With two years to go I started a direct approach to friends, family and associates inviting them to sign up for the 4 October 2015 at a as yet to be decided venue (a short list of likely options was presented based on usual dates of UK marathons). By October 2014 I had over 30 people on board, including a number of first timers as well as more experienced club runners. Those signed up at this stage then got the chance to vote on 6 choices that I confirmed would be having their 2015 marathon on the magic date (4 October). Bournemouth, Jersey, Mablethorpe, Great Clarendon Way and Kielder were beaten by Chester and with ten months to go a venue was confirmed.
All credit to the Chester Marathon Team, and particularly Linda Worrell, who were very helpful in helping making the 40-40-40 possible. They allowed me to enter 40 runners on bulk, without names at the cheaper entry fee and created a specific entry form for the team. By mid January 40places were secured - I now had to get commitment (and entry fee) from 40 people. On the part of marathon number 40 I'd reached 37 and entered number 38 (Cyprus) much the same time and lined up Luxembourg not much later as number 39. The third "40" was approaching and I guess the easiest to make happen - I just needed to keep my heart beating being the bottom line!
I emailed all those yeses and maybe's at that point seeking some firm commitment, an entry fee and off we'd go. The first 10-12 were signed up fairly swiftly and 11 of them had been on the original yes list. Chris Britton (who'd had four weeks cycling in 2014 with me referring to his first marathon) was the first paid up entry. In fact I think he was the first confirmed entry by way of submitting his entry form too. (I realised a month later I hadn't sent my own form off still!) However, I was also getting the inevitable withdrawals. One due to doubting a completion within 6 hours, which had always been a possible issue, another due to an ongoing injury that clearly wasn't going to clear up whilst others I felt more frustrated by as they had entered other events on the same date. However, they were up front about it and let me know straight away. As the months progressed the entry list did too and I began to accept entries from people who had a link to another team member (so effectively didn't know them!) but had realised the challenge of getting 40 people to say yes to the marathon was far harder than I had hoped.
Alongside this I was planning a celebration of all things 40 the same weekend. Like it or not I was going to change age (become a Veteran in running terms as you become a V40 (Men aged 40-44), the traditional youngest specified adult age category in men's distance running), so I may as well mark the occasion with more than just a marathon (and avoid anyone else trying to do it for me!). Another lesson to learn - planning a celebration for a large group of friends and family in a City you have never visited with a venue suitably sized and doing catering at a sensible rate is never a good idea. What I needed was an events manager to sort it all out. (Oh, hold on, I graduated in such a role in the midst of all this planning - best put my degree into practice!) After lots of Googling, phone calls and finally a trip to Chester to see some venues, I opted for a community centre just out of the city and bulk booked a Holiday Inn for the runners and guests, which literally overlooked the start line. My Aunt Val designed fabulous invites and off they went in the post. The response from some; "Why Chester, that's a long way away" and "Is Chester a personal link" amused me. Especially when many of these friends and family lived miles away from Kingston upon Hull and I pointed out it was no further from their home to either really! (I won't get into the then further disappointment of those who couldn't come having now made "other plans", expecting me to have something else more local alongside the "sorry can't make it, when you next down this way?" - suffice to say the 40-40-40 trio combination was happening in Chester and Chester only!). Everything was booked and it just remained to get those 40 runners in place. I'd now sorted the second of the three 40's by running marathon 39 and my heart was still beating!