Ten 4 Ten starts and ends with Alzheimers.
Defined on the Wikipedia site as “..a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time” it has been a part of my family since 2010.
2010 was when my Dad was diagnosed, although as a family we knew something wasn’t right for a few years before that. The last time I remember my Dad being My Dad was in late 2008 at my Wedding, although even then he seemed somewhat quieter and a little distant.
For three years, up until 2013, Mum cared for Dad at home, sucking up the increasingly demanding behaviour and personality changes in the way that only a spouse of 40 years can. We offered support, but I was working away during the week and we had one small child and another on the way. That distance kept us from realising the toll looking after my Dad was taking on Mum though. September of 2013 saw Mum admitted to hospital as the Cancer she had been clear of reappeared and ravaged her. With no alternative and our immediate concern Mum, we managed to get Dad admitted to Respite Care.
Respite. Let me take the chance to give you another dictionary definition; “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant”.
Physically maybe, psychologically however, it’s just another form of guilt to beat yourself up with.. especially as a family member telling white lies and in an assuring voice to a confused parent that it’s just a little trip.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but for many months after Dad was admitted I didn’t visit.. for a while this was explained by Mum being my priority. A truth, but deep-down I was scared of visiting Dad. Eventually it almost seemed like so much time had passed I couldn’t go in, a stranger not a Son to see my Dad.
We did visit though, shocked by the change that we saw, a shrunken, pocket sized version of the man known to me previously, those beautiful blue eyes I remember dulled and empty.
Each week I left the care home with tear filled eyes, cursing the cruelty of my Dad’s failing brain and spinning with hopelessness.
I lost my Mum in late 2015.. I was an unashamed Mum’s boy, our relationship strong and close, I adored her deeply, with her loss I felt the responsibility of my Dad pass to me, more than a legal document and a bank account.
As a relative of someone in care it is difficult to feel useful.. Whilst at home washing, cleaning and day trips are possible but as the disease grips tighter, mobility is lost and the care becomes more technical and trying to help would achieve nothing more than obstructing a true professional in their job.
My Dad has just had his 83rd birthday, he had not spoken for a long time, not recognised me for longer and has now lost all mobility. He had to be moved every two hours throughout the night to prevent bed sores, his water must be thickened to prevent him choking and has a diet of pureed food.. now, instead of cursing the cruelty of his brain, I hate his body for keeping him alive with no discernible quality of life.
Frustration, anger and despair are, generally internalised or shared with my wife, but this year I joined the Alzheimers Research UK Facebook group. It’s easy to slip in overused phrases but I felt a relief at seeing others with similar experiences. Whilst I didn’t post, I felt support through reading the messages of others.
Whilst on holiday, I noticed an advert that mentioned a campaign that Alzheimers Research UK was running. It was called Running Down Dementia, the challenge was to run 100km over the summer of 2016 and raise £100 in the process.
I don’t usually go for charity stuff, I feel uneasy asking for sponsorship for something that I would normally do during training or would consider fun.
The Running Down Dementia idea wouldn’t go away though, I kept mulling it over, it was due to run until the end of October.. my Dads birthday was September.. 100km..
Doing 10km is not a challenge, I’ve raised that a few times this year,but 100km would be tough to train for in the time available, by the time I was fit enough to do, I’d probably revert to my normal thoughts of “How can I ask for sponsorship I will enjoy doing?”.
Ten4Ten.. the name came to mind during an early morning holiday run, the wild coastline of Cornwall seemed to inspire me.. over a few days the idea solidified and I spoke about it to Kate. I decided to start running 10km every day for 10 consecutive days, beginning on my birthday. Even during my half marathon days, I wouldn’t run 100km in such a short period of time.
This was something that would challenge me, I had done the 22 pushup challenge and had filmed a few of them, the natural progression of the the challenge was to take my Go-Pro along and film the runs, maybe talk about my experiences along the way.
The day before Dads birthday I set up a Justgiving webpage and announced my intensions on Facebook.
By the time I laced my trainers for the first time I had over £100 in sponsorship. The first day was great, 10 km is a good distance and I had quite a few things I wanted to say. After a few days I was starting to get into things and really enjoying the filming / editing process. It took a fair amount of time due to my lack of practice, but it was still great as a learning opportunity
By the end of the week I was shuffling not running and my calves were screaming. Finishing my final 10km I was lost for words, it had been emotionally as tough as physically, opening up about the experiences of the last few years was harder than I thought.
That said, it was a brilliant experience, the support I had from everyone was staggering, from friends, colleagues and strangers through the Facebook group.
To date, 10410 has raised over £700 and been featured in all of the local papers.. there are a few other things which have yet to come to fruition which I will talk about in a later post
There’s little else to say, that I haven’t already typed, better still, I’ve linked to the videos which articulate stuff probably better..