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Please support my marathon challenge

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On 15 December 2002 I was informed by my consultant I had throat cancer.

I was 39 years of age, had been a professional athlete for much of my life, drank alcohol within reason and had never been a smoker.

Indeed, I did not even feel ill before finding a lump on the left side of my neck so being told I had the ‘Big C’ at such a young age and with eight-year-old twin daughters was a devastating blow to me and my family.

Over the next five months I was to have three major operations, which uncovered a further six tumours in my neck, and completed the treatment with 30 sessions of radiotherapy.

It was a huge challenge but thanks to the brilliance of a medical team led by my oncology consultant Mr Rogan Corbridge and radiologist Dr Chris Alcock I was one of the lucky ones.

During the past decade, approximately 80,000 people have been diagnosed with this form of cancer and, while more than half will have been cured, current treatment methods can have a devastating effect on the lives of patients, affecting their ability to speak, eat, taste, smell or see.

A year after completing the treatment I was having a routine check-up with Rogan and asked him “why me?”

He said he simply could not be certain but was setting up a charity called ‘Heads Up’ to fund pioneering research into head and neck cancer to try to find out the answer to that question.

I asked him if I could do anything to help, and was soon patron of the charity!

Andy Flower

England Team Director Andy Flower ran in last year's London Marathon but now it's my turn to take on the 26-mile challenge

I will be very proud to represent them at the London Marathon on 21 April, particularly as this year’s event falls almost 10 years to the day since I finished my treatment for cancer.

I watched the London Marathon last year and, like always, I found it totally inspiring. Andy Flower and Gordon Lord, our head of elite coach development, ran it and now it’s my turn.

Andrew Strauss is doing it this year too, but I am afraid I will be crossing the finishing line well after him. I saw him today and he is looking as fit as a butcher’s dog!

Training has been interesting, particularly as my knees are shot to bits from playing cricket and rugby.

I’ve had four operations on my right knee and one on my left, so that restricts the amount of training I can do. As a result, I have done all my running so far on a treadmill which is a bit more forgiving than pounding the pavements of Hertfordshire.

I’ve had some great advice from Huw Bevan, the England strength and conditioning coach, and Chris Rosimus, ECB’s performance nutritionist. I have followed their programmes as closely as possible to give myself a reasonable chance of getting over the finish line in one piece.

I started making small steps with three and four-mile runs and have now built up to 15 miles. It has not exactly been Mo Farah pace, and running long distances on a treadmill can be a bit soul destroying, so I time my runs to coincide with the beginning of football, rugby or cricket matches on the TV in my local gym to make the sessions a little less tedious.

I normally do my long runs on Saturday, some cross training on Sunday, then shorter runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. At the moment these shorter runs are between four and eight miles but they are due to get longer in the coming weeks.


When I was in Dharamsala for the recent one-day tour of India I did 10 miles on the hotel treadmill - we were 5,000ft above sea level

With my job I am travelling quite a lot so I have to be quite adaptable when it comes to getting the miles in my legs. When I was in Dharamsala last month with the England one-day international team I did 10 miles on the treadmill – we were almost 5,000 feet about sea level which made it even harder than normal.

This week I will be venturing onto the roads for the first time ahead of the Berkhamsted Half Marathon on Sunday. It will be my first half marathon and will give me a bit of a clue as to my preparation for the big race in London. I have no aspirations for a time. I’ll let you know how I do in my next blog.

The London Marathon will be my one and only effort at this distance and it would be greatly appreciated if you were able to support 'Heads Up' by clicking here.

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