Day 100 – the final word, for now

The final day of my challenge has come – a monumental day for me as I complete what is an “unreasonable” amount of Olympic-distance triathlons on consecutive days.

Many who have been following my updates will have heard of the ups and downs of the last 100 days but might not know some of the background so, as this is my last update, I will explain how I got to this point.

I did my first triathlon ten years ago, as a personal challenge and, being someone who has trained intensely on a sporadic basis over the last 30 years, I wanted to get fit and do something that would keep me fit into later life. I knew I would commit to it and train for several days a week but did not want to just run a marathon because the impact could be too wearing on knees and ankles etc. So doing a triathlon, a mixture of three very different sports, using different muscle groups, sounded perfect. Little did I know of what I would later undertake.

After completing the 2009 London triathlon, I continued to dabble for another two years, just doing the one (London) triathlon in 2010 and 2011, but four minutes slower each year. In 2012, I realised I either needed to train properly or think about another way of keeping fit as I did not want the slide in times to continue.

I began training around ten hours a week for the next couple of years, taking part in the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast and a few more triathlons each year. Inspired by a friend who qualified for the GB age-group triathlon team I asked a coach to help me do the same. In 2014, I took part in three races that, if I was within a certain time of the winner, could mean I qualified for the GB team too. On the last one, I squeaked in by the skin of my teeth and that September took part in the World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.

I have continued to train around seven to ten hours a week and race occasionally for fun. But since the horrendous murder of Police Constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in 2012 I have wanted to do something with my triathlon fitness to play a small part in honouring their sacrifices.

But my challenge started with the publication I edit, Police Professional, getting involved in the campaign to build a memorial to fallen officers at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire, where there are 300 fabulous memorials, mostly to the military, and peaceful grounds where relatives, friends and colleagues of people who have died can reflect and remember their loved ones. However, there has not been a fitting memorial to fallen police officers and staff.

The charity behind getting one built to honour the courage and sacrifice of police officers and staff had wanted to begin construction in 2019. I had the idea of doing a large number of triathlons to raise money for such a good cause about 18 months ago but a trial attempt, to do three on consecutive days, failed on day two. Injuries prevented me doing anything until September 2018, and when my wife was away and after four months of decent training, I decided to commit to doing 100 triathlons in 100 consecutive days. I knew if she had been around I would have been persuaded against such a decision.

I would later be asked by Chief Constable Bill Skelly’s wife why I chose 100, was it a reasonable amount? The real reason was that that number was totally unreasonable, it was beyond anything I have ever attempted and the commitment to achieve it would be so significant – especially as I was to do it alongside my very busy job running a business and editing a weekly publication.

Having announced it at an event in London, I increased my training and decided to start on October 31, the anniversary of the death of Sgt John Speed, a day I will remember for the rest of my life as I was a police officer in the 1980s and was on duty when he was shot outside Leeds Minster.

I am so grateful for the support of Motorola Solutions, who instantly understood what I was trying to do and why, without hesitation, they provided me with funding to ensure I had enough kit to complete the challenge, covering the cost of the swimming shorts, cycling jackets, t-shirts and trainers that I have worn out.

And now, having completed 99, after overcoming severe injuries and illness, I was at the Friary Grange Leisure Centre, Lichfield about to complete my final one. The sense of satisfaction to get this far is immense, I knew I would be able to complete the whole thing so the day was to be a major celebration.

I was honoured to have Sir Hugh Orde, the chair of the charity’s trustees, travel up from Sussex to see me complete the challenge. And it was really emotional to have Emma Ward represent Lincolnshire Police and present me with a wonderful framed commemoration of my day there on January 21 (doing number 83).

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I was also grateful to aspiring triathlete Lucy Parkhouse, who surprised me and came up that morning from Aylesbury, after her family have wonderfully supported my efforts locally.

Number 100 began with a swim in the very nice pool after a good bit of banter with the Aquarobics class. It was fabulous to swim with abandon and go fast when I could, not concerned that I might injure myself and not be able to do another swim tomorrow. I was buffeted slightly by the Aquarobics class and the other lane swimmers but very pleased to be able to put a strong effort in. The applause from the ladies, and one man, in the class when I finished was great.

It was then on to the Wattbike in a room set aside for us to do the challenge, rather than in the gym where they are normally located. I am not sure that was a good idea as the small room did not have windows that could be opened, there was no fan and I could only be cooled by the wafting of a towel by one of the Staffordshire Police officers who waited for me to do the run together. Nevertheless, it was a fast time as once again this was to be the last cycle of the entire challenge.

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A very sweaty me, flanked by Sir Hugh Orde and Emma Ward capturing my times.

And this was the last huge effort as I was about to complete the celebration leg of the challenge, an 11.3km run to the NMA with a team of Staffordshire Police officers and staff.

With downpours over the previous days, and the heavens opening that morning, and even a touch of snow on high ground, by the time I set off on the run it was amazing how glorious the weather was. The parting words to the other runners from Sir Hugh were “Do not let him get run over”, but the course meant we ran on a verge to avoid the traffic to begin with. It was very worrying when I turned my ankle on the kerb after less than a kilometre. I apologise to the others for my language but it was very painful. I hobbled for a short while and the pain receded but for a moment I thought I might have to hop a long way – there was no way wouldn’t finish.

It was very enjoyable getting to know several of the group and before I knew it we had arrived at the NMA – I was very sad it had come to an end. As I reached the entrance it was wonderful to see Colin Moore, who had travelled all the way from Preston to see me finish the job.

I was then greeted at the finish line by Staffordshire Police’s chief constable, Gareth Morgan, who is also a trustee of the charity. But I am doing the whole challenge to pay tribute to those who face huge dangers and deal with conflict and chaos every day, so the warm hugs and hand shakes from the officers and staff who ran with me, Emma and Detective Inspector Steve Ward, who so calmly stepped in to organise this triathlon so well, meant so much.

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Finishing the triathlon at the NMA with Chief Constable Gareth Morgan and the Staffordshire Police team  – Det Insp Glyn Pattinson, Insp Mark Churton, PC Thomas Cordall, PC James Bream, DC Clare Davenport, Nia Nokes, Melonie Deakin, Rebecca Southall and Charlotte White

But I also remembered completing other triathlons around the country, when I paid tribute to the sacrifice of so many officers and staff. I thought of their parents, children, partners, friends and colleagues who I have met, especially those of PC Andrew Bramma and PCSO Chris Maclure. Their support was touching and provided me with great motivation to not only hit my target for money raised but to speak to as many people as possible about what it is like to carry a warrant card, put on a uniform and go out of a police station to face all kinds of incidents.

And why it is so important that a fitting memorial is built, to not only remember those who have died but to recognise the impact on so many people.

It is also important that the public understands that officers and staff are making those sacrifices and show huge courage thousands of times a day. A huge proportion of incidents they attend can go very wrong, whether that is saving someone from a mental health crisis, assisting an elderly motorist in distress by the side of a motorway in the middle of a dark night, or so many domestic incidents, never mind the pub fights, arresting criminals and dealing with terrorists.

The public owe a huge debt to police officers and staff and I for one will continue to make sure the public understands that.

My challenge has been about saying ‘Thank you’ to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us but also to show a huge gratitude to those who continue to do so without us ever being aware.

Please take time to add your thanks by donating whatever you can. This can be done via my Justgiving page here

As I have done every day, I pay tribute to the police officers and staff who have lost their lives on this date. On February 7, they are:

1962 – Police Constable James Brown – Lothian & Peebles Constabulary
1940 – Police Constable Norman Croxton – Surrey County Constabulary
1960 – Police Constable Harold Hauxwell – Metropolitan Police
1976 – Inspector William Murtagh – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1949 – Police Constable Ralph Pattison – Northumberland County Constabulary
1994 – Police Constable Gina Rutherford – South Yorkshire Police
1939 – Police Constable Lewis Tucker – Somerset County Constabulary

My challenge has come to an end and I will give my body a small rest.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to the cause and supported my efforts in so many ways, you are too many to do so individually. But the job is far from done. We still have lots of money to raise and public awareness will never be enough.

These will not be final words from me, even if they are on this site.

Day 99 – disproportionate dedication

Wednesday was the penultimate day of my long, exhausting challenge. Over the last few days thoughts have turned to what happens now, in just a day or so it will be over and I will get out of bed and not have a triathlon to do any more.

My brain, as well as my body, has become accustomed to the routine. Knowing that a major part of my day will be based around a huge physical effort and achievement. It is so close there is a strong mixture of sadness, satisfaction and relief.

My body is telling me it is time to stop. I ache and the exhaustion is significant. So, with these mixed emotions I headed to the gym to do my 99th Olympic-distance triathlon in 99 consecutive days.

It was also to be the last at my local gym where staff and its customers must think I am now part of the equipment. I was under time pressures as my work deadline was today and there was a massive amount to do.

As I prepared to start my watch on the swim, I took a few moments to reflect on the nearly 8,000 lengths of that pool I had done as part of the challenge, and how it will be a mental struggle when I next get in and not simply swim continuously for a mile.

I also reflected on why I had done what I did and the friends, families and colleagues of officers I had met around the country, particularly the Bramma family and Don Maclure, just two of the relatives of over 4,000 police officers and staff who have lost their lives while serving in their communities.

So I began this triathlon feeling very tired and stiff but with huge motivation. The time for the swim was not very fast but I was still in reflective mood.

It was then onto the Wattbike and I started strongly. A 1 hour 9 minute 40.2km ride was pretty standard before jumping on the treadmill for the 10km run.

I decided to ease into the run a little more cautiously than I wanted as I suddenly feared the tragedy of getting injured on this last element before the final triathlon. But I gradually increased the pace to complete it in 47 minutes. There were a couple of moments when the hamstring tightened and I decided not to increase the speed as much as I normally do over the last kilometre.

After finishing number 99 I chalked off the effort on the board in the gym’s reception and the satisfaction was immense.

I have paid tribute to those officers and staff who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us on this date in the past. And, on each day of my challenge, it has become very clear just how much Northern Ireland has suffered disproportionately compared to any other area in the UK. So, on February 6, the anniversary of the death of three officers from the province, I dedicated this triathlon to those who have served and continue to serve in very difficult circumstances there.

The full list of those who died on this date is:

1976 – Sergeant James Blakely – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1911 – Police Constable John Brand – Metropolitan Police
1980 – Police Constable Glenn Corder – Durham Constabulary
1980 – Police Constable James Cumming – Tayside Police
1921 – Special Constable John Cummings – Ulster Special Constabulary
1966 – Police Constable Thomas Jackson – Metropolitan Police
1984 – Police Constable Stephen Jones – Metropolitan Police
1981 – Reserve Constable Charles Lewis – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1882 – Inspector James McElligott – Metropolitan Police

There is just one more triathlon to do on Thursday February 7, which will finish at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Together with officers and staff from Staffordshire Police, I will attempt to share our progress on social media, check out @PolicePEditor on Twitter.

So I am almost there. If you have not done so already, it is a perfect time to donate to help see the fitting tribute to every officer and member of staff who has lost their life be built at the Arboretum. You can make a direct donation through my Justgiving page here. Thank you.

Day 98 – no more cotton wool

I am so close to the finishing line now so I set off for the gym this morning with the firm intention to be cautious and ensure I am in a fit state to finish the final triathlons. I am very stiff and achey so decided to take a little more care. That lasted just a few seconds as someone who I normally swim faster than was in the next lane and set off at exactly the same time. Using hand paddles he sped ahead and my competitive nature got the better of me. The 1,500m swim was therefore slightly faster than normal (28 minutes) and very enjoyable for it.

I jumped on the bike and after a short while I was joined by Hayley who was great company and I was also able to encourage her as she completed her FTP test. During the ride I received notifications of two more donations on my Justgiving page, which gave me a nice boost. I finished my 40km ride in 1 hour 10 minutes and then once again ran on the treadmill due to weather conditions (I used to hate the treadmill but am getting used to it now). A 47 minute 10km to finish, despite nearly falling off after 6km, and I have completed number 98.

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It is now probably too late to wrap myself in cotton wool so I will enjoy the efforts that remain – two swims, two bike rides and two runs. Rather than every fifth triathlon resulting in a mini-celebration, every one in these final stages feels like a major celebration.

I have just one more to go in Aylesbury before I head for Staffordshire and number 100 which will finish at the National Memorial Arboretum. That is where the memorial to fallen police officers and staff will be built once we have raised the final amount needed.

As I complete these final triathlons in my attempt to do an Olympic-distance triathlon on 100 consecutive days, please consider donating to the cause here if you have not done so already. And please share with others in whatever way you can.

Today I paid tribute to those who died while protecting us on February 5. They are:

1916 – Police Constable James Goddard – Birmingham City Police
1943 – Police Constable Wilfred Grigg – Liverpool City Police
1977 – Reserve Constable Robert Harrison – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1969 – Police Constable Alan Leggatt – Suffolk Constabulary
1990 – Inspector David Leitch – West Yorkshire Police
2003 – Police Constable Andreas Newbery – Cambridgeshire Constabulary
1986 – Sergeant Alan Wyman – Cheshire Constabulary

Day 97 – supported to the end

It is Monday February 4 and the countdown to the final triathlon is well under way.

Plans are now firmly in place for the final triathlon on Thursday thanks to Staffordshire Police, where the National Memorial Arboretum is located and where the fitting memorial to fallen officers and staff will be built.

However, first I have the small matter of three Olympic-distance triathlons in Aylesbury, and trying to fit them in while juggling my daily workload. Today, it is back to waking at 4am to have breakfast, work meant I didn’t make it into the pool to start the first part until 8.30am but by then I actually had the whole pool to myself for part of the swim.

Today I was feeling very tired and achey so I started calmly but built up the effort as I went and did my 1,500m in what seems now like a standard 29 minutes. Then on to the bike and I knew it would not be the fastest time as I was cycling and emailing for a short while but after being able to focus solely on the ride managed a 1 hour 11 minutes 40km. It was then on to the run and my stomach was not feeling very good at all. The 10km was interrupted by two pit stops, pushing total time out to 58 minutes but 48 for the actual run itself.

Day 97 was ticked off on the countdown chart and there are just three more to go. I was feeling tired before today’s effort and am even more so now. It is going to be hard right up to the end and without the support I receive I am sure I would not have made it this far, including anonymous donors adding to my total raised. Whoever you are, thank you!

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Today I paid tribute to all the police officers and staff who have died on duty on this date in the past. They are:

1921 – Temporary Cadet George Bush – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Temporary Cadet Harold Clayton DCM – Royal Irish Constabulary
1869 – Police Constable Joseph Gilkes – Oxford City Police
1916 – Special Constable Robert Howlett – Kent County Constabulary
1962 – Acting Sergeant John Lace – Bolton County Borough Police
1984 – Police Constable Andrew Le Comte – West Midlands Police
1917 – Police Constable Michael McDermott – Royal Irish Constabulary
1974 – Police Constable Robert McIntyre – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
2006 – Police Constable Alan McMurray – Lothian & Borders Police
2004 – Police Constable Sarah Minskip – Avon & Somerset Constabulary
1895 – Police Constable Philip Payne – Devonport Borough Police
1795 – Watchman Thomas Price – London Night Watch

If you have not donated yet, please help us say a huge ‘Thank you’ to officers and members of staff who put their lives in danger every day, and build a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the rest of us. Please give what you can via my Justgiving page here.

Day 96 – remaining strong in the finishing straight

Sunday February 3 was all about chalking off the next triathlon in the run-in to the finish on Thursday. A slight twinge to my left calf reminded me not to overdo the efforts as it would be horrendous to end my challenge so close to the finish.

But having recovered from flu-like illness and much more serious injury in the past 95 days, it is great to feel so good at this stage.

I am trying to get back to early morning starts after switching to completing them in the evenings – it was proving difficult to fit them in after work and eat substantial amounts of food before going to bed, plus I will be travelling to Staffordshire on Wednesday evening. So Saturday’s started at just before 2pm and I was aiming to begin today’s triathlon at 10am, although it ended up slightly after that.

The swim was much easier than yesterday with the lane mostly to myself. Then onto the bike and, with my challenge’s finishing line rearing up ahead, I was slightly cautious about pushing too hard – there is plenty of time left before I can think about a sprint finish.

As I reached 30km it was great to be joined by Tom once more, who took time out of looking after his newborn baby Grace to accompany me on today’s run.

Tom gave me a head start on the run but soon caught up and, running at speeds of up to 20km/hour, went flying ahead. I maintained my caution but completed another triathlon in a pretty good time (29 minute swim, 1 hour 10 minute cycle and 47 minute run) – it remains important to me to put in a strong effort each and every time.

Then we ticked off the first day of the countdown sign at the gym, just four more to go, will my body hold up to complete the job on Thursday? It is looking very promising.

Today I also paid tribute to the police officers and staff who died on February 3. They are:

1921 – Police Constable Samuel Adams – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable George Bell – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable John Bourke – Royal Irish Constabulary
1849 – Police Constable James Brogden – Liverpool City Police
1921 – Police Constable Edward Carter – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable Michael Doyle – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable Patrick Foody – Royal Irish Constabulary
1922 – Police Constable William Gourley – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Temporary Constable Samuel Green – Royal Irish Constabulary
1946 – Police Constable Richard Hart – Glamorganshire County Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable William Hayton – Royal Irish Constabulary
1922 – Police Constable Frank Kershaw – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable William Kingston – Royal Irish Constabulary
1868 – Police Constable Henry Madden – River Mersey Police
1889 – District Inspector William Martin – Royal Irish Constabulary
1959 – Inspector William McKim – West Riding of Yorkshire Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable Sydney Millin – Royal Irish Constabulary
1940 – Special Constable Thomas Mills – River Tyne Police
1921 – Police Constable Bernard Mollaghan – Royal Irish Constabulary
1775 – Watchman Philip Moss – London Night watch
1921 – Police Constable Arthur Pearce – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable Henry Smith – Royal Irish Constabulary
1921 – Police Constable William Taylor – Royal Irish Constabulary

 

Day 95 – one more goal

For most of this challenge, to complete 100 Olympic-distance triathlons in 100 days, the scale of what was ahead of me has been too big that I have broken it down and focused on shorter-term goals. It has been much easier mentally to aim to complete five more. And so, I reached 95 on Saturday, February 2, the last mini goal before the finishing line.

It was an incredible feeling, I can really see the the 100th and final one is within my sights.

As the ice and snow was still thick on the ground, I decided to complete the whole triathlon indoors. The swim was pretty tricky as to start with six people of varying ability vied for the one lane. Two soon moved into the slow lane when they realised they were getting in the way but two others obliviously disrupted my effort. Despite being much slower, they would pause at each end and set off just before I turned, which meant I had to keep overtaking them both within each 20m length. This meant I did a reasonable time as I was constantly accelerating at full speed (28 minutes).

I also pushed hard on the 40km cycle ride, finishing in 1 hour 8 minutes before jumping on the treadmill to do a 10km run in just over 48 minutes.

Thanks to Sarah for the lovely sign that has been put up at the gym, counting down the final days until the finish. I look forward to tomorrow when I hope to ceremonially tick off number 96.

But for now, I have enjoyed number 95 more than any other and the usual mini-celebration has been integral to completing this triathlon, the elation can probably only be beaten by Thursday when I hope to finish the final one in Staffordshire.

But each triathlon is also an opportunity to remember and reflect on the sad losses of police officers and staff who died serving their communities.

And today I paused to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on this date. They are:

1921 – Police Constable Robert Barney – Royal Irish Constabulary
1877 – Police Constable William Clark – Lancashire County Constabulary
1921 – District Inspector Francis Craven DSO, DSC, DSM – Royal Irish Constabulary
1897 – Police Constable Samuel Hathaway – Metropolitan Police
1928 – Police Constable Sidney Hayward – Bradford City Police
1921 – Temporary Cadet John Houghton – Royal Irish Constabulary
1920 – Police Constable Page Janeway – Metropolitan Police
1822 – Sub-Constable Martin, Peace Preservation Force, Ireland
1921 – Police Constable Patrick Mullany – Royal Irish Constabulary
1938 – Police Constable John Potter – Devon County Constabulary
1949 – Detective Sergeant Peter Scanlan – Metropolitan Police
1962 – Detective Sergeant Arthur Smith – Bradford City Police
1920 – Sergeant Alfred Tyler – Metropolitan Police
1921 – Police Constable William Vanston – Royal Irish Constabulary

Day 94 – thank love it’s Friday

Well today was the last Friday that I will complete a triathlon during this challenge. Every day of this last week will be a big day as tiredness and emotion get the better of me.

This challenge, to complete 100 Olympic-distance triathlons in 100 consecutive days, has certainly been life-changing. Not only has it reaffirmed, for me, how amazing our bodies are, if we set our minds to achieving something. But it has also taught me to treasure humanity.

If we do something in a good cause, put ourselves in a vulnerable position, it is amazing how others respond with generosity, especially with their hearts. It is important we put fear aside to share this. Thank you for the love that has been shown to me.

As I have paid tribute to so many police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty, the biggest insight for me is the vast impact of the loss, to their families, friends and colleagues. Forget overcoming tiredness, injuries and illness, nothing can compare to this.

Please support my efforts to remember the loss of so many, give generously with your hearts – I now have so much more faith in humanity, love is about sharing loss too and if we can see the love we have, we can imagine the pain when others have it taken away.

I completed Friday’s triathlon and paid tribute to all officers and staff who lost their lives on February 1, and the huge sacrifice made by their loved ones. They are:

1825 – Watchman John Coe – London Night watch

1880 – Police Constable John Long – Lancashire County Constabulary

1921 – Police Constable Frederick Hines – Manchester City Police

1921 – Police Constable Patrick O’Connor – Royal Irish Constabulary

1922 – Police Constable Charles Ednie – Royal Irish Constabulary

1941 – Police Messenger Denis Melville – City of London Police

1944 – Police Constable Sydney Russell – Kent County Constabulary

1945 – Detective Sergeant Harry Battley – Metropolitan Police

1967 – Police Constable Albert Thomas – Devon & Exeter Constabulary

1977 – Police Constable John Clarke – Metropolitan Police

1987 – Sergeant Henry Lawrie BEM – Central Scotland Police

2010 – Police Constable Daniel Cooper – Wiltshire Police

While nothing in my life can compare to their loss, I took the opportunity to complete this triathlon thinking about the missing one in my life – this one was for you Kaira.