The Big Push Update
 The Manchester 10k Run ~ Sunday 18th May 2008
Brilliant, fantastic, exhilarating don’t even come close to describing the experiences of Sunday 18th May. Fortunately all the hard work Jerry had put in at the gym paid off and he was fit enough to take part, accompanied by Sarah, a very brave nurse with a wonderful sense of humour.
In fact the excitement started the week before with a TV interview for Channel M, a local Manchester station, followed by a write up in the Manchester Evening News. On the big day the VIP treatment continued. Jerry and the gang were the last people to start the 10k race, but not before being interviewed by local radio stations and an announcement put over the tannoy to the public. Needless to say the crowd went wildas the team of eight pushed off. They covered the first km in 6 minutes which is significantly fasterthan Jerry managed to run it last year.
Having established a brisk pace, the team of pushers raced down to the half way point at the Manchester United grounds. The BBC was on standby to interview Jerry at this point, but all they got was a flash of blue vests and wheel chair as the team whizzed past. By 6 km the wheel chair was groaning, the bumps were very uncomfortable and the pushers had run out of puff, so the ensemble slowed to a more sedate pace which allowed for eating, drinking and recharging of batteries. Having consumed the chocolate hobnobs they were well equipped to make a final dash for the finish.
I shall never forget the sight of Jerry with a huge beam on his face approaching the finish line accompanied by his band of faithful friends and family. The support from the crowd and officials was tremendous as they crossed the line. And there waiting to greet him was Hazel Irvine with the BBC camera crew.  Yes he did get more than one kiss! Obviously flying TV presenters around in F3Tornados earns you some privileges.
Jerry’s courage and determination enabled him get as far as the Great Manchester run, supported by a great many family and friends and wonderful hospital staff.  Many of the nurses that looked after him in ICU were not in the least bit surprised that he had made it this far, as that is what got him through the really bleak days.
We would like to thank all who made Sunday a reality, and the generosity of many who have sponsored Jerry. The BIG PUSH team completed the course in 1 hour and 32 mins, not quite the Sunday morning stroll that some had expected!
If you would like to sponsor Jerry, please click on donations for instructions. Don’t forget to visit the photo album for pictures of the big day.

The Great Manchester Run 2009

Sunday 17th May

After the resounding success of last year’s run the team is back for Fatty’s Big Push II. With a time of 1 hour 32 minutes to beat, the tyres are being pumped up and go faster stripes attached to Jerry’s chair. Fatty (otherwise known as Jerry) is even cutting back on alcohol for the next few weeks.

Team 2009

Jerry Ward
Sam Ward
Biddy Carter
Jonny Wilkinson
Vanessa Thacker
Mark Thacker
Jane Ward
Ceri Roderick
Imogen [PA]

And not forgetting our faithful driver Nigel Samsome without whom Jerry would never get to the middle of Manchester, not to mention the start of the race.

Just in case you were wondering, Rachel is traveling across South America.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all who supported us last year. Your generosity enabled us to purchase a state of the art electric wheel chair for Jerry which has made a massive improvement to the quality of his life. You also contributed to the cost of adapting the house for Jerry’s long awaited return home in four weeks time at the end of May.

This year we are hoping to raise funds to purchase electronic equipment and computer hardware and software which will enable Jerry to become more independent at home and provide a vital link with the outside world. If you would like to make a donation to Jerry's Trust Fund, please go to the Donations page and thank you for your generosity.

Thank you so much for your support.

It was only while carefully checking through my website recently that I realised a proper update after last years 2009 "Big Push" had not been completed!


So here goes. And of course now I have voice recognition software! In 2009 the weather gods were not smiling on us at all, the morning of the push dawned grey and cloudy and quite chilly. Nigel , our friendly driver, arrived bright and early at the spinal unit to collect me and my carer who was coming with us to help supervise and also Sarah who pushed last year but this year chickened out and was only going to spectate! Sorry Sarah! We parked and unloaded in our secret space close to the centre of the action. We were even there in time for the early waves to start running. Our team runners including Mark, Jane and Ceri set off with the elite athletes including all of the guys from Kenya and Ethiopia. Only 40 minutes later Mark was at the finish line - Well Done Mark! Analysis of the results on the great run website afterwards later told us that out of 35,000 athletes taking part Mark came in at 332 an unbelievable achievement! Tremendous! Meanwhile, the pushing team collected our thoughts together with the help of the charity village and Diabetes UK, thank you for your hospitality!

As it got closer to our start time the skies were even more grey, but the decision was made by the pit crew to go out on slick tyres - maybe a bit of a gamble! We gently pushed round to the start line and waited for the last wave to cross the start. We then set off, as we did last year, at the very back, all the team in good shape including Mark who had decided to go round again! However, this year our intention was to go around a lot more quickly. We soon started to catch the back markers and lots of overtaking was called for. With out-riders at the front of the pushing team we started to barge our way through the crowds. I hope we didn't cause too much damage to people's ankles and shins! We were making really good progress right up until the Old Trafford football ground, but by then it started to rain. We pressed on regardless, but in the conditions slick tyres were definitely the wrong choice! After a few offs, slides and other excursions, the decision was made to pit and change tyres. In reality, it meant that I could get my rain covers put over me. Sadly, this meant that I looked like something that would more likely be seen hosting Billy Smarts circus! The pit stop had cost us precious time, about three minutes! But despite the weather, the enthusiasm of the pushing team was undiminished. By the time that we got on the Chester Road, we were back up to a really good speed, and were still managing to overtake many other runners. The Hilton Hotel and the end were in sight.

We smashed through the finishing line in a tremendous time of one hour 15 minutes and 58 seconds! Well done everyone! I couldn't have managed it without you and I really mean that. The conditions meant that unlike the previous year we didn't want to hang around taking lots of photographs. By the end we were all absolutely soaked through, and I was getting very, very cold. After a short while to warm up and dry out, the rain had stopped and we were able to make our way round to the pub and get a well-deserved lunch.

The question now is, what can the team manage in 2010? Will all the team claim to have strange injuries? Will no one be able to get time off work? Well I can happily report that the whole team is already signed up for the 2010 run, and that includes both of my children. After a more rigourous training programme and quicker pitstops who knows what might happen! Watch this space for more details, and an update on The Big Push Three.
Great Manchester Run 2010 - The Big Push 3
The Date! - 16 May 2010
STOP PRESS EXTRA 1 Big Push 3 on TV -
STOP PRESS EXTRA 2 Leeds/Didsbury 4 re-united for The Big Push!
STOP PRESS EXTRA 3 Great Manchester Run on BBC2 Sunday 16th
The team!

Runners! - Jane, Ceri, two Marks and Keith.

Pushers! - Two Marks and Keith are allegedly running and then joining the team for The Push where they will join : Sam, Rachel, John, Simmo, Biddy, and of course Jerry (a.k.a. Fatty!) will be on his throne, if you'll pardon the expression! There are already rumours that another member of the former Leeds 4 and Didsbury 4 may be joining us. Details are of course classified at this stage and may remain so for such an undercover and elusive group. They can often be found in the Metropolitan Pub drinking vast amounts of beer and wine and in most other Didsbury locations that serve food and drink.
The Course! - The run starts in Portland Street which is close to Manchester Central, that used to be the GEMEX centre. We then run along Chester Road towards Old Trafford football stadium, after not paying our respects to a hopeless football team who won't have been playing in this year's FA Cup final, we then drop down to the waterside by the Imperial War Museum North. We get back on to the Chester Road until we hit the bottom of Deansgate. From where we should be able to see the finish by the Hilton Hotel - that's the great big tall building which is a funny shape halfway up. After smashing our way through the finish line, we should be able to collect our medals and make our way to the pub for our well earned lunch, and of course, a few beers!


There have already been sightings of runners in Fatty`s Big push shirts as far away as London Gatwick and even on overseas locations! This level of dedication is testament to the professional manner with which everyone doesn't treat Fatty's Big Push! It could also mean that someone is taking the London Marathon seriously - the very Best of luck Biddy (rather you than me) Locally, training is already in a high gear, the treadmill is being worn out by Sam and Jane, and the local running club has several new members. After a quick trip around Tesco with a trolley attached to the front of the chair, which caused significant collateral damage and resulted in many personal injury claims, Fatty's training came closer to home with a trip to the pub, and a coffee shop in the village!

Everyone has their own personal target times which they keep close to their chests, but a secret source has revealed that Mark is aiming for 35 minutes and there are several sub 50 minute target times, that must mean Jane, Ceri, Keith and one of the Mark's! I just caught Mark doing a bit of sub-editing, trying to give himself a cushy ride and a target of 37 minutes. Come on now Mark, that's just a jog for a youngster like you! As for Fatty, the rules have changed for this year and pitstops for tyre changes and the like are no longer allowed. So last year's push in one hour 15 minutes should be blown out of the water! Time will tell!

Technical Issues

In last year's run we had significant problems with nosewheel shimmy on my chair. With the changes in this year's regulations we will have to ensure that my chair is correctly prepared for the rigours of the course. The high-speed handling is particularly tricky over potholes and cobblestones, the pit crew will have a difficult job getting the balance of the chair right over the slow and high-speed sections of the course. Fortunately, we have been able to recruit the expertise of a retired Formula One engineer from team Lotus. At least we will have when I ask him nicely or threaten to repossess my pressure washer! This should mean that the chair will be correctly set up for everything that Manchester can throw at it, or me for that matter.
Keep Running Guys!

Stop Press!

The training camp spies have been out worldwide, and have spotted Fattys Big Push shirts all over the place! As soon as technology allows I will put photos on the website. I may have cracked it!

The bad news is that stories of injuries are already flooding in, with torn calf muscles, hamstring troubles, blisters and the like. Wazzer has a sore ankle, and David has a sore foot, but both had declined an offer to join the team so we don't care too much anyway! That said, I hope Wazzer is fixed in time for the World Cup. Mark has joined an elite Cheshire running club to work on his speed and is now training with 32-33 minute pace youngsters - very impressive stuff! Try to not give them too much of a head start - a couple of minutes should do it! Jane competed in a local 10k and beat her target of 50m and is now working on 48 - well done Jane!

Probably most running has been done by Biddy in preparation for her marathon, you can check out her progress at

Race report 2010


Knowing that overtaking was going to be a serious problem during the race a good performance in qualifying was essential. Frantic adjustments to the chair, tyre pressures and Fattys sitting position left the team with only one chance at a clear lap during the session. We needn't have worried, with huge help from the Great Run organisers and a small amount of blagging from Fatty we qualified on pole position! In fact, we reported to the VIP enclosure to meet the race director and also Brendan Foster before we even got to the start. After the 4th wave had started, we were escorted to the start line where Fatty gave a short interview and then there was a specially announced start for Fattys Big Push.

The race!

With the changes to this year's regulations, having qualified on slick tyres, despite the weather being very overcast with the chance of showers during the race the decision was made to go out on slicks. Injuries had forced us to make several changes to the team, Jane and Ceri were both injured and Rachel had exams at University. However, the Leeds and Didsbury 4 were reunited, Dave and Dozzer joining Biddy and Simmo, Sam had his college friend Sean, and John and Mark had been ever present - this being their third push. The team revved up, the lights went green, the hooter went off, Fatty dropped the clutch and in a flurry of wheelspin the race was on! Some of the other teams thought we had jumped the start, We Had! We were under way 4 minutes ahead of the 5th group and easily got to the first corner ahead of the chasing pack. The pushing team were quickly in their stride and helped on by tremendous support from the huge crowd charged through the first kilometre in less than 6 minutes. Surely the team couldn't maintain this pace, after all, it was alleged that Fatty was even heavier than last year! Fatty of course made the chair very wide making overtaking from behind almost impossible! There were many more potholes than last year, some of which were enormous and we still had serious nosewheel shimmy from the chair.

Shortly after 2 km, we started to encounter the back markers from the 4th wave. Some of our overtaking came under close scrutiny by the race stewards, but we got away with no drive-through penalties. At 3 km, we were getting on to the Chester Road and we could see the theatre of hopeless dreams (that'll be Old Trafford Stadium then!) We sped past without even giving the reds a second glance. As the race went on the traffic got more intense and some of the road surface was questionable to say the least. The team were undeterred, and pressed on at a relentless pace, taking no prisoners whatsoever with some outrageous overtaking manoeuvres. We dived through on the inside, blasted round the outside, shoved our way through the middle, the only thing we didn't try was to out-brake anyone, we simply never used the brakes! We managed to avoid the shower at 6 km although I think some of the team would have welcomed the cooling water - we were on slick tyres after all and didn't want to risk going off into a gravel trap or the barriers. Close by each of the water stations we had to avoid thousands of discarded bottles and the bottle tops. Running over them in the chair was exciting to say the least! They got launched everywhere!

To get back on to the Chester Road we had to go up and over the pavement, then back down onto the road - a tricky manoeuvre when taken at such high-speed. Perhaps we had set the ride height too low, or the suspension too hard, maybe the race organisers had made the kerbs on the chicanes too high to stop people from cutting corners. Whatever, a comfortable smooth ride? The Rolls-Royce treatment? Pampering for Fatty? Forget it, speed is life! We could see the finish line! (As the finish line is by the tallest building in Manchester - the Hilton, it can be seen from just about anywhere!) We took on water without even stopping at the last drinking station and from there to the finish, despite it being uphill, we just got faster and faster.

We smashed through the finish line in the amazing time of 58 minutes 11 seconds! What an achievement! Outstanding! Unbelievable! Indescribable! Brilliant running! We were only minutes behind the leading men's elite runner Haile Gebrselassie. No pressure for next year then! The tremendous achievement of the team meant that we finished in a position of 13636 ahead of 22,000 other entrants - wow!! Yet another quick interview for Fatty, and some official photographs, then it was time to collect the goody bags and medals. The team had undoubtedly earned their lunch and a very well-deserved beer.

To say that it had been a great day out is just such a massive understatement! Big Push 1, so soon after my accident gave me a fantastic feeling. But it was only ever intended to be a gentle push round Manchester. Despite getting very wet and cold last year Big Push 2 was still good fun. But this year, everyone in the team wanted to really try for a good time. And boy did they achieve that! I can never thank the team enough for making it such a memorable day out for me. Thanks are also due toward those of you who have supported me so much in the last few years. And of course, I can't forget the team at Great Run, including Nicola, Nigel and of course the boss Brendan. Roll on next year, and Big Push Four!

The Great Manchester Run 2011- Fatty's Big Push 4

It's that time of year again when people are dusting down their running shoes (or in my case pushing shoes) and getting ready for the great Manchester run. Some of the new members of the team have already been spotted in training. Sadly, since the departure of Spurs from the champions league football one or two members of the team have a little more time on their hands! Several dates have been freed up in the fixture list. Fatty was spotted wearing a "who ate all the pies" shirt and was immediately put on a low-calorie diet! Without the secret source of beer and cookies visits would have been severely disrupted due to the lack of goodies.

The wheelchair was due to have been tested both in the wind tunnel and also at the secret test track location (usually Costco) but was delayed coming out of its winter maintenance to make it compliant with this year's regulations. Sadly, the truth is extra weight has been added due to the Lock-N-Dock system equipment to get it in the new van. This has also seriously impacted on the ground clearance, which may make getting up and down kerbs very exciting indeed. No amount of dieting will make the whole package lighter than last year (a good job really as Fatty doesn't like the diet and wasn't following it anyway!) Setting a new course record will be even more difficult as a result. On the plus side, the extra weight sitting so low down in the chair may help stability and the nose wheel shimmy which has plagued the team on Big Push 2 and 3. All the Formula One aficionados amongst you will know that tyres have changed since last year as well as all the aerodynamic changes. As far as the big push is concerned though, our aerodynamic package is completely dictated by Fatty's size and shape! We have been able to incorporate a blown double diffuser, which should improve straight line speed, we also have our own highly secret drag reduction system (DRS) - this may involve Fatty lying down in the chair! The team did try to develop a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) however, this involved braking and as the team don't do any of that it wasn't considered to be worthwhile!

With media interest in this year's push being so intense it is no surprise that the huge crop of Internet betting sites are sitting up and taking notice. Most of the talk has inevitably been centred on whether we can beat last year's time a truly astonishing 58 minutes 10 seconds. For all those gamblers amongst you, it's possible to take a punt on all kinds of things including: the finishing time, how many other elite wheelchair athletes will beat us, how many people we may run down, whether the wheels fall off the chair, even whether we can beat Haile Gebrselassie or Paula Radcliffe! However, there is just one rule, no betting is allowed until you've made a donation on the just giving site!

On a serious note, if there is such a thing, I will be trying to get some media coverage for us at the event to try and raise awareness of life after a serious spinal-cord injury. Since Fatty has completed his training and is now a "Thomas Cook Olympic Pioneer" for the London 2012 Olympics the challenge this year is to try and raise £2012 for the Thomas Cook children's charity. So if you can't be there to support us on the day please do visit the just giving website address above and make a donation however small - even a little will help. The site makes it very easy to donate and also provides an opportunity to claim gift-aid which should deprive the Chancellor of a few pounds!

Race Report 2011


We weren't quite sure what to expect this year, different tyres, very different conditions, and more weight in the chair! Practice had been seriously limited by the weather since the end of April.

Nigel our trusty driver, along with my carers had me ready to go nice and early. The automatic lock and dock system on the wheelchair had been adjusted, and the front wheels seriously modified to prevent nosewheel shimmy. A simple clunk in the van and we were ready to roll.

When we got into Manchester we were surprised to find that despite our early start, many of the roads were already blocked and there were white vans with flashing lights (not all police!) bollards, cones, barricades and "do not cross" tape all over the place, nightmare! Didn't they know we were VIPs? No worries, a quick chat, a few vehicles moved, and we were through, straight to our "usual" parking space right in front of the old GEMEX. We had plenty of time to get all our kit sorted out and make our way through the crowds and into the Charity Village out of the light rain. There we met up with the team at Diabetes UK, where we enjoyed their usual superb hospitality, thank you. Jane and Mark were both running for diabetes UK, Jane aiming to beat her target time of 50 minutes after a significant birthday, but Mark was doing it as part of the push. Despite one or two late substitutions the team looked as strong as ever and they were raring to go. For Simmo and John this would be the fourth push, but for Mark, James, Jayne, Phil and Pat it was their first time at the event. Ceri had always been involved in the big push but had always run as an individual. They wouldn't know what to expect!

The Race!

After prerace massages, coffee, bananas and energy bars we were ready to make our way to the start. After a small hiccup at the security area (again!) we were into the VIP enclosure (more coffee and muffins) when it started to rain much more heavily. Our decision to start on slick tyres was beginning to look a serious mistake. The third wave had cleared the start line and were well on the way, when the big push was ushered round onto pole position. By the time the inspirational music (Nessun Dorma) had been sung there was only time for a short interview and a quick announcement of "Fattys Big Push" before the lights went out. The slick tyres made a fast getaway a touch tricky, with lots of wheelspin and the back of the chair fishtailing a little, but the added power of a bigger pushing team meant that by the time we reached the first corner we were well ahead. The first part of the course is quite rough, but downhill, and our speed was unbelievable. The front wheel modifications were working well, nosewheel shimmy was virtually eliminated, apart from on the roughest parts of the road. The support from spectators, the bands at the side of the course and the charity areas was quite remarkable. Last year, I thought that we completed the first couple of kilometres tremendously quickly, this year it was simply sensational. At each kilometre board we checked our time and surely the pace couldn't be maintained.

By the third kilometre despite the previous group having started 45 minutes before us we were starting to catch up the back markers and having to negotiate traffic. The added speed made one or two of the changeovers in pushers a little hazardous and Fatty was nearly out of the chair a couple of times. Along with one or two very dubious overtaking manoeuvres we wondered whether we would come under close scrutiny from the race stewards, a drive-through penalty was the last thing we needed.

The team blasted past the Old Trafford stadium and out towards the far western end of the course where there is a sharp right-hand turn down towards the Salford Keys. The corner was taken so fast the new drag reduction system (DRS) didn't activate, and Fatty was nearly out of the chair again! We flew past the water stop, the shower system, and then negotiated a nasty uphill section which was still taken at a quite relentless pace. Surely the pushing team must be flagging by now? Absolutely no sign of it though, in no time we were back up on the Chester Road and onto the fast straight which leads on to the bottom of Deansgate. Through the seventh and eighth kilometre we were charging past dozens of runners who couldn't believe our pace. The Hilton hotel was in sight, the crowds got bigger, the cheering more noisy, and the team activated the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). The boost in speed pinned Fatty back in the chair despite the last bit of the course being uphill.

The team smashed through the finish line in a quite unbelievable time, stopping the clock at an astonishing 53 minutes 18 seconds! Almost 5 minutes quicker than last year, and beating nearly 30,000 other competitors. A truly remarkable achievement for the big push team. We nearly missed our team of supporters who were near the finish we were still going so quickly. I think we even surprised the announcer who wasn't expecting us there quite so soon. After all the shouting and cheering around the course Fatty was completely lost for words, a very unusual occurrence, and the whole team were really emotional. Not even the rain could spoil the moment. We collected our goodie bags, medals and regrouped in the GEMEX before heading on down to the pub, and lunch. Already the team were getting excited about entering for next year, and cracking the 50 minute barrier, now that really would be some achievement! We now can't wait for "The Big Push 5"



Great Manchester Run 2012

The Big Push Five!


When does it happen? Sunday may 20th 2012 - Manchester                                                                                      

Please visit the team fundraising site at:

This year the team has chosen to support three cancer related charities. Each of us can identify with someone close, friend or family who has been helped by one of these great teams of people. Please give as generously as you can manage, even a little will help, and feel free to forward the link on to any of your contacts, The Big Push Team will really appreciate your support.


Training has already started in earnest for this year's run.  Someone (rather stupidly it would seem!) was heard to say after last year "we should be able to beat 50 min next year!"  I fear that may have "set the bar rather high!"  And talking of high, some of the team are currently at the secret high altitude training camp, cleverly disguised as rather scruffy alpine skiers!

Even compared to last year Fatty is on a strictly enforced diet, every meal seems to consist of either rabbit or bird food, it would be easy to say that the kg's were simply falling off, sadly that isn't true!  Undoubtedly the easy way to lose a few kg's from the all-up weight, would be to bundle Fatty into a Tesco shopping trolley (they weigh considerably less than the battleship) But when you consider how difficult they are to steer around the supermarket, it's difficult to see how one would manage Manchester in 50 min!  Something a little more robust, but easier to push is definitely needed, so until then, no cookies with the morning coffee or afternoon tea.

The team looks like it may be boosted by a few new members, possibly even with some pacesetters outfront to clear the traffic.  This may make things significantly safer for the other runners, if rather less fun! New team members will also mean that we need some new shirts, so watch out for them being spotted in exotic locations.

It also seems to be the fashion to change the rules each year, thankfully though, unlike some of the new F1 cars, the wheelchair doesn't look like a duckbilled platypus! Pre-season testing luckily didn't involve a crash test, and team has shown promising early pace, obviously the work in the gym and on treadmills has paid off. We believe the course will be the same as last year with no extra chicanes, and hopefully, some of the potholes will have been filled in. So as usual, the start will be all-important, with the inevitable extra pressure to get the team qualified on the front row of the grid. So until qualifying, thank you again for your support.

Fatty - and all The Big Push Team!
Stop press
People in big push T-shirts will be all over Manchester Central (the old GEMEX) from about 10 AM on Sunday. The team will be heading to the start line and the VIP enclosure (of course -a big thank you to everyone at Great Run!) at about 1130. We should be blasting off at about 1205, Chester Road outbound at 1220 inbound at 1230 hoping to be crossing the finishing line by 1300.
After collecting our goody bags we should be in the pub by aroundabout 1345.Everyone will feel very sore by about 1800, and desperate for a day in bed or a good massage by the following morning. Hopefully though, no trips to A & E!The whole team thank you for your support, and look forward to seeing you on the day!
Extra stop press!
Fattys diet a success!
Fatty loses 40 kg in one day!New equipment passes scrutineering, but other teams not happy! Some details are still confidential! Surely the new chassis is illegal! 
McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes all lodge an appeal fearing that the modifications give the Big Push Team an unfair advantage - and we thought that was the idea!
Great thanks to Alan Blackmore and all at Gerald Simonds Healthcare Ltd. I couldn't have managed the diet without you.
The team should now be confident of qualifying on pole position!
Fatty now looking forward to a porkpie for lunch!

Race Report 2012-The Big Push 5

Getting loaded up for this year was a bit on the tricky side.  Fatty wouldn't be able to travel to Manchester in the new "Superlegerra" wheelchair, there was no way of safely restraining it in the van. That meant 2 wheelchairs and the hoist had to be loaded, along with four adults and all our kit.  No problem though, Nigel "wheels", Monika "brolly girl (PA/carer)" and Rachel "The Stig (carer)" had everything ready in no time at all. We safely negotiated our way through the traffic/roadblocks/bollards/cones/barricades/security dudes, does it ever end? and got to our "VIP" parking space outside the GEMEX in really good time.

I was quickly transferred from the "Battleship" and into the "Superlegerra", then it was time for a few adjustments, fit the "freewheel" assembly (a special wheel which attaches to the front of the chair turning it into a three wheeler) then on into the charity village.  Here we were subjected to a torrent of abuse and protests from other teams about the legality of the new chassis.  I believe that Big Push F1 Engineering simply exploited one or two loopholes in the regulations!

We went to visit all of our chosen charities, starting with Diabetes UK, before moving onto Kidscan, the McMillan nurses and then The Christie, who all provided us with great hospitality, thank you.  There was a quick interview with Fatty, hogging the limelight again, before it was time to face the race stewards and scrutineering. Fortunately, they agreed with us that the chassis was perfectly legal, and our qualifying time would stand.  Team Big Push 5 were on pole position yet again! Resplendent in this year's shirts the team headed off to the start and of course the VIP enclosure!      

More Fame

We just missed out on a chat with Sir Bobby Charlton, but when we went round to the start line we were joined by the winners of the elite men's and women's races, Haile Gebrselassie and Linet Masai!  Would they be able to last the pace?  Who would be ahead at the first corner when?  The TV cameras zoomed in to catch the action!

Brendan Foster in commentary said "and there are two of the best distance runners in the world" obviously Fatty was one, but which of The Big Push Team was the other?    

The lights on the starting gantry went out, the hooter went and the big push was underway.  Haile and Linet were left in our dust as the team shot off to the first corner, the new chassis quickly proving its worth, faster acceleration, better top speed, and no brakes!             The first kilometre was smashed in a quite remarkable 4 min 16 seconds!  Had we started out too fast?  Would the tyres be shot to bits by halfway?  We would soon find out.  The maths were simple, if we could stay inside 5 min per kilometre pace we would beat 50 min.  At 3 km we were well over a minute inside the required pace, the new chassis was riding over the bumps superbly.          


The Water Station

The Team had really settled in well, steady pace, smooth changeovers and really good directional control even with the pushing handles being a little loose.  That was until we approached the "Aqua aid" water station, they had mountains of water bottles on both sides of the track.  Believing that he was about to hand over to a new pusher, someone's hand came off the handle, whilst he reached for a bottle. Fatty went careering off to the side of the course, surely an enormous, ultra-high-speed excursion would mean curtains for the whole team and was inevitable! Furthermore, there would be water bottles everywhere!  We were saved by a fresh pusher reaching for the handle, giving a huge push, massive cornering G forces, up on two wheels, Fatty out of the seat, but we only gave the bottles a lovers kiss, disaster was avoided.  We were back on track and after 5 km in 23.54, we were getting seriously stuck in to the backmarkers.  We blasted along Salford quays avoiding the drive-through shower and onto the tricky section where there are several sharp, uphill corners and a couple of curbs to negotiate.  The new chair changed direction easily, and barely noticed the curbs.  In no time we were back on to the Chester road, but one or two of the pushers were beginning to find the pace a bit hot.  Whoever was in charge, and I still don't know, refused to slow down so they could catch up, and we headed on through 8 km still well inside our target time.

The Run to the Finish

Despite now being down to only four pushers there was no slowing down, even in the traffic.  Dave was outfront trying to clear people away when the "freewheel" at the front of the chair clipped his ankle.  Another crash looked unavoidable.  But unlike one or two Premier league footballers (Ashley Young in particular) Dave stayed on his feet and kept running through the crowds, with the chair still hot on his heels.  As we reached the last left-hand bend at the bottom of Deansgate, we eased to the outside where there was a gap in the traffic and blasted to the finish line, tripping the timing lights in an absolutely astonishing 48 min 8 secs!  Fatty was simply lost for words (rare I know!)  Another team personal best by over 5 min from last year, and fully 11 1/2 min quicker than Fatty could run before his accident!  Equally important for Fatty, beating Jane for the first time in seven years, the gloating will continue for a little while yet, sorry!  There are bad losers, and sometimes even worse winners!   

The Credits

I'm not quite sure where to start, without unbelievable support from my team, none of this would have been possible, raising thousands for good causes in the process thanks to the tremendous help from our sponsors.  We are also greatly indebted to Gerald Simonds healthcare and Alan Blackmore for the fantastic equipment they lent us for the day.  Also, without the help of Nigel and Nicola at great run and all the rest of their team none of the above would be possible.  For them, nothing is too much trouble, enabling the team to fit in, take part, be VIPs for the day, meet the celebrities and have an absolutely fantastic day out, thank you!

Next Stop

The Olympic Torch on June 24


Great Manchester Run 2013  - The Big Push 6!    
Sunday 26 May Manchester city centre 10 AM onwards.  
As usual, the team have been trying very hard to keep fit through the winter months in exotic destinations like this one:   
However, anxious to avoid media intrusions some members of the team have been training covertly.  Sometimes so deep undercover they haven't been seen in the last 12 months!  It is understandable that many are concerned about record times and other such statistics, but at the end of the day, it really is supposed to be fun isn't it?  Beating Jane again and setting records is secondary (ish) to raising money for good causes, having a good day out, and a couple of beers at the end (obviously the last is most important to some members of the team!)  
This year's chosen charities are fly2help and The Joshua Tree   
Fly2help   and
Fly2help amongst other things, provide flying experience for the disabled, disadvantaged, families who have suffered tragedy or trauma, chronic illness or abuse.  As many of the Big Push team have a flying background, we sometimes take for granted the fun, and freedom of being in the air.   The Joshua Tree was established in Cheshire, by Josh's parents, to provide short breaks and support in the Cheshire countryside to families of children who have battled with cancer or other immune-suppressing illnesses.  Josh was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2004 when he was only 5 years old.  Now an active teenager, I had the pleasure of meeting him, and his family, when we were both involved with the Olympic torch relay last year, they really are a truly inspirational team.   
Please visit the fundraising website at:    
Free practice and qualifying.
In previous years the NHS battleship wheelchair has been plagued by front wheel shimmy at high speed (hi speed for a wheelchair anyway!)  Big push Big F1 Engineering have always tried to counter this by tightening up the front casters so that they will hardly swivel at all.  With this in mind it was no surprise to find that the week before The Big Push the wheelchair was on its side, in pieces, outside the front of the garage being attended to by several "technicians" armed with large spanners, the socket set and a large hammer.  After all, no job would be complete without the hammer!  The casters were tightened as far as they would go, but the team still felt sure this could be a problem on the day.  The second part of this year's modification program was to install a lightweight pushing bar on the rear of the chair.  A quick visit to the local hardware store and £1.35 later we had something which bore more than a passing resemblance to a broomhandle.  As soon as this was wrapped up in pipe insulation and gaffer tape it immediately started to look a bit more high-tech!  There were still some concerns about what would happen if we caught someone from behind with what appeared to be a "Boadicea chariot" like implement up the Jacksie.  We decided this was a risk worth taking, and that it might even prove to be a useful weapon in our armoury! 
Race Day  
So bright and early (and yes the sun was shining in Manchester) the team transporter arrived in the city centre.  Unlike previous years our chosen charities were not represented in the charity village, but as the weather was beautiful, having our own pit area just outside was no problem.  The transporter was of course loaded with drinks and snacks, and every stand in the charity village seemed to have a mountain of bananas, so fuel wouldn't be an issue.  One thing however which might be an issue was tyre degradation over the rough surface of the roads in such dry sunny conditions.  The team chose the hardest possible tyres for the race, despite them giving a much harder ride and the chair having no suspension.  They could then set about the final part of the push handle installation.  This involved significant numbers of tie-wraps and even more gaffer tape.  And in no time at all the team were ready to make our way towards the start line. 
While this was all going on, Mark had decided to go for a light morning jog, not convinced that his training had got him up to the task of The Big Push.  Joining our friend Haile from last year he ran with the elite athletes in the first wave, finishing in the quite unbelievable time of 38 min, placing him 196/40,000 athletes, no mean achievement.  Well done Mark!  He was back in the pits before the final fettling jobs on the chair were even finished. 
Thereafter, qualifying was an absolute breeze, and despite some changes in race organisation Fatty's Big Push were on pole again, and could relax in the VIP enclosure.  We were lined up at the start really early, which provided a great opportunity to plug the charities in an interview, (Fatty hogging the limelight as usual!) and meet the celebrities.  
This year's starter Fabrice Muamba came to chat with all the team along with "Mr Great Run" Brendon Foster.  Fabrice has done remarkably well to recover so quickly after his collapse in a football match against Spurs, he provided some very welcome words of encouragement.  Fatty had met Brendon a few years previously, so they ended up gossiping briefly about this year's race conditions, and which beer to drink afterwards!  There was a quick reminder from Fatty to the team about the enormous potholes just after the start line and then we were ready for the blast off.  
The klaxon goes, and we're off!  
The modified push handle provided fantastic traction off the line, and we safely negotiated the big hole, only to go crashing through one about 10 yards further on!  Fatty was nearly out of the chair before we'd travelled 50 yards, fortunately, further large bumps bounced Fatty back in the other way, and the team quickly settled into a good steady pace. 
The road conditions have definitely deteriorated, and every time we hit a rough patch the front wheel shimmy nearly shook the chair to pieces, despite the modifications by the engineering team. This caused us to have to slow down significantly (most unusual for The Big Push Team!) until we were back on the smooth stuff.  The good weather had certainly brought the crowds out, there were people everywhere.  
Luckily, we had a great run guy on a bicycle ahead of us to clear the path otherwise we would have been solely reliant on the Boadicea modifications, which may have caused serious injury to the other racers, or worse, incurred a drive-through penalty for the team!  We were well into the fourth kilometre before traffic started to become an issue, thereafter a certain amount of weaving from side to side was required to thread our way through.  The pushing handle was coming into its own, changes of direction were really smoothly executed. Soon we were approaching the scene of our "near miss" last year, the water station.  We hugged the centre of the course while a couple of the team collected bottles. After last year, I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd thrown them at us!  
We dropped down onto Salford quays and started on the way back to town, with the sun on our faces.  Unlike previous years the drive-through shower looked really quite inviting, however, on slick tyres it might still have been a tricky obstacle, so best avoided.  The big bump up the curb and back onto the Chester road was no worse than some of this year's potholes, and in no time we were in sight of the Hilton and the finish line.  The team were almost altogether, with a couple outfront to clear the traffic and save us using the "Boadicea's".
The support from the crowd, the band's and all the charity helpers in the last couple of kilometres was tremendous, as were the handfuls of jelly babies for added fuel!   We powered round the last left-hand bend and smashed through the finish line in 53 min 2 secs, no record this year, but a great team effort with everyone finishing within a few seconds.  The pushing bar had been a great help, it even enabled 4 people to push going uphill, and more surprisingly, I don't think we collected anyone with it on the way round.  As soon as it was removed we were ready for the pub, burgers, and of course beer! 
The Thank You's 
As usual, the great run organisers including Jamie, Nigel and Nicola couldn't do enough to help, and we are tremendously grateful for their support over the years.  All of the event marshals, are keen and enthusiastic, and always willing to help. It makes the Manchester run, friendly and fun for everyone in the team.  We really do appreciate all the effort that goes on behind-the-scenes, and all of the time given up to enable us to fit in.  We were even getting recognised by some of the regular supporters this year, Fame at last!
  As well as Mark`s achievement, special mention must be made of Jonny, as Simmo was unavailable this year he is the last surviving member of every big push! Amazing support, thank you Jonny!
Time now to get into training for The Big Push 7.



The Big Push Seven – 2014 – The Big Buildup and The Big Race Report

Many of the team have been really putting in the hours this winter in all kinds of unusual destinations.   Canada, Hawaii, Maui, San Francisco, as well is a great variety of more mainstream tourist destinations.   Granted, some of the hours put in may not really have been "training" more social – but as they say "Every Little Helps"!   Some of the training had been seriously interrupted by either the weather, or in one case a promotion at work, well done Mark!  Virgin Atlantic's latest 747 jumbo captain.   The team were also ready to unveil a couple of new members with proven pedigree – the only shame being that running wasn't part of the pedigree!    

Preparation – BP 7 Big Engineering   
Despite many hours on the scrounge (something he is pretty famous for) Fatty had been unable to procure a "Superleggera" wheelchair.   This meant it was down to the Big Engineering Department to try and trim some weight off the existing chassis, and down to Fatty to lose a few KG's!   The existing Tirpitz (I know it wasn't sunk in Tromso fjord as a good part of it is in my garage!) chair had to be modified slightly to comply with this year's stringent regulations on energy recovery etc.   In reality, this meant finding some new tie wraps, as last year's had been cut, and a new roll of gaffer tape to secure the Boadicea mediaeval pushing handle.   Further work was undertaken to try and cure the dreaded front wheel shimmy which has plagued all but one of the Big Push Series.  

The Fundraising   
Always a difficult issue when there are so many popular good causes, but only a few months ago, a very good friend and neighbour of many of the team lost his brother to a complication of his diabetes aged just 53.   With Fatty's son, Sam, and wife or mother of two more of the team being insulin-dependent, diabetes UK was almost a no-brainer.   The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) have provided help and guidance to Fatty for pretty much all of the last seven years.  Aerobility provide flying training and experience to people with all kinds of disability.   So, with these three in mind, this year's fundraising site was set up at virgin money giving:   

Fatty was beaten in the race for blagging our own start, by the wonderful team at Great Run offering us one!   A couple of weeks before the event it had already been confirmed that Fatty's Big Push would start on pole at 1205 just ahead of the green wave.   Fatty's carers had everything sorted in good order for a rapid departure on the morning of the run, and the Tirpitz and essential cool-box were loaded in the van in time for an early departure with Nigel "wheels man".  This meant that despite a small "incident" (a new word for a conversation with someone wearing a hat and a high-viz jacket) and a bit of trouble with the parking arrangements, the whole team was assembled in good order just outside Manchester Central ready to make our way to the VIP enclosure.  Luckily we had time to pop into the charity village so a big "Thank You" to all the team at diabetes UK (NW) for the warm welcome at their stand and all the goodies.   

The Interview   
We had been in the VIP enclosure only a matter of seconds when the gorgeous Denise Lewis (Sydney 2000 Olympic heptathlon gold medal winner) came over with a BBC microphone.  Fatty was a little gobsmacked when she kissed him, sadly not caught on camera, and really a bit previous as they had never met before!   After a very quick introduction and brief, Fatty was live (again) on the BBC!   Managing to get a plug for each of our charities as well as some other random blethering!   In total, the best part of 2 min on prime-time television, some of which was later repeated on the highlights show.   Fortunately, Fatty remembered his manners (unusual!) and got a big thank you in for the team at "Great Run."   We were wheeled round to the start line, a bit tricky with the pushing pole attached as the whole outfit was a bit large to get through the gap, and then it was more interviews!   This time it was a regular customer from great run who stepped up with the microphone, he was very concerned with our anticipated finishing time, and whether we would make our lunch reservation.   The organising team were a little preoccupied this year with trying to arrange extra cooling and water for all the runners, many of who were finding the going tough with temperatures already up in the low 20s.  We still managed a quick hello with Nigel and Jamie the race directors, and then Brendon Foster very kindly came over to say hello and good luck to all the team.

Blast off and the Race  
I think we may have been interrupting the pre-race warm-up for the green wave, but the starting team gave us a countdown and blast off at exactly 1205.   The initial pace was brisk to say the least bearing in mind the conditions.  Before long, we had rattled off the first kilometre (mostly gently downhill) in less than 5 min.   The crowds on the side of the road were just huge, shouting, cheering, bands playing, discos underway, supporters on open-top buses everywhere.   After only a couple of kilometres we were heading out along the Chester Road where we spotted the new water cooling device.   A fire service water cannon – effective, but hardly very subtle in the fine spray of misted, cool water department!   As we approached Old Trafford we were all a bit surprised to still see loads of supporters despite the football teams' demise from every competition this year.   Perhaps they were just lost and looking for a new manager?   Whatever, they still provided great encouragement.   A couple of the team had dropped back a bit due to the searing pace in the hot conditions, but the rest of the team pressed on at a good steady pace.   This year, as we approached the Aqua-aid water station, everyone needed a bottle – including Fatty!   No one seemed to recognise us from previous years and The Big Near Miss of 2012!   Soon we were at the farthest west on the course, and turned right to drop down onto Salford quays, just opposite the Imperial War Museum North.   There were still big crowds on the street side, bands playing as we approached the drive-through/run-through water spray cooling tunnel.   For the first time in the history of Big Push, this year it was a necessity, some of the team were boiling over, so despite the battleship running on slicks, we headed for the entrance.   What we hadn't anticipated was that the water pressure had been turned up significantly due to the high ambient temperature, it wasn't so much a water spray, more a waterfall!   In less than a couple of seconds we were all soaked through, the battleship was fish-tailing with lack of traction on the slippery surface, as we shot out the far side – not exactly like the tunnel at the Monaco Grand Prix!   We negotiated a couple of curbs and in no time we were back up on the Chester Road and heading East towards the bottom of Deansgate.   The crowds were simply phenomenal!   Constant cheering and noise, bands thumping out some big tunes, as the traffic on the course started to become a bit of a problem.   Runners from previous waves, undoubtedly struggling in the high temperatures, were weaving all over the course.   Mostly of course with their own earphones in, almost oblivious to all the shouting until we came crashing past!   Several serious near misses later and we had to put out the forerunners ahead of Fatty to clear the way.   Nothing was going to stop us now as we could see the Beetham tower/Hilton hotel, just by the finishing line.   Surely by now the conditions and the pace were going to take their toll?  Had we gone out too fast?   Would the tyres fall off the cliff? (Still not exactly sure what that means!)  Did we have enough in the tank for the last 1 & 1/2 km?   Would the team's new secret weapons show their pedigree?  The run to the finish is all uphill!   Undeterred, the team pressed on regardless, the triathlon training looked like it had failed as a couple of the team just dropped off in the last few hundred metres, unable to sustain the sprint finish. 
We eased to the outside of the big left-hand bend to get clear of the traffic, before smashing through the finishing line – again – in A Quite Remarkable 54 m 09 s!!   An amazing result in the conditions,  24° C by the finish line.   All that remained now was goody bags, yet more interviews, and of course refreshments!   

The Aftermath  
This year we had a new venue for The Post Push Lunch – The Oast House on Spinningfields just off Deansgate, but first back to the van for some fresh shirts for the pushers, and, in a stroke of genius, (Prof Nigel's idea) a cool-box full of ice cold beer!   There was nearly a stampede but the lovely Laura (PA/carer) managed to secure a couple of bottles for Fatty – they didn't touch the sides!  After all those interviews he was exhausted!  A few minutes later and we were in the pub, we had tables outside under big gazebos and parasols, with a band playing for lunch, Fatty had cleverly pre-ordered a few snacks (obviously he anticipated being hungry despite having done no work!) and they included hot pork scratchings with chilli!   Wow!   Fantastic!   The menu included very trendy big burgers, and new for this year, "Hanging Kebabs" a local delicacy and very popular with the team!   A great result all round, lovely to be able to be outside in the sunshine (in Manchester!) relaxing with food and beer – what could possibly go wrong? The Sharp eyed may have noticed a couple of bootleggers in pictures, so, Vanessa, Annie, Laura and Lesa had better get their running shoes on for next year! 

The Thank You's   
Fatty is forever in people's debt, it is simply a matter of how much, and how many!   Carers for getting him up in good time and good order, to make a rapid departure with Nigel "wheels" and of course the cool-box.   The whole team at Great Run, stewards, marshals, the water station staff, but most of all, Nicola, Nigel, Jamie and Brendon who make the whole event such good fun, so easy (for Fatty anyway) for the whole big push team to take part and feel properly included.   The lovely Denise from the BBC.   All the staff at the Oast House who really didn't know quite what to make of us!   But we got there in the end!   Manchester Council for allowing the event despite such Draconian parking restrictions!   And of course, all those people who have supported and sponsored the team over the years, raising thousands along the way and bringing huge benefit to so many more people.  Who was it that said never again?   
Roll on 2015 – and The Big Push Eight!