Wing Commander Jon 'Lenny' Nixon recently took on the London Marathon, in this blog he reflects on his experiences.
It started with an idea to get more followers on Twitter. I offered to head out running the following day if I got extra followers. Then I decided to do a marathon, my first, if I got to 2000 followers - which I never imagined I would.
In the days and weeks that followed and with help from the RAF Benevolent Fund, I found out that not only was I committed to running a marathon, but I had a place in the London Marathon.
A dream come true, to do my No1 lifelong goal and in the world's greatest event.
Skip forward six months and training began! I tried to stick to the plan, running 3-4 times per week, gradually hitting the gym as the distances increased.
February was hectic. As the Commanding Officer of a Tornado Squadron that was just about to mark its Centenary (the Squadron not me), I had a lot to do.
The celebrations were spectacular, and the fundraising quickly exceeded £3000 but the running reduced due to lack of time. Fundraising in the final few weeks went well.
I had donations from people who had never met me but followed me on Twitter, incredibly generous people.
Marathon weekend itself was amazing. I flew to London, registered, met my family and we went for pasta. I didn't get much sleep, way too excited! I arrived at the start with plenty of time but it was soon time to strip off and get ready to take my place in the world’s greatest race!
The first five miles were incredibly busy and for the next five miles, the crowds got bigger, the cheers increased and I could see Tower Bridge just ahead.
Running towards it I felt a small twinge of cramp in my right calf - that wasn't expected! Tower Bridge was incredible with the sheer numbers of people, and emotion of being there. This was something I had watched on TV, but never dreamt it would one day be me!
As I came off Tower Bridge, another shout of 'Lenny', it was my wife and children cheering me on, what a huge boost! Despite not experiencing cramp during training, I was now really starting to struggle with cramps in both legs. I quickly realised that this was where I had to stop thinking about times and concentrate on finishing.
I tried running through it, but the pain was excruciating. I am not ashamed of what followed. I slowed down and started walking as quickly as I could.
The cramps eased so I started to run but it returned, so I walked, then ran and so on. The miles gradually went by and I realised that with a little determination I could still finish in less than five hours, that was my new goal.
The atmosphere in the last four miles was unbelievable. People everywhere cheering as much as they could. My thighs had stopped hurting, my calves were starting to feel a little better and as Forest Gump would say, "I just kept running".
Embankment was great, I concentrated on looking as good as possible passing the Ministry of Defence and the assembled RAFBF supporters. It was as I crossed Parliament Square that I realised that I was going to make it.
Eight hundred metres became 600, then past the Palace, and on to the Mall. Head up, RAFBF banner out, savour the moment and over the finish line.
To describe that feeling is difficult. I didn't know whether to smile or cry, I felt elated yet drained. I got my medal, finishers bag, photo and called my wife. But when she answered, I couldn't speak, the emotion of the whole thing had taken grip of me. I worked my way through the crowds to meet my family, tears in my eyes, unable to speak. A family hug, a few deep breaths and slowly I started to calm down.
I'm not embarrassed, that is what happened and perhaps helps you understand what doing a challenge like this can do to someone. We made our way out of Horse Guards and had to laugh when my ten year old daughter commented how sore her feet were from walking.
As if by magic, as I walked onto Whitehall, that emotion was gone, the sense of achievement kicked in, the medal was around my neck and I could now say I was a Marathon Man. The lifelong goal has been achieved, and importantly I had raised over £8000 for a charity that is very close to my heart.
I won't lie, I'm not a convert. Despite 1000 miles of training, on the day I really had to battle against my body. However, what I do know is that the day, the run, the people of London, the overwhelming emotions at the end, the generosity of hundreds of sponsors, the finishers medal and the fact I've done it will live with me forever.
I hope you are inspired. Find a challenge, something you've always wished you could do but know is going to be tough - then do it. For me, it took a silly idea on Twitter and a promise I couldn't break. Be imaginative with your fundraising, get a following, get them to buy into your dream and understand what a big challenge it will be.
When it gets tough, think about the people your fundraising is going to help. For me it was 'The Few' that got me across the finish line. I'm a pilot and very proud of being in the UK's Royal Air Force, and it has been an honour to share this emotional journey with the RAFBF family.
Lenny 'The Marathon Man' signing off.
By Jon Nixon