Tabby kerwin


possibility, productivity & performance

icon_instagram icon_Twitter icon_Facebook



#createmyhappy... in words!

Welcome to my blog


Here you can add some text to explain what your blog is about and a bit about you.

By tabbykerwin, Nov 4 2019 01:17PM

Today is the start of the week that marks one year since my husband Simon died.

It’s a strange feeling as the last 12 months has gone so fast, yet it feels so long since Simon was here with me; chatting, hugging, supporting, laughing and sharing our life together.

But, as a rule, I’m ok about this week; genuinely.

It seems the belief is that the anniversary of a death should be a really tough day, but I’m desperately trying to flip that trend.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sad as hell and will cry…but I do that every day, even if it’s only for 1 minute when I something strikes an emotional chord.

But I don’t want to be any sadder on 7th November than I am any other day. I live with the reality, sadness and grief every day that he isn’t here anymore and I’ve made the choice to embrace that reality and not fight it as opposed to letting it overwhelm me and my life.

I had a wonderful 24 hours with my oldest and best friends of 25 years this weekend and when we sit and chat, we do it with honesty. We know there is no offending each other with our words of truth because they come from a place of love; So, when the following conversation happened, I think it was the best thing I’ve heard in months because it totally hit the nail on the head of the reality of my grief and the possible impending doom of this week’s anniversary.

Friend: “How are you feeling about this week.”

Me: “Actually I’m OK, it’s going to be no worse than any other day since Simon died because they’re all tough.”

Friend: “Well I suppose he has been dead all year!”

I have been chuckling about this for the last 48 hours and it will continue to carry me through with smiles and chuckles, just as Simon would want. That reality and honesty delivered with such true love is exactly what I need; from the right people, obviously.

Now, I get that might seem like the most insensitive thing to say to some people, but if you know me at all or knew my husband you would understand this is entirely appropriate and helpful.

The reality is that my husband is dead, I can’t bring him back and actually, for the full of life and jovial character he was, I think it would actually be quite disrespectful to him for me not to live my life to the fullest with smiles and laughter just as he did, and that means smiling through and embracing the toughest of times as well as the best, however hard that might be.

Recently I was chatting to another close friend of mine about the anniversary of Simon’s death, this was on the back of a conversation about birthdays and it really got me thinking about it all.

I had several thoughts; one being that these days we only seem to know about a ‘friend’s’ birthday if we see a Facebook reminder! Isn’t that the truth!

That aside, a birthday is an anniversary we have every year, which, in the main, we celebrate. So why can’t we apply this to the anniversary of a death too?

Each time I have hit an anniversary since Simon died, such as our wedding anniversary, his birthday and my birthday, I have tried to do something uplifting and celebratory in honour of him as otherwise, I’d have more sad anniversaries in a year than I could handle and I’d never live a life of joy.

I want to live my life with smiles, fun and a boat load of gratitude and experiences. That is what I did with Simon, what he taught me to do after a very unhappy time in my life and episodes with mental ill health and I love the feeling of that fun life, however hard it might be to maintain; it’s worth it.

I want to live my life and not miss it. Grief and life without Simon is punishment enough without me punishing myself further by not embracing every moment of life I have left and living it to its fullest for me, him and my son.

I’m coming to the conclusion that mourning doesn’t have to be all sad. A lot sad, hell yes, but not entirely. It can be celebratory as well and the larger and better the life that was lived, the bigger the celebration, surely?

In her ground-breaking book ‘On Death and Dying’ psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross revealed her model of The 5 Stages of Grief. These are denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.

The one thing you have to understand with these stages, whilst I agree they are all real, they do not happen in any clear-cut order, but a continual cycle and mish mash of emotions, with everyone taking a different route through them, a bit like maze.

Author and death and grieving expert David Kessler, co-write this book with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and this week releases a book I can’t wait to read called ‘Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.’

According to the Amazon preview literature, in this book (find it here btw), Kessler shares his hard-earned wisdom and offers a roadmap to remembering those who have died with more love than pain, how to move forward in a way that honours our loved ones and ultimately transform grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience.

Yes! I can fully get on board with this concept. (You can read more here on Kessler, the 5 stages of grief and his book here ).

It is what I am trying to do.

Finding meaning in death by celebrating and honouring the person no longer with us, and that is what I plan to do every single day and that methodology can co-habit with the sadness and tears and reality of Simon’s death and my grief, but it will be the stronger one in the relationship.

So, as well as shedding many tears and reflecting this week and every week, I will be celebrating my husband in the best ways I know how. I will talk about him, share stories about him, play his music to the world and keep his legacy alive and on 7th November 2019, one year on from the day he died, I will celebrate his life and legacy by officially launching a CD of his music in the hospital where he took his last breath and in that hospital and everywhere, his music and life will live on.

You can buy the CD HERE and donation from sales goes to the Bexley Wing, Leeds Cancer Centre, St. James' Hospital.

A person grieving does not need to be fixed.

I do not need to be fixed.

I need to live and grieve in my own way, just as you will when you take your own grief journey.

There is no magic date when everything will become ‘better’ or ‘normal.’

What is ‘normal’ now is not what was ‘normal’ when the person you’re grieving was alive.

One year will not mark a time to ‘move on.’

I will never ‘move on’ but I will always ‘move forward.’

Because, at the end of the day, there is no magic date when everything changes; a date is just another day.

Much Love

Tabby xxx

The 5 Stages of Grief
The 5 Stages of Grief
Yep! A bit like this!
Yep! A bit like this!
Simon and I - always living life
Simon and I - always living life

By tabbykerwin, Oct 5 2019 07:23AM

It’s a while since I’ve written properly and I remembered today that I need it as my therapy and counsel and being honest about my experiences with mental health and grief is so important for me and maybe it can be someone else’s self-help manual.

So, I’m writing my way out of a slump.

Not an anxiety ridden, black hole of sadness type slump; I’m not in that place, because actually life is pretty productive and good right now.

It’s more of a temporary ‘whilst everything is good in some ways, I just feel nothing and lying on the sofa with the cat is way more appealing’ type slump.

… and that’s the thing; quite a lot of the time during September I’ve just felt ‘nothing’. No feelings, opinions or cares; I just function. I function pretty well to be fair and this feeling never lasts full days, just an odd few minutes or maybe an hour or two.

But I’ve decided it’s pretty OK to feel this way. After all, what’s the saying? ‘it’s OK to not be OK’ and that’s 100% true, but we have the choice to do something about that and how we feel and I do make that choice, every day. Because this is a daily choice and something you have to work on every single day.

So, after a Summer of fun, why has September left me feeling so ‘meh’?

I’ve got a great grasp on my mental health these days and I’m mentally very fit and strong, but I’ll be honest, 11 months since Simon died, grief is trying to hit me round the head with a flipping huge baseball bat every day right now and it’s leaving me battered and exhausted.

Why now you fucker? (Excuse the sweary language, but you know, this is life and reality and I’m not always that good in real life of leaving out the expletives and I’m trying to keep this real!)

I’ll tell you why, because grief is ALWAYS there, it never goes away, you just choose to embrace it or be overwhelmed by it and I choose to embrace it. But like an annoying child (not mine, he’s quite cool), some days it can be really demanding and distracting.

But the issue is not grief itself, but how other people deal with your grief. After 10 months of doing just fine and good, it’s seemingly not acceptable to then suddenly be struggling because other people don’t know how to respond. Their best responses being ‘oh, I thought you were doing OK’ or ‘it’s been nearly a year now, shouldn’t you be over it’ (don’t get me started… that’s a whole other blog for another day). In fact, I’ll be honest with you, the level of acceptance from many people expires come the funeral; once that’s over and everyone moves on with their lives, you’re expected to ‘crack on’ – but all you are is stuck or lost whilst the world moves along around you.

Over the last 11 months life has moved along quite well in all honesty; I’ve made it about experiences, living life and doing what makes me happy, putting myself first along the way.

However, what has been harder to muster enthusiasm for has been work and business; the business Simon and I set-up together. Our “baby” if you like. But I did. After a great chat with a friend I felt so inspired again to work and got back into it and instantly started achieving some great things after many months of coasting and doing the MEDs; minimum effective dose.

I had a reason to function every day workwise and a productive plan and getting my work game back on was brilliant, creative and fun. For the first time I felt like I could go it alone with the business, with the support of some rather epic people who are coming on board with their many talents.

But it was a double-edged sword…It’s great to feel fully functioning workwise again and it’s been one hell of a week of creating valuable content and achieving, but it made me feel so lonely and lost…cue the slump…

Why? well, let’s get something straight, I’m not lonely, far from it, I have great friends (thank goodness because family is not my thing and mostly they couldn’t care less about me) and I actually am genuinely quite OK with the single lifestyle (which is a great thing as that’s definitely not changing any year soon! No, it is not ‘time to move on’ as suggested by some… again, another blog for another day!).

It’s that feeling of being alone in what I do that’s hitting me hard. Not having the person there who gave me confidence to do things, who was my champion, my supporter in everything good and bad, the person who shared it all with me, who listened, who kissed and hugged me when I had a great idea, and kissed and hugged me when I had an equally shit one and advised it might not work out!

I’m alone without my ‘person’ – he is irreplaceable, and that is so hard and seems to be hitting harder the longer time goes on, but the longer it goes on, the more seemingly unacceptable it is to feel that way, so you just crack on with it all regardless. Put the smile on, leave the emotions packed away and feel…nothing.

That’s why I’ve decided it’s perfectly OK to feel that way when you’re at home alone and by allowing myself that ‘nothing’ time some days, OK most days when I’m home alone (which is, err, every day!), the slumps and sadness and episodes are much shorter lived by having ‘nothing’ time than if I try to fight them.

I also know that whilst Simon was my person who gave me confidence and support and love, he actually left me with all the skills to do that for myself without him being physically there. I realised that when he was ill and I didn’t spiral into a deep anxiety ridden depression but got stronger and stronger. I can be my own champion and be proud of myself. I just have to remind myself of that every moment of every day, trust it, live it and have the confidence in myself and what I do and NOT let the opinions of others, be it personally or professionally, get to me. I know where that path leads to and I’m not in that place nor have any plans to be. It’s an ongoing maintenance plan though.

Grief is a funny thing. One moment you can be absolutely fine, 30 seconds later you can be in uncontrollable tears and 90 seconds after that you’re great and laughing again. This actually happened a few weeks ago when I was out walking. The feeling was overwhelming of breathlessness and tears, but literally 90 seconds later it was fine again. I just went with it and let it do its thing. It’s weird, it’s unexplainable, it’s unique to every individual and often it’s in public! There is no right or wrong or timescale to grief… it’s yours to own and embrace. But you have to make that choice to embrace it. I’m making that choice, irrespective of how hard it is. I can do hard, even by myself.

I am in no doubts that the next few weeks are going to be horrendously tough though, but I’m braced and ready. On the 19th October, it will be 12 months since the last time Simon and I spoke; the day he thought he was coming home after fighting another infection, but in fact he ended up in ICU, where he stayed for 3 weeks. I thought about handling this through a lot of drinking, mindless chat and 80s power ballads. I have since re-assessed this and decided a lot of drink is not the answer as the hangover is way worse than anything else I may feel and alcohol is rarely the answer (I say this after a recent drinking experience where I let loose and learned valuable lessons… there will be no repeats; I think that was the blow out I needed! Hanks to those who were a part of it and sorry to those that saw the rough looking aftermath… that was not grief you saw… it was tears of hangover!).

Then I have to tackle my birthday on the 22nd October. The last two have been utter shite… two years ago I celebrated my 40th with a great weekend with friends, but at that time I was faking it (albeit badly) and spiralling into a horrendous anxiety ridden black hole that lasted 5 months and left me feeling number and…nothing. Aside from the tears and sadness of having my cat put down the day after my birthday. Bizarrely, that slump started in September too.

Last year’s birthday sucked big style. Simon was in ICU in a coma, my heart was breaking and it was the day I told the world of Simon’s illness and the current state of play asking for all the positive vibes; it was hell as only a very few people knew until then. Birthday greetings were replaced with messages of upset, fear and helplessness.

This year I will be a 42-year-old widow (f*cking hate that word: again, another blog for another day) and single parent who also treats their cat like a human! She is, deal with it! I will definitely spend my birthday alone and doing what I need and want… which will most likely include that much needed ‘nothing’ time and a bloody great massage from Laura at Le Petit Spa who has magic hands.

Then, in a few weeks on 7th November, it will be the first anniversary of Simon’s death. How the hell did that come round so fast, yet feel so long ago that he was sat here with me joking? It’s hard to compute. But I’m determined to not be sad to the point it breaks me. I will be sad every day, but every day I will choose to do good too and be productive. I will turn sad days into positive ones. I will celebrate Simon’s life with friends and release a CD of his musical legacy to live on forever and raise funds for a fantastic cause of The Bexley Wing where Simon was treated.

What I do know is that I will have sadness every day for the rest of my life. However, the thing people forget about sadness and grief, is that they can very happily co-exist with possibility, productivity, performance and good if you let them, and I both let them and actively encourage them to co-exist with me every day.

Most of all, I’ll continue to be honest and open and kind to myself and with others. I know that my coping mechanisms of writing and starting awkward conversations can help others going through things and for those who don’t understand that and want to judge or criticise me for that, or for talking about Simon and keeping his memory alive (and no, this does not mean I’m un-hinged or struggling) then I’m genuinely pleased you’ve never had to go through something so traumatic that means you can’t empathise with me or my words, but when there comes a day that you can and you don’t judge me anymore, I really hope my words and honesty can resonate with and support you too.

In the meantime, you’ll find me living my life, striving for improvement, taking every experience that fills me with joy, talking and writing to help others and having quite a bit of ‘nothing’ time to keep my head in check.

Much love

Tabby xxx


PS: Just by writing this the slump has gone. Writing worked! Thanks for reading.

By tabbykerwin, Jun 13 2019 08:41AM

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." ‘The Man in the Arena’ – Theodore Roosevelt (23rd April 1910)

‘The Man in the Arena’ was to become one of former US President Roosevelt’s most famous speeches and it still resonates as much today as it did when he gave it in 1910.

But for me, it has resonated more, both personally and professionally, in the last few weeks than it ever previously has done.

Let me break it down as to why…

In the past few weeks I’ve been commented on behind my back (yes, it always filters back!) as not coping, crazy and some other rather more critical phrases following the death of my husband Simon just seven months ago.

This has been born out of the fact that, quite often, on social media I will post pictures, memories and thoughts of Simon, grief and my life and work, which revolves so much around Simon, being as we set-up our business together and one of the businesses, our publishing house, solely hinges on his musical legacy and work.

Sometimes, these are also more than once a day… oh the shame!

But here’s the thing…and I don’t expect half of you to understand, but try, or at least empathise if you can’t understand.

This does not mean I’m struggling, crazy, in need of help, incapable of doing my professional jobs, or anything else you might like to say… It means I am embracing grief, not being overwhelmed by it and choosing happiness.

Likewise, if you comment on something and it displays a lack of kindness or subtlety, I will be quite defensive (and slightly sarcastic!); again, not because I’ve lost the plot, but purely because I won’t tolerate unkindness, humiliation or bullying from anyone. Surely that’s not exclusive to someone living or in others’ words ‘struggling’ with grief?

I currently have around 1726 Facebook friends (give or take as my honesty loses and gains people along the way or I get rid of a few!) and when I post on social media I do not do so expecting a response from anybody; I do it because it is my right, right for me, my life and my honesty and often it resonates with many who choose to contact me privately. For me, it is not about public ‘likes’ and ‘comments.’

Of those approximately 1726 people I can count on two hands the number who check-in with me regularly as real friends to see how I am.

A vast majority of those 1726 know me from many years ago. Those I know from school and university years know me… anybody who has been my real friend over the last 18 months knows me… anyone who is basing their knowledge of me from about 2005 to 2018 does not know the real me... honestly, you really don’t! They know someone who was steeped in anxiety and living in a very dark place in their mind. Someone who went to some really difficult places but all the time was hiding it from you.

But the person who stands here writing today is the happiest version of myself even when I’m living with grief.

How and why?

I’ve not been afraid to seek advice and learn and change and to share my story with others.

Simon saved me when we were friends and then married. He gave me the self-confidence and skills to be me, to not worry about other people’s opinions, to strive to always learn, develop and change. He taught me to be honest and that showing my vulnerabilities is OK. It was really only once he died that I realised what he’d done for me. He’d made me focus on myself to get strong. Strong enough to deal with anything, including grief. He gave me the ultimate gift of giving me myself back.

That’s why now I’m dedicated to putting myself and mental health awareness ahead of everything I do in my personal and professional life. Kindness costs nothing, but it changes everything. If I’m writing, working with clients, running events, mentoring, teaching, conducting or adjudicating it all comes from a place where my own and others’ mental wellbeing comes first and the words come from a place of kindness.

I am proud to be me, to be honest about my thoughts, emotions, successes and vulnerabilities and so I will share these thoughts and feelings, and if my story resonates with just one person, then it is a story worth sharing.

But vulnerability is only vulnerability when it has boundaries, hence most of you will never know everything about me or what’s going on in my life.

Talking about grief is a taboo subject; it shouldn’t be.

Talking about mental health is a taboo subject; it shouldn’t be.

I refuse to let them be taboo anymore and I will share my experiences to show that whilst anxiety, grief and other mental wellbeing issues are the worst things in your life, they can help you be the best version of you in your life.

If you want to comment on me and my mental status (or anyone else as the same applies to anyone whose social media feed you might follow), talk TO me, not ABOUT me. If you’re genuinely concerned for my welfare message me. Ask me HOW I am, find out WHO I am and then you’ll actually see I’m really good and posting about Simon is a celebration and a strength, and not a sign of weakness and craziness. Don’t judge me on your assumption of the person you think you know. I have changed; I am continually changing and I’m using my personal experiences to live my life and develop my professional life.

I am the man in the arena.

… and we can all be the man in the arena if we are vulnerable, honest and brave and I will treat you as the ‘doer of deeds’ also.

Much Love

Tabby xxx

Whit Friday Marches with my lovely friend Kathryn... in the rain!
Whit Friday Marches with my lovely friend Kathryn... in the rain!

By tabbykerwin, May 16 2019 08:05AM

This week is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and this year the focus is on body image. I don't know about you, but I have had a constant internal battle with my body image; my perception of my own image, my desires for something different, my understanding of how people see me and my realisation of how no-one actually cares. There is only really YOU judging you.

I originally penned this blog 12 months ago and since then, I've cared for Simon with cancer, embraced grief following his death, piled on more weight, stopped focussing on me, started to lapse into being appalled by my own body, even though I was staying fit and training for the London Marathon and starting to concern myself with what others might think of my body image.

On Boxing Day 2018, just 6 weeks after Simon died, I started doing the right things again for my body. But I'll be honest, up until a few weeks ago, whilst I'd lost around 7 inches around my waist and a bit of weight, marathon training was hard and I hate the photos of me from that day. So, the day after the London Marathon, I vowed to myself to take on my biggest challenge yet; It is 'Challenge Me.' I'm putting myself, my welfare, my wellbeing, my health, my fitness ahead of everything because making myself strong makes me stronger for my son, others and my business and a few weeks in I'm seeing and feeling changes and back to being able to look in a mirror and find something positive each day.

But then I remembered what I already knew and had written about previously.... no-one actually cares and their opinions on my body image don't concern me. It just took a gentle shove and putting myseld first to remind me and for goodness sake, I ran a marathon last month so it's just another thing to be grateful tor my body for.

So, embrace your body image; it is unique and yours and marvelous and put yourself first to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy and start being grateful for all your body gets you through.

Enjoy the read...


Are you sick of lacking self-confidence?

Do you constantly worry that people are looking and judging you based on your size, shape, weight or fashion choices?

It’s crippling isn’t it? The anxiety and worry of what other people think about you or what they might be saying?

I’ve never been ‘skinny mini’ and the weight / size battle has been a constant one throughout my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t conscious of it and when it gets to Summer, well, that’s just a whole host of extra emotional baggage to deal with when it comes to considering wearing a swimsuit in public!

I, like many others I know have worked their way through the plethora of diets, advice and scientific surveys which tell you how to be thinner and I’ve listened to doctors babble on TV about BMIs and an early death if you don’t lose weight and had PTs shout at me daily for not losing weight, but you know what, if you weren’t sad enough about how you felt before, they all make you feel a whole lot worse due to the stress of trying to conform to the medical and social idyll. If your confidence wasn’t shot before, it sure as hell is now!

However, I had a eureka moment recently and it happened when I was in at a spa in Italy. Preparing to go, I went into the usual internal, personal meltdown of wanting to cover up because I was ashamed of my body (and not happy how I looked… ever …. wearing anything … and in honesty the end of 2017 was so flipping horrid I’d managed to pile a nice stash of weight on…FFS! Cue feeling even more miserable about myself!), but I got my sh*t together and off we went to the spa.

It was a gorgeous day and lots of people were lying around the outdoor thermal pools. I went to the changing room, got changed, felt unbearably self-conscious as ever, covered up my lower half with a sarong (jeez I hate my legs!) and headed to the poolside.

There’s something about being in Italy that always makes me feel happy, content and tranquil and the sunshine always helps with this. Maybe not just the sunshine but the gallons of water I actually drink when I’m there because it’s so warm! That’s just a healthier thing to do. Anyway, I digress. I popped in and out of pools being very self-aware and conscious of my body and size until it suddenly occurred to me that absolutely no-one was looking at me, no-one cared what size I was, there were so many people of all shapes and sizes just enjoying themselves, smiling at each other and chatting and that was it. The only person worried about what I looked like was me, that’s it, only me. No-one else had an interest at all.

This got me thinking, all this time I’ve been so hung up on what others think of me and worried they’re commenting on me, who I am and what I do and actually they’re really not that interested in me at all (apart from the actual nasty, hurtful people who are commenting and judging but they’re a whole other petty breed of people I need never to worry about because they’re still doing the same things, the same way whilst my life has moved on for the better and happier… but that’s another story for another day!).

This was a massive moment for me; the realisation the only person holding me back from being happy and healthy was me because I was so sure I was being judged by either people I know or strangers or those trying to make us conform to being the same size of skinny to tick the ‘this is what height and weight ratio you should be or you’re failing at life’ box.

The difference this realisation has made is huge. It’s made me happier because I’m not trying to compete or be something I’m not, I’m not continually feeling like a failure because I don’t lose weight and I’m not wasting time and energy worrying about something that doesn’t concern me at all ie. the opinion of others.

What it has made me do is reduce stress, take it easier on myself, make me happier and healthier because now I focus on a balance of getting fitter and eating and drinking the things I love (glass of red anyone?). It’s also made me not care about what size a label says and enjoy wearing something that makes me feel confident rather than stressing it’s not a size 10!

This has also extended to my confidence in my work too. Whilst I’ve been successful and constantly developing for a long time, I’ve been fighting demons of how other people judge me and what I do, and how they comment on it both publicly and behind my back has been both hurtful and crippling, making me suffer with stress, anxiety and worse (and yes, many of them actually were commenting…publicly… it wasn’t always in my head); but not anymore. That one small realisation that day at that spa and developing those positive thoughts has given me a whole new happier and healthier mindset to develop and flourish and most of all, have confidence in myself and what I am capable of.

Moral of the story? No one cares, other people’s opinions don’t concern you and if they are talking about you it’s usually out of jealousy or boredom. Love what you do and how you do it and most importantly, love yourself; if you can’t do that, how can anyone else?

Get your mindset right on this and you’ll be on a solid path to happiness.

Much Love

Tabby xxx


Summer 2017 in Italy... one of my happiest and most confident
Summer 2017 in Italy... one of my happiest and most confident
Our honeymoon Part 1 in May 2016 when I felt happy in the sun
Our honeymoon Part 1 in May 2016 when I felt happy in the sun

By tabbykerwin, May 3 2019 03:15PM

In October 2018 I found out I had a place in the Virgin London Marathon; I was shocked.

I am not a runner, in fact I hate running, but I always love a challenge. Challenges are what change you and I knew I could do this, albeit slowly! That’s why I entered… oh! and because my friend Alison who ran in 2018 told me it would be fun and the group of us that entered said we’d have a great time… but I was the only one that actually got a place!

At the time I found out, my husband Simon was being treated for Cancer at the Yorkshire Cancer Centre, Bexley Wing at St. James’ Hospital, Leeds, so I decided to raise money for this incredible unit to give a little something back and set a target of £2k. His treatment was gruelling and battering him but I knew that any pain and difficulties I would go through in training and running a marathon would be nothing compared to the pain he was going through from cancer and the treatment.

Simon was a runner: I was not! He thought I was an idiot, in the nicest possible way, for entering but was proud of me for taking on a challenge that would be mentally and physically boosting and draining in equal measures… and it was. It was tough, especially as I resent every step of running and find it so boring (still do!); it’s just not my thing! But I was doing it. In fact, I started my training prior to finding out I had a place ‘just in case’ I did! I always like to be prepared.

Part of my drive was to be stronger and fitter to support Simon through his treatment, because I could not look after him if I was not in good mental and physical shape and every day before I visited him in hospital I would hit the roads to get stronger, for him and me and the possible challenge ahead, and whilst I hated it and most days didn’t want to go out, I had that thought continually in my head of ‘this is nothing compared to what he has to go through’ and that was my drive, my inspiration and motivation.

In November 2018 Simon died. The cancer was cleared, but the treatment was too much for him and led to technicalities that meant his body couldn’t carry on. It was heart-breaking, (it still is) but with the knowledge I had the place in the London Marathon, the need to push myself, challenge and change myself to complete the 26.2 miles and the desire to raise money in his memory for the amazing cancer centre that looked after him so well, became stronger and more personal. This was now for me, him and every cancer patient that could benefit from my fundraising. So, through one of the hardest times in my life learning to embrace grief and heartbreak, be a Mum and run my own business, I kept training.

Roll on through the first few months of 2019 and I was putting all the effort in and racking up the miles. I was on schedule; doing the long training runs up to 20 miles. It wasn’t fast, but I was doing it, I’ve never had any doubts about finishing the London Marathon because I knew I had the physical and mental strength and I was doing it my way, my speed, because after all, a marathon is a distance and not a speed. I had implemented my strategy of ‘The Three Ps’ – I knew it was possible, I had a productive plan and the Marathon was my performance. In spite of grief, losing the love of my life and everything else going on, I was ready. Let’s do this!

I’d planned the Marathon weekend to be a great weekend with my son and some of my closest friends who were all there to support me because they’re kind and amazing like that and we were going to have a great time, which we absolutely did. I knew taking part in the London Marathon would be hugely overwhelming emotionally and that I’d spend the whole time in tears, thinking of Simon, the reality that he wasn’t there with me and seeing all the other incredible runners, each with a different incredible story to tell.

I’ve had friends who have taken part before (side note: they’re all fans of running and great at it... unlike me! I was also actually meant to take part in 2014 but found myself in hospital having my gallbladder removed); they said it was fantastic, the atmosphere is electric and it was the best experience of their lives. I was now prepared for one of the best and most overwhelming experiences of my life. I was going to do something only a small percentage of people get to do and it was going to be awe-inspiring. I was going to be so proud, delighted and humbled and I was so pleased to have raised nearly £3.5k for my friend Jacqui’s fund (Jacqui’s Million) at the Yorkshire Cancer Centre.

On the morning of the London Marathon I woke up fresh and happy, no nerves, just a feeling of determination, focus and being ready. We’d had a lovely marathon eve in our apartment on The Strand with friends and a superb meal courtesy of Fabrizio the Italian private chef (he’s excellent, hire him!). I had my sensible breakfast of porridge and banana and a slice of toast and headed to the start line in Blackheath with my best friend of 25 years, Kathryn.

There were hoards of people, but it didn’t feel overly daunting. I kept my head and was determined to run my way and not get caught up in the masses or feel nervous of the incredible runners around me. If anything, I found the start a little underwhelming; nothing great to be said for the atmosphere stakes, just lots of focussed runners.

I’m not going to go into mile by mile detail, but mile one was awful… I’d started too fast despite ‘running my own race’. I always walk the first mile in training to get into it, but I couldn’t do that here; it’s not the done thing amidst seasoned runners. But I did it and carried on and actually, it all became fairly easy.

The Cutty Sark was fantastic. I knew my friends were there courtesy of our WhatsApp group which we all sent messages in over the marathon day. I’d ask for a taxi or wine to get me through; they’d tell me they were in the pub; that kind of thing! It was a real boost to see them and I was pleased I was actually running quite strongly at that point! I could hear them shout ‘keep f****** going’ – a phrase which had become my slogan since they bought me a keyring with it engraved on in the final weeks of my training!

It was good… but a few miles later I felt starving hungry and weak, the quick start had caught up with me. Thank goodness for the kind lady in Bermondsey who gave me a jammie dodger; I’m sure it saved my life because after that and a few painkillers I was off again. At this stage the crowds were great and the people so supportive; the residents of London and supporters were truly awesome and around the next corner was Tower Bridge… half way and where I got to see my son and friends again… and I was still running!

Now, at this point the advice is ‘don’t look left’ as the runners to your left are 10 miles ahead of you. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not just a case of not looking left, the reality is you’re running past each other for 1 ½ miles and there’s droves of them running against me, ten miles ahead and giving it everything with only 4 miles to go…. I still had another 12… Oh the thought!

I tried to get that thought out of my head but being by myself, with no-one to talk to it all became a bit lonely, quiet and boring…. we were entering part of the course with fewer onlookers and more and more runners were passing as I started to slow, just chugging along at my own little pace. Thank goodness for my best friend Kathryn who picked me up at mile 15 and ran with me, in her jeans for two miles to keep me company before I saw two more friends at mile 17. But then it was time to go it alone through Canary Wharf and it was quiet, no atmosphere, little support and I got so bored, the misery of it all set in… the more bored I got, the quieter it got, the slower I got. I was stuck in this infuriating gear of slow running that was slower than walking but it just physically hurt so much to walk. But I was still moving and I never once thought that I couldn’t finish, though the question of ‘why was I doing this?’ was very prevalent. It was for the money I’ve raised and out of sheer spite and determination, that’s why I was doing it.

As miles 17-21 carried on I got more and more bored, more resentful of every step, lonelier and more frustrated because what was meant to be an overwhelming experience wasn’t at all. I’d hardly thought of Simon, which made me mad, though I’d asked him to help me along a few times and then the sun would shine in the sky so I knew he was around, but I guess I wanted to be overwhelmed emotionally; maybe I needed it as part of my grief process, but it just wasn’t to be… and then the worst thing happened. The experience that I now know hundreds of people in the 2019 Virgin London Marathon had suffered right from mile one and I so feel for them because it was awful and certainly not what any of us signed up for.

I am a slow runner…I just am… probably more because I resent it physically… my brain hasn’t taken the approach that if I run faster it will be over quicker… there is just a lack of cohesive communication between brain and legs, regardless of size, weight, fitness or desire! It’s been the same way my whole life. Therefore, I’m what is affectionately known as a ‘back of the packer’ and I’m good with that. In fact, whilst I’m competitive in most things (OK all things!), I’m really happy to be in the back few hundred or thousand at the London Marathon and I’ve always made it very clear that I had no interest in time, but completing the distance because no-one is paying money to a great cause for me to be quick... they want to know I’ve earned the donations; and I did!

However, the experience of the ‘Back of the Packers’ was beyond belief and this whole scenario caught up with me between miles 20 and 21. Since Mile 13 the streets had been quiet, hence my boredom, only relieved by the passing fun of Karaoke Man! There was no real atmosphere and as we got further on you could see things were being packed away. But my experience post mile 21 was this… The coaches behind me, then driving past me, then ahead of me, then behind me again… these were the coaches that scooped up runners who couldn’t make it. Also, hot on my heels were the road sweepers cleaning trucks, blasting their chemicals over the painted blue line to clean it off the roads.

Water and Lucozade stations were abandoned with no more supplies and the feeling of impending doom got stronger and stronger. Mile 22 and the barriers are starting to be taken down. Now yes, I’m well aware this is one of the busiest cities in the world and it needs to get back to functioning, but the roads weren’t due to be re-opened until 7pm and it was little after 5pm. But the road cleaners and officials were fast behind me and it was making it all the more difficult as they had little respect for the runners. Without even having control I felt myself getting even slower as I was so annoyed and disappointed at the lack of atmosphere and support.

Don’t get me wrong, the few kind local people I did see were incredible, but a few sporadic faces along a course that had been lined with thousands is hardly the boost to get you going. Mile 24 and I could see my best friend again and she knew I was ‘gone in the head’, even more than usual! She ran with me, well she ‘ambled’ and I was still stuck in this annoying slow running gear that was really starting to infuriate me as it was getting slower and slower and had I been able to walk it would’ve been faster!

I was still alongside the cleaners, getting spattered with water and chemicals and then the real kick in the backside happened… the vehicle with the big flashing sign that says words to effect of ‘this road will be re-opening, please continue on the pavement’. Utterly brilliant! I am that much of a failure that I can’t even do the whole marathon on the course. But I was annoyed because I could see hundreds of people behind me, all in the same boat, in fact they’d had it much worse for much longer, and there was still plenty of time before the roads were due to open and we were well inside the time allowed to complete the course.

At the time nothing was amusing, but now the thought of my best friend Kathryn, marching down the embankment on the pavement in front of me and several other runners shouting ‘move out the way, marathon runners coming through’ is pretty amusing. She’s a rock star!!

I was finally nearing the end of the 26.2 miles and thinking well at least this should be good, the great atmosphere and pride of running down The Mall that you see on TV and people tell you of? And I was going to run it all to the finish where I’d get that medal. The very few people I saw were all so kind and supportive and maybe if it had been an hour or so earlier it would have been different, but the finish was the icing on the cake with no kudos, atmosphere or celebrations to talk of. I was deflated. However, maybe if I hadn’t just had to fend off coaches, lack of water, road sweepers, cleaning trucks and a closed course and battling with people on pavements I might have been there an hour or so earlier? Just a thought!

So, yes! I ran the 2019 Virgin London Marathon and I completed it, within the allowed time and I got a medal. I raised nearly £3.5k for a cause so dear to my heart, but was it the awe-inspiring, pride making experience I hoped it would be? No, it was terrible and I’d never do it again. Not because I couldn’t but because I wouldn’t want to if that’s how everyday people who put everything physically, mentally and emotionally get treated by the organisers of what is meant to be the greatest sporting event in the world.

Yes, these elite runners that can run it in little over 2 hours are incredible and inspiring athletes and they bring the press plaudits the event needs and I’m in awe of their abilities, but when the decision was made to make the London Marathon inclusive it should mean just that and every entrant should be taken care of, regardless of age, size, weight, ability or time. Some of the ‘Back of the Packers’ affected by the poor support of the marathon organisers and abuse from contractors have raised thousands of pounds for incredible causes and not only challenged themselves mentally and physically but actually made a difference to people’s lives who will benefit from the money they raised. These are incredible people who, regardless of the time it took them to complete the 2019 Virgin London Marathon, should be praised, thanked and supported. They did it not for the glory, but to help others and to step out of their own comfort zones. They are people going through illness, grief, anxiety and so much more but they did something incredible and the experience they deserved was taken away from them.

Am I proud of what I did? Maybe one day, but not this week; this week is tainted with a feeling of failure, anger and overwhelm for all the wrong reasons, but when I rationalise it I know I did something pretty incredible that challenged me and was entirely for the benefit of other people living with a disease that is brutal and has ultimately, in my life, left me without my Dad and husband and I know it’s a pretty small club of people that can say they completed the London Marathon. It’s just a shame the organisers can’t see this and appreciate the real people who go all out for others.

Rant over… it’s done now… but never again! My body is nearly back to functioning! A huge congratulations to anyone that ever takes on this challenge whether you’re an athlete or one of the back of the pack party! Whatever your reasons for doing it you ARE incredible and strong and never ever forget that and if you’ve had a great experience of the London Marathon then I am truly pleased for you. That is awesome. It’s just not my personal experience.

The hugest thanks to everyone who sponsored me for the event, I did finish it and the money will be well spent on cancer patients. A huge thanks to my son and friends for getting me through it, we had a great weekend regardless! Shame about the full working day of running in the middle!

Much Love

Tabby xxx


PS: The story of the experiences of the ‘back of the packers’ is hot in the press right now and you can read a couple of blogs about personal experiences, including one account from one of the official pacers for 7 ½ hours (why have an official pacer for 7 ½ if you’re not going to let them do their job and strip the course before she’s even got through mile one?) here:

PPS: the ‘back of the packers’ were referred to as ‘fat and slow’ by some of the workers clearing the course. Two points about this.

1) Yes I may well be, deal with it! I do! But it’s not the sole reason I’m slow!

2) Kind of funny that the only Marathon finisher t-shirts available when we were all finished were size XS! What does that tell you? Maybe that you don’t have to be a size XS to finish a marathon quickly as the bigger size shirts were all snapped up?!

PPPS: If you got this far, thanks for reading my personal account of the day. Like anything I feel better for writing it, even though it’s taken a few days to find the words. No more marathons but plenty of challenges ahead to raise more money for this great cause including trekking the Great Wall of China! There’s no time limit on that, the wall’s been there for long enough and won’t be ripped up as we walk it!! You can sponsor me here if you like! Thanks!

At the start with my bestie
At the start with my bestie
Half way on Tower Bridge!
Half way on Tower Bridge!
Me and my boy picking up my race number
Me and my boy picking up my race number
'S' is for Simon... my love x
'S' is for Simon... my love x
RSS Feed

Web feed