Tasha running by the river side

My Running Journey to 100k for Guide Dogs UK

Remember when I said I was running 100k for charity and your jaws probably dropped just as much as mine did?! Well, believe it or not, I have now completed the challenge. My plan was to run 5k a day for 20 days in July to raise £100 a couple of days before my grandad’s birthday. However, I managed to finish the run 3 days early. Those 17 days (+2 rest days) have taught me a few things. So, I am going to talk about those along with answering a few questions Guide Dogs UK have asked me.

Why did I choose to fundraise for Guide Dogs UK?

In the earlier years of his life, grandad used to visit Henshaws every Wednesday afternoon on Talbot Road in Stretford. He helped out there with various projects to support people with sight loss and other disabilities. Another thing I recently learned from my mum is that, grandad visited the Disabled Living Centre, to pick up some kitchen gadgets such as alarm assisted mugs etc. that had been donated to Henshaws. I currently work for Disabled Living and I remember the feeling I had when I was accepted there. It turns out the link between my charity work and disabilities is even stronger now I know this.

The past few months, me and mum have been reminiscing about loads of different memories of my grandad to the point where I wondered what charity challenge I could do next.

I was browsing through the Guide Dogs UK website and found that the 100 for 100 challenge was live between 1st July – November 2020. Of course, my mind immediately thought, “Ooo let’s give this a go!” and that’s when I made the decision to carry out the challenge in July and it fit nicely around his birthday (today, 22nd July).

Guide Dogs UK is an amazing charity and one which meant a lot to my grandad. The charity supports blind people and those who are partially sighted. When grandad was alive, as soon as he found out he was partially sighted, he decided to sponsor a Labrador puppy and I still have the little teddy called Angel which he received in one of his ‘Sponsor a Puppy’ packs. He also went on a 5-day training course with Guide Dogs UK and was offered the chance to have his own guide dog but he thought as he had the support of his family around him, a guide dog would give someone who lived alone the help and comfort they needed.

How well did I tackle the challenge?

Tasha running down the road in the rain

Running in the rain

I may have finished the run early due to some routes being longer than others but it doesn’t mean that I breezed through it so easily. The hardest part of it all was the middle stage – back and shin aches. Knowing that I had ran so far but still had the other half of the hurdle to complete made me worry if I could actually do it.

The piece of advice I would give to anyone completing any challenge is, to not doubt yourself. Tell yourself you can do it and you will. Also, don’t forget to create a music playlist which encourages you to keep going. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks along the way and changing your pace. For me, it wasn’t about speed, I just knew I would get there and that some days were going to be tougher than others. My biggest motivator was Danny. Each day I came home after running, he said, “How was it? I’m proud of you.”

The best thing about this particular challenge is that I did it alone (other than 3 occasions where I had some company). It helped me find more confidence in myself and not to be afraid. I’ll admit, as sad as it sounds, I did have a few tears strolling down my face as I approached the end of my running journey but it was only because A) I proved to myself I could finish it and B) when it’s someone you love and miss, it’s bound to be at least, a little emotional. Grandad may not have been there at the end of the road in person but I did visit him and granny every other day as I went by the cemetery.

How did I exceed my fundraising target?

running route map on the MapMyRun app

The last day of running for the 100k

I think the main reason I exceeded my fundraising target was due to lots of social media promotion across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And of course, without the generosity of my lovely supporters who donated to my page, I wouldn’t have reached over 300% of my target.

The importance of supporting Guide Dogs UK

If you have a family member or friend who lives/has lived with sight loss or visual impairments, why not think of challenge you could do this year for Guide Dogs UK? Or perhaps you would like to offer your skills and volunteer for them. Take a look at their website to see how you can help. Visit: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/how-you-can-help

visiting granny and grandad at the cemetery

The Importance of Memories With Your Loved Ones

Memories and experiences shape you into the person you are today. No matter your age, you have your own story. So far in life, there have been some difficult situations I have experienced, fortunately outweighed by the good. I’m a firm believer in taking something good from a negative event.

Family is everything. I love the bond I have with my mum, dad, and brothers. We have shared so much together, tough times and also some of the best times. I think we will always have each other and I’m so glad.

This last month or so has been a reflective time for me. Maybe a lot of things come down to my emotional nature, that’s what got me started on this blog almost 5 years ago after all. It got me thinking, you waste too much time wondering what if, I wish I could have… and so on.

You can look back, dwell in sorrow, or smile and grow stronger. I must admit I still cry no matter how many years go by but that’s just in my nature. I’m still much stronger than I used to be. Danny’s endless love for us and our life always gives me something to hold onto. Whatever may come, we face it together. I have lost count of the amount of times he has held me when I have hit such low points.

Life is what you make it…

You can’t predict the future, nor can you force things to happen. However, you can hope and think positive. Life can throw twists and turns. How you deal with them, is down to outlook. Take someone who you were very close to and the day you lost them. You feel raw. A piece of the jigsaw that made your life whole is missing. It is also a very confusing and a lot for your heart to take.

I remember I was 7 years old when I lost someone I loved for the first time, someone I was very close to, my granny. I couldn’t prep for school plays or assemblies. I didn’t understand how you could just lose someone. It was painful enough seeing her unwell in hospital. I cried at home. I cried at school. I cried at my friend’s house.

Someone taught me how to braver and stronger – my grandad. I used to think seeing granny’s face in my dreams was scary, waking up to the reality that she was no longer here. Grandad always said, she is always going to be there and when I look at the sky at night she will be one of the stars twinkling bright. I haven’t stopped paying so much attention to the stars since. When I lived at my mum and dad’s, I always thought she was there each night in the same spot. Although I’m in a house of my own now, I still smile when the stars are out at night.

When grandad passed away, I may have been older but it didn’t make it any easier. My heart sunk harder than I ever thought it could. You see, he always shown us that Granny’s life was around us. Having his hugs, holding his hand, and sharing the most exciting adventures was everything. He brought anything he could to life, the light always shined, and he was my hero.

Together, granny and grandad were a significant couple, not just as grandparents, but because they were special in their own ways. Granny – a beautiful woman, so playful always making us laugh, caring, always looked out for you, and the best kind of granny ever. Grandad – he gave you his heart and soul, he was the strongest man. Not once did he stop loving any us differently, and he did everything in his power to give you the best in life, most of all, his love. Together, they were one in a million.

There’s always something to give back

My mum and have have always understood that dreams can come true if you fight hard enough and that love keeps everything alive. Through my dad’s protective streak and being the person I can always turn to for help, to my mum’s loving nature and showing me that I should always “hold my head up high”, no matter what life throws at you, plays a part in the person I am today. But it goes without saying, granny and grandad helped me to see that, life is what you make it and more.

I’m always on the look out to see how I can support charities in memory of the those who were very special to me. A few that are close to my heart are Cancer Research UK, Tommy’s and The British Heart Foundation. I wonder what my next charity challenge will be?

I hope this post inspires you to reflect on what the most important people in your life have taught you and how you should always hold them close to your heart.

star lit sky

13 Years Later and You Shine Brighter Than Ever

I was about to write a short caption on a draft photo upload to Instagram, then I realised that I had more to say.

You can’t fit into one blog post how having someone in your life makes such a significant impact. I spent 13 years with him and now it’s been 13 years without him. My grandad was my biggest hero. He taught me how to be strong, brave and kind. The most generous hearted person. He was the only one who would play shop and post office with me more than twice at a time. He encouraged me to go on my first huge rollercoaster ride when I was absolutely terrified. And since that day, I’ve learnt the importance of being brave and coming out of my comfort zone. The one person I could share everything with and made it all better. He always gave me the greatest hugs and tickled my arm when I needed to go to sleep.

Nothing beat the love he had for his grandchildren. He wanted to give us the world. The amount of happiness he brought into our lives will always give us something to look back on and smile about.

I never thought anything could break grandad. You know, it was as if he was unstoppable. There’s been two instances that shown me otherwise. The first – when granny passed away on 9th February 2002. Stood alone, I watched him crumble, crying so hard, putting his head into his hands. I was in the hallway at mum and dad’s house and I looked into the kitchen to see him, heartbroken. As much as it’s a memory I’d like to phase away, I don’t think it ever will.

You build such a strong bond, share adventures and they hold your hand throughout childhood. They watch you become a teenager and then…

The second – the day his heart stopped on 21st May 2007. My dad told school that he needed me and my brother to come home. A guidance counsellor who got to know me though being bullied at the time, found me straight away. I was so confused. I didn’t say much until we walked to the car waiting for my brother to come. “Is it mum?” “Is Gaz okay?” My dad didn’t know what to say even though he was trying to tell us. I asked, “N-no, no, Grandad?” and my dad’s face said all it needed to. The car journey home was probably the quietest moment I’ve shared with one of my brothers. It was happening all over again. That was us, home, ran to our bedrooms and cried uncontrollably.

I remember visiting grandad in hospital and him telling me, “You’re growing up so much”. Getting on a bus to visit him at the hospital on my own didn’t phase me one bit. Walking through the hospital, seeing Ward H2, seeing him lay in the hospital bed didn’t scare me. No longer being able to hold his hand scared me. I used to bring 2 of my high school friends to stay on many weekends at his house – his kindness spread to others like them. They seen, no matter how old I was, the relationship we had didn’t change. I only wish I could’ve seen him when he went home this time.

I could spend my life hating coronary heart disease but hate isn’t something that grandad would’ve wanted. Hopefully you’ll see, why I love doing all I can to support the British Heart Foundation. Also, I think it’s crazy how, ever since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted a golden Labrador/Retriever and that’s the breed of dog grandad sponsored and almost had one as a guide dog for his visual impairment.

Grandad, just as we used to do for granny, every time I look to the sky at night and I see a star, I’ll think of you. “Love you millions!”

I haven’t written this blog post to give myself a good cry, as much as I’ve had to fight it whilst putting it together. It’s more to remind myself how special life is. Time and love is everything. There’s no escaping loved ones, they are in each and every little thing we see or do. You find yourself thinking about or doing something they taught you. And I hope this teaches anyone who’s reading this post, to hold tight onto everything that makes you happy.

birthday cake with candles lit

Making the Most out of a Birthday in Lockdown

Have you got a birthday coming up and you’re thinking, oh great, a birthday in lockdown? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things you can do to enjoy your special day. It might not be quite what you had planned e.g. cocktails with the girls, dancing the night away, or whatever it might be. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t enjoy it.

You can still enjoy lots of food

I’m an early bird and of course Danny is very much aware of that because he hears me pottering around the house most mornings. So, to be prepared, he set his alarm for 6am (yep, I don’t do lie-ins, not even on my birthday haha). Danny walked into the room holding a cake with candles lit singing happy birthday to me. You know the emoji with the little face that looks like its about to start blubbering with tears, that was me.

You might not be going out for food to your favourite restaurant but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some good food. Luckily, the sun was out for the afternoon so I was able to have a mini BBQ in the back garden with Danny. As you can probably imagine, wherever food is involved, is a pretty good sign that you’re going to enjoy yourself. Burgers and chicken lover over here, so I was in my element.

Being the Little Miss Piggy that I am, I received quite a few boxes of chocolates AND some sweets so, you bet I’ve been eating them all. So much so that I might resemble a pig after all of this, but it’s all about enjoying yourself right?

There might be some surprises along the way…

I had a lovely surprise when one of my best friends turned up (keeping 2 metres apart of course) to drop my card off along with some unexpected gifts. She also brought a card from another one of my lovely friends. Talking of surprises, I also received a bouquet of tulips, box of chocolates and teddy from Danny, along with a card from my best friend and her baby boy. You know those things that pop up with confetti when you open them and they turn into a little gift cube? Well, I had one of those but unfortunately I opened it too quick and obviously didn’t now what it was prior to it being delivered so I didn’t get a video. Part of the message read “auntie Tasha… can’t wait to see you” so you can understand how that melted my heart.

Receiving birthday messages

I still received a generous amount of cards and birthday messages over social media, text, WhatsApp etc. As I’ve already said, my two best friends made a special effort, where one of them even made me a card. My brothers came to see me from their cars as I stood at the front door which made me smile too. Anyone who knows me, knows just how much I love a good card. I received a cute personalised one from my nephew too. I’m so thankful for all of my family and friends who thought of me. Each of them made it a birthday I’ll always remember even though they wasn’t there in person to see me.

There was so much thought put into my birthday this year with so much to smile about throughout the whole day. One thing that was missing was a hug from my mum and dad but at least I was able to be healthy and safe in my home and still enjoy the day. This birthday made me realise how to make the most out of any situation. Whatever it might be, there’s always a positive outlook on the horizon if you look close enough.

So, it’s your birthday next? How are you planning to spend your birthday in lockdown?

paper star decoration hanging

The Magic of Christmas Never Disappears

The festive season, a time for thankfulness and having fun with your family. For those of us who don’t have to work over Christmas, we get to make the most of lounging around, wearing several pairs of new pyjamas and eating lots of food and snacks around the house.

25th December 2019 was mine and Danny’s first Christmas in our first home and our seventh Christmas spent together as a couple. This year has been much more significant than other years and I think living together has played a huge part. Not only has the friendship side of us which sparked way back when grown but we’ve fell in love even more than I imagined we could.

Since we bought our first real Christmas tree and decorated it, I knew this year was going to be more magical than previous years. Call me emotional but I cried. I think it was the whole idea of looking how far we have come together and finally being in a place we have always dreamed of. Danny is the most warm-hearted person and he’s the one who will remind you there’s always so much love to give.

It showed when I couldn’t hold back the tears on Christmas Day morning. We opened presents from family and friends first and then what we got each other. The final present I opened from Danny got me. It’s no surprise to anyone that I’m quite the sentimental kind of person so this gift means so much to me. The thought that went into it made it so amazing. He bought me a map of how the stars looked on the night of our first date and it even has the time on it. Some say that men don’t remember things, I must’ve got lucky! The colour even matches our bedroom so once we’ve got a frame for it, I’ll share a photo.

Of all the lovely gifts we received this year, for me, the best of all was spending Christmas morning with each other, just the two of us. And of course seeing family for the rest of the day and night made it as enjoyable as it was.

I’m a reflective kind of person as it is but I find that Christmas and New Year brings us more time to think about the year and previous years in comparison to the present. Some years bring the loss of loved ones just like uncle Dom in June, and challenges arise but it’s important to remember that you can always feel the magic of Christmas if you look close enough. Smiling and laughing over Christmas season doesn’t mean you forget about the people you miss the most.

This December, I’ve thought about many things including what the future has to offer. If you don’t feel it right now, I hope that 2020 brings a new perspective. A year full of happiness surrounded by those that you love.

angel wings coming out of a love heart shape

Just Because I Smile Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Miss You

Today I smiled a whole lot more than I have done over the last few weeks. Losing someone can tear you to pieces or it can help you to become stronger. There’s nothing anyone can say that really makes it better but it does help to know that there are people around you that care. When you start to smile more, it doesn’t mean that you miss them any less.

The person you lost wants you to be happy

They want you to continue to cherish all of the amazing things there are to life; even though there’s evil. Looking over you, they want to see you making more memories; even though they’re no longer there to make them with.

Listen to sad songs from time to time but don’t dig yourself too far into a hole where all you have are sad lyrics and darkness. Be grateful for all of the good times you’ll forever hold close to your heart. Remember the upbeat person that they were and add their spirit to your life.

There are going to be times that aren’t as easy as others

Finding ways to smile more can help. Don’t neglect the possibility of laughter and warmth from your loved ones.

Uncle Dom, whenever I smile, remember it doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. The acceptance of losing you has hit me hard. Knowing you would want us all to be strong as difficult as it can be, is what I hope for.

I’ll smile when I think about your vocabulary of words; those rock ‘n’ roll dance moves, the classic Irish accent; the time you gave to listen; your strength when suffering; most of all, your love for us all. You’re not here in person for me to tell you all of this so I hope that by using some of your magic, the message will get to you.

Here’s to the next challenge

Race for Life is getting closer. I’m going to do my best to hold it together. At the end though, it’s likely I’ll cry wishing you were here. It’s time to accept that there’s nothing we can do about that. We have to do everything in our power to live your life on. A piece of you will always remain a part of us.

https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/team/tasha-and-danny