by Kerry Atkinson, UK
I contacted the MS Society in the UK about participating in the 'Flora Challenge' (a 5-mile run) after noticing it on the Society's web site.
I was diagnosed with MS in December last year, and thought it would be an ideal opportunity for me to help collect some sponsorship money for the Society. Although I can't run any more because of MS, I can walk slowly, taking breaks every so often to rest my legs. I thought that because the run was advertised 'for people of all fitness levels' that there would be other people taking part who had problems/disabilities, so I felt I wouldn't be on my own walking slowly round the course.
So armed with my sponsorship forms, I set about getting support from friends, family and work.
I was looking forward to a fun day in Hyde Park (where the run was taking place). I thought I'd make a weekend of it, and travelled down from York with my partner, John, on the Saturday. We booked into our hotel and spent the rest of the day sightseeing and gearing up for the run the following day.
Sunday came and after a light breakfast we decided to walk to the park from the hotel (close to Hyde Park) because we had plenty of time for me to rest before the actual run began at 10.30am. We arrived at the changing tents at around 9.30am and plonked ourselves down near the start line and waited. The atmosphere was great and I saw plenty of MS t-shirts and balloons as we sat.
10.30am arrived and I squeezed myself into the mass of runners, near the back. Only once the race had started was I able to reach the start line, at 10.40am. There were plenty of people walking, so I just walked along with them, listening to their stories, songs and banter as I happily strolled along.
By the time I got to the 2km mark I could feel my legs getting tired, but I trudged on, noticing more and more people passing me.
By the time I reached the 3km mark I realised I wasn't going to make it to the finish without a rest. But on glancing over my shoulder to see who was behind me, I realised to my horror that there were only a handful of people behind me, and they were steadily passing me by the second.
I tried to plod on, but by the 4km mark I was pretty much on my own. I was wobbling so much down the course that I collapsed under a tree! There were no more runners behind me. As I sat there a van pulled up and proceeded to remove the 4km marker board and put it into the back of the van.
I was so disheartened, especially as when I stood up to do the last kilometer, I started passing those who had completed the race, medals round their necks, clutching their finishers bags. When I wearily reached the finishing line, they were dismantling the timer and all the finishing packs were being loaded into lorries.
John went off to retrieve a finishers pack for me while I sat against the wall feeling sorry for myself. John couldn't express enough how proud he was of me for completing the course. I was proud of myself too, but couldn't help feeling embarrassed that everyone else had done it before me!
I've overcome my embarrassment now, and do feel proud that I did it. I'd given myself 2 hours to complete the 5k, and I actually did it in 1 hr, 40 mins, so I felt even more proud!
So, my claim to fame is that out of 22,000 women who took part in the challenge, I CAME LAST! I can look back on it now with a big grin on my face.