Tom ran the Great Manchester Marathon in April 2016, the first time he'd done anything like this. Tom lost his grandmother suddenly to bladder cancer in 2015.
When my nan passed away I felt a sudden and unfamiliar void in my life. My family around me were also devastated to lose such a wonderful woman so I took it upon myself to be the strong one. Deep down I wasn't being strong... I would break down to my fiancée in private, allowing myself a few moments of grief here and there. I needed to take my mind off things, set myself a goal... a few clicks later and I had signed myself up to run the Manchester Marathon for Action on Bladder Cancer; an organisation at the forefront of fighting the very disease that took my nan away from us.
That was December... it was cold and wet but I hit the road. At first I struggled through a 15 minute jog... this was going to be a tough few months. Minutes became miles and days became weeks and I kept going. Fast forward to April 10th 09:00 and I'm stood in start area G trembling, partly because of the bite in the Northern air but mostly with anticipation.
The timer starts and I'm shuffling along with 12,000 other runners looking for space. The first 5 miles breeze by almost too easily and I'm swept up in the atmosphere of the cheering crowds. 2 hours pass and I still haven't stopped, spurred on by the onlookers and especially by my loved ones.
I've heard many people discuss "the wall"... it's very real and for me came at mile 20. Suddenly I lost control of my legs and hobbled to the left, grabbing jelly babies from children and jaffa cakes from sweet old ladies (like my nan) desperately trying to feed what was left of my leg muscles. The final 6 miles can only be described as hell, people are crying and breaking down all around me. We cheer each other on and pass knowing looks to one another... I don't know these people but we share a common bond. We're running for someone or something we love.
20 energy gels and umpteen jelly babies later and I see the finish line. It's a glorious sight and one that brings on a sudden and uncontrollable wave of emotion. As I cross the line and see my family I burst into tears and remember all the training, how hard the past few hours (ok 5 hours) had been; but most of all I remember the lady behind my decision to sign up. Whilst running the marathon can't bring my nan back, by raising money for Action on Bladder Cancer I might just have helped the next family who hear those dreadful words.
If you're reading this and you or someone you know is suffering, is sadly no longer with us, or if you just want to make a difference, sign up! It doesn't have to be a marathon but something. Charities like ABC depend on fundraising from people like us... of the 12,000 people that took part in the Manchester Marathon, I was the only runner wearing the ABC colours. As proud as I was to fly the flag, it's not enough. We need to do more.
Thank you to all the guys at ABC UK for your support.
Thomas "Tomble" Ward