Category Archives: SANDs

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

What a difference a year makes

This time last year my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child.  From that day on we knew our lives would never be the same again, but we never expected our lives to change so drastically.

Once you get a positive pregnancy test you can help but start planning things in your head and think about your future as a family and not just the two of us anymore. But you don’t get too carried away because you read that miscarriage is likely to happen in the 1st 12 weeks. So you decide to keep a secret until after the 1st scan.

I remember going into the ultra-sound room feeling nervous, hoping that our baby was there and everyone was ok. As soon as we saw the image of our baby, watching it’s tiny heart beating away, gave me a sense of relief and everything seemed more real.

We decided to wait a few more weeks to announce our pregnancy to our family and surprise them all on Christmas Day. Both of our families were so excited and were delighted with their extra Christmas present.

Us two celebrating New Year together.

Us two so happy, celebrating New Year together.

In the New Year we then broke our news to work, friends and other extended family.  We were so happy and couldn’t wait for our bundle of joy to arrive.  In the January sales we bought a few items for the baby and the nursery, but didn’t want to get too much before our 20 week scan.

We had our 2nd scan and everything was fine. We had decided to not find out the sex of our baby and wanted to keep it a surprise.  After having the scan and everything being ok, it was our license to carry on with the rest of the planning and preparations.

Baby Sowden's 21 week Scan.

Baby Sowden’s 21 week Scan.

Normally, we are not very organised people but wanted to do everything we could to give our child the best start in life.  We started to de-clutter our apartment and re-decorated our bedroom as we thought that our baby would be in our room in their moses basket.

Then we cleared out the spare room and turned it into a nursery.  We both worked very hard on it making it perfect and ready for son or daughter. The purchases continued and we even changed one of our cars for a more suitable family car, which I nicknamed the ‘Dad Mobile’,

In the meantime my wife has been to different routine hospital and midwife appointments, which I accompanied her on many occasions, and were told that everything was perfect.  The thought of losing our unborn child never entered into our thoughts.  You can’t help planning your future as a family.  My wife used to joke about how our little one and mummy would wave me off to work in the mornings. We was even thinking about where we could go for short break away later on in the year.

As each week passed we were getting excited reading about how big our little poppet was getting.  We used to talk and play music to the bump and when we could feel our baby move and kick it was so magical.

We wanted the best parents we could be and together went to different classes at the hospital, learning about labour management and how to care for a young baby.  This gave us a bit more confidence about the birth, as my wife was completely dreading it.

I don’t know how my wife managed to deliver our baby, knowing that they was not alive, with little pain relief.  She was incredible and I’ve never been so proud of her.  At the birth we found out that we had lost a Son and decided to call him Rory Teddy Sowden.

It’s been over 5 months now since we have lost Rory and our lives has been turned upside down since that day.  We are both heartbroken and trying to do normal everyday thing is now a huge task.  I really find it difficult getting ready for work in the mornings, especially as our Son is not here to wave us off.

Now 5 months on, things doesn’t seem to get any easier, it seems like everyone is carrying on as normal, like nothing ever happened.  It feels like that other people think that because it is over 5 months that we should be ‘over it’.  I don’t think you could ever ‘get over’ losing your child that you had so many hopes and dreams for.

We are both really dreading christmas, as it would have been Rory’s first christmas and our first christmas as a family together.  We don’t really want to celebrate christmas in a traditional way this year and find myself getting angry or frustrated with anyone mentioning the ‘C’ word, especially when you hear it mentioned in October.

A year ago we were getting our heads round the fact that it was no longer going to be the two of us and was going to be our last christmas alone together.  Today we are trying to come to terms that Rory has gone and it’s no longer going to be the three of us together.  It’s back to being us two here together, but with broken hearts and empty arms.

We are still a Mummy and Daddy and we are still a family. Our son did exist and he did have a life, his womb life, the 8 months he spent growing and being nurtured inside Mummy.  Rory may not be in our home or in our arms, but he is always in our thoughts and in our hearts!!!

Gone, but never forgotten.

Gone, but never forgotten xxx

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.