We wake pretty late – around 10, when my Tac-alarm goes off – and slowly grind to a start. I didn’t sleep at all well, waking up pretty much every hour, so I’m feeling decidedly sluggish, although a quick shower kick starts me very nicely.
We head across to the house to see what we can help with. K has been there ahead of me and is knee-deep in cakes, arranging a display of confectionery to make the least-sweet toothed person fancy a nibble. All will be on sale throughout the after noon and, come 4 o’clock, all will have been sold and many eaten. Not least by K.
I am put to work on various bits and pieces to do with the silent auction and raffle, both of which will be running throughout. A silent auction, for the uninitiated, is an auction in the traditional sense, but instead of having an auctioneer at the front of the room reeling off the prices and bids, each lot is given a piece of paper on which you write your bid and then keep checking to see if anyone has out bid you. The best thing about silent auctions is that they can run a lot longer than regular auctions without really winding people up – especially the people who aren’t interested in bidding, for whom a traditional auction is the worst kind of dull.
After almost an hour of beavering away on whatever I’m set-to by the awesomely organised and surpringsly-not-in-the-least-bossy Lucinda, CF-mum and helper-in-chief to Suzanne, the lady-of-the-house who appears to currently be engaged in doing absolutely everything all at once, I have to scurry off to make myself look presentable for the incoming hoards. I feel somewhat ashamed that the elite team of ladies have been working away since goodness-knows-when (certainly before I was awake) and my little contribution adds up to little over an hour’s stuffing things in envelopes and putting things on tables.
Still, take myself away I do and smarten myself up. I find K knee deep in hair-product getting her new ‘Do to behave (which it does, and beautifully), slip into my posh frock (wait a sec…) and head back over to the house to be there when the throng arrives.
To my immense surprise, said throng is almost perfectly on time. I had this crowd pegged as the fashionably-late sort, but not a bit of it. On the dot the majority of them came steaming in through the gates (yes, they have gates…!) and parked up in the courtyard (which you’ll remember from yesterday), unloaded themselves, their friends and – occasionally – their babies, and headed up into the house.
Once they’d all settle into the food service (aha – captive audience…), Stephen kicked things off my introducing himself, the idea behind the marathon and the reasons he and the rest of the team were involved. Then he introduced me (and I’ll forgive him the “brave” comment purely because it’s the only foot he put wrong the whole time I was there…) and I was left to fend for myself in front of 2 rooms full of 100+ ladies (I didn’t count because then I’d just have got all wound up about it).
When I speak in public, I tend to talk without notes. I usually know how I’ll start and I like to plan something punchy to end on (although Stephen stole the “downhill” joke from me in his intro, so that was that scuppered), but the rest of it is left up to the mood of the room and the feel of the day. What that mostly means is that I often talk for 10-15 minutes and finish off having absolutely no idea what I’ve just said. You’ll have to talk to someone else who was there to find out if I was a) interesting or b) any good, but I was happy enough I hadn’t droned on for hours nor been too deathly dull, although one can never tell.
Managing to get myself some lunch afterwards, I got a few appreciative nods and comments from people, which was good, and the silent auction seemed to start to rattle along a bit after in-speech plugs from Stephen and I. Unwinding from the talk and chatting to the guests, it was good to hear a number of people being educated for the first time about CF – although it’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone out there who’s not heard of it, the truth is it’s rarer than a lot of conditions. The advantage of introducing it to people for the first time – especially at a fundraiser – is that they often want to do something immediately to help out. When you combined the charitable urge with the enormous efforts the marathon team are putting in, I was hopeful we’d give the team a decent boost to their sponsorship coffers.
I can’t express my admiration for these guys enough. Not only have they completed other marathons together, they are now working as a team to meet the challenge of the world’s highest marathon – a feet so insane and counter-intuitive that I simply can’t contemplate it. And they’re doing it all – off their own backs – to raise money for the CF Trust and help them pursue their gene-therapy trials in the search for effective treatment and – one day, maybe – a cure for this horrible disease that takes too many lives.
I’m one of the lucky ones who’s been given a second chance at life – a second crack of the whip. There are still too many children and young adults who only get the briefest, quietest crack and who we lose every week.
Please, please, if you are as inspired by their efforts and their self-lessness as I am, if you are even remotely touched by their attitude and sense of adventure, if you have any concept just how hard a marathon is, let along one at the base of the world’s highest mountain, go to their Just Giving page and leave a donation – it doesn’t matter how small, every tiny bit counts. And if you know any benevolent marathon runners, pass on the link, let them see how insane it is for themsevles and get them to leave a donation , too – www.justgiving.com/THCF
At the end of the afternoons activities, having drawn the raffle (and walked away with a food mixer and Christmas hamper!), closed the silent auction and totted up cash donations through tickets, raffle and cake sales to inexcess of £2,300, plus cheques totalling more than £1800 and over £3000 in auction lots, I was well and truly shattered. Surpsingly so, in fact, but I think the combination of a bad night’s sleep, adrenaline and nerves from the talk and being on my feet for almost 5 hours straight had taken their toll and I needed a kip.
Excusing ourselves in the middle of clear up (here comes the guilt again…), K and I headed up to our room and laid ourselves out for an hour to recharge. When I woke, I plodded back over to the house and met up with the rest of the marathon team who had joined remains of the day (with the exception of Jodie, who couldn’t come for cross-infection reasons with me). Both Guy and Barry are exceptionally nice blokes and seeing the hilarity as they tried on some of their cold-weather mountain gear and their thermal sleeping backs and blow-up matresses almost made me wish I was going with them. then I remembered they were running a marathon on Everest and the urge miraculously disappeared.
In the evening, K and I took ourselves off into the centre of Durham (thanks to Alex’s wonderfully kind taxi service) for a nice meal between the two of us, followed by a walk up to the Cathedral to wave at Castle.
When we got back we sat and chilled with Family Cronin for a while, catching up on the day’s gossip and chatting about all sorts of various disparate subjects from the Mac vs. PC debate to modern horror films and shooting stage plays.
By the time I’d got to the bottom of my beer it was pushing 11 and I was acutely aware that everyone had things to do tomorrow, not least the two of us to make our way all the way back down South. We were already imposing on the family a day longer than we’d expected to (after I realised the inherent foolishness off trying to drive home from the party in the afternoon as tired as I was), so I wanted to inconvenience them as little more as we could manage.
We headed back to the room, brewed a cuppa, sloped into bed and I don’t know about K but I was asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow.
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