I started running again the day after the London Marathon in April 2000 having not run since I was about 15. I did it to relieve work related stress and to do something for me. It was the best decision I ever made but initially I kept it a secret, waiting for my husband Mark to leave for work before venturing out with a slightly reluctant dog for a very slow jog around the nearby lake. I had been doing that every morning for about 6 weeks before Mark found out, by which time I was a new person. I had entered a Women’s 5k run in Hyde Park in July and was so overjoyed with my 29 minute time that I entered the 2001 London marathon ballot which in those days was a postal form with a few tick boxes open for a couple of months in the Summer before the ballot in October. It wasn’t any easier to get in then either though so I explored the charity option and was offered a place with the NSPCC team before my rejection letter arrived.
So the training began and I have to say that Mark was great, having never run before, he joined me for all of my short runs and met up with me towards the end of my long ones when I was really flagging. At the time, I had no clue about running clubs, nutrition etc. I was winging it with a few copies of Runners World and a lot of enthusiasm and determination. Race day didn’t quite go to plan as I dislocated three vertebrae along the way and finished very wonky in 6 hours 4 minutes, the course gets very lonely when you are that far back and as much as I loved the experience it was really tough until I met up with someone else running for the same charity in Docklands and we decided to finish it together. Having a running buddy for the later stages got me through.
By 2004 Mark and I were old hands having run a couple of half marathons, a few 10ks and become regular runners so when I got a ballot place for London we decided to get Mark a charity one so that we could do it together. Still with no club support we trained together and it was so much easier until race day when it was Mark’s turn to suffer when his IT Band suddenly started to scream in pain at 17 miles. We have since realised that it was probably him trying to run at my pace, not running his natural stride was probably what caused it to flare up. We finished in 5 hours and 4 minutes so I had managed a PB by knocking a whole hour off my previous time.
I hadn’t planned to run another marathon until after joining SLGR and getting talked in to running the 2016 Brighton Marathon with a whole load of the team. Joining the team has meant that Mark’s running had definitely improved as he was running with guys of his own pace and pushing himself more, I’m not sure it improved mine that much at first as I stopped trying to keep up with him and settled in with others of a similar pace but it did mean that when training for this marathon, we both had the support of the team on long runs and on the day. That day, Mark ran with Chris Preston and Dave Reid for the first 18 miles, then his back went, Chris had a knee issue and Dave flew in to the distance on the worst part of the course. They all got great times, but it was so much harder when they split up. I fell in to step beside Mandie Lockwood, it wasn’t planned, we just chatted, paced one another, she counted down in kilometres, I did miles, so it felt like we were ticking off more achievements and we laughed all the way to the finish line. I got a PB, Mandie finished her first marathon in a very respectable time of 4.53.
In 2017 the team talked about doing a half marathon over seas, making a weekend of it. We ended up with 15 runners at the Loch Ness Marathon ! Group training went well despite the challenge of training through a hot Summer and off we went. The race started on a freezing cold mountain top overlooking the loch, a few of us were together for a while before the group started to split up and I ran around 6 miles alone before Michelle Smith caught me up at 12 miles when I stopped to take a photo of the view. By that point, the view had been pretty much the same for 4 or 5 miles and stayed the same for another 4 or 5 and Michelle wasn’t feeling the love for it, it was trees and loch and very little else, there wasn’t much support and it was very tough going so we decided to stick together from then on. It was seriously tough going but having Michelle beside me definitely helped get us both to the finish.
I definitely hadn’t planned to run another marathon but somehow found myself agreeing to run the Edinburgh marathon with the team after everyone except Mark got rejected by London again. The timing has meant that the team have gone out with Mark and Jonathan Algar who got the team London place to train with them, they were 5 weeks ahead but we could arrange runs so that they could do a bit extra but have the team there for support most of the way while we built our training runs up too. The London Boys were pretty well paced so planned to stick together on the day. It turned out to be a scorcher and incredibly tough but the boys were doing really well until half way when they managed to lose one another when Mark stopped to stretch, it got tough for both of them after that. The Edinburgh crew have been hit with injury after injury and quite a few people have dropped down to running the half instead, it’s now just me and Natasha Godfrey and 9 guys running the full marathon so its a bit of a relief that I have someone of a similar pace to hopefully stick with in Edinburgh. Natasha has been amazing having only decided to sign up after the Dartford half, she’s like the Duracell bunny who just never stops, she has been beside me on all of our long runs except one and I really missed her that day. She was my shadow around Paddock Wood half and pushed me on our 3 hour training run yesterday, she just wants to keep going so I don’t feel like I should stop either and unless I stop, she doesn’t. If I can keep up with her for 26.2 miles we could be on for a good time.
My point is that a running buddy can make so much difference, they add security so you are not running alone, they challenge you to push yourself and I have been lucky enough to have had great company and a great laugh on some very long runs. I can highly recommend it. Go grab a buddy and run.