The skinny one
Introduction to my story
Where do I start? My name is Dan Ashley, I am 37 years old and this year (2019) my daughter Ruby Emily Ashley would have been 10 years old but sadly she was born asleep on 17th May 2019. Prior to this I’d only been aware of stillbirth once before when I was told about a friend of a friend, I remember thinking that was a horrendous thing to happen and that it must be very rare….I was wrong. When Ruby was born sleeping 17 babies a day on average in UK were stillborn…SEVENTEEN!! This has since been reduced to 15 but this is still 15 too many. The day we lost Ruby I vowed to do all I could to help try and reduce that number and get the parents, family and friends who do go through this the help, support and care that they need.
How I met Ben
Ben moved to Dunstable from Plymouth in the school holidays of approximately 1992 and I was the 2nd person he met. I was introduced to him by my mate Chris who had the unfortunate responsibility of looking after Ben and helping him settle in. Myself and Ben immediately hit it off and he turned up at my house day after day during the school holidays, I assumed it was due to my lightning fast wit and repartee but found out he was using me for my Amiga 600. To be honest he’s been mooching off of me ever since!!
Unperturbed our friendship continued through school and into our adulthood. I am a huge football fan and Ben is huge fan of beer and the two go hand in hand. We spent many years watching Luton Town and drinking in one boozer or another. Many a Saturday started with breakfast in the pub at 11am and ended at 4am in Chicagos following an inept Luton performance and a dodgy curry. That wouldn’t stop us getting up early on a Sunday morning and recreating that inept performance on a Sunday league pitch!
Myself and Ben have been side by side through thick and thin, supported each other through sad times and had many adventures and happy times. We work together, we socialise together and now, along with his wife Ags, we are going to run 145 miles in 5 days together.
What I have done before
I’ve never been a runner. I hated cross country at school, I was the fat kid at the back walking and wheezing. I only took up running when we lost Ruby in 2009. I can’t say I particularly like running but while you are doing it you don’t have a care in the world. All the problems of day to day life are lost and your mind wanders to far away places in which life is much simpler. I suppose this has helped me in some way come to terms with what happened to Ruby. If ever I can feel myself getting angry I always have the option just to run.
In terms of fundraising, I’ve completed numerous British London 10km for SANDS, the fastest of which was 41 minutes 7 seconds. I’ve played football at the Emirates twice raising money for both SANDS and Tommy’s. The greatest achievement we’ve completed so far was a 79 hour 5 minute 5-a-side football match, which raised thousands of pounds for Tommy’s.
Our Relationship with SANDS
We’ve fundraised for SANDS for the last 10 years since we lost Ruby. It was the first charity that we were introduced to that supported stillbirth, we have raised money for Tommy’s in the past as well but we’ve been more actively involved with SANDS.
We have attended various SANDS events over the years and about 5 years ago myself and my wife Claire modelled for pictures for the SANDS website and newsletters.
Claire is also a volunteer hospital liaison officer for the Bedfordshire SANDS group, where she helps other people who have recently experienced stillbirth, whether directly or friends and families. These local SANDS groups are fantastic and make a huge difference to people, making them feel less alone.
Why this event
About 2 weeks before the 79 hour football match the event was put in jeopardy by a number of late pull outs. Myself and Ben had put in many hours of training and had also already raised quite a lot of money so we felt we couldn’t do nothing. Ben then came up with the idea of running the length of The Grand Union Canal, however we adapted the football event all pulled together, managed to get it to go ahead and it was a huge success!! Ben quickly forgot about his canal run idea……………….I didn’t!! Having recovered from the football event, I mentioned this idea again to Ben and he reluctantly agreed and he even managed to recruit his wife Ags to join us.
A lot of people are asking me, Why 5 marathons? Why not 1? Neither myself, Ben or Ags have ever run a marathon before and day 1 of the event will be our all of our first ever marathons. Actually we are running 29 miles a day on average so 10%+ further than a marathon. The reason me and Ben wanted to do this is because we wanted it to be comparable to the 79 hour football match and actually we feel like this will be harder as with football you had a short term objective, get the ball into the back of the net, it’s very hard to have a short term objective with running. We have put the training in though and fuelled with adrenaline and bloody mindedness we feel that we can pull this off.