Lancashire TelegraphRunning On Empty blog: 5 days to go (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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Running On Empty blog: 5 days to go

FIVE days to go before the big race ... and I'm ill!

I've been training for the Pennine Lancashire 10K for four months now, and just when I should be at the peak of my fitness, I can hardly find the strength to walk up the stairs.

The sore throat, blocked nose and stuffy head had been with me for days, but then came a viral sucker punch that floored me.

Every muscle in my body aches.

I came home from work last night and went straight to bed ... and slept 15 hours non-stop. I was apparently so hot, I could have cooked a pizza on my chest.

I awoke this morning feeling a lot better, and hopefully the worse is over.

But my plans for a decent run had to be scrapped.

My race pack from Run For All arrived earlier this week, and in it was my race number, an electronic chip to record my time, and a map of the route around Blackburn.

Suddenly, it all seems so real.

I had planned today to run the route, giving me a head start on the 1500 runners. Let's face it, I'll need a some kind of head start. I just about have the energy to climb into the car.

Instead, I drive the first part of the course, which starts at Witton Park, and turns on to Preston Old Road towards Blackburn town centre.

If you're running on Sunday, here's the bad news: The first half-mile is all uphill! But that does mean a downhill finish if you're on your last legs.

The only other major incline is at the start of the Wainwright Bridge, but that only lasts about 200 yards before you turn into the town centre for 20 minutes of zig-zagging around the cathedral and shopping centre.

As well as the race packs, Team Telegraph (nine of my editorial colleagues are also running) have just received their bright yellow T-shirts with their names emblazoned on the back. So don't forget to give them a cheer on the day.

Talk of 'finishing the race' in the Telegraph office has now changed to 'what time will you complete the race in?'.

The competitive spirit is gathering pace by the day, and I've been challenged to beat Ron Hill, the former Commonwealth gold medallist in the marathon.

Ron, from Accrington, is a legend in the sport, and hasn't missed a day's running since December 1964 - even after breaking his arm. That's two years before I was born!

He may be aged 71 now but he's hoping for a time of 52 minutes - that looks out of my reach, but it's a challenge I'll be accepting.

My brother is also running, and I'm cheered by the fact he had to send his Large T-shirt back for an XXL. He'll probably still beat me though.

My mate Andy Neild, the former Blackburn Rovers reporter at the Telegraph, ran the Manchester 10K in May, clocking a very impressive 52 minutes 55 seconds, and cheekily revealing he only had four practice runs beforehand.

I've been trudging those streets for four months now, so I've got to beat 'Neild' time or I'll never hear the last of it. That's challenge three.

When I first started training the aim was to just finish the race. Now I'm being bombarded with challenges, left, right and centre. How did that happen?

But before I can tackle anything, I'll have to shake off this damn illness.

I'll be writing this blog every day now as the big race arrives.

And if you can sponsor me, with all the money raised going to East Lancashire Hospice, please click on www.justgiving.com/paul-plunkett

It only takes one minute, but could make a huge difference.

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