Fitmums and Friends member, Ollie Barlow, introduces a challenge he is undertaking in memory of his dad. Mike Barlow, Fitmums and Friends Athletics Coach, passed away on 6 October 2020. Ollie hopes to create a fund to help people who may need a little extra support to reap the benefits of being active. Ollie explains:
"Running has been an essential part of my family’s life for many decades, and has been a pivotal part of mine ever since I could walk. My desire to run has been brought about by two amazing parents, both role models for the whole of life, but particularly for the running side of things!
For many years, all we ever heard about from my dad were these incredible running times from various different races over the years, but you never fully understand how quick these times are until you try it for yourself. However, in recent years, as my family continuously feared for the life of my dad, he began to explain to us that no matter how proud he was of his running times and achievements, no physical achievement could ever be greater than having me and Emmie, and it was his love for us that forced his running career (one that had great potential, mind you) to take a back seat to family life. But he always told us, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
There is no denying, however, that his marathon time truly is incredible: 2 hours, 48 minutes and 11 seconds; and for many years I have come to realise that it is my destiny, and the legacy set out for me, that I will beat this time one day in the future - that’s what he always told me.
"But recently, as many of you may know, my entire life was turned upside down and has never been the same since. In 2007, my dad was diagnosed with an incurable tumour, a life-threatening illness that doctors were saying would give him only a few years left in life. But for 13 incredible years, my dad beat all the odds and battled against this tumour that was ever-growing. No matter how many times this tumour grew and developed, my dad grew and developed even better, refusing to give in and keeping fighting a war that could never be won.
And although our time together seems short and unfair, there were so many beautiful moments jam-packed into those 13 years, moments my family will treasure for the rest of our lives. Even in light of his passing, I couldn’t live with myself if I were to just sit and cry for weeks on end. I wanted to do something for him that would make a difference, it is what he would want. Thus, I found there was only one place to start, his greatest physical achievement (besides me and Emmie), his marathon. However, I am much too young and in no way have gone through the training to allow me to reach such an impressive feat. I am only 16 after all. Still, I wanted to do something related to that.
I will therefore be splitting up the marathon into shorter intervals, and by running each week for 8 consecutive weeks, I will reach 26.2 miles. The only remaining part of the puzzle is being able to follow his legacy like he wanted me to. That is to try and achieve the same time as he did. Considering he had to run one full marathon and I will be splitting it up into shorter intervals, it should be a doddle, right? WRONG. In order to complete the marathon in the time he did, my dad ran each mile in 6 minutes, 25 seconds… FOR AN ENTIRE MARATHON. Meaning for my individual sections, I would have to run every mile in 6:25. Slight problem, I have never run 5k quicker than 20:00 meaning around 6:40 pace. Therefore, in order to complete this challenge, I need to shave off 45 seconds from my best 5k time, for 8 weeks straight! It doesn’t exactly help that we have just come out of a 6 month lockdown in which I only did around 3 runs. Basically, the odds are very much stacked against me and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I am a complete maniac for even attempting to do this.
"There are two things, however, that are making me continue on with this challenge:
-I want to honour my dad’s legacy to the best of my ability, and pay respects to the incredible man that he was.
-It is all for a good cause.
Let me explain. My dad worked throughout his whole life to improve the lives of those around him; it’s almost as if he improved physically by using his gifts to benefit the community, both as an athletics coach and a Bowen therapist. Even in the difficult period when he struggled to move around the house and do simple jobs like the washing up, he still took time out of his day to help those who were suffering with pains of different kinds, mental, or physical - he was a gift that we were so very lucky to have. And therefore, the funds I raise from this extraordinary challenge will create a Mike Barlow Memorial Fund which will sit within Fitmums and Friends. The fund will aim to offer help to anyone who may struggle to ordinarily access support to be active. The fund may help buy a junior or adult membership, a piece of kit, or an entry into a race/event. It will be a way of continuing my dad’s support of people to use activity to help them in life. It is the perfect personification of his legacy and the impact he had on the world.
"I very much welcome your support in helping me get through this mountain of a challenge, and thank you for reading this extremely long essay of a description! I will be posting weekly updates on my Facebook page so you can see how I am doing. Wish me luck!"
Ollie Barlow x
If you would like to sponsor Ollie, please donate here. Please pick "delivery to club" as postage option and then if you wish to, you can leave any message in the FAO box on the delivery page.
Funds raised through this challenge will create the Mike Barlow Memorial Fund. Details of this can be found here.