Giving back: running a half marathon for charity

LeaseWeb supports various charitable organizations via its corporate responsibility program, and sponsors its employees when they wish to take part in a worthwhile cause. This is the story of Paul Grimwood, who recently ran a half marathon for the first time in his life to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Attachment-7Dear readers, my name is Paul Grimwood and for those who do not know me, I am part of LeaseWeb’s Business Development team based in Amsterdam. Last May, I signed up to run half of the Amsterdam marathon on 20 October  2013 to raise money for Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer. The charity funds research for over 200 types of cancer, including the most common such as breast, bowel, lung, and prostate cancers, to rare types such as tumor and children’s cancers.

Having never seriously ran before (apart from the occasional – and swiftly aborted – jog on the treadmill at the gym), as soon as the words “Let’s do this!” left my mouth, I started to panic! I couldn’t even run more than 3 km without stopping for breath; how was I supposed to make a 21 km run?

I had four and a half months to train. In my job as a Business Development Manager, I travel around the world a lot, visiting all sorts of events. This means setting a training routine is not the easiest thing to do. So I started running in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, and carried on my training while away on business. I ran around the town of Manassas, VA (home of our U.S. office and data center) in unbearable heat, and up challenging hills in San Francisco. Despite the interesting locales, the first two months of training was truly an uphill battle.

photo3Eventually, the distance I could run without stopping began to get longer, and I actually started to enjoy running. I went from 5 km to 8 km in one week, then to 10 km a week later. Feeling like I could take it on, I ran 15 km a few days later. Unfortunately, I pushed myself too fast, too soon, and picked up an injury called shin splints. It’s a common injury runners suffer from, but the bad news was that this could take weeks to recover – or even months. After some rest on doctor’s orders, I went back to training, but could not manage more than a 5 km run. Slowly pushing myself, I was running 10 km distances again with just two weeks left to train. A half marathon is over twice as long…

The day of the run arrived. I lined up at my starting block, equipped with energy gels and a banana. My aim was to cross the finish line in les than two hours, so I had to run 11 km/hr. on average. The gun sounded, and off I went. It was quite charming in the beginning, running through the city you live in with so many people cheering you on. Everything went well, and the 10 km point came up with water stations in sight. I quickly grabbed a cup, walked a short distance while drinking and started running again. Not long after I started to tire; this was the longest distance I was used to running. I kept going, and the 15 km point came in sight. I was still going strong, running just under 11 km/hr. Another drink station. Drink, walk, run. And then it happened… I hit “the wall”! I also started to get shocking cramps in my upper and lower legs. It wasn’t fully unexpected, but I was determined to not let this ruin it! With 5 km left to go, I began to limp. I started to slowly run again, but the cramps came back, forcing me to walk. This story unfortunately repeated until the end of the race. Slowly running, cramps, walk, slowly running… My goal of finishing in less than 2 hours was starting to become unrealistic.

Finally, with only 500 meters left to run I saw my supporters! Friends who had already finished the half marathon, and more that had just come to watch and cheer. After 2:24 hours, I crossed the finish line. I was handed a snickers bar, a cold beer by my friends, and a medal. I didn’t achieve the time I was hoping for, but I had actually made it to the finish line which was an achievement on its own.

From the steep training curve at the beginning, to the amazing atmosphere on race day, and the support from friends, family and work, it was a great experience. Better still, I managed to raise 1600 euros for Cancer Research UK! I have already signed up for another half marathon charity run in 2014. But this time, I will reach the finish line in less than 2 hours! The journey continues…

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