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).
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.
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.
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.