have been relatively easy for me to make the decision on the withdrawal, but Jenny has been the driving force behind it despite knowing what the difficulty she will face. That courage will only serve as motivation for me and the rest of my races this year.

This all leads to a frustrating series of what if scenarios. What if this 'adult eczema' can be cured by not using steroid creams? What if sufferers with 'adult eczema' would have simply grown out of their eczema as a child, as they were told, had they never used steroid creams? What if all those years of suffering with unbearable, at times, untreatable skin could have easily been prevented?

This year I am hoping to find the answers to some of these questions. In truth, even if this 'holy grail' cure does work, there will still be a little bit of scepticism in me about it, perhaps because the answer is so simple. A lot of research will need to be done, by those much cleverer than myself, into the exact hows and whys. A recent scientific discovery has uncovered the gene responsible for eczema, leading to the hope that this will advance the search for a cure and help develop better treatments for sufferers.

It is my wish that my fundraising will go a long way to help this search, by raising as much money as I can for the National Eczema Society.

Again, this post wasn't written to try and make you feel sorry for Jenny or myself, rather to just help people learn a bit more about a condition they were already aware of, whilst also giving some explanation behind my motivation for running 1000km this year.

I just want to bring a smile to this beautiful face and end Jenny's suffering.

If you wish to find out more, please either visit Jenny's blog I Have Eczema, click the email icon to the right or leave a comment below.

Thank you