Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: tommys

Mission accomplished

This is me having just crossed the finished line after running (and walking) 100km. The race was last Saturday but it’s taken me this long to really digest what happened and also start to recover. It was a long and very tough day that took me on the full roller coaster of emotions that you expect from any endurance event.

Finish line

The lows though were very low, low enough that I almost bailed on the race at 35 miles. I reached a point where I was hot and fatigued and the sheer enormity of the challenge ahead of me suddenly became too much. I sat in a pit stop and seriously considered stopping. My older brother was there armed with a cool bag full of beautifully cold water and towels. So I took some time to cool down and think about why I was doing the race, quite honestly if I hadn’t been running for charity I think I would have stopped. But knowing how many of you had sponsored me and supported my causes that just didn’t seem like an option so I got up and slowly but surely made some progress to the next pit stop.

What certainly helped was knowing that the further I went the closer to home I was, not to mention that the final 15 miles are on the trails I run every week and know so well. Mentally this was a huge help as there were no surprises, I knew how many hills were left and where the downhills were. The not knowing how tough it still would be I think would have been hard.

The rest as they say is history, after 13 hours and 40 minutes of being on the move I finally crossed the finish line having seen a wide variety of weather and scenery. There was blazing hot sun and humidity, thunder and lightning, torrential rain and hail and even a rainbow. The rain when it did come was heavenly, I almost stopped and just held out my arms to soak it in. It immediately cooled me off and got rid of all the sweat and salt covering my skin. There are few times I’ve been less bothered about being truly soaked to the skin.


Now that a few days have passed I can look back with a sense of pride, a year ago I’d never run more than a half marathon and now I’ve run 100km in a single day. The motto of the company that organised the race is ‘more is in you’ and I couldn’t agree more. It is amazing what we can do when we take on a challenge and we should never be scared to try.

Thank you to all of you who sponsored me, tweeted me or supported me. As I said right at the beginning of this challenge the 2 charities I chose to support are very important to me personally and I’m proud to have managed to raise a little over £700 for them. There are some truly awful stories in the news at the moment and while I can’t help everyone I hope that this small sacrifice does some good to help those in need.

If you haven’t sponsored me yet and want to there is of course still time, you can find my fundraising page here. All donations will be equally split between Tommy’s and Save the Children.

thanks you,

The Fool

Fool on the run – show time

As  you sit and read this I will be out there *points at the countryside* attempting to run 100km along the beautiful Ridgeway as I take part in the Race to the Stones. As I write this the day before I have to say I’m a little nervous, despite my bravado saying that it’s not that far it really is. It’s also going to be hot, humid and there is a distinct possibility of a thunderstorm, perfect timing of course to be running along a ridge that is the high point for miles around.

But I’m doing it to raise money for 2 very good causes and I hope that will be enough motivation and inspiration to keep going through the tough times. When I looked just now my fundraising stood at £546 including gift aid and I’d like to say thank you to all of you who have donated, I truly appreciate it. If you’ve haven’t donated yet and would like to there is of course still time, you can find my fundraising page here. The work that Tommy’s and Save the Children do can make a real difference to children’s and parents lives and are causes that I hold very dear to my heart.

Whatever happens tomorrow I shall wear my Save the Children vest with pride and fingers crossed I shall still be smiling when I cross the finishing line in Avebury 100km later. I’ll most likely be sending the occasional tweet or Instagram photo of the race during the inevitable times I’m walking up hills or taking a breather. So do follow me in both places if you’re interested in seeing how I get on, you can find a link to my Twitter profile over there on the right. If you can spare a tweet of encouragement during the day that would also be most welcome.

Thank you,

Fool on the run

Final training run selfie


A dad’s view of miscarriage – Ben Wakeling

I’m delighted to welcome author and dad blogger Ben Wakeling to the blog today for the next post in the series of dads sharing their perspective on miscarriage. My wife bought me one of Ben’s books just before Matilda was born and quite honestly Goodbye Pert Breasts should be a must read for all expectant dads, you’ll not find a funnier perspective on what it’s like being a dad. Although I will mention that I haven’t yet seen conclusive proof that he is indeed real and not another pen name of JK Rowling seeing as he appears to shun all public occasions even when he’s nominated for yet another blogging award.

But no matter his real identify here is his story.

The Rose in the Park

Even though it was six years ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday: my wife’s ashen face as she came back from the toilet to say that she was bleeding, the numb feeling of impending heartache, the hurried drive to the hospital.

Nine weeks earlier I had been sitting at my desk when Jess rang me.

“Do you want to hear something which will stop you from doing any work for the rest of the day?” she says, and then proceeds to tell me that we are expecting our second child. Isaac, our first, was just over a year old at the time, and we were looking forward to welcoming his little brother or sister.

Nine weeks later, on Boxing Day, we found ourselves sitting in a small side room of a hospital ward in front of a doctor who was telling us that we had suffered a miscarriage. Although we were expecting the worst, it still hit us hard. We returned home, where my mother-in-law was babysitting Isaac, and Jess cried in her arms for hours.

It was early in the pregnancy, I know; and, through my subsequent work with the charity SANDS, I am well aware that it could have been much worse. It was still painful, though. Even though we’d only known that we were going to be parents again for a few weeks, we were already imagining the nursery, and thinking up baby names, and wondering how we were going to cope with two children in a one-bedroom flat.

Then, one day, it was all gone, and we were left to try and understand why it happened and live in the vapours of dreams which had evaporated against our will. Some family members sent messages of support; others felt so awkward they avoided mentioning the subject altogether. Jess and I talked about it a lot – it’s important, I think, to not keep things bottled up.

When the doctor first informed us of our miscarriage he asked us what we wanted to do with the ‘products’, as he so affectionately called our child. At the time, we were still reeling from the news, and so told him that the hospital could dispose of it. A couple of days later, we rethought, and met with Laura back at the hospital. I can’t remember her job title, or even her surname, but she was one of the most compassionate people I have ever met, and I’ll forever be in her debt for the kindness she showed us. She gave us a tiny plastic box, containing our child, and we took it home.

The next day was a Sunday, and the sun was barely up when Jess, Isaac and I walked through the local park to a small group of trees. As early morning joggers and dog walkers meandered past, we buried our child beneath a rose bush which we had bought the night before. I have a photograph which Jess took of me carrying Isaac as we walked away, and he’s looking over my shoulder. His expression is one of slight confusion twinged with sadness; he can’t fathom what has happened, but is sensing the loss.

Ben Wakeling

Six years (and two more children) later, Jess and I sometimes talk about what might have been. We have long since come to terms with the grief, but it remains a painful memory. And, whenever we go down to the park and push our children on the swings, I look over at the rose bush which thrives by the trees and give a silent nod.

Thanks again to Ben for sharing his story, if you’d like to read the other posts in this series you can do so here. You could also sponsor me for my attempt to run 100km to raise money for Tommy’s and fund research into miscarriage and stillbirth.

A dad’s view of miscarriage – Noddy Holder

This is going to be hopefully the first in a series of guest posts from dads about their experience of miscarriage as I build up towards taking on the Race to the Stones in July to raise money for Tommy’s. I thought it would be interesting to get other dads to share their viewpoint as I did a few weeks ago. Given that physically the miscarriage isn’t happening to us we have a difference perspective and I hope that by sharing here it may help other dads who are going through something similar.

The first person to volunteer to tell their story is Noddy Holder (which I assume isn’t his real name!), he writes a blog called Potted Noodle and I think you’ll agree after reading that this is a very honest and brave post so do please show him some love. If you’re a dad reading this and you’d like to write a post about miscarriage then let me know. Finally if you’d like to support my attempt to run 100km to raise money for Tommy’s then you can find my fundraising page here.

noun: miscarriage; plural noun: miscarriages
1. the spontaneous or unplanned expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently.
“his wife had a miscarriage”
synonyms: spontaneous abortion, stillbirth
2. an unsuccessful outcome of something planned.
“the miscarriage of the project”
synonyms: failure, foundering, ruin, ruination, collapse, breakdown, thwarting, frustration, undoing, reversal, setback, unsuccessfulness, aborting, non-fulfilment, misfiring, mismanagement, perversion

So there you have it in black and white and so far as definition 1 above quite shockingly plain English. I’d never realised how common an occurrence they were until R and I had one a year for three years and slowly but surely folk came out with their own stories of loss and eventually hope. I’ve been asked to write a little about how it felt from the man’s perspective and this is it.

R and I met in June 2009, by the September were living together and in the October we were on holiday in Lanzarote. It was on that holiday that we made the decision that R should stop taking the pill and we’d ‘give it a go’, neither of us were young so far as having children was concerned so time was of the essence and hey we kind of liked each other…

Almost immediately R fell pregnant, this was amazing and I remember feeling elated that

(a) We’d created new life that would be our child


(b) My testicles actually worked!!

Point ‘b’ may seem a little childish but I can’t tell you the relief of knowing that my undercarriage actually functioned as it should.

So fast forward to around ten weeks and R starting bleeding, steadily bleeding. I remember pacing round our living room demanding that surely that the midwives should or could do something…anything and wishing that Google and it’s plethora of information didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t know that this bleeding was most likely the start of a miscarriage. Alas it was and a few days later R’s body ‘passed the products’ of the pregnancy, rather morbidly she retained the little sack for the midwives as requested (not that they ever came to see) and for me to see when I returned from Bristol after working up there for the day. It reminded me of the body of a small squid, we were heartbroken, upset and in disbelief that we’d had a miscarriage.

So far as I was concerned miscarriages happened in soap operas much like plane crashes or meteor strikes, they exist just not in ‘real’ life. I did all I could to support R emotionally and physically over the weeks afterwards until the physical signs had gone and all that was left was wondering about what could have been.

Moving on another year and, after lots of disappointing months of periods arriving like clockwork R and I started using a Clearblue fertility monitor. It basically meant I knew what day of her cycle R was on and, when the indications were right it was ‘time’. If I say that sex became a bit of a chore as it was so premeditated maybe you’ll get the picture. Again at around the same time as pregnancy number one R thought she might be pregnant as she was late, but then one evening whilst cooking dinner she told me through floods of tears she’d had a heavy bleed with ‘something in it’. So that was that we thought but, after speaking to the local midwives we were advised to go for an emergency scan.

A very brusque Doctor with little joy in his life ushered us into a side room, pressed zoom a few times and zoomed in on a heartbeat! We were amazed, absolutely amazed and left with the news R was around eight weeks pregnant and everything looked ok. There was some suggestion that the first bleed might have been a twin but we were just elated that there was a pregnancy and the excitement grew up to our twelve week scan date.

We were again blessed with a stroppy sonographer who berated R for still having belly bar in and was quite off with us, her attitude changed within a few seconds of starting the scan. We all three stared at the screen from our various vantage points looking for our little collection of cells and it’s heartbeat but there was no telltale flicker on the screen. That little heart had stopped beating.

We had second opinions, an internal scan (which looked thoroughly unpleasant and uncomfortable) and with the miscarriage confirmed we were taken away from the other happy expectant folk in the waiting room to a side room somewhere. We were eventually sent on our way with kind words, a leaflet with pansies on the front about grief and guidance of the options to R to ‘get rid’ of the products (yup that word again) had ‘gone’.

R elected to go home and let nature take its course naturally as she didn’t fancy surgical procedure or drugs. Those days waiting were strange, disconcerting and emotionally draining but came to a head early one Monday morning as I awoke to R’s guttural moans from the living room. She was clearly in horrific pain and was bleeding quite heavily, she’d decided not to wake me as I had to go to work but this had all kicked off two hours previously!!

A couple of phone calls to the local midwives and then the maternity unit (80 minutes drive away) and I was advised to call 999, there’s something very grown up about pressing those hallowed numbers but within around five minutes we had an ambulance with two lovely technicians and R was eventually (after more heavy bleeding) put in the ambulance for the trip to Exeter. What I didn’t find out until later was that the ambulance had to stop due to R’s blood loss en route as they were very concerned so it was a blue light run to Exeter.

What I did next I can’t explain, I went to the loo (routine what can I say), had a shave, got dressed and then drove to the hospital. Don’t ask why but it seemed the right thing to do at the time, a bit like the bag I packed for R that included a thong rather than the ‘big pants’ that would have been a little more practical. Perhaps I was in shock?

It turned out that R’s cervix had become blocked so as much as her body tried it was struggling to pass the products of pregnancy. Believe me when I say that day I saw things that would make many a student doctor blanch!

We’re perhaps fortunate in our household to make a joke of anything and everything, it’s how I (and many others) cope in times of stress. We cried together, I often cried alone but slowly and surely we put ourselves back together again and distracted ourselves with wine, holidays and work. I found it tougher than the first time and remember being especially annoyed at the NHS not wanting to offer any tests or support until we’d had three miscarriages. THREE?!?

So (and there’s a pattern emerging here) we again lived by the monitor, that monitor controlled our sex life once more to the point that the whole act at times became little more than a biological transaction. If that sounds harsh then it should, I longed for spontaneity and (as I’d now call it) ‘leisure sex’ that’s about mutual enjoyment rather than reproduction. We even laughed at the amount of years we’d tried to avoid pregnancies and now it was all we were trying to achieve!!

Eventually we were pregnant once more, R went through a dry (and at times tedious) Christmas and we soldiered on in the hope that this time was the one whilst joking privately that at least this time we’d get some tests done if / when the house of cards came tumbling down. Those cards did indeed come down once more at a scan where we were told that there was ‘nothing’ there and the pregnancy must have stopped growing at around ten weeks. I swear my heart broke a little and as I supported R I wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t be a Father. Luckily (if you can use that word) there wasn’t the drama or ambulance ride as this time nature took care of everything which was confirmed with yet another scan.

Following that final miscarriage we had tests, it was around 3 vials of my blood and 11 of R’s along with a chat. A bloody chat, all the money we pay in taxes and we got a chat. I was fuming, absolutely livid. I don’t know what I expected them to do but I expected more. Alot more.

In summary the three miscarriages very nearly broke us, it hit me harder than I ever realised and it’s only in the last six months R admitted she was on the brink of leaving me. The black dog followed me relentlessly wherever I went, people with babies became ‘smug parents’ women or couples with a baby bump became ‘smug pregnants’ and as much as I love ‘One Born Every Minute’ on Channel Four it brought me to floods of tears every week. Looking back I must have been hell to live with yet R persevered, she’d come home from work and I wouldn’t speak, I’d snap about anything and nothing, the miscarriages had slowly brought me to my knees. Whenever I think of those dark days I have to thank her for her dedication / lunacy and for sticking by my side, I’ve never felt the love I have for her with any other person on this planet and strongly believe adversity has made these bonds stronger.

If I could offer advice to anyone else that’s suffered unexplained miscarriage even on repeated occasions it’d be don’t ever give up hope that one day your dream will come true.

On Friday November 22nd 2013 at 08:43 our dream came true, our beautiful son Noah Ace came into our lives and all the hurt and pain was put so far from our memories as to not to dampen our days anymore. I can happily say it was all worth it but we’ll never ever forget those three extra stars in the night sky.

Fool on the run – a 40 mile ‘practise’ race

While you are sat reading this on what is promising to be a very wet and windy Saturday I am going to be plodding along 40 miles of the Ridgeway from Marlborough to Goring. This is my practise race before I take on the Race to the Stones in July. Yes that’s right, 40 miles of running as a practise!

I decided it was a good idea to find out what it feels like to run longer than a marathon without all the pressure of completing my fool on the run challenge. It’s also a great opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t in terms of equipment, clothing and food. Including the shiny new shoes I had to buy this week after finding a hole in my other ones, not really ideal before a 40 mile race.

This is how important doing this challenge for Save the Children and Tommy’s is to me. This is the commitment I’m willing to put in so that come July I’m able to run the full 100km. What I’m asking from you is very simple, please click on the link below and it’ll take you to my sponsorship page. Any donation you can give no matter how big or small will make a huge difference and ensure I have no excuse for not finishing the race.

If you’d like to read about why I’ve chosen to support these charities you can find all details here.

Oh and if you do read this on Saturday morning all tweets of encouragement as I fight with the strong winds are very much appreciated!

[learn_more caption=”Sponsor me!” state=”open”] In July I will be taking on the challenge of running the Race to the Stones, a 100k trail race along the ancient Ridgeway path. This is a huge challenge and one I’ve taken on to support 2 amazing charities that are close to my heart; Save the Children and Tommy’s. If you would like to sponsor me you can go to [/learn_more]

Fool on the run – Tommy’s

If you’re going to run 100km you might as well do it for a good cause, so the logic in my head goes at least.  Well today I’d like to introduce the second awesome charity I’m hoping to raise money for with my Fool on the Run challenge which is Tommy’s. Now I’m guessing that most of you have heard of Tommy’s but if you haven’t they do research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage.

Here’s a little video to tell you more about their work.

As you know the 2 charities I’ve chosen are ones I feel I have a very personal connection too and actually Tommy’s was the one that immediately popped into my head when I started planning this challenge. Like many parents the lady of the manor and I have experienced the pain of losing a baby through miscarriage, something which 1 in 4 mothers will also experience. We’ve had 2 miscarriages with the second just a few months ago which I wrote about here, but what I haven’t written about before is the first experience and I’d like to taken a moment to share that with you now.

Our first miscarriage happened before I was a blogger, before I’d built friendships with other parents on Twitter and before I was a dad. The combination of those 3 things I’ve come to realise made that experience so much tougher and more lonely. Becoming a blogger is potentially the best thing any parent or parent to be can do because you will never experience such support and kind words anywhere else.

I can remember the day very clearly even now almost 4 years later; I’d just left the house to run to the train station (yep even then I was a crazy runner type) and my phone rang. I grabbed my phone out my pocket and it was home calling, which was odd as I’d just left there. I answered and immediately I knew something wasn’t right, the lady of the manor didn’t need to say more than “Ben”, the tone of her voice made it clear this was bad.

After a frantic half an hour we managed to find out that Bath hospital had an early scan clinic that you could just turn up to so we raced off there barely speaking. Not wanting to say what we were both thinking, trying to think positively that it was probably nothing. Hours passed in a blur of waiting rooms, doctors, radiographers and nurses, all lovely and supportive but none could tell us that it was going to be ok.

We headed home to digest the words “we can’t see any sign of a heart beat”; one day we’re a newly married couple who’ve just bought their first house and are pregnant for the first time, the next day our world has fallen apart. That night was the darkest moment of my life so far as we sat together knowing that the baby we had been expecting was slowly slipping away from us. I rarely cry but that night the two of us sat curled up on the sofa and sobbed for the baby we would never get to meet.

Being so early in the pregnancy (9 weeks) we hadn’t done any ante natal classes or starting meeting other parents to be, we didn’t know the what’s or why’s of miscarriage. I’m not sure I’d even heard anyone else talk about it. It often feels like being in Harry Potter and no one wanting to say Voldemort. Yet once you do tell people you suddenly realise how many of them have their own miscarriage story and the support you receive is incredible. Nothing can take the pain away yet talking to someone who has experienced it helps.

Tommys logoThis is why I’m passionate about supporting Tommy’s; their research into miscarriage, still birth and premature birth is essential to help us understand why these things happen and if there is a way to prevent it or minimise the risks.

Tommy’s also provide a pregnancy line to give advice about how to have a healthy pregnancy and also offer support if you experience a pregnancy loss. I’m also very passionate about a dad’s role in this process, a pregnancy loss happens to us too even if not physically and we also need support in the grieving process in addition to be a key support for our partners.

This is why I’m taking on the huge challenge of running 100km and why I hope you’ll part with some of your hard earned cash and sponsor me. You can find my sponsorship page here.

Announcing – fool on the run

This post is a big deal for me, something I’ve been planning for a while and finally can share with you. Please, please, please read it, it means a lot to me and no it’s not an April fool but I did think it was an apt day to be publishing it!

Regular readers may have noticed a certain tone in some my posts over the past few months, where I’ve been trying to reconcile some of the things going on in my life and the choices we make when it comes to work and family. Through all of it there has been this feeling building that I need to do something good and give back a little. Our life might not be perfect but it is safe and secure, we have a good education system (even with Gove) and access to free health care. So if I can sacrifice a little to help those less fortunate, then it’s something I should be willing to do.

I have to run how far?!

I have to run how far?!

But choosing both the cause and challenge is something I’ve been struggling with. I don’t really get involved in charity activities, there are so many good causes but I needed to find something to connect to if I’m going to do more than just give the occasional donation here and  there.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few months, taking time to read about the work charities do and find the ones that I can relate to. I want to support a cause that I can personally relate to because only then I think I can take on a big challenge with the motivation and passion needed.

Which leads me onto my big announcement; this fool is going to be really testing out his running legs and taking on a huge challenge. On July 19th I shall be running (and most likely a little walking) the Race to the Stones, 100km or 62 miles along the Ridgeway non stop. The race starts in Chinnor, Oxfordshire and finishes at the beautiful Avebury stone circle which is conveniently just a few miles from here. It follows the ancient path of the Ridgeway, a path that people have used for 1000’s of years and crosses some truly stunning countryside.

This is going to be a massive challenge there is no doubt of that but I’ve chosen to do it to support 2 charities that are very important to me personally and they are Tommy’s and Save the Children. With my goal being to raise £1,000 to to be split equally between the 2 causes. I’ll be telling you more in posts to come about why I’ve chosen to support these 2 charities and what they mean to me. I’ll also be writing about the training for it over on my running blog Lycra and Lunchboxes if you’re interested in hearing how that’s going.

For now I’ll leave you with a short video about the race, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll support me with your donations, your messages and maybe even cheering me on during the race! If you happen to want to give a donation already you can do so here.

Carphone Warehouse Race to the Stones from Threshold Sports on Vimeo.