A one-way ticket, Newcastle to Durham, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

James Lee

James Lee has left the building and is about to head south from Freeman to Durham

I am lucky. The chemo I am on is purely oral. I go to the Freeman, get weighed, answer some questions, collect the pills and come home. Then I take the pills the following five nights. Simples.

Last year I found that the buses were better than the train. Recently I started wondering if I could run home. I printed out a map – 16.2 miles on road. Yesterday I left the house in my running gear.

At the Freeman my resting heart beat set off the alarms again. I was thankful, yet again, that I’m not sitting there for hours on intravenous (yet). I stowed the pills in my back pack and went down to the back door. Set my Garmin, my laces, my music. Go.

The first two miles disappeared reading the map (is that how fell runners ignore the pain?). There was the Ouse Burn to follow, a bit of park, then busy roads down to Quayside. Too many streets to cross but I was keeping good time. Under the Tyne Bridge and over the Swing Bridge, enjoying the view, then up. Two pages of A4 to get to Gateshead, one page for all those miles home.

The World outside your Window. The Angel from the bus.

The up wasn’t steep enough to require running right (see link) but there were some long gradual climbs with the occasional view down in to the valley. I passed the Angel again, ran through Birtley and Chester-le-Street.

I kept the pace up because I knew I was pushing my half-marathon PB. I knocked minutes off what I ran earlier this year – and what I ran in my 20s. Then my calves seized up. I slowed down – the next record was the distance on my Garmin so time didn’t matter. I made it home. I was glad I had stuck to off-road this year.

Lessons learned:

  • The A167 is good for speed but very boring for distance. I won’t run back from Newcastle again.
  • Don’t think that, because you’ve done 16 miles off-road, 16.2 miles on road will be OK. My theory is that, because of the better grip, I was pushing more with my feet – hence the calves problem. Whether that’s right or not, the difference hurts. It requires more cushioned trainers, too.
  • Taking the bus out is a good way to get a distance target – it’s hard to stop. I think it could be great to run all those miles without turning around. I just need to find the right route.

For those of you wondering how I’m still running:

Last summer the odds on the chemo working were 40%. It hasn’t just worked, it blew the grade III bit apart. My consultant has seen that 3-4 times in her career. The grade II bit has stopped growing but the chemo is still just buying me time. I passed the short life expectancy back in January.

Most people last about 9 rounds of chemo before the side effects get too much. I feel rough for a few days but can now do the club runs on the Wednesday after pills. This will be round 16 for me. My consultant has seen someone last 24, not that that’s a challenge… The average life expectancy ends next month and I’m not dead yet.

I’m beyond the statistics but the estimate is now some time next year. I’ve been warned that the end of chemo can be quite sudden. I’d love to finish this cross-country season. I wasn’t kidding with the “I am lucky”.

Sometimes I wonder what’s killing me. Is it the brain tumour, the chemo, or the reminder every 28 days? But it’s the living that matters. Thanks to all for keeping me running.

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4 thoughts on “A one-way ticket

  1. Blimey James. You’re an inspiration. All this time and I never knew your story either – I’ve always seen you as the nice guy who can run bloomin’ fast. To do that with what you’re going through makes it all the more incredible. Don’t give up – you’ve got this.

  2. Not just an amazing runner …. a true gentleman… embodiment of Striders… love seeing you at the races… always giving it everything….
    With all hands to the pump, determination and luck …. we’ll all be with you and smash XC this season.

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