Angela’s First London Marathon

I am very proud to be running the London Marathon for the Family Holiday Association.  I have wanted to run London ever since I contemplated a marathon and failed to get a ballot place for the past 5 or so years, so when this opportunity arose through a friend who had TWO places; I jumped at it!

My Background (As a ‘Runner’)

Angela LM18Way back in 2003, I was at a Boxing Day party, and fuelled by red wine I somehow agreed to run the Reading Half Marathon in March 2004.  I woke up the following morning wondering how I would ever achieve that.  I had two children aged 4 and 3 and a relatively full-time job.  How was I going to transform myself from regular Mum to a half marathoner and fit all the training in?  I was not totally unfit but hadn’t really run since the days of Cross Country running at school (and even then, my best friend and I hid in the toilets if we could sneak off.)  I didn’t do much outdoor running; more running (and chatting) on the treadmill in the local gym.  I decided I had to do the distance once before the event and remember distinctly watching two and half hours of ‘This Morning’ and thinking ‘That’s a long time’!  The day arrived, it was dull and raining but I finished!  I couldn’t walk the next day but within days I was planning my next event.

Fast forward almost ten years and I had been regularly doing races of various distances but never a marathon.  I always said it was not for me – a Half can feel interminable; how could I do double that?  However, I was going to turn 50 in 2014 so I decided if I didn’t do one by the time I was 50, I would never do one.  It was too late to enter London so I looked at other April Marathons as I don’t like training in the heat and Paris in Springtime had a ring to it!  At that time, I didn’t know many other Marathon runners so I googled training plans and Hal Higdon’s Beginner Marathon Training Plan looked achievable.  I spent many solo Sunday mornings leaving home in the dark for my LSR, asking friends to leave bottles of water and bananas on their doorsteps to a) make me do the distance and b) help me with a fuelling strategy.  My husband also bought me a block of training sessions with the local Running Clinic and the lovely Andy assisted me in both my running technique but, more importantly, my mindset.

A week before the race, I sprained my achilles; I was devastated.  Suddenly the prospect of not running was unbearable.  I realised I really wanted to prove to myself I could do it.  I rested for the week before and had a few sports massages and hopped on the train to Paris.  Through Facebook I hooked up with another lady from Leeds (Morag) and we started the race together and I completed my first marathon in a time of 4.28, but vowing to never do it again.  Six weeks later I ran Liverpool Rock n’ Roll Marathon, again with Morag.  Suddenly I had done 2 marathons in 2 months!  Since then I’ve done Copenhagen and New York and one Ultra marathon and have joined a local Running Club (Horsell Runners).  Through the Running Club I’ve met lots of like-minded runners – many of which are running London this year too for various charities or with ‘Good for Age’ places.  I really enjoy running in a group and never envisaged Running could be so sociable.  There have also been real tangible benefits; I’ve lost over a stone in weight and have the body now that I always dreamed of in my 20s! And finally, now that my children are adults I can indulge in my running pretty much whenever I like so it’s more like a habit than ‘Training’.

Why I Want to Run for the Family Holiday Association

I will confess I had never heard of this charity before I secured the place.  However, that is almost a good thing as it has opened up my eyes to the good work that smaller charities do.  However small, someone’s life is improving through the work of a charity like FHA.  This year there is a lot of focus in the press on Mental Health issues and I was interested to read the studies that the FHA include in their literature regarding the benefits to mental health and positive memories that a short break can provide.  I had also never really considered how hard it is for a Carer to take a break from their responsibilities. There are so many aspects to a ‘Holiday’ that I hadn’t considered when I have taken my annual ‘well deserved’ break.

My Fundraising

To date, I’m not too far off the minimum target, but I’m hoping to exceed it by April 22.  I’ve been very lucky that I have such generous friends.  I have only ever run one previous race for charity and I’m often asked if I need sponsorship and people are surprised when I say I’m not running for a charity.  This is why running for the FHA this time make it so special.  I have some ideas for fundraising events (A curry night or the traditional cake sale) as I don’t think you can ever underestimate how much you have to do to fundraise successfully.

My Training

This time I’m not just training for the London Marathon, I’m training for the Comrades Marathon in June. It’s an Ultramarathon that is famous in South Africa.  It’s run annually between Durban and Pietermaritzburg and is the world’s largest, oldest Ultramarathon race of 89kms and you have to complete it in under 12 hours. The Training Schedule is like nothing I’ve done before.  At the end of February I’d already clocked up over 300 miles in 2018 and the plan gets more punishing until the taper starts mid-May. My biggest fear is the heat as I’m not comfortable running in the heat; but that’s another challenge I suppose. It’s only four years since I decided to run a marathon; I’m not sure how I ended up committing to this!

What I have learnt over the past few years is that the old adage – ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ is true.  I am totally committed to my plan.  In fact, I would almost say that Race Day is the easy bit!  Sticking with the training when you have to get up and face freezing temperatures or driving rain for weeks on end can be the real challenge. Additionally, I realised some time ago that long distance running is only half fitness, you have to train your mind to deal with the self-doubt, to be mentally strong when the going gets tough and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and for whom; both yourself, the Charity you are running for and the people they are supporting.

Good luck to all other Team Starfish Runners.I’m so looking forward to meeting you all in April.