Pushing to the Limit
I’ve learned so much over the last few weeks about how far you can push the limits of physical and mental endurance.
Without a doubt, being told that you have terminal prostate cancer and may only have two years to live has been the single greatest challenge of my life. But I decided that there were two choices going forward. Firstly, I could curl up on the sofa and give in or, secondly, I could choose to take control of my cancer rather than let it control me. I chose the latter!
Taking on exercise challenges
I’ve always challenged myself even before my diagnosis by running marathons and ultra-marathons, but now I’m pushing the limits absolutely to their extremes.
Since my diagnosis in May 2017, and despite the huge impact of being on two forms of hormone therapy, I’ve taken on some challenges that lots of able-bodied people simply wouldn’t dream of.
- 2018: I ran the London Marathon, raising a lot of money for Prostate Cancer UK
- 2019: I decided that I should try and run 970 miles during the year. Yes I know, that’s a weird number, but it’s also one that really resonates. That is how many men die of prostate cancer every single month here in the UK, and I wanted to run a mile for each of them. Sadly, by the end of the year the number had risen to 1,000, and I didn’t have the strength to do another 30 miles, so a friend ran throughout December to add the extra 30 miles for me.1
- 2020: I set out on 1st May to try and run at least a 5k every day in May. Well, May became June and June became July, and before I knew it I was closing in on a full year. I decided to stop on 9th May, my cancerversary, after 374 days and 1,546 miles.
A friend who motivates me
I have a friend who I got to know because of two things we had in common. He was a runner, and he had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer aged just 49. It’s great to have running in common, but a little bit rubbish sharing the cancer diagnosis!
We have become friends, and he’s really helped to keep me motivated. He’s done some utterly crackpot running endurance events since his diagnosis, including running the Marathon Des Sables four times. However, he is 8 years younger than me, and so I know that I don’t have the strength to emulate what he does.
But he keeps telling me that there is more in me than I really believed, and I gave in and decided to have a crack at a 100km trail ultra-marathon. Yes, 100km, totally, utterly crazy. That’s 62 miles (it actually turned out to be 63 miles!)! I must have been mad!
Giving me confidence
But here comes the first problem. I’d agreed to have a go at the MacMillan Mighty Hike, a marathon hike around Ullswater Lake in the UK Lake District, just a week before with a group of friends from a fitness class that I attend. Was it possible to do both, or was it madness?
I’m pleased to say that I survived the Mighty Hike and actually finished strongly, which gave me confidence for the following week. It was 25 miles with 3,200 feet of elevation gain!
Next up then was the ultra. Day 1 on Saturday was going to be 35 miles, 2,200 feet of elevation gain in the most horrendous weather conditions imaginable. It was wet, cold and windy, and pretty grim even for a British summer. But I got to Basecamp in 9 hours, where overnight camping had been arranged. I hated camping beforehand. I hate it even more now!
Day 2 started at shortly before 6 a.m. in much better weather conditions that just got hotter and hotter. We really endured two extremes of weather. 8 hours, 28 miles, and 1,000 feet of elevation gain later, I crossed the finish line a totally broken but utterly elated man.
Getting to the finish
I’d actually gone and done it, completed a 100km ultra-marathon despite my terminal diagnosis. It had pushed the boundaries of my physical and mental strength to their absolute limits. I could easily have given up on many occasions, but my mantra of “Relentless Forward Motion” carried me through to the finish, and another £8,000 raised for charity.
I really didn’t believe it possible to push my limits this far, but it shows how strong the mind can be.
What are you doing to push your limits?
Do you feel heard and understood by your doctor?