My Baptism

On Sunday January 16 of this year I was baptised by Beresford Job, a Bible teacher from the Chigwell Christian Fellowship.

By way of providing some background, the Fellowship is a house church which is based solely on the teaching of the New Testament. Their website, which I linked above, provides their full mission statement, and you can also see some of Beresford’s teachings on the website as well – it was his videos on house churches in general that first got the attention of Sarah and her family, and which in turn led to me seeking them out.

My visit to the house church on the 16th was my first visit to the church. I had communicated with both Beresford and Andy prior to attending. The experience of the house church was fantastic – everybody was so welcoming and accommodating towards me. We sang, prayed, took communion and worshipped together.

My baptism took place in the bath tub of the house we were in. I had been brought up thinking a baptism consisted of a ceremony, a Priest and some Holy Water — how wrong I was! This was perfect for me, as I didn’t want to be baptised into a specific denomination of Christianity.

baptism baptism

baptism baptism

It was such a wonderful, memorable, humbling, and overwhelming experience. Please check out the video below which Andy recorded on his iPhone for me.

Oops!… I did it again!

I forgot to post this at the time – but on Wednesday 8 September 2010, I was published again – this time, it was in London’s Evening Standard newspaper. It’s another controversial political statement, but I mean no offence by my remarks.

If any of y’all ever want a view published in a newspaper, you can of course go via me. ;)

Published Billy

On Thursday, on a whim, I sent a text into my country’s free national morning newspaper, The Metro. I expect you can imagine how stunned and pleasantly surprised I was yesterday morning, when I saw that my text had been printed. I kind of had a feeling deep inside of me that it had been when I picked up the newspaper in the morning. I quickly turned straight to the page, and there it was! I sent a text to all the people that I thought would be commuting in to work and able to get a copy. I collected as many copies of the paper as I could on my way to work without it looking like I was some weirdo (there are several points around London, mainly at station entrances and Underground stations where you can pick up a copy).

Behold the witticism of Mr Billy:

Why does nobody care about the hole in the ozone layer anymore?
Billy, London

I had originally typed my hometown as my location, but they changed it to London. My dad relished in telling me that it was probably a Billy in London who sent an identical message to me, and that his got printed! But, I think because the paper is so widely distributed, they stick to cities, rather than towns. Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

Work was a riot with me pouncing on everybody as they arrived into the office and shoving one of my numerous copies of the paper into their faces, pointing at my text. Everything I said that day pretty much began with the words “Well, as a published author, I can say that…” before I made my point. The page itself was stuck to the window frame behind my desk, so everybody who came by to see me during the day could see it. I felt like a celebrity.

I have, of course, been scrutinising the message since I saw it. I apologise to everybody for my horrendous grammar. I should have written “Why doesn’t anybody care…”, but in my haste to send the message, I didn’t even think to check my English. I also had to explain to people that it was more than a simple ‘save the planet’ message; in fact, it was a harsh, thought-provoking piece of political commentary. Twenty years ago, it was the ozone layer. Ten years later, global warming, today, our carbon footprint – what will the next environmental ‘fad’ be in 2020? See, it has many layers [pun].

If anyone has a copy still, contact me and I will gladly sign it, just tell me who you’d like the best wishes made out to. To those of you who missed it, please see below.

The full page in context

The message section in context

My message

5 hours, 16 minutes, 18 seconds

What a day yesterday was. What a day.

My alarm went off at 6:30am, but I was already wide awake – had been for most of the night unfortunately. I got up, showered, and put on my sunscreen and plastered my nipples in vaseline (lesson learned from the half-Marathon – nipples are sensitive!). I had all my paraphernalia ready the night before, so I went and made myself some porridge.

At about half seven, I left the house and headed for the station to get my train to Greenwich (where the Marathon starts). At the station of my sleepy little town were a family with their banners etc. to support their relation who was running, and a couple of other Marathon runners (you can tell who they were because we all have an official red Marathon kit bag).

Every station we stopped at, more of them piled on until it was full of people heading to where I was. The buzz on the train alone was enough to make me both excited and nervous.

I got to Greenwich and headed to the park where my group’s assembly point was (the Marathon has three starting zones – blue (good runners), green (elite runners) and red (everyone else) – the three courses eventually merge into one about 3 miles into it. I was of course dumped in the red zone with the fun runners and celebrities. I changed into my kit and handed in my belongings. I warmed up for about an hour (in the rain). Actually I was quite thankful that the weather wasn’t as glorious as everyone predicted – it was overcast and kept showering every so often. It was still quite close, but overall it was fine.

We were called over to the starting point – the grouping is 1 – 9, and I was in group 9. So, unfortunately, I was literally in the last batch of people to start. I think we got going about twenty minutes after the official start time.

The atmosphere was incredible. Running along the residential areas of Greenwich and Bermondsey for instance, there were spectators all along the roads – children holding out their hands for you to high-five them, brass bands playing on street corners, barbeques, steel drums, people dancing, singing, cheering. It was fantastic.

When we got into ‘real’ London, the atmosphere was multiplied ten-fold. Running along Tower Bridge and seeing all the sights was fantastic – so much to take in. Even though I walk past these landmarks every day, I never really noticed them, or how historic and incredible they are, until yesterday.

I managed to run for about 18 miles before I hit what I assumed to be “The Wall”. I was at Docklands, just by my bank’s building. Luckily there was a St John Ambulance break out point a few feet away – I think the ring leader there could see that needed help and called me over. By now, the backs of my knees were killing me. I could barely walk. The crew there massaged the backs of my legs, and in two minutes they felt fine. I managed to run another five miles before the pain came back – and in those five miles I was running like I was at the beginning. 9 minute miles etc.

My parents were waiting for me just after the 23rd mile. By this point I was walking again, and completely out of it. The Jelly Babies weren’t doing jack for me, and my legs were screaming at me to stop. I came out of Blackfriar’s tunnel (which EVERYBODY walked through as there were no spectators allowed in there!), and saw my Dad in the distance. I started running again, and as I went past them, my Dad was yelling “You can still win it Bill! It’s in the bag!” and my mum was crying her eyes out. It was so good to see them. I tried to run some more but the pain was excruciating at this point. I kept telling myself, it’s only three more miles, I can do that with my eyes closed on a normal day. I was trying to imagine I was just running the three mile course I do at home but couldn’t visualise it. This was when I actually hit “The Wall” for real. The 18 mile hiccup was just that – a hiccup. By this point my body was saying to me “Billy, what are you DOING? There’s no energy left, I can’t run on empty! STOP!”, but I had to tell myself to carry on. I was nearly in tears. I walked all the way to Mile 25 which I was so disappointed about, but I was crying out in pain every time I tried to run.

Then, about 600 metres from the end, I saw a guy from work spectating – he yelled out “You can’t stop now, it’s not allowed! It’s just around the corner, come on! YOU CAN DO IT!” I broke out into a run, turned the corner, and there was the finish line! Just seeing it made me carry on running to the end. My final time was 5 hours 16 minutes and 18 seconds. I got my medal at the end and collected my bag. I sat down and tried to take in everything – I had completed The London Marathon. What an achievement. In the goody bag I received was an apple, amongst other things. That apple was without question the tastiest, loveliest apple I have ever eaten in my entire life. My whole body appreciated it.

I met my parents soon after, and it was so great to hear how proud of me they were. We went out for a celebratory meal with my Nan. Turns out my Nan went there to spectate and try to see me, but didn’t tell my Dad she was going because he didn’t want her to go there when it would be so busy (she’s 80 years old next year). It was such a shame I didn’t see her. She was right by the end at Buckingham Palace, but we didn’t see each other.

Now for some tid-bits of information:

1. I hate the Docklands. I know I work there, but if I never see those buildings again it will be too soon. The thing is, because the buildings are quite tall (for British buildings anyway!), you can see them for miles around. I thought I was running through the Docklands because the buildings seemed so near, it wasn’t until about 6 miles later I saw the “Welcome to the Docklands” sign and had to run around all the buildings. Once they were out of sight it was like a weight was lifted from me. They were all in sight for what must have been 19 miles!

2. I love the spectators. Next year I will probably go up just to spectate. If you ever go to a Marathon to spectate, I cannot tell you how much the encouragement from total strangers helps! Having my name on my vest really helped as well. Every time I stopped, or looked like I needed help, people from the sidelines were shouting out “Come on, Billy!”, “Not long to go Billy you’re doing really well!” and other words of encouragement. They were handing out Jelly Babies, biscuits, bananas, etc., they really were wonderful and I can’t thank them enough for the encouragement they gave me.

3. Not only was it draining in a physical state, but it was also draining mentally. When I got my second wind after my massage, I was staring at the piece of ground in front of me, head down, and chanting to myself (but out loud) “I want, I can, I will” over and over again. It was like I was in a trance.

4. It was of course draining emotionally as well. I welled up several times when I see the charities people are running for, and on the back of their vests is a picture of their parent or relative with a message like “I miss you”, or “doing it for my Mum” etc. You really admire these people, who aren’t ‘runners’ by any stretch of the imagination, putting themselves through this.

5. There was a friendly rivalry between me and a man dressed as a Womble. I would overtake him, he would overtake me, I him, he me. It went on for miles and miles. I’m not sure if I left him behind or he left me behind, but I hope to God I beat him.

6. Natalie Imbruglia (best known for singing “Torn”) finished ten minutes before me. It was strange because I remember her best as Beth from Neighbours, it was weird thinking that the girl I watched on TV all those years ago was ten minutes in front of me!

7. The aches my body feels today are indescribable. I can’t even walk properly anymore. :(

8. Never again. ;)

The Half Marathon

Picture it – Brighton, 2010. A cold front has hit the coastal city. Rain is lashing down, the wind is biting, and conditions are harsh. Runners have gathered along the coastline to compete in the 20th Sussex Beacon Half Marathon. In the crowd, a young man is stretching and warming up. This is his first half Marathon, the longest distance he has ever run. Anticipation is building in the air. You can feel it in the atmosphere, like electricity.

The race begins.

My strategy, if you can call it that, was to take the whole thing at a leisurely pace. The last thing I wanted was an injury two months before the London Marathon! I remember reading that if you can get through the first 10 miles without any problem, you can complete the Marathon. I treated this half Marathon as a test, really – a chance to see how I am in race conditions, a chance to see how I cope with the mileage, and a chance to see if I can pace myself effectively.

The most important thing, I found, was my Jelly Babies. I counted out 13 of them and put them in my pocket. My plan was to have one every mile. This helped keep my energy levels up, and also made the miles go that much faster. I tried to make them last a mile, sometimes two if I could. It was like rewarding myself for every mile I did.

Bjork also helped me a lot. I had her album Debut on repeat, which helped with my pacing (it’s a mix of slow sparse ballads and 90s dance music) – quite annoying though that my pedometer on my iPhone kept interrupting every time I got to Venus as a Boy, my favourite track on the album!

I don’t think I have ever run in such dreadful weather conditions. The rain was pounding against us from the open sea. The wind was whistling and howling, and my God, it was so cold!

Thankfully for me, the first 10 miles did turn out to be a breeze, which really boosted my confidence for April. Mid-way through mile 11 though, I was starting to feel it, and annoyingly, I had to walk for thirty seconds or so right towards the end, as my blisters (thanks Nike!) were killing me. I’ve never known pain like it. Every step I took I winced.

Crossing that finish line… wow, what a feeling. I was so exhausted I was literally on the verge of collapsing. I grabbed a banana one of the volunteers was handing out, and wrapped myself in one of those tin foil blankets. Those things really work. Once I stopped running, I of course soon realised how sodden my clothes were, how I was actually standing in the middle of some storm, and that my parents were half a mile up the road! I hobbled over to them, all I could do was beg that we go back to the hotel so I could get into the shower!

After I showered, I went out and ate some potato wedges and a sausage roll, had a coke to get my energy back, then went back to the hotel again and slept for a couple of hours.

My legs were (and still are) very stiff and sore. My knees seem to be the worst. Walking down a flight of stairs now takes minutes rather than seconds, but they will get better in time. I clearly need some new running shoes, which I plan on buying tomorrow – if I stick to my current ones, there is no way on earth I could do that distance twice, going by how much pain my feet were in at the end of it.

My time for the race was 2 hours 10 minutes. I’m pleased with that, considering it’s the first one I have ever done, and the farthest I have run. I suppose I could have done it in under 2 hours, but I didn’t treat this as a race, really. Just a mental and physical test.

Oh and yes, I’m sorry I haven’t updated for a month. Nothing interesting has really happened!