If you ever thought running a half marathon was tough, imagine doing the last nine miles of it with a broken leg.
That’s what intrepid and determined runner Diane Davey did on Sunday morning at the Dartford Half Marathon.
Just think about that for just one minute…. nine miles with a broken leg!
I’ll rewind to the very start of Diane’s journey. Like me, she had undertaken the challenge of running a minimum of 5km a day for 366 days in aid of Kent Sports Trust Foundation.
Like all of us that are taking part in this epic challenge, Diane found some days tougher than others, but was doing incredibly well and was on day 72 having already clocked up in excess of 350km.
The Dartford Half Marathon was to be the pinnacle to her year so far, the furthest she’d ever run and possibly the springboard to a full marathon sometime in the future.
Our team of ten (Diane, Brendon, Lee, Nicola, Kay, Ben (who is running 365 marathons in 365 days), Marie, Emma, Charlotte (Evans MBE) and myself) had all arrived at Dartford with different targets in mind.
For Lee, Ben and I, we all wanted to get anywhere under two hours, with Lee, Brendon and I having completed the gruelling course in 2:08 last year.
The likes of Emma and Charlotte were going into their first “official” half marathon, but clearly had a target in their minds.
Waking up to find it wasn’t tipping it down was a huge relief to us all and having signed in, warmed up, taken countless pictures and been to the loo more times than is humanly possible, we were all on the start line, eager to get underway.
As a team of ten, we left Central Park in Dartford knowing we’d soon go our separate ways, but with the same goal in mind – 21 kilometres of epic running.
It soon became apparent that some were quicker than others, but that didn’t really matter – we all knew we were there helping each other on in spirit.
Kay stayed with Lee, Ben and I for some time, but the lovely hilly countryside around Dartford soon saw it down to just us three guys for the remaining ten miles or so.
Lots of chatting with each other and complete strangers made the day go that bit quicker and my legs for that matter. Every punishing hill seemed to take its toll and there was little respite as the pace was relentless.
Knowing we wanted to be clocking up nine minute miles, we pushed harder and harder, stopping very briefly at each water station to take on fuel.
At this point I should point out running with a Jaffa Cake in your mouth is almost impossible. Trying to breathe and swallow one of those whole is not the brightest of ideas I’ve ever had!
Buoyed by spectators all around the circuit keeps you going, so do the free jelly babies!
There are always highlights on a run and one of mine has to be about mile seven when we saw a guy having a “comfort break” in a field. I shouted out to him, only to be told on the back of his shirt it read “I am deaf”. Clearly I need to go back to Specsavers.
For those that have never run the Dartford Half Marathon, there is one infamous hill that greets you just passed the ten mile marker – Gore Hill.
I’m not joking when I say it nearly broke me. I was barely three yards onto the hill when my body was screaming to me to stop. Thankfully, a fellow Rebel Runner, Douglas, gave me the kick up the backside I needed and spurred me on to the top where I was greeted by Lee (hardly puffing) and Ben. Now that’s what I love about running – the teamwork.
Both of the guys could have easily gone on without me in their quest to get a quicker time, but they hung back to help me through. That’s what running is all about.
Those last three miles back down into Dartford were quick, fun and tough in equal measure. Ben (running with a massive flag on his back) almost got wedged on one of the underpasses that go under the M25. I must confess I found it hard not to laugh at this point.
Once freed from his captor, Ben soon joined up with Lee and I on the final assault and before long we were back to the park where we started, greeted by the smiling face of my eight year old daughter Ellie who was there to cheer us all home.
The final four hundred metres around the running track almost killed me as we gave it our all to finish in as good of a time as possible and it was a real buzz to cross arms aloft with Lee and Ben.
As most runners do, the first thing you do when you cross the line is stop your Garmin (or any other timing device). I was no exception and I was more fussed about this than checking to see if any limbs had fallen off. You can imagine my surprise when we had come home in a time of 1:51:51 – some sixteen minutes faster than last year. Wow – just wow!
Being handed our medals and catching up with family waiting for us was another highlight, but we soon turned our attention to getting to the entrance to the running track to see the rest of the team come in.
First Kay, then Brendon (who may or may not have shed a tear or two when having finished), Marie, Emma, Charlotte and then Nicola finished.
Some time passed and after more pictures (yes I know I take far too many pictures), we turned our attention to Diane, knowing she was still out there somewhere, not knowing how far away she was and in how much pain.
Nicola said they’d parted company some miles ago and Diane was struggling, so we set out back the way we’d come to find her.
I think it was with about a mile to go that we found a pained, but incredibly determined Diane. Not one to make a fuss, she had her head down and was still going.
She suggested she was in pain, but little did we know, how much pain she was actually in.
This is where a lump came into my throat as the team flanked Diane all the way back to the track, leaving her for only the final few hundred metres, to end the race alone, giving her the chance to finish with us cheering her over those final few yards of the 21 kilometre route.
With a medal around a neck and a hearty cuddle from everyone (and yet more pictures), we left Diane in the hands of the medics, thinking she was just suffering from fatigue.
You can imagine our surprise when news filtered through later that she’d been taken to A&E and was being put in plaster for a broken bone in her leg.
What a woman!
I take my hat off to Diane, because not only did she complete the final nine miles with a broken bone, but she still made it to the ice hockey to see the Invicta Dynamos win their final league game of the season.
Diane’s 5km a day for 366 days challenge is now currently on hold, but having visited her at home on Monday, she assures me she will pick up where she left off when fit and able. I have absolutely no doubt Diane will complete the challenge as she’s come so far in these past few months.
She’s inspired countless others around her, complete strangers, and she’s inspired me.
What have we got to moan about? If ever I have a niggle, or don’t fancy running (like last night), I will think about Diane. She ran about 15,000 metres with a broken leg.
For some of us, the next big target is Brighton Marathon in little over three weeks. I can’t wait. Having completed my first ever marathon there in a time of 5 hours dead in 2015, I want to make an improvement in my time.
I’m not going to go public with this one, but I think it’s achievable. Times matter little though when you’re running. For me it’s all about the enjoyment and sharing great life experiences with friends.
We all go home with the same medals around our necks at the end of the day.
I’m proud of each and every one of us in our team, but most of all Diane. You’re a star!