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Meet our London Marathon runners – Claire’s story

My marathon journey has been a bit of a whirlwind. I lost my husband to this cruel disease in April last year after a courageous 17 month battle.

Feeling incredibly helpless and lost, I suddenly decided that I wanted to help in one or way or another, so decided to apply for the London Marathon! It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and with my teaching practice being postponed a year, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to refocus while raising funds for this amazingly deserving yet completely underfunded charity.

When people hear that I’m running the marathon, they always ask “Are you a runner?”, to which I reply “I ran at school”. But when I stopped to think about my response one day, I realised that my school running days are in fact over 20 years ago and that school cross-country was not even 2 miles!! However, I hang on to this in the hope that I will still be able to run “long” distances, and that maybe there’s a bit of natural ability in me somewhere that will carry me round the 26.2 miles…

I attended the training day back in November, and I’m so glad I made the trip down from Scotland. One of the stand-outs for me were the statistics: Hearing that 36% of people who enter the Marathon don’t make the start line due to injury really shocked me. And that only 1.3% of runners drop out during the race really put things into perspective. I’ve been really lucky so far and have avoided injury. If I’m honest, I’ve not been on the roller as much as I was in the weeks immediately after the event, but do always try, even if just for a few minutes, after a run as I know how important it is.

Consistency has been key for me. Prior to starting my training, my main worry was not having the motivation to go out running enough. I was told by a number of people how important consistency is, so I have designated running days which I stick to regardless of the weather, and I’ve found this has been my saviour. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my short run days as I only have a small window of opportunity between nursery drop-off at 9am and pick-up less than 3 hours later! I run anywhere between 3 and 5 miles, occasionally more, and it works well for me. Sunday is my long run day and I have been gradually increasing my distance. I’d managed a half-marathon without refuelling just before New Year, but I knew I needed to change that! The following run (14 miles) I refuelled with an energy gel, fruit jelly and sipped on some SOS rehydrate, and it worked perfectly: I felt good and didn’t see my usual dip in pace after 6 miles. That was a real confidence boost, but it was short-lived as my next long run (15.5 miles) wasn’t my strongest, with sore feet and tired, aching quads from 8 miles. It was not one of my best and I’ve tried to unpick the run as well as the lead up to it, to work out where I went wrong. Thankfully, my next long run was much stronger, so hopefully I’m back on track, though I know I will have my good days and bad days. It’s all part of the learning curve and I know now is the best time to experiment and find out what works best for me.

As well as consistency, 3 things I have found that work for me are:

  • Ensuring I’m hydrated enough. I often get to the end of the day having drank just one glass of water. I’ve found that when I drink SOS rehydrate the night before a run, I feel a lot better and stronger during my runs.
  • Plotting my long routes the night before. I know some people like running wherever their feet take them, but, psychologically, I need to know where I am going and roughly how long it is. Otherwise, I might just take the first road that leads home!!
  • Using the Strava running app. I love looking at my run after, finding out my pace and how it compares to my previous runs. Although my only aim is to get round the 26.2 miles on April 26th, I find the Strava app and all the analysis quite motivating.

As my miles increase and the running part is going OK, I feel I need to think more about nutrition. I eat a balanced diet, but with two young kids, there is still a lot of Christmas treats in my house which I can’t resist! I can’t quite bring myself to throw it out, but just need to find the willpower to choose an oatcake over a chocolate bar as a snack instead!

My fundraising is going well so far, but I’m still a long way from my target. I’m aiming high based on a sponsored family walk we organised in October 2018, where we raised over £15,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity. So far, just through the generosity of friends, family and some complete strangers, I’ve just passed the £4k mark on my JustGiving page. I have a few things up my sleeve, including a bake sale, raffle and silent auction. I think I was a little naive as to how easy it would be to find raffle prizes, as well as the rules of a raffle… who knew you need a licence?! I have just started with it though and remain hopeful that I will reach my £10,000 target.

My husband was a professional sportsman and had an abundance of drive, ambition, motivation and dedication. I’m trying my best to channel his strengths, and when things get tough, I get tired, feel a niggle or it’s freezing cold or pouring with rain on a run, I just think of him and I keep going. Our two children are also my motivation, as I want to show them anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.

The marathon is now less than 3 months away, which I really can’t believe. I’m mainly excited and feel so privileged to be running for The Brain Tumour Charity, but of course there are some nerves too. The marathon will be just after the one year anniversary of my husband’s passing, and I know it is going to be an incredibly moving and emotional day. I have many questions about the day itself, but they are mainly logistical, like when and where do I fit in breakfast on the day when I’ll have to get up really early and travel across London, to get to the start line for 8:30 when the marathon only starts after 10?! Where am I going to store all my energy gels?! And what do I do if I need the toilet when there isn’t one?! (Surely only Paula Radcliffe can get away with peeing on the street?!) I guess I will cross that bridge if and when I come to it!

I look forward to seeing more of you on the 26th April.

Keep going everyone – we’ve got this!!