The Steve Phillips’ annual “Run for Your Life” Trophy is awarded to the first “first-timer” to finish. Steve, who collapsed during GUCR 2009 and was diagnosed to have four tumours that could have caused his sudden death had they remained undetected, says that he owes his life to the GUCR.

‘The One in the Bank’ by Steve Phillips

My names Steve Phillips and I’m affectionately known as ‘the one in the bank’ by long time GUCR organiser Dick Kearn…………and here’s why.

It’s not particularly nice reading, but if you’re attempting the GUCR for the first time I’d ask you to please read on.

I’m not going to go to deep into my past, but it’s safe to say I’ve always liked exercise of any form…football, running, judo, anything really. I’m Ex military and now Ex police, combined service of 33 happy (ish) years. Health wise I was always fit as a fiddle with no issues.

In 2008, after dipping my toe into a few ‘normal’ ultras I entered my first GUCR supported by my fine crew. For anyone taking on the GUCR for the first time, it’s tough to say the least. I made the cut off at Navigation bridge with about an hour to spare, but felt bloody awful, then in the pouring Sunday morning rain at about 9.30am I called it a day at 95ish miles. Drenched, in pain, with blisters running along the full length of both feet and with a hamstring tear that in five days time would look like a blackened banana running from my arse cheek to the top of my calf, my body and mind had had enough. I always remember the comment of one of my non running crew “can’t you just do another 5 miles and get to 100? “ I won’t say what I replied!!!

I’d tried. I’d DNF’d and that was the GUCR finished with forever, too hard and too tough, mentally and physically for me…………

But I’ve always been stubborn!!

More training, better preparation, bring on 2009.!!!

I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s, I’ll cut to the chase. Supported again by my valiant crew, who, as you’ll find out made a decision that changed and saved my life, I stood on the start line of the GUCR again. The first 15 miles I felt terrible, if I remember rightly it was baking hot on the Saturday and things weren’t going well. My crew were in good spirits though and after my initial feelings, I had picked up and was feeling good too. I reached Navigation bridge around 1030pm I think. Struggled to eat, and what I did eat came up around a mile after setting back off again (not a good indicator for finishing if you can’t keep food down) Johnny, one of my crew was now accompanying me. Head torch rocking from side to side made me nauseous, but that was the same last year, just can’t seem to train that away!!

Anyway I’m informed I got to 85 miles at about 2:30am. Most of the rest of the race story is what I’ve gleaned later, apart from the odd memory.

At 85 miles I stopped talking and 1/2 mile later I collapsed. Johnny picked me up and literally carried me to the nearest point we could meet the car. I came round, sort of, but my crew decided I was in no fit state to carry on. I was talking complete gibberish and appeared in a lot of pain. I think they phoned race HQ at about 3:30am.

So then it was the long drive home to Glossop, North Derbyshire, but I was getting worse. The discussion between my crew was, do we carry on home or pull over and phone an ambulance, as I’d got that bad drifting in and out of consciousness. Thankfully, and I mean thankfully they decided to pull into the next services and get emergency help. One of my team took a photo of me getting hooked up to a drip in the back of the ambulance before it sped off to Northampton hospital. He only told me this a few days later and I asked him why he’d take such a photo. “I thought it’d be the last time I saw you alive” he replied, and he was being serious!!

I spent five days in Northampton hospital on a drip. They were brilliant, and along with my crews decision to phone an ambulance they helped me to be Dicks ‘one in the bank’.

I was severely dehydrated. My potassium level was around 13 It should normally be 3.7 to 5.2 higher than 6 is classed as dangerous. My high reading was caused by the dehydration and the excessive exercise. (Whatever that was!!), but also an unknown factor.

Thankfully the doctor in charge got everything back to normal and decided to do a CT scan to check my kidneys.

The following day was like a monty python sketch (for those of you that remember them!!) “ good news, your kidneys seem fine, but we’ve found five tumours” All it needed was Basil Brush shouting “Boom Boom”

Anyway I got back home and after a couple more months of biopsies etc etc I was told I had familial paraganglioma pheochromacytoma. (Easy for you to say)

a genetic illness that affect 0.002% of the population. Whoops missed a zero out. 0.0002%, basically 2 in a million…..lucky me!!

So since 2010 I’ve had three major operations, removing ten tumours, the first surgery lasting 10hrs, the second causing me to have a major stroke as the tumour was on my carotid artery, losing the use of my left arm, speech and swallow, so I was fed through a tube for 3 months. It’s a great way to lose weight though!! Saying that, I think it’d be hard for anyone to know i’d had such a stroke now though. The third operation was a liver resection where I lost about a third of my liver to remove tumours.

So what next…………

you get back running as soon as you can!!

I had my stroke in Jan 2011. In June 2012 I ran the coast to coast of England. 5 marathons in 5 days, raising money for the amazing Christie cancer hospital in Manchester where I’m still treated.

In 2013 I ran from Hyde near Manchester to Bournemouth raising money for police charities in memory of Fiona and Nicola, GMP colleagues of mine brutally murdered whilst on Duty, that was around 225 miles in 6 days.

Then 10 months after my liver surgery I ran the Blackpool marathon

I am blessed by the actions of many people that have literally saved my life.

If my team had decided to drive me home, I wouldn’t have made the two hours it would have took. If the doctor at Northampton hospital hadn’t had opened the CT scanner up on a bank holiday weekend I wouldn’t have found out about my illness and would have died many years ago.

but most importantly, if somebody hadn’t created the GUCR and someone hadn’t continued to organise it each year I would never have found out about my illness. The GUCR saved my life and I will be forever grateful. I’ve donated a prize most years since then (only missing years when I’ve been having treatment) called the ‘run for your life trophy’ I always like to see who’s won it.

So that’s why I’m Dicks ‘one in the bank’

I should be pushing up Daisy’s by now, but I’m still here.

I still run. My cancer has spread and there’s not much that can be done now, but hey ho, that’s life.

Dicks ‘one in the bank’ is actually wrong, because of my illness being genetic we found out my son has the same illness, so he‘s being monitored. He’s 26 now so Dick, I’d say it should now be ‘two in the bank’

I’m 53 this month (Oct). Pipe and slippers time…………but I’ve got unfinished business.

I’ve entered the GUCR 2021!! Obviously I need to get drawn out of the ballot. I need to get the ok from my consultant and this bloody Covid 19 needs to disappear, but apart from that I will hopefully be stood on the start line at Gas Street in the early hours ready to tackle the GUCR again.

If I am and you are too, good luck and if you see me, if you’d be so kind as to keep pushing me to the end please.

Seriously if it’s your first time, please don’t under estimate this run…’s bloody hard, but the camaraderie and organisation is unbelievable.

Take care and good luck.

Steve Phillips

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