Category Archives: Running

Almost another Year!!!

Rory’s 2nd Birthday is fast approaching and I can honestly say i don’t know where the last year has gone.  The first year was a complete blur, as we were completely engulfed by our grief and felt time had stood still.  This past year has seen to flown by but still feels that everyone around us has moved on and carry on with there lives as normal, whilst our lives seem to be on hold.


Two years ago today, 26th May 2015, wife had her 36 week midwife appointment, which ended up being the last time she heard our son’s heartbeat.  I didn’t attend this appointment due to work and now wished I was there. I can’t actually remember the last time i heard Rory’s heartbeat, which i feel bad about, it was probably only a week or two before this appointment, but for some reason the date doesn’t stick in my mind as much as the 26th May.


Another date that I will always remember is 28th May 2015, this has to be the most horrendous and traumatic day in my life.  It was the day we heard the words, ‘Sorry, there is no heartbeat’, the words any expecting parents would ever want to hear.  That day and those words will haunt me for the rest of my life.


Rory was then born 2 days later on 30th May 2015.  Last year we couldn’t bring ourselves to call this day his birthday, we called it his anniversary.  However, this year we have realised that the 28th will be the anniversary of his death and the 30th will be his birthday.  My wife gave birth to Rory on this day and therefore is his birthday.  However, it will not be a happy one, how can it be, Rory is not here with us to celebrate it.  


As we cannot buy presents for Rory, we can only buy him things for his garden (grave), we have decided to decorate his garden with a Roary Racing Car and Disney Car theme.  We have bought cars, flags and balloons for his garden.  It was difficult buying these items, as we were thinking we should be buying presents for a two year old and wonder if Rory was here, would he actually be into toy cars.  I’m pretty sure he would have been, if not his daddy would have certainly played with them.


Rory parkrun Challenge

10 weeks of parkrun in memory of Rory

There is a challenge known as #7weeksofparkrun, the idea is to run at seven consecutive parkrun venues and the first letters of each venue’s name combined spells out the word ‘parkrun’, which my running friend Steve Stockwell (aka blog7t) has completed.


I have decided to run at 10 venues with the first letters of each venue to spell ‘Rory Sowden’ and complete the challenge on my 100th parkrun.  I have decided to do this challenge to combine two things that I love, our son Rory and Parkrun.  Once completed I will able to take a screenshot of my results page together with Rory’s name, which I will be able to keep forever.

2015-06-21-07-18-19-1 (3)

Always Loved, Never Forgotten #Running4Rory

In order to complete the challenge. I will need to complete the venues in reverse order and finishing at a venue beginning with ‘R’.  My plan is to complete my 100th parkrun at ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells’ due to there being a Tunbridge Wells SANDs group (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity) and I’m hoping I might be able to raise awareness about Stillbirth during my challenge.


Club T-shirt I will be able to claim at end of challenge


Dunorlan Park – home to Royal Tundbridge Wells parkrun (Photo courtesy of blog7t)


This is not a difficult challenge, it just requires planning in advance.  The problem I had was finding a parkrun beginning with ‘Y’, after searching the parkrun website I found there is only two in the UK, York or Yeovil Montacute.  Either way both venues requires a fair bit of travelling.


Below is my planned list of events I hoping to visit on the planned dates, which could be subject to change due to other commitments and any cancellations.



Week Event Planned Date
Week 1 Nonsuch 21/05/2016
Week 2 Eastbourne 04/06/2016
Week 3 Dulwich 11/06/2016
Week 4 Whistable 18/06/2016
Week 5 Old deer park 25/06/2016
Week 6 Sittingbourne 09/07/2016
Week 7 Yeovil Montacute 16/07/2016
Week 8 Riddlesdown 23/07/2016
Week 9 Orpington 30/07/2016
Week 10 Royal Tunbridge Wells 06/08/2016



I’ve currently completed 90 parkruns and will start my quest at Nonsuch Park in Cheam this Saturday.  If anyone of my running friends wishes to join me at any event, feel free to come along.

Did it for Rory -Antwerp Marathon 2016

Antwerp 10 miles and MarathonI did my first and only other marathon 4 years ago and forgot how tough marathon training can be, but when you also factor in that you are grieving for the loss of your unborn son, it is even tougher.  Grief consumes most of your life and thoughts and can be very tiring, so doing anything physical is tough.


The reason why I decided to take on the challenge was to raise money for SANDs and raise awareness of stillbirth and babyloss in memory of our son, Rory.  It was the fact that I was doing it for Rory drove me to ensure that I stuck to my training plan and that I never gave up.

Sands Profile Pic-2

Throughout my training I kept doubting that I could actually complete the 26.2 miles in the 6hr time limit.  During my training it didn’t feel it got any easier but I did start to notice that I was recovering quicker, which made me think that I must be getting fitter/stronger.


In the last few weeks leading up to the marathon my running felt a little more effortless and I started to think that maybe I can do this.  I did my last run on the Thursday before the marathon and had a great controlled pace run, then had to finish packing for the next morning.


On Friday morning my wife, Jo, and I got the eurostar to Brussels from ebbsfleet, there was also a number of my feĺlow runners from my running club, Dartford Road Runners, on the same train as us.  At Brussels we got a connecting train to Antwerp central station.

Antwerpen Central Station

Antwerpen Central Station

We had a short walk from the station to our hotel.  We and the rest of the group were staying in the Mercure Centrum Opera Hotel.  After checking, in me and Jo had a wander around Antwerp and were very impressed, there is so much to see.  I almost forgot that we was there for the marathon and felt like we were away on a weekend break.


On Saturday morning we made our way to the marathon exhibition to collect my race number.  The exhibition was where the marathon start area on the other side of the river Scheldt.  The west bank of the river can be accessed via the Sint-Annatunnel, which is open for pedestrians and cyclists.

Picking up Number

Collecting my race number


The exhibition was very modest and consisted of a large marquee. Unlike the London Marathon there was no queue to collect my number. Then I went outside to collect my T-shirt, which was included in the entry price.  Whilst outside I had some photos by the start line in my SAND’s T-shirt and Vest.



We then took a slow walk back through the tunnel and back towards the cathedral and the old town. After stopping for lunch in the old town we went back to our hotel room to rest for the afternoon and to get my running gear ready for the morning.

The Sunday morning was soon here and I was up at 6am having breakfast with the rest of the runners, which consisted of cereal, toast with jam and a couple of bananas.  Cooked breakfast was available, but i didn’t think it was good preparation, even though I would have preferred to have eaten that.


After breakfast I was making my last final preparations in my room and then we took a slow walk to the tunnel and made our way to the start line.  The rest of the group got a tram to the start to save their legs, however I didn’t want to risk getting on the wrong one and missing the start.



The Marathon in Antwerp is a low key event their was only around 2,000 runners, it felt like I was lining up for a local half-marathon such as Paddock Wood.  It did seem real that I was actually going to run a marathon and hardly had any nerves.  I made my way to the very last pen on the start line, alongside the 5hr pacers.


As soon as the race started the heavens opened up, Jo waved me off and wished me good luck I then concentrated on getting into my rhythm and try not to go off too quick, so I decided to stay with the 5hr pacers. Only a few kilometers into the race we were entering a motor tunnel, after getting drenched I started to feel quite cold and thought maybe I should have put a base layer on.  The tunnel is over 2k in length and felt like we were running through it for a long time.  Eventually we go to the other side and it was nice to see some daylight and feel some warmth from the sun.


As we exited the tunnel we headed towards the old town, passing the Steen Castle and were approaching 6k.   This is where Jo was waiting to cheer me on, after this point the crowds disappeared as we were going away from the city centre.  I was running well at a comfortable pace and found myself between the 4.45hr pacers and 5hr pacers, I thought if I could keep this up I would be extremely pleased.

6k Point

6k point, with Steen Castle in background

I soon crossed the 10k checkpoint and I remember looking up and saying to Rory  ‘Daddy has done a quarter of the race and now I’ve got three quarters to go’.  I managed to keep to a good pace and the kilometer markers were passing quite quickly.  There were plenty of water stations, they were approximately at every 2.5k, so i made sure I took on plenty of fluids.  Some parts of the course wasn’t that scenic and we had to negotiate several road and tram crossings,  thankfully there were loads of police stopping all the traffic.   


I reached the halfway point around 2hrs 20 mins, which was good for me, as this was 10 mins quicker than what I completed the Dartford Half Marathon in early March this year. I could feel my pace started to drop and could feel my hips getting tighter. I was hoping to keep my pace under 12 mins per mile, which I managed for the next few miles until mile 17.


The next few miles were really tough and I made the most of each water stop, by having a little walk whilst taking on fluids and focused on running in between each stop. I eventually reached the 30k check point and could see two Darftord Road Runners Vests ahead up the road, which were Mike and Mary.  I could see that they were also walking and jogging, I just tried to keep them in my sights.


I slowly caught up them and found that Mary was struggling as she had been suffering with a cold for a few days before the marathon.  I gave her some words of encouragement to keep her going, we had a little walk and then after she had composed herself we started to jog again, however I started to flag behind them both.


At the 32k point there was a welcomed sight of the DRR supporters, which gave us a massive boost.  Now I only had 10k to go, I thought to myself ‘only two parkruns to go’ and just tried to keep plodding along, while Mary and Mike were pulling further and further away.


The next drink stop and my next walking break was at 35k, it was this point that I was passed by the 5hr pacers and I knew that sub 5hrs was out of reach.  I had to re-evaluate and thought if I could keep my current pace I would still have a chance of achieving a personal best.


Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerpen

I had to dig deep for the last 7k and just kept going for Rory.  In the distance was a welcomed sight of the cathedral, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer.  The rest of the route was a blur, until I recognised the Steen Castle up ahead and I knew I was very close to home.  Soon after passing the castle the route turns left towards the old town, this Is where I saw Jo waiting to cheer me on, I then turn left to see the finish line by the Brabo Statue in front of the Old City Hall.


I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it, I could see the line and could see the clock was at 5hrs 11mins,  I knew I had bagged myself a PB and for some reason I did the ‘Mobot’ as I crossed the line.  Soon as I crossed the line, I looked for Jo and we both gave each other a massive emotional hug.  We had done it, we had done it for Rory and all the other angels gone too soon.  We then headed to the nearest bar for a well earned drink or two.

I was so proud that I managed to complete it and was so pleased that I achieved a personal best with an official time of 5hrs 8mins & 24 seconds.  I am so grateful for everyone who sponsored me and help me raise over £1,000 for SAND’s.  I only hope Rory was looking down and watching his silly Daddy and that I made him proud too.


Did it for Rory xxx

Running for Rory

Last year was the most challenging year of my life after losing our son Rory in May at 36 weeks.  Since losing Rory my wife and I have received and will continue to receive lots of support and comfort from our local SANDs group.


Attending these groups gives us a forum to discuss our emotions and feelings without any fear of being judged.  From speaking to other bereaved parents it made us realise that our feelings are ‘normal’ and that we are not going losing the plot.  


We have met so many strong and amazing people who have given us advice and much needed support, who gives us hope that things will get slightly easier in the future.


At the hospital after Rory was delivered I made a promise to him that I will make him proud of his Daddy.  As part of that promise I wanted to undertake different challenges in memory of him and to help raise awareness about stillbirth and babyloss.


The first challenge I wanted to do was complete another marathon and raise money for SANDs.  I really wanted to participate in the London Marathon but I failed to get a ballot place.  I then contacted SAND’s and applied for one of their gold places, but sadly I wasn’t selected.


Hardly any of my running friends got a place for the London either and then talk begun about doing a different marathon instead.  Antwerp was one of the races suggested and it sounded like a good idea. 


After a little research, we booked our hotel for the weekend and our eurostar tickets.  Just recently I entered and booked my marathon place and have registered the event with SANDs.  


So it is now official, I will be running the Antwerp Marathon on 17th April 2016 in support of SANDs.  Let the training commence!!!  If you wish to sponsor me, please visit my just giving page

Lullingstone Park Runner of the Month July 2015

This morning I woke up to a very nice e-mail from Parkrun, informing me that I had been chosen for Lullingstone Parkrun’s monthly award.

Congratulations Ben SOWDEN
You have been selected as the winner of this month’s Sweatshop Prize at Lullingstone parkrun.
Please print the attached certificate and present it to the manager of your nearest Sweatshop branch to claim your prize.

I am so pleased that I had been selected, especially as Lullingstone holds a special place in my heart.

Our son Rory was sadly born asleep on Saturday 30th May 2015.  The weekend before our tragic event, I remember that he was moving loads inside Mummy’s tummy and I had felt him kick on many occassions.

On the Bank Holiday Monday 25th May 2015 we finished off putting up the Winnie the Pooh Wall stickers in the Nursery.  Then In the afteroon Me, my Wife and Baby Bump  (I say Baby Bump, because at the time we did not know what sex our baby was) visited Lullingstone Country Park and had a nice walk along the river Darent.

After losing our Son I stopped going running for a while and the first run I ever did was on Saturday 20th June at Lullingstone Parkrun.  I found myself being drawn to there and before the event I went and sat on the same very bench us three had sat on almost 4 weeks before.  I was thinking back to when we last sat there ‘everything was perfect’ we had just finished the nursery and we were so happy and so excited about becoming parents.

View from 'Rory's' Bench

View from ‘Rory’s’ Bench

I had always really liked Lullingstone Parkrun, even though the course is tough, I really like ‘off road’ runs and views at the top are stunning.  I used to alternate between Lullingstone Parkrun and my home parkrun Shorne Woods.  I have purchased a parking permit which can be used for both Country Parks.

So, on the 27th June 2015 I went to Shorne Woods to see some familiar faces and then 4th August 2015 I was drawn back to Lullingstone.  I have ran there every week since and since returning I have tried to improve on my times every week. My PB is currently 30:37 and the closest I’ve got was 30:50 on Saturday 1st August.  My aim now is to improve on my PB and get a sub 30 mins.

Attempting to sprint at the finish.

Attempting to sprint at the finish.

When I run now, I always wear my Sports Band with a special message from our Angel Rory, I always think of him when I’m running and try to do my best to make him proud.

Running in Rory's memory.

Running in Rory’s memory.

It feels amazing to be rewarded for doing something that I really enjoy doing and that helps me feels closer to my Son.  Thank you Lullingstone Parkrun and thank you Sweatshop.

Our Angel Baby

I know this may not the right forum to discuss about the loss of our baby son, Rory, however I love talking and writing about our precious angel.  Rory was sadly born asleep on 30th May 2015 at 36 weeks and 4 days.  We found out the devastating news 2 days prior, that our son had slipped away. Since that day our world has been completely flipped upside down and our hearts have been shattered.


When Rory was delivered we couldn’t wait to hold him, he was perfect, he weighed 6lb 3oz and looked so peaceful.  We were lucky to spend time with him and create some memories.  I still got cut his cord and helped the midwife dress him.  Our midwife Rebecca was lovely, she prepared a memorial box for us, which contained a few photos, Rory’s hand and footprints and a lock of Rory’s hair.


The memorial boxes are provided by the charity SANDs. Sands is the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.  They operate throughout the UK, supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby, working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.


We were able to keep Rory with us all night in a cold cot, all the time he was with us we never felt sad and we was a family.  The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was to say goodbye to him and leaving our Son in the hospital.  We should have been walking out the hospital with him in our arms, instead of carrying a small box of memories.


I don’t think anything can be harder that day, harder than any race I’ve ever completed. The pains we endure during a half or full marathon soon disappear afterwards, this never will.


Rory may not be in our arms, but he will always be in our hearts and his spirit will always live on.  I’m thinking about some challenges I would like to complete in Rory’s memory, raise much needed money for SANDs and awareness of baby loss. Every time I now go running I always think of Rory and will always do my best to make him proud of his Daddy.

Running in Rory's memory.

Running in Rory’s memory.

Having Rory in my life has made me realise what things are important and to not worry about silly little things. One example is whilst out running I used to get so focused on time/pace and if I miss out on my target I would get so disappointed, therefore taking the enjoyment out of running. I know we all do it, so when your run hasn’t quite gone to plan don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember the reason why you started running and what you love about it.


my wife and I wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelming support we received from the running community when we broke the sad news.  We also wanted say a big thank you to everyone who kindly donated money to SANDs in Rory’s memory. Here is the link to Rory’s page, that was created, if anyone wishes to donate.

Givaudan Ashford 10k – Sunday 12th October 2014

I’ve never done this event before and entered it as it was part of the Dartford Road Runners Grand Prix.  The HQ was at the Julie Rose stadium where the race starts and finishes on the running track.  The stadium was built in 1997 in memory of Julie Rose a local middle distance runner who died in an aircrash in 1985.  The Stadium is home to Ashford Athletics Club who moved to their new facilities in March 1997.  The stadium offers 400m all weather running track, long jump, high jump, pole vault, hurdles, hammer, discus and shot put, indoor training area, 60m sprint track, long jump and an indoor netted throws cage.

My wife came along to support me and we set off early and arrived in plenty of time. We got easily parked in the Givaudan car park opposite, I collected my race pack and then we sat down in the stands whilst waiting for the start time.

Track-side before the Start.  (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

Track-side before the Start. (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

The start was soon fast approaching and about 20 mins before the start I started warming up.  Whilst warming up an announcement was made that the start time will be delayed by 10 mins due to the large number of people trying to register or collect their race packs.  Shortly after 860+ runners were all called onto the track where we started to line up on the far side.  Before we started we all participated in a minute silence in remembrance of Derek Seamon, who was the president of Ashford AC and a former organiser of the race.

At the start, I lined up with fellow team mates Lisa Campbell, Clair May and Cassandra Murray. Normally I find at races that I go off too quick and then struggle towards the later part and then the ladies always pass me.  My plan was to start with them and try and keep up with them for as long as possible.  Once we started we did approximately 100 metres on the track, then we out went through the car park onto the main road heading towards Kennington.  The first mile of the route was pretty flat and we were going at a reasonable pace of 8:33.

Course Map

Course Map

Course profile

Course profile

I remember getting to the 2nd mile marker and my garmin flashed up with our pace of 8:26.  The pace was slightly quicker than planned, as I was hoping for sub 54 mins which is about 8:41 per mile.  I thought that I’d try and continue keep with the girls for as long as possible and see what happens.  Just after mile two Lisa stopped to take her inhaler and then myself and claire passed her. So that left Clair as my only pacer and have to say she did a great job. Our pace for the 3rd and 4th mile was 8:32 and 8:30 respectively. At this point I started to think that a PB was possible.

My Mile Splits

My Mile Splits

I grabbed a water at the 2nd drinks station (approx 7k) and slowed down to take a few gulps, while Clair carried on and started to pull away from me. Now I thought I’d try and keep her in my sights. The 5th mile was my slowest split with a pace of 8:53, however my overall time was over 1 min quicker than my 5 mile PB, so it drove me on to keep up the pace.

Shuffling through the Stadium Car Park (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

Shuffling through the Stadium Car Park (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

We were soon back onto Willesborough Road leading towards the Julie Rose Stadium, so I knew we were nearly home. Once I got to the entrance of the stadium Clair was out of sight, we passed through the car park where my Wife Jo was waiting to cheer me on.   Just before returning onto the track we had reached 6 miles and my mile split time was 8:36. We now only had 300 metres of track left to go. Half-way round the track the organisers announced that time was at 53:06, so I tried to muster up some sort of sprint to line.

Nearly There!!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

Nearly There!!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

I actually did it, a new PB, with an official time of 53:23!!!! My previous 10k PB was back in May 2012 at Larkfield with a time of 54:17.   I really enjoyed the race and I liked the course, it wasn’t too challenging.  It was good that It started and finished on the track where spectators can watch. It was nice to see so many friendly faces from other Kent running clubs.  There was a good turnout from my club DRR and it was great to see that many of them also had a good race too.

I actually did it, New PB!!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

I actually did it, New PB!!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

Nice medal for my efforts!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)

Nice medal for my efforts!! (Photo courtesy of Jo Sowden)