Swimming, cycling and running 140 miles for my mum
Aaron used to watch the Ironman Triathlon every year. But after his mum developed a tumour in her lung, he decided to step up and take on the 140.6-mile long challenge himself!
Back in 2013, I’d just come back from travelling in Canada. I’d only been home for a few months when my mum discovered that she had a tumour in her lung.
You can imagine how we all felt. With a tumour, everyone thinks the worst.
It was a really scary time.
Luckily for us, the doctors caught my mum’s tumour very early and removed the cancerous cells. But to get rid of it completely, they would have had to remove two-thirds of her lungs - so it still exists today.
Even though the tumour is now benign, my mum is still at a very high risk of developing lung cancer. She gets out of breath very easily and her quality of life is really affected. Worst of all, every 3 months she has to go to hospital to have a bronchoscopy where they check the tumour. It's a very invasive procedure.
Although everything has been stable for the past four years, I know she worries. But she’s very much the kind of person who just gets on with things.
I knew I had to do something
Back in early 2014, when my mum's news was quite fresh, I decided I had to do something.
I entered the London Marathon to support the British Lung Foundation, a charity that was now so close to my heart. It was a great day, and ever since then, I’ve loved running.
I wanted to do something more.
But I wanted to do something more. I decided to take on the Ironman Triathlon.
The Ironman Triathlon
Ironman is a long distance triathlon. It takes place in Bolton, where I happen to live, so I used to watch it every year.
It’s a huge race. 2.4 mile swim in open water, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and then once you’re off your bike, you run a marathon! So in total, it’s 140.6 miles.
I always felt so inspired watching people take part. I never thought that’d end up being me! But last year, in 2017, it just came to me - I decided I was going to do, and raise money for the British Lung Foundation.
I started training, which was an enormous commitment. I even had to learn to swim front crawl. Slowly, I went from being able to do 2 lengths, to 20, then to 100! That was really fulfilling. I also had to be careful, because I’d recently been diagnosed with a form of epilepsy. But I didn’t let that stop me.
The big day
On the day, I was so nervous. I’d done lots of training, especially for the open water swim, but nothing prepares you for the 2,500 other people splashing around in the lake with you! It was difficult at first, but after I got kicked in the face a few times, I finally settled into a rhythm.
The bike route was also challenging. Because of wildfires, they had to divert the route! The new course was a little shorter, but with some steeper hills.
Finally came the marathon stage, which was really tough. I’ve done a few marathons in the past, so I felt like it’d be my strongest point, but I was already so exhausted. I saw a lot of people walking, or collapsing, or being attended to by paramedics. It was the toughest run of my life.
Crossing the finish line
Even though I felt I had nothing left in my tank, I found a final burst of energy for the final two miles.
Somehow, I managed to complete the race! My whole time was 13 hours 27 minutes. I was absolutely buzzing to get across that finish line, and even though I felt I had nothing left in my tank, I found a final burst of energy for the final two miles!
My family and friends were there to cheer me on, including my two kids, my partner, my sisters, my dad, and of course, my mum.
She cried when I went across the finish line. She wrote me a card which said: “it’s the proudest day of my life”.
I think it meant a lot to her.
Finding the strength
In the end, I raised £1,500 for people with lung conditions doing the Ironman, and in a lot of ways, knowing that was why I was doing it helped keep me strong.
It’s easy to say “it’s snowing or raining outside, I’ll just train tomorrow.” But racing for a cause gives you that extra 10%. And when people are donating money to your cause too, that gets you motivated! It was brilliant to know people wanted to support something I cared about.
Completing a challenge you never thought you could do was an amazing feeling. I think everyone should try to push their limits, whether that’s a charity walk, a 10k or a marathon.
There are so many benefits to getting active, from the mental to the physical, and if you’re raising money, then it benefits others, too.
I hope the money that people gave can go towards helping cure lung conditions, and give people like my mum a better quality of life.