RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Archive for the category “Marathon running”


I do like a challenge. I do like to push myself. But there are times when I take on more than I bargained for.

I knew when I signed up for the London Marathon that it would be hard work and it’d be painful and would be difficult.

But what I didn’t anticipate was just how physically painful the whole thing would be. And sadly, it’s been too painful.

It’s been well documented on here that I have dodgy knees…indeed, I even cancelled some surgery on my left knee to allow me to go to Afghan, but sadly my dodgy knees have failed me. My body has failed me. I have failed me.

I cannot take part in the marathon. I have had to pull out. And I feel rotten and terrible and worst of all that I have let everyone down.

I have let the RAFBF down because I said that I would try and raise as much money for them as possible, and I have let you down because I promised you that I would take part in the run, and I have let down people who have already sponsored me to run (and already donated nearly £2000) by not actually being able to do what I promised, and I have let myself down for not being able to do it.

So what’s wrong? Well, I have major knee issues on my left knee – a particular thing called a Plica (it’s like a cyst) and ligament problems AND patella tendonitis. And because of the distances I am doing as part of the training that is causing a lot of pain, and the associated limping and labouring has spread the patella tendonitis to my right knee.

Initially it was manageable and I was only in a small amount of pain when running, but as the mileage increased the pain lingered and left me limping and struggling on stairs after the run. Eventually it hungover so that I was still in pain the day after the run. And limping.

This made even walking the dog round the block painful. It made it difficult at work as stairs were very painful – imagine a needle being jabbed into the bottom of your kneecap on every step up and down – and then find yourself working on the first floor of a building without a lift!

And it all came to a head last Sunday. Sunday was the day I would have my long run…and I went out ready to run a half-marathon around the leafy lanes of sunny Surrey. I plodded off after my warm up and the pain was immediately higher than I had suffered so far. And I got 2 miles into the route and found myself walking because of the pain. And after half a mile more I couldn’t run at all. I completely broke down and had to phone my wife to come and pick me up in the car.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. The next day I was still in pain and found it difficult to walk the dog, and had to go to see the doc.

He confirmed…patella tendonitis and referred me to the physio. And told me in no uncertain terms, given my history, ‘no running’. And to cope with the pain…Ibuprofen 600mg. Proper horse tablets. (Obviously this has had a benefit that I can have a few glasses of wine of an evening and not have to worry about a hangover in the morning!)

And so here I am. Waiting for the physio to kick in. Walking only. Not training – and when I do, not running or biking. I did try to stick some weight on my back and think about tabbing the Marathon. But the doc said this was not a good idea.

What this means is a bit deeper than just not being able to run the marathon though.

It is the first time I have failed at something I have set out to do. At times the training for going to Afghan was hard, and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it. There were times that actually being in Afghan was hard and I thought I wouldn’t get through the deployment, but I did. I pushed and, to be honest, in a test of me against Afghan, it was a test of me against me; mind over matter. And I won.

But this has been different, it’s a test of me against my body and my body has won. I have failed. When it comes to it, my body is weak, but it is still stronger than my mind. I just couldn’t handle the pain, and the potential of long term damage is just too much to keep me pounding the street.

But this makes me think how lucky I am.

There are people, people who I know personally, friends I made in Afghan, who have no choice. Double amputees who have to keep going on. People who are in pain 24/7.

These are very special people. It goes to show me what I knew all along. They are stronger, braver…better than me. I am a pale shadow in comparison to their shining light.

I wish I was stronger. I wish my body was stronger. And this links back to a recent blog post of mine about heroes.

A hero is someone who you aspire to be. Someone who you look to for an example. Someone who you want to be.

I can’t and don’t see myself as any of that. But those people… Those who accept the pain of life-changing injuries with good grace and humour. Who accept that they just have to get on with life after it. Who just ‘crack on’. They are heroes.

And then there are those people who the RAFBF are helping on a day to day basis. Not just young men and women who have been injured in recent conflicts. There are those people who have struggled and suffered for years – fought against disability, pain or mental health – and have done so without morning about it.

They have just cracked on. They all are heroes.

And me? What am I to do? I can’t ‘crack on’. In this case I am not strong enough to do it. Now.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll be like this forever. Well I hope not. I will get my knees sorted. I will get myself fixed.

I will do it for a couple of reasons. One – it’s important to be fit and healthy, but the most important thing is that I owe it to everyone who has been hurt, injured or affected by some sort of trauma to get better so I can be stronger, to learn and grow and to be able to do something to raise the funds that people like the RAF Benevolent Fund need to help them.

But most of all I owe it to me to be fit for me.



“We choose to go…not because they are easy – but because they are hard!”

John F Kennedy and his speech-writers were spot on.

It’s easy to do nothing. It’s easy to just sit here. It’s hard to get out there and do stuff. But am I tough enough. Since I started my training for the London Marathon in April, I have seriously upped my running mileage. Even in the early weeks of my training programme I have doubled my running distances and it’s already having a bit of a toll.

You see as regular blog readers will remember from ages ago, I have dodgy-knees. Like many in the Forces (and not just the RAF I noticed, during my time working with the Army) I have developed injured and painful knees. Now this MAY have been brought on by a family history of dodgy knees – my Mother, Brother and one of my Sisters have a similar problem – but it might also be due to spending the early years of my working life on my knees crawling around under Tornados.

The worst job I remember was fitting one particularly heavy box to a door panel that was as close to the centre of the underneath of the fuselage as you could get – a box weighing some 15kgs. It had to be man-handled into position whilst you were on your knees under the middle of the aircraft. And these were back in the days of very little H&S and Protective Equipment – knee pads. And after fitting the box in place there was the usual myriad of connections and wires to fit to it.

This though was fairly easy compared to the Armourers who used to have to crawl underneath fitting the Missiles to the aircraft. I pity their knees now…

But anyway, the running. Despite getting my trainers fitted correctly to match my running gait, despite replacing the insoles inside the new trainers with shock-absorbing insoles, despite wearing knee strapping…the running hurts. But it’s got to be done. I could quit. But why? A little discomfort that will go as I increase the strength in my leg muscles and my legs get used to the increased milage? It’s worthwhile.

Because I must push myself. As I said it’s easy to NOT go running. It’s the hardest thing in the world at times, when I have not been sleeping well (another issue), and I have an hours journey home to see my wife, and still have work to do in the office and have to help my wife look after my 2 year old daughter. It’s hard to get out there. It’s hard to build up the enthusiasm to get the running gear on and go. And it’s hard when you know that it hurts, and that it will hurt.

But this is where Kennedy’s quote come it. I chose to do this. Not because it will be easy, but because it is hard. I have had an easy life. It’s been fairly privileged, and I have had pretty much what I wanted when I wanted it. I’ve not really had to struggle for a lot. But whilst what I am doing appears hard. There are always people out there who have it harder.

There are carers who simply can’t just decide to stop caring for their sick, ill or injured loved one…and who get no respite, day after day, day and night. There are those who are sick themselves – facing huge struggles to try and get better; to overcome life-threatening illnesses. A struggle that they just can’t give up…or else their life will be over.

There are those who are injured. People I know, people I worked with, people I shared time with, out in Afghan who were injured out there. Double amputees who face the struggle to try and rebuild their lives. They can’t just give up. They HAVE to go on.

So whilst it appears hard to me…it’s not really. In relation to these and their struggles mine is a trifle. Just put your trainers on and get out there…and that is when I do, I am doing it to aid the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. Please take the time to drop by my sponsorship page, because the RAFBF is helping those people I have listed here. They are helping the people who have serious, hard, sometimes insurmountable struggles.

Yeah, my knees hurt and my legs are aching, but I can still run. The feeling of being out there, in the air, the wind, the cold, the pounding on my feet on the roads, the music from my iPod in my ears…it’s not that hard…it’s fairly easy. And with a bit more training and a bit more strength work on my legs the pain will go. And if I keep running and you keep donating then maybe we can help some people let go a bit of their pain. Get some respite, get some care…get themselves a little bit better.

Beginning of (another) Great Adventure…

Life is an adventure.

I believe this quite firmly.  I think that we can either get on with life or it can just fly past us.

I didn’t always think this way. Once I was quite happy to potter on and let life happen around me.  It wasn’t an adventure, it was a meander. A gentle sway through the world.

And this is ok.  If that is you, then fine! That is what you want – good for you.  But (and this is getting a bit needlessly ‘Trainspotting-esque’ here) I chose not to think that way. I choose to live life to the full.  To do as much as possible.  To get a lot of ‘experiences’ in my bag so that (a) I can bore my grand-children to death about it and (b) hope that it might make me as better and as good a ‘me’ as I can be.

That was why I chose to go to Afghan last year.  It was a year long marathon that took me well outside my comfort zone.  It pushed me to the edge of me physically – and one rainy night on the Training Land just behind Corunna Barracks it pushed me to the edge of me mentally.  I was close to quitting that night. But I got a lot of support from the lads and lasses I was with and I had a sleep and a laugh at the situation I had gotten myself into and realised…THIS was living.  I realised that in the long run I wanted to go to Afghan to prove to help the people over there.  And if that meant it tested me to the limit, so be it.

Me Versus Afghan.  Me Versus IEDs, being shot at, living in the back of beyond with few comforts.  Me seeing things and doing things that would scare my mum (if she’d have been around to see it) and me testing myself against myself to see if I can measure up. Sort of Me  Versus Me.

And I did all that.  I found that at times I didn’t measure up to what I wanted to be, but HEY! Life is an adventure and it takes you to places. That means it’s also a bit of a journey (oh God, this is getting all ‘X-factor’ now!) and we learn things on the way. I am not at the end of my my adventure (life) and so I still have things to learn about myself…so I can do more stuff and learn more about me and embody my maxim that ‘Experience isn’t something you have – it’s something you use’.

I want to keep pushing myself and keep testing myself. And that is why I have just started another adventure.

I am running the 2012 Virgin London Marathon.  In April. The 22nd. That’s just 107 days away.

Now I am not a very fit guy. I am not a fast guy, but I like to think I have stamina.  I don’t go fast, but I plod and I get there.  And I need something to drive me – to push me on.  So running a marathon is not too crazy an idea for me.  I might not do it fast, and it might hurt me to do it, but I think it is – like going to Afghan was – an achievable aim.  It holds risks (not life-threatening obviously) and challenges, and it needs me to become more focussed, more determined, more dedicated – AND THIS IS A GOOD THING FOR ME.

And I am doing it for a charity too of course.  I am doing it for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund – who’s aim is to support the RAF family whenever and wherever it is needed. My family has a bit of history with the RAFBF – my father received help from them in the past when he needed it.  He was still serving at the time and a family tragedy meant that he needed help and support. The RAFBF provided that help and support. So I feel we sort of owe them.

And if I can help them and that help is by running a marathon…then I will! And of course this means that you can too.  When I was in Afghan, blog readers and Twitter followers were very kind, generous and supportive.  From messages of goodwill through to sending me out ‘welfare’ and ‘goodie’ boxes (which I enjoyed eating and sharing around with my fellows at the Check Point) you all helped and supported me out there.

And once again I ask you to help and support me.  You can of course provide me with encouragement and support – and call me out when I don’t want to go for a run on a wet and windy Sunday morning – but you can also support me AND the RAF Benevolent Fund by sponsoring me to complete the run.  You can visit my charity donations web-page here – www.virginmoneygiving.com/RAFairman Please, anything that you can give would be amazing and will go a long way to help those people who are part of the RAF family who require a little help in their time of need.

And of course, as I undertake this adventure – this journey – I will be keeping you informed on here with tales of my training, and if possible stories of how the RAFBF has helped and continues to help those Airmen and Airwomen who need it.

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