Snowdonia Marathon 2017

 

‘You not wearing your hi-viz jacket?’ asks Rox. ‘Nope, weather forecast looked alright and it seems quite warm – think I’ll be alright’.

‘Was thinking it’d be easier for mountain rescue to spot you’ were the final words of encouragement from Rox before I made my way to the start line.

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The Start

I was just happy to be here. 3 weeks ago when I did something to my calf I really didn’t think this would be happening. I wasn’t sure how far along the course I would make it, so vowed just to go for it and see what happens. I know from past experience that I also run much better when running regularly, so having the last 3 weeks off to let my calf recover was less than ideal preparation.

Catching up with Marathon Ste from Liverpool Running Club at the start was great and I’d spend most of the opening 8 miles running with him and Hayley.

The opening 2 miles are undulating and I set off at a fair pace thinking about bagging some time, half knowing that I was expecting to do some kind of walk/run strategy towards the end. Then came the 1st significant climb, and I made it to about half a mile from the top before being sensible and walking to make it easier on my calf.

The Views

Cresting the climb the view was spectacular (unlike last year where we were greeted with a wall of fog). Of course this year I’d decided not to run with my phone. Sad smile

The downhill then came and I opened my legs, things were feeling fairly good and I was keen to grab some time back. After this the ‘flat’ sections from last year suddenly appeared much hillier – evidently I must have been fitter last year. I can remember a hill at Mile 10 and thinking ‘but the next climb doesn’t start until Mile 14’.

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The 2nd Climb (and the start of the Walk)

Mile 14 saw me decide to walk and I spent the 2 miles climbing the hill trying to do maths in my head for potential finish times. It was looking like 5hr 30m, unless I started running some significant distance again – at that point I resolved to hold out for a sub 5 hour marathon.

The Final Climb and Muddy Descent

With much more running happening from Miles 16 through to Miles 22 (albeit being accompanied with a cramping calf) saw the sub 5 hour marathon being firmly on the cards.

The climb from 22 to 24.5 miles was very much a walking affair, and even with walking my heart rate was very high. The wall of fog hid the top of the climb (the flap jack at feed station at Mile 24 was most welcome) and cresting the hill again I opened my legs and started running hard, fully confident to having 22 minutes to run 2 down hill miles. Unfortunately the grass had changed to mud, and my Hokas really weren’t cut out for mud. I started slipping and sliding everywhere and decided walking was a better strategy – however this still resulted in just slipping and sliding everywhere.

Unfinished Business

This scuppered all hope of sub 5 hours. A new personal worst at marathon distance, but I couldn’t care less. I’d arrived at the start and somehow made it to the finish.

This was going to be my last Snowdonia marathon, but it now feels like I’ve got a little unfinished business so I’ll be back next year, hopefully with a build up to allow a performance to be put together.

Its such a fantastic event with great support throughout. Some of the highlights from this year were the people from MK at an aid station who recognised the Willen Hospice top, and then speaking to a Redway Runner who had run for Willen at London in 2014.

 

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A week of recovery coming up and then back into it hard ready for Country to Capital Ultra in January – which I’ll be woefully under-prepared for, before then turning attention to a big build for MK Marathon in May,

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

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Snowdonia–A Week To Go…

It’d all been going so well. 2 marathons in May, incredibly similar times and some 20 minutes faster than my marathons in 2016.

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That was May and I was ready to crack on. A fortnight off extended to a month to include Glastonbury festival.

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A false start in early July, saw momentum pick back up in late July, albeit sidestepping any long runs. A work conference in Denver was amazing. Still, plenty of time to crack on.

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August saw an increase in mileage, but with only 2 long runs (and even then, *only* half marathon distance, struggling to go further with the hot weather and a mental block at 13 miles).

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September really improved. 2x 18 milers, joined with a 15 and another half marathon. Things were starting to take a turn for the better. Then Esme got admitted to hospital and running went out the window.

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Then the final opportunity to do a long run. Things going well, and then suddenly at 8 miles in my left calf goes. I hobble/run on for another 6 miles to do 2.5 hours and 14 miles. A calf strain and a physio recommending no running from then until race day – just in the hope it might recover and be strong enough to take on the hills. I’ve run 3 miles in 3 weeks.

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Will I make the start line – hell yeah. Finish line – well I’ll give it my best shot. Calf has improved non-stop since last week – if I didn’t have a marathon I’d be tempted to go for a run on it. 5 days and counting. Lets see what happens. At least I can’t blame being over-trained.

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

 

 

Snowdonia, an Ultra and MK Marathon

Normally I get caught up the New Year resolution whirlwind. Not this year though (well, truth be told, I probably will). This year I’ve got in early. More exactly, for me the 1st September is the new New Years Day.

I had a slight brain-wave. Annual appraisals at work generally happen in September, and that gives a good chance to reflect on the way things are going at work. Why not throw in personal reflection at the same time. Truth be told, it was pretty easy:

And then I received a place in MK Marathon 2018 via the MK Ambassador programme – so that really helped start to focus goals in 2018 and renew some mojo! It’ll be my 3rd time at an outstandingly well organised local race, with some lovely scenery and excellent support (by spectators and runners alike).

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Reading about the other ambassadors further resolved that mojo, providing some real inspiration. Hoping we could organise a meet up at a local ParkRun soon. To keep up with MK Marathon updates, their Twitter account is here: https://twitter.com/mk_marathon

Stopping before you start

Then Esme, our oldest daughter, started to come down with a fever. To cut a long story short, she ended up in hospital for the best part of a week with pneumonia, Delighted to say she’s made a good recovery, and just needs to rest up for a few more days to renew energy levels.

In this period, I managed to fail twice at a 15 and 18 mile run – bailing on both at 13 miles. Disappointing and not entirely inspiring for Snowdonia marathon in a few weeks. What do you do when you bail on a run like this – enter an Ultra of course! So I’ve entered Country to Capital 2018, my first Ultra, and if I’m honest I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I’ll worry about that a bit more after Snowdonia!

(I’ve also enter Buntingford 10 on New Years Eve, an excellent local race that I do most years – well, apart from last year, when it sold out before I got round to entering!).

Getting Started Again

Maybe 10th September is really destined to be the new New Years Day. With no cares about times, I headed out for what I’d hope would be at least 16 miles. I took in countless hills, suffered what felt like a monsoon and then saw some lovely autumn colours when the sun came out.

Apart from my hips killing me (lots more stretching required!), I managed to somehow put together 18 miles in a little over 3 hours. Its given me the belief I’m somehow manage to get round Snowdonia marathon.

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I must have been in a really bad way as Esme immediately went and got the roller when I walked in the house! (PS. Sorry for the awful photos, think my phone got a little bit wet on the run!)

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I’ve also started to make an appearance at the local running club on a Tuesday night to try and get some quality work in.

And then this Wednesday sees Race 2 in a local 5k series. Not feeling anything like 5k shape, but I’ll go, take it as a good workout and just see what happens (I somehow managed to PB there twice last year).

Upcoming Goals

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

Stirling Marathon 2017

A long, long overdue blog post here. A bit of shame as Stirling was my 10th marathon, and now my memories are all a little hazy (perhaps I’m just trying to remove those 3 laps of the city centre from my mind!).

The Day Before

On the Saturday was a family ‘fun’ race – so we had entered Esme into her 1st ever ‘race’, a mile run around the grounds of Stirling University – which brought back some memories for me as the place that my sister went to University. I remembered the grass and lake, but mainly it brought back the reward of a huge hot chocolate, cream and a flake from Nibbles cafe in Bridge of Allan – a cafe that sadly no longer appears to be there.

With me running the marathon the next day, duties turned to Rox to run with Esme, although it appeared no-one was in the mood for posing for photos.

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Whilst waiting to start, the reality of a marathon the next day was all too real – don’t know if the organisers left the mile marker signs out on purpose?

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Finally we (they) were off for a mile trip round the University. Hats off to Zola Budd and Liz McColgan who went beyond their duties and ran round the course a couple of times passing on words of encouragement to the youngsters.

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Post run I managed to catch-up with Zola Budd!

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Having spent a couple of days in Scotland, the evening turned to getting myself ready for the big day. Unpacking my race bag – Willen Hospice running vest, socks, trainers, gels, race belt and number. All sorted – oh, apart from I’d need some shorts?! A midnight trip to Asda resulted in only some swimming trunk shorts!! Turns out it is possible to run a marathon in £5 beachwear!

The Marathon

Opting to get the earliest bus possible (the race started outside of Stirling, at the Blair Drummond Safari Park) and with it being its inaugural event I couldn’t help but think the ferrying of people via buses was going to be an optimistic plan (think the organisers did the very best they could with this, but the start pens felt emptier than perhaps they should have, and people were running into the Safari Park as the countdown for the race start had begun).

The seals didn’t seem to impressed with the early arrivals though:

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It was as the hours and then minutes started to countdown that I started to think I’m not sure I really want to run 26.2 miles today. Not great thoughts to be entering your mind with about 20 minutes before race start.

Anyway the race started and we left Safari Park, running round some beautiful countryside, before then heading through some small villages – and heres a quick capture of me early on in the run (towing the middle white line closest to the camera – leaving shot at 4:49):

The support was fantastic, but Dunblane – well that was something else. Both sides of the street were jam-packed with the most enthusiastic and vocal support you could imagine. That mile, or so, just flew by.

Then it was on to Stirling University which marked the half-way point. The downside of Stirling University the mile upwards climb – the up-shot. Turning round a cone and coming straight back down it. It was here that the only photo of the day capturing my in my swimwear was taken:

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After heading through the excellent support at Bridge of Allan (I think it was here that I was offered grapes by a spectator?! A slight depart from the usual affair of Jelly Babies. The response from a fellow runner of ‘only if you turn them into wine’ brought smiles all round though), the next few miles were dull dual carriageways, but essentially being used as a way to get runners back towards the city of Stirling. I was crying out for the city centre and some support to arrive, but it took until Mile 17 to get there.

The finish was essentially 3 laps of the City Centre. A little depressing when the 1st mile sign you see shortly after Mile 17 is Mile 24 and you realise you’ve got a long way to go yet! The city centre loops were hilly affairs – with some fantastic support in the city centre streets itself, and a loop (including down and up an underpass) through streets I didn’t recognise. A local group (residents or church?, I’m not sure) had set up a drinks and food station that much appreciated just before the official shower point. The loops around the city centre were definitely not flat, and this is where the wheels came off a little for me. (I’d paced this race so much better than MK a few weeks earlier – heading out at about 4:15 pace rather than 4:00).

Crossing my 10th marathon finish line in 4:24:50, just 28 seconds slower than MK.

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

Milton Keynes Marathon 2017

Its taken a while to fully reflect on MK Marathon this year. Crossing the finish line there were mixed emotions, but I think the one that took precedent was relief that there were no more miles to run, and no more hills!

Before Race Start

Arriving early (very early, I hadn’t managed to get a parking ticket before they sold out so wasn’t sure where to try and ditch the car) gave me plenty of time to walk down to the stadium, take in the sites and generally relax (worry, panic, get stressed), particularly taking advantage of the excellent baggage area with plenty of space for the runners.

After getting ready it was time for a quick catch-up with 2 other runners from work- David who started off in the 0-5k group that was started about 18 months ago and now embarking on his 1st half marathon (he’d go on to run 1:50 – a fantastic time!) and Pete who was gunning for holding out for a 1:35 half (and would somehow manage to grab 1:37 – again more fantastic running).

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(The cow behind us doesn’t really stand-out).

The Early Miles

I’ve hinted in my training that I thought I was near 4 hour shape, so I decided to try running with a pace group for the 1st time. Joining the 4 hour ‘bus’, I found myself running next to the wife of someone I used to cycle with – but neither of us were up for too much talking, both conceding fairly early on that we were both ‘ambitiously’ going for 4 hours, and both perhaps knowing we weren’t quite in that shape.

The 1st 6 miles were easy going, and it was around this point that I spotted ‘Marathon Ste’ from Liverpool Running Club and it was a joy to run the next 5 or so miles with him. ‘Marathon Ste’ was someone who I ran with when 1st starting out running back up in Liverpool, so used run with him every Tue and Thurs night round the streets of North Liverpool, and he’d often have a tale or 2 from the many, many, many marathons he’d previously run (hence his nickname). It sounds likely that I’ll be on the same course as him later in the year at Snowdonia.

Mile 7 for no particular reason was pretty tough going, but 8-12 went well enough. I had kept an eye on my heart rate, and this was a little higher than it should have been for this point on the race, but I decided to plough on regardless.

Being Sensible

At Mile 13 though, I decided to be sensible (for the 1st time in my life?!). We went through half way bang on pace time but I’d already mentally decided that after Mile 14 I’d drop back the pace in the hope not to blow up completely and hold out for around 4:10-4:15.

This ‘reduced’ pace worked well until about Mile 19, when I just slowed completely. I went from running sub 10 min/miles to just about holding 11 min/miles. All I could do was resolve to myself to not walk and continue running regardless of how slow that running got. (I should have remembered, but those hills in MK are tough work – its certainly nowhere as flat as I recalled from the year before!).

The Finish

Again a fantastic lap of the stadium (including a kiss and high five from the kids) and sheer relief at crossing the finish line.

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So crossing the line in 4 hrs 24m to set my 3rd fastest marathon time, just a tiny bit disappointed not to hold out for sub 4:20. This is about 18 minutes faster than my time last year, so certainly some significant progress.

The stand out for me on the day though was the sheer support for Willen Hospice all the way round, from supporters and fellow runners alike.

Another really enjoyable day in MK (although I’m saying that now after 10 days, so maybe the memory of those hills are starting to fade….)

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

Sunday = Runday

Sunday. Or Runday as its becoming known in our house.

Flitwick 10k

For a change, instead of me lacing my trainers and heading off with a race number attached to my t-shirt, it was the turn of my wife to join her club mates at Flitwick 10k.

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My joy of not having to run in the searing heat (and apparently climb a number of hills) soon passed when I realised I would have to entertain 2 kids. Give me running any day of the week. Delighted to say my wife (and her club mates) did incredibly well, each finishing with a smile on their faces – and some with a sprint finish.

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Flitwick Fun Run

Next up was Esme (my daughters) turn. They do a 1km fun run after the main race has finished and so I stood on the start line – with strict instructions from Esme not to let go of her hand. We got off to a fantastic start running a surprising 200m or so, before a walk break was requested by little legs. The remaining 800m was very much a walk, but I’m delighted to say she made it round without being carried once. She certainly takes after her dad though, grumbling all the way round with ‘This is hard work’, ‘I need a drink’ and ‘I’m hungry. Can we have a snack when we get back’.

Having a tantrum and refusing a sprint finish wasn’t a highlight of the run, but the smile when getting a medal was.

Final Long Run for MK Marathon

And then in the evening it was my turn to head out.

The training plan asked for 17 miles, but I really wasn’t fancying that at all. Instead I convinced myself to hit the trails and take in some hills on the way. For ages I’d been trying to get onto a countryside trail, but never quite managed to work out where the start was, so headed that way to try again – and managed to find it this time and I wasn’t disappointed by the scenery on offer.

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At about 14 miles I nearly turned to head for home, but then thought ‘Whats an extra 3 miles?’. Turns out after all the hills and off-road running, 3 miles is quite a bit, so the legs and head gave up at 16 miles!

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Thats the training done – now time to taper! (And eat the food!).

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

When the training gets tough, get some inspiration!

There is no denying it – this point in marathon training sucks. Huge runs at weekends, normally on tired legs due to speedwork and tough sessions during the week. The only saving grace is the longer day light hours, warmer temperatures and that the marathon is almost within touching distance. I’m currently sitting working out how many more actual ‘long’ runs I need to do.

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Finding Inspiration

When the going gets tough, you need to remind yourself why you’re doing it. So this time last week I was lucky enough to spend the morning with Laura at Willen Hospice to set what an amazing facility and service is being offered. Firstly in the magnificent setting by Willen Lake, but then more importantly seeing and understanding the caring and holistic approach that the Hospice have in place for both residents and non-residents alike. It really was an eye opener, and just highlighted what a great cause I’m running for.

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Suddenly those long runs don’t seem quite as long any more.

The early afternoon was then spent checking out the local playground areas for ‘on the day’ support purposes – think the kids won’t mind if I run quite a slow time. (Although one ‘kid’ seems slightly bigger than the others)

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Running

So last Saturday saw my plan of doing my long run and incorporating Stevenage ParkRun into the mix continue. Motivated by the morning at Willen Hospice the day before, and the strength of the 20 mile run the week before I set out at a much faster pace, and rather than getting to ParkRun after everyone had set-off, actually got there with a few minutes to spare.

The ParkRun started and I continued at pretty much marathon pace until I spotted someone I used to run with, so I upped the pace slightly and starting chatting away to them. Pulling away from them slightly I found myself getting a little competitive, which probably wasn’t the best idea mid-way through a long run. I decided at this point to stop overtaking people, but hearing footsteps behind me in the final kilometre, still couldn’t be the more disciplined man and upped my speed to stop someone overtaking me.

Unsurprisingly the next 6 miles home were slightly slower than the opening 11.5 had been! I even stopped to take a photo of the daffodils I’d spotted, but not pictured, the previous week.

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Mid-week speedwork

Tuesday lunchtime was scuppered by work commitments, so an evening run of 5x600m firmly reminded me why I prefer long, steady distance running. Intervals hurt. Lots. And tonight I had no zip in my legs – still I got them done even if the numbers didn’t quite stack up. And the stitch at the end of interval number 3 is still fresh in my mind.

Thursday lunchtime was meant to be a 10k time trial, but I wasn’t feeling it physically in my legs (and perhaps more so mentally). Between us we decided to have a warm-up and go for a 5k effort instead. Watching Pete disappear into the distance (hes quite a bit faster!) meant for a lonely and painful 5k run – but somehow I clocked 22:47, my 3rd fastest 5k! And on tired legs. Perhaps a second year of setting a 5k PB might be on the cards later this summer.

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This Weekend

Now… do I really have to do a long run this weekend? Really? No idea what’ll happen this weekend – could be a 20, could be a 17, could end up being a 10. Watch this space…

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I’m running MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon (and in October, Snowdonia Marathon) to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.