Review of 2021

Bizarrely my main running achievements/highlights in 2021 didn’t really include much running! We started the year under Covid restrictions meaning that running club activities were stopped and you could only exercise with one other person outside your own household. Despite that our club managed to maintain compliant activities until late March 2021 when the lockdown was eased. Massive credit to the Styal Running Club committee for organising so many virtual events and charity fund raising events that kept us connected and raised £’000’s for charity.

Of course we had home schooling which presented lots of challenges away from running but thankfully most parents realised the importance of keeping their children active and maintaining fitness levels.

At the earliest possible opportunity, in Spring 2021, I engineered our clubs return to running within a Covid compliant framework that included booking in sheets, rules for compliance and splitting into groups led by our amazing LiRF’s before we were able, eventually, to resume near normal activities in the summer time.

Another major milestone was producing the Styal Running Club strategy document for the future of the club in the short and medium term and then implementing the first key strands which were a move to a new venue, Wilmslow Phoenix that has been an outstanding success to date. We have been made to feel incredibly welcome!

A “Sea of Orange” at our launch at Wilmslow Phoenix
Great hopes for our new venue at Wilmslow Phoenix

A number of club members were taking on their first marathons in autumn 2021 and it was great to help them a little with a Zoom talk about endurance running. I’ve no idea if it did actually help but I don’t think it did any harm!

9th May 2021, the 4th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, saw me complete a 374 day, 1546 mile streak of running (mostly) or hiking (proper hiking) every single day!

The highlight of the year was, without question, completing the 100km ultra marathon Race To The Castle that I wrote a detailed blog about https://runningintocancer.co.uk/2021/07/01/pushing-myself-to-the-limits/

For people who don’t have a life reducing illness, the treatment for which makes all forms of exercise 10 times tougher, RTTC would have been a serious challenge but for me this pushed me to the absolute limits of my endurance and, despite the issues that I have to overcome every day, I completed the race in just over 18 hours, including pit stops, finishing 7th out of 15 in the Vets over 60 category.

The finish line of Race To The Castle – 64 miles in 2 days!

Other exercise milestones, albeit hiking rather than running, were completing the MacMillan Mighty Hike, 26 miles and 3200ft of elevation gain around Ullswater with my friends from Fitclub.

Fitclub completing MacMillan Mighty Hike and raising £’000’s for MacMillan

Completing a Prostate Cancer UK Marathon March for Men with Jeff Stelling.

Marching for Men Marathon with Jeff Stelling

and climbing Scafell with Liam Bergin and Chris Johnson, two other men living with different terminal cancers.

Three terminally ill men “Not Dead Yet Climb of Scafell”

Racing now presents some challenges for me as I just don’t have the strength any more to race hard like in the old days. However, being involved in races is a massive part of my running DNA and it was great to find a niche as a pacemaker at a number of RunNorthWest events and also to help out as a volunteer. It’s quite magical seeing the people you run with hit a target that they didn’t think achievable.

RunNorthWest Race Director helping the elderly pacemaker across the line!

Volunteering at parkrun is something that is also hugely enjoyable and, amazingly, I completed my 150th parkrun and 50th volunteer stint on the same day!

Exercise is a massively important part of my life and being a patient representative for Prehab4Cancer in Greater Manchester, which supports cancer patients pre-treatment/surgery so that they are better able to cope and return to normal life more quickly, is a real privilege. The P4C team did an amazing job coping through Covid and of course the programme manager, Kirsty Rowlinson-Groves ran RTTC with me. As she would tell HRH Princess Anne when we met her later in the year “He made me do it”

As a patient “expert” I’ve been able to use everything that I’ve learned about the benefits of exercise to be a speaker at two national Prehab conferences, speak to a number of prostate cancer support groups, speak at the Virtual Greater Manchester Cancer Conference and, over the Christmas period be featured on BBC North West talking about the benefits of exercise https://twitter.com/ethansgrumps/status/1475106516751507457/video/1

Throughout the year it’s been a real pleasure to be part of 5k Your Way as ambassador at Wilmslow parkrun and to be North West regional champion. I arranged Zoom get togethers during lockdown to keep us connected, appeared in the 5kyw podcast and helped facilitate the setup of new 5kyw venues with more to come in 2022. Watch this space!

5K Your Way at Wilmslow parkrun

The year-end stats show that I ran 990 miles, despite the last 2 or 3 months being restricted by various health issues. In addition I hiked 172 miles and I used the various exploits mentioned in this blog to raise nearly £11,000 for MacMillan and Prostate Cancer UK taking my personal fundraising to £45,000+ in recent years.

As for none running achievements/highlights it’s also been an excellent year:-

  • My work with Prostate Cancer UK continued with lots of awareness talks, mainly on Zoom, but specifically speaking to their very important corporate partners as well as being part of a GP education talk with leading urological consultants/specialists.
  • I organised Q&A’s with leading experts for our Prostate Cancer support group and also helped some newly diagnosed men with 1 to 1 chats.
  • With the support of our Business Improvement District I Painted Altrincham, my home town, Blue in November to raise awareness of men’s health issues.
Painting Altrincham Blue and the Goose Green Geese looking resplendent

Cancer research is so important and when the Institute of Cancer Research asked me to record a video about how I’ve benefitted from research for their winter fund raising campaign it was very easy to say yes. https://youtu.be/G4y73I-HIYU

A massive highlight of the year was being a part of Maggie’s On The Runway fashion show as a committee member, Catwalk Captain and reluctant model. As an ambassador for Maggie’s this is such a significant event and, thanks to the incredible work of Margo Cornish, raised over £225,000!

A cheeky twerk on the catwalk!

I was delighted to do Face to Face speeches and talks for Rotary club and there is a recording of my talk for Sale Rotary Club available at this link https://youtu.be/6cpMO37H7Sw

It was also fabulous to hit some personal milestones:-

  • My prostate cancer remains stable after 4 years and 8 months which is remarkable but I won’t knock it!
  • I got to walk my Daughter down the aisle which was incredibly emotional as, when I was diagnosed in May 2017, I didn’t think I’d get to see the day! January 2022 will see another highlight when our Granddaughter makes her appearance into the world!
About to see the tears flow as I walk my Daughter down the aisle

How could I not mention being chosen to turn on the Christmas lights in my home town, Altrincham with Alex McCann?

There are lots of other things I could talk about but I’ll leave it at that as it’s already too much of a Tony lovefest.

2022 will no doubt present its challenges but let’s meet them head on and live every minute of every day to the absolute full.