Tuesday, May 10, 2011

She Ran, He Ran, They Ran ... a marathon effort from team Twelve Oaks

My lovely wife,(following the tragic helicopter accident which took her brother Ian from us) wanted to do something to thank the brave folk who make up the Mourne Mountain rescue team, they were first on the scene of the accident and are as courageous and caring a group of unpaid volunteers who regularly risk life and limb as one could ever
hope to meet. Accordingly she decided to run the Belfast marathon to raise money for this great cause and pay a personal tribute to her much loved brother.

She was joined in this effort by Ian's widow Thandi and our chums Winston and Anna. Our dashing darling daughters, Sophie and ChaCha, along with Rhett, Daisy and Tatjana all signed up for a 3k fun run at the same time.

The commitment made, Mrs Stuffy spent some three months of training with Julian Goater, the ladies did the Reading half-marathon to warm up, Thandi put together a Justgiving site and many, many people including some of the loy
al readership of this blog contributed generously to the more than £26k raised so far.

Those of you familiar with my own athletic prowess will not be at all surprised that I felt unable to compete but in fairness we can't all be heroes and some of us are genetically designed to be rubbish at running. It's a while since Mrs Stuffy and I went for a run together but she's never really got over the shock of seeing her soulmate on his knees crying like a breathless babe after 300 metres of moderate effort.

So, the clan decamped to Belfast last weekend and enjoyed the hospitality of the Fitzwilliam hotel, it's been some 30 years since I was there and this modern and slightly trendy hotel was a far cry from the bullet-scarred Travel Lodge lookalike which was my home from home last time I ventured to the province.

Our dining experience on the night of our arrival was less than sparkling as we decided to visit a local eatery Bourbon and found ourselves split into two groups, variously, ignored, avoided, delayed and deceived and eventually fed around 10:30 some two and a half hours after our arrival. The front of house staff were distraught,well meaning and pretty much taking punches for the inability of the kitchen to do its job properly. The dining and hospitality experience throughout our stay in Northern Ireland is best summed up in a conversation her ladyship and I had around the apparent inability of the hotel waiters to cope with two tables both needing something at the same time, she observed that the staff were "very nice, very good" she was half right. Without exception, the people we met were really very nice, absolutely lovely and well meaning, however not good, poorly trained and badly managed seemed to be the norm.

The Team

Race day dawned and a substantial but nervous breakfast for the assorted athletes, liberal intakes of ibuprofen, immodium, and porage promised an exciting time for all. Off to City Hall, (a stunning building by the way) and the massed start. Having bellowed the fantastic four off the start and then got the fun runners away it was hot-foot to the 6 mile mark to watch our gallant team crossing the river with a scant 20 miles to go.

Thandi was the first to appear, looking very comfortable and relaxed followed a little later by Anna and my lovely wife, looking for all the world as cool, calm and collected as they do on their weekly trots around Virginia Water. Winston, nursing some fairly significant injuries had set our expectation that he'd probably do no more than 6 or 7 miles but he certainly looked as if he had another mile or two in him as he passed us.

We were rejoined by the fun runners who'd trailed behind Rhett over the finish line after 35 minutes of effort and, according to plan we severally set off for the finish line, intending to be there to meet our heroes as they staggered in after (at best, we estimated) four and a half hours of sheer pluck and determination.
Well, Thandi spoilt that by hitting the finish line after an astonishing run of only 4:11 getting there some ten minutes before any of us were there to greet her. When the lithe, limber and lissome Mrs S loped across the line at 5:12 we'd all turned up and were thus able to give her the massive roar of applause she so richly deserved as she completed her first (and hopefully) last marathon.

I've never felt more proud of my wife as she completed the bravest, and possibly most foolish thing I've seen her do since she agreed to spend the rest of her life with me. Mrs Stuffy was a few minutes ahead of Anna who despite some recent injury niggles delivered a very credible performance and was followed (after a respectful pause) over the line by Winston, demonstrating that within the chest of the top class chef beats the heart of a man too flipping stubborn to give up.

I'm very proud, very proud of the five fun-runners and extraordinarily proud of her ladyship, Thandi, Anna and Win, all of them delivered an awesome performance for a great cause and a fitting tribute to a bright, bold and very special man.
This is the last time I'll mention it but it's not too late to make a difference, put a couple of quid in memory of Ian on the just giving page - Click Here

Thank you.


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