Great Manchester Run 2015

The Big Push 8!

 Sunday 10th May Manchester       


As in past years, the team have really been putting in a huge effort in training for this year's run, sadly not all of it fitness related! Maybe we should hunt for a new event which might include some more the team's specialities, downhill partying, drinking, and other such debauchery.

BP 8 Big Engineering Department

Many hours have been spent in the engineering department trying to shave more weight (mostly to offset Fatty's increased girth) from the battleship wheelchair. It is hoped that the team all up weight could well be getting down towards the regulation minimums – which has always been a closely guarded secret! Hopefully, more news to follow closer to the event.

Team Fundraising   

I have been provided with a huge amount of help since my accident from many diverse sources, one of which includes the charity Aspire. They are dedicated to try and help those who have suffered spinal cord injury to live as independently as possible, providing assistance in a vast number of different ways including assistive technology. They helped to provide me with all the equipment to access the computer and Internet independently – a lifeline for me.  Many of the Big Push Team have a military background, and several of us served during the first Gulf War in 1991. Rupert "The Bear" who took me flying several years after my accident was the last of the RAF crew to be shot down and made a POW. Sadly his backseater Steve was killed, and is amongst the 47 service personnel who lost their lives in that conflict. The Gulf War Memorial trust has been established to provide a dedicated Memorial to those 47 at the national Memorial Arboretum, and it will be unveiled on the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait next year.   I was fortunate to meet Josh and his parents in 2012 when we both did the Olympic torch relay. The Joshua Tree are making great progress towards providing a respite home for children with suppressed immunity following illnesses such as childhood leukaemia.   

The team think these 3 charities are incredibly well worth supporting this year, here is a link to our fundraising page:        

The Team hope many people will come and support us on the day, and make the whole experience as memorable as past years. Thank you all for your continuing support, watch this page for updates nearer to the event.

Latest News!                      

It looks like Fatty's winter diet has been a huge success.  The consortium of the JWTF and Gerald Simonds Healthcare, in particular Alan Blackmore, have helped to purchase Fatty a lightweight frame, along with several other "trick" parts, including the essential "freewheel system".  The dietary effect has already yielded a weight loss of approximately 40 KG...! The importance of this weight loss, particularly on the uphill sections of the course, cannot be underestimated – the last 1 1/2 km on the approach to the finish line is all uphill.  One of the other essentials, is the mountain bike type tyres which significantly improve the ride quality over Manchester's potholes, drains, manholes, cats-eyes etc.            

Fatty's Fast F1 Engineering Team          

As soon as delivery was taken of the new "Superlegerra" manual wheelchair frame the engineering team set up the garage and pit area at Fatty's race training base (we actually used Fatty's bedroom while Jane was out at school!).  A quick inspection after an initial roadtest (a scheduled trip to outpatient clinic at Southport) revealed that a few modifications would be necessary to try and get the setup just right.  Fatty's centre of gravity needed to be much lower in the chair to improve stability particularly in the corners.  The technical term for this is to increase the "dump".  (In other words, get Fatty's arse much lower down!)  Significant negative camber was also required on the rear wheels to further help stability.  A replacement axle tube was required, along with special camber inserts, and this had to be installed in the new chassis.  Unusually for Fatty, he was able to suggest some clever modifications to the axle mounting brackets which would increase the dump by at least a couple of inches.  By reversing the original "b" axle brackets into "p" this was neatly achieved.  This was to prove invaluable in lowering Fatty's centre of gravity in the chassis.  Setting up the new axle tube required careful checking to make sure that the camber, wheel caster and toe-ing in/out was correct for optimum handling.  The axle is made up of three major components, the tube, with an insert for each end specially made to provide the camber.  These locate with pins in the tube, and can then be locked in place by the axle hangar brackets squeezing on the tube, further security is provided by bolting the inserts in place once the setup has been adjusted.  The small front wheel casters needed to be raised in the chassis to improve ground clearance once the freewheel system was installed.  This clamps onto the front footplate – which also needed to be adjusted for optimum ground clearance.  As soon as all this was completed, a quick roadtest was required to check the handling and to confirm the best way of installing the previous years "patented" push bar system.  Despite this bearing a remarkable resemblance to a broomhandle wrapped with pipe insulation, in reality it is a wonderful high-tech piece of equipment.  The bar is held in place with six large tie wraps and a couple of turns of gaffer tape.  Initial tests looked tremendously promising, and Cameron – the team Gofer – was able to quickly get into his stride pushing Fatty in the pit road outside the garage.  The final part of the equation was some modified tiedown straps which would enable Fatty and the "Superlegerra" chair to be safely transported in the van.  The new chair is not equipped with the automatic locking system (that would add approximately 10 KG of the weight the team have strived so hard to lose!) Tiedown straps had previously been sourced by Fatty Trading Inc, an eBay group of companies, and these would locate nicely on the tracking system in the van at the rear of the chair, but not at the front.  The van has normal cargo lashing eyes immediately behind the front two seats, and with the straps carefully modified by the ladies at Sew Easy in Northwich, the chair could be perfectly secured.  Everything was set for an early start on the Sunday morning.      

Planning and Execution    

As usual, I'm greatly indebted to Nicola, Nigel, Jamie and all the team at Great Run who have made our arrangements so easy, painless, (for Fatty anyway) and straightforward.  Fatty's carers, Sonja and Dominic, had everything ready for an early departure.  This year thermal clothing was again required, with forecasts of cool temperatures and strong winds in the morning.  Scotty also arrived bright and early to join us for his First Big Push, and after a quick coffee the van was loaded ready for departure with a couple of boxes of drinks.  With the subtle changes of timing for this year's event things could be a touch more leisurely, traffic seemed quite light on the way into town so we had surprisingly little trouble getting to the loading bay outside Manchester Central just after 10 AM.  There were already lots of other runners around, and the area outside the charity village was its usual bustling self with loads of music from the soundstage.  It wasn't long before lots more members of the team arrived, and soon a big gang of "Fatty's Big Push" T-shirts could be seen.  New team members, Ian and Vanessa, Steve, Scotty and Alex collected their shirts, sadly we didn't have a small one for Alex (running in Rachel's place) and Stu "Shortcut" (more on that later!) had forgotten to bring his along from last year.  (Note for Fatty, order a couple of spares next year!) It didn't take long to get the last bits of setup sorted, tie wrapping the essential push bar, for the "Superlegerra" chair, then we were cruising down to the VIP start line (of course).  

Ready to Go!   

Fatty was immediately into his element hogging the limelight and getting straight on with radio interviews shamelessly plugging all this year's charities.  This included a particularly emotional piece about the Gulf War Memorial trust with so many of this year's team having had such a personal involvement in 1991.  Arrangements were made to disable the timing mats so we could cross backwards over the start line and assemble the team.  

But before we could manage that, immediately after conducting an interview with Haile Gebrselassie, Denise Lewis came jogging over to give Fatty a big hug and a kiss having of course remembered us all from last year.  Not to be outdone, Jonny Wilks wasted no time in surprising her, grabbing her and planting a big kiss on her cheek!  A shame his girlfriend was watching from just 5 yards away!  Timing is everything – but the bruises should heal quickly!  

As Haile Gebrselassie had just announced his retirement from competitive running during his interview, Fatty wasted no time in inviting him to join the team and start The Big Push 8

Haile was quick to accept the offer and so with him on the left-hand end of the pushing bar we were ready for the off.  

The new Superlegerra chair was as smooth as silk as we shot across the starting mat and over the first few potholes and Manchester's version of the Grand Canyon, which form the opening metres of the course.


I'm not sure who was most surprised by the initial pace, Fatty or Haile, but after a couple of hundred metres the former double Olympic and six time world 10k champion, could no longer keep up, and was dropped off by the team!!  

Undeterred by losing a Big Push Member so early in the run the pace continued unabated through the first kilometre in 4.44.  

A crushing pace to have set and already a couple of members of the team were starting to hurt.  As we rounded the turn by the cancer charity bus onto the main road, the crowd was building and giving the team huge encouragement.  Spurred on and with the Superlegerra chair showing it's worth the pace quickened with a quick kilometre bashed off in 4.32 before we slowed slightly going up the hill towards Old Trafford.  

The crowds along the Chester Road were huge again this year, and for some of the regulars, clearly the sight of The Big Push Team was very familiar – I wonder why?

 ! We flashed past The Crumbling Theatre of Dreams and then on towards one of the team's favourite spots, the Aqua-aid water station.

 It really was a drive-through this year with great control provided on the pushing bar by usually three of the team, meaning none of the previous dramas when we had the Superlegerra's predecessor!!  Refreshed by a quick drink on the move we headed down to Salford quays and along past the Imperial War Museum carefully avoiding the drive-through water spray cooling point, it really wasn't quite hot enough this year.  At the end of the quays a familiar face awaited us, where had Stu "Shortcut" McLaren been?  

He really was a bit conspicuous in his bright yellow "Rat Race" shirt.  

Did you really think the team wouldn't notice?  

Did you really think you would get away with it?  

Did you really think no one would take the p***?  

Hours of rather childish entertainment over lunch – thank you!  

No matter, whatever you had been up to, it must have worked as you were definitely there at the finish.

 The Superlegerra negotiated the bump up the kerb and back onto the Chester Road with ease, another sub 5 min km was rattled off.  

The pace dropped a little as we had to start negotiating huge amounts of traffic, but then despite it starting to go uphill the 9th km was still dispatched in 5.14 (great stuff this satellite tracking technology!)  We were well placed amongst the huge crowds of runners as we entered the last km to the finish.  

Uphill all the way, having to take the slightly longer outside of the left-hand curve to get a clear run, we passed under the bridge and headed for the finish line – the clock stopped on Fatty's chip (this year everyone's had been cunningly embedded in their running number) at 49.58 – sub 50 min for the second time in the team's illustrious big push history.  

A really magnificent effort by everyone in the team, including Haile, "Off the Pace" Gebrselassie, and of course, "Shortcut!"  Photos, interviews, grab the goody bags, and back to the battle bus for some light refreshments.  A couple of cheeky beers later, and we were ready to head down to Spinningfields and The Oast House for a well-deserved lunch.  Another brilliant day out for Fatty, who as usual, is massively indebted to his amazing team of supporters, who constantly give up so much time to help him.  It looks like the team so far have raised just a little over £4000 for our chosen charities, another marvellous result.  What will the team be up to next?  Already bookings are being taken for public (and private) appearances!  More news as it becomes available and things are confirmed.  

The slight downside!   

Sadly, despite the amazingly comfy ride provided by the Superlegerra chair over the undulations of the course, Fatty's skin was slightly damaged in the course of things.  This has meant rather extended periods on bed rest, and very limited time "in the office" hence the delay in posting this update and also restricting other days out. It won't come as much surprise to regular readers to know that Fatty has been not following the district nurses advice too strictly which was to stay on bed rest until the mark healed. By the time my next trip to Southport is completed it will all be fine. Roll on next year! Thank you again, to everyone involved for another successful chapter in The Big Push Story.

Happy Running – Fatty