Adventures, Fitness, Races, Training

Adidas City Runs: Clapham

Sunday 16th September saw my return to Adidas City Runs, with the Clapham 10K route. After my pleasant run with them a year previously with the Shoreditch 10K I was looking forward to seeing what South London had to offer.

As with most race days, it started with a very early morning to ensure that I arrived in plenty of time to get myself sorted before the start: multiple toilet breaks, adjustment of kit and filling up my running bladder for the miles ahead.

There was not much time to hang around, as within 30 minutes of my arrival the first waves were being called to the start pens. My wave (wave C) was soon heading in the same direction. Very little time passed before the runners were off!

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Starting at Larkhall Park the route saw participants head north towards Vauxhall before turning back towards Clapham, along Wandsworth Road, skirting the east of Clapham Common before winding round the tree lined streets of Clapham Old town and North Clapham towards the finish line back at Larkhall Park.

The race started off well. Despite the recent balmy temperatures the morning was over cast, cool and saw a welcome gentle breeze – making running conditions seem perfect.

From the first to the third kilometre I found myself comfortable, setting a good pace (albeit, slightly faster than previous races due to my training with Harlow Running Club) and generally feeling rather relaxed after a recent break away in the sunshine.

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However, perhaps due to my lack of training in the lead up owed to my holiday or my faster than normal pace, or perhaps a mixture of both, I started to find myself tiring rather quickly between the third and fourth kilometre. Add in a couple of unexpected hills around the “flat route,” slowing down my pace further, I found my spirit wavering slightly – stopping to walk the hills that I would not have caused issues previously. I also started to spend more time looking at my watch, trying to work out if a PB was on the cards. During the first and third kilometres this was looking likely. After four kilometres I started to give up on the PB yet again, deterred by my post holiday fitness level, and to simply use this race as a way to return back to training after a very inactive break away.

The route itself was not without challenges, as mentioned above there were a number of hills thrown into the mix that were completely un-expected, the twists and turns around the residential streets became tiring and to top it off, as with the Shoreditch 10K, residents ignored the signs about road closures and decided they were well within their rights to drive down the closed roads. I saw at least three drivers, with very little regard for the runners around them screaming at the marshalls, obviously putting both at danger with their stupidity to pay attention to the signs around them.

And the water stations? Where were they? There was nothing available until after the 6KM mark. Many runners were overheard asking the marshalls “where is the water station?” And on what transpired to be a rather muggy day once we got well under way, this was an error of judgement on the organisers part. Luckily, I always run with water so it did not cause an issue for me. But there were many participants clearly struggling with the lack of hydration.

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That did not put runners off enjoying the course, however. Many participants around me were clearly enjoying themselves (some more than others) and there were many smiling faces as we approached the final turns to the finish line.

Despite my lack enthusiasm throughout the route, I was undeterred as we came towards that final stretch. Any energy I had was used for a sprint finish, allowing me to come under my British 10K time from July (just).

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Was I bothered about failing to get a PB and a sub 60 minute time yet again? Not really. I had enjoyed my much needed time off, coming back feeling refreshed and ache free. I always say “next time.” And I will get there one day. With the ability I have gained training with Harlow Running club, teamed with regular Spinning classes – I have no doubt that I will eventually reach the goals I set for myself.

In the meantime, it’s time to head off to running club……….

Adventures, Fitness, Races, Training

Vitality London 10,000

Just a short week ago I participated in Vitality London 10,000 for the first time. The annual event has been running since 2008 and it was my first chance to take part.

Previous years have seen me out of the country over the bank holiday weekend (not that I am complaining), so this year I decided to organise my holiday around the race instead.

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And what a year to be joining thousands of runners through the capital.

The day started warm, muggy and with warnings from the organisers to take extra care in the heat, I knew from the get go I was not going to push for a PB. I had not run much of late, training for the Isle Of Wight Challenge meant that I had very little time to commit to running. So, my plan was to take in the event, enjoy the course and simply complete.

What a race it was. With thousands of runners ready in pens on the Mall between St James Park and Green Park, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and nerves. Not only were there many regular runners taking part, but also Sir Mo Farah.

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Due to the sheer volume of participants it took some time to reach the start line. The pens were evenly distributed to ensure safety on course. Though once there the legend that is Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill was sending runners on their merry way – high fiving them as they passed through, myself included.

The route saw us run from the Mall down the Strand, into the city following many of the same streets as those I pounded during the London Winter Run and London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Though I have run these streets of London on numerous occasions, each race never feels the same. The routes seem so much easier in the Winter Months, when the air is cooler and kinder for runners. On Bank Holiday Monday the temperature was so very different, with the city streets trapping any kind of breeze, very little air and providing the hot and muggy conditions we were promised.

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I took it easy. Stopping a lot more than I normally would; partly due to the heat and partly due to the fact that I had not completed that many training miles in the lead up to the event.

Despite the heat, the route was thoroughly enjoyable. Yet again the atmosphere on the streets of London was infectious. Spectators came out in their thousands, some cheering on loved ones and some just cheering on strangers. Each and every one of them encouraging those who were participating – something I always miss when running local races, where there is a lack of support throughout the routes.

It was not my best time for a 10K and it was not my worst either. What it was was a well organised, enjoyable event which saw runners take on the streets of London whilst passing iconic sights of our great city.

And the best part for me was running that final 800 metres, the same 800 metres I ran during the London Marathon, along Birdcage Walk and where my Uncle was cheering me on just over a year ago.

Starting and finishing where my London Marathon journey ended all that time ago was rather sensational. There is nothing like finishing a race outside Buckingham Palace and if I never have the opportunity to run the London Marathon again, at least I will be able to finish a race in the same spot.

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The Vitality London 10,000 has quickly become one of my favourite 10K races. The organisation, the start and finish on the Mall, the atmosphere and running the iconic streets of London is all second to none.

I have no doubt that it will quickly become a regular in my racing calendar.

 

 

 

Adventures, Fitness, OCR Race, Training

London Winter Walk

Sunday 14th January saw me take on my first challenge of the year, London Winter Walk – A 20km walk organised by Action Challenge as part of the Ultra Challenge series.

It was the first event I have taken part in with these guys and was booked as a attempt to kick start my training in preparation for the Isle of Wight challenge, also organised by Action Challenge.

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The walk promised the opportunity to get in some early training for one of the many events they have scheduled for the year ahead.

Setting out from Southwark Park, at the break of dawn in my case, the route saw participants pass over Tower Bridge, west along the River Thames into the City – taking in many of the capitals iconic landmarks en route. A quick rest stop, lasting around two minutes for myself, just after the half way point in Vauxhall, before the route sees you walk along the South Bank, crossing Blackfriars, Millennium, Southwark and London Bridges on the way back to base camp.

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Starting in the first wave, at a bright and early start of 8:30am, gave me somewhat of an advantage. For the first half of the route, there were very few pedestrians – especially in the city area – so there were not many people to weave in and out of. This enabled me to see a good time for the first half of the challenge – 18th in my wave.

 

The way back to base camp differed slightly. Growing numbers of tourists, cyclists and runners started to appear – slowing the pace and generally making you more aware of your surroundings.

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That said, by the time I was heading into the 19th kilometre it was not even midday. As some of the final waves were heading out at the start of the walk, I was finishing. And the timing was not too shabby either – 3 hours 9 minutes! My time saw me finish 22nd in the 8:30am wave, as the 10th Female.

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Obviously, throughout the day my rankings dropped somewhat as other participants completed in each wave. However, I was still considerably high up the charts considering this was the first walking challenge I had taken part in. Finishing 64th over all (out of 1600 participants) and being the 41st Female.

I took great pride in my results. I am not accustomed to walking challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I walk fast – years of commuting has done wonders for my walking speed. However, I have never walked as fast and at distance, as I did on Sunday.

Fuelled by those around me (not that there were many after the first hour), I power walked like I have never power walked before. I saw myself becoming a tad competitive when those more seasoned walkers over took me. I hated the feeling of someone approaching from behind. And when I crossed the finish line, I did so with no one in around me at an average pacing of just over 15 minutes per mile.

A pace that will definitely not be attempting for the Isle of Wight challenge, that’s for sure.

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The London Winter Walk was something new to my training.

Having run so many races over the last few years simply walking was a nice change to the norm. In the lead up I did not feel the pressure I would normally feel when participating, I didn’t feel nerves and I felt uncharacteristically relaxed.

The walk also made me a little more mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead. I now am aware that despite my trainers being wonderfully suitable for running, for walking they are not. Where you need the bounce when pounding the streets at a faster pace, with walking you need a little more stability and support. By the last kilometre I could feel every cobble in the street!

It also made me aware of pacing. Whilst the 15 minute mile pace was fine for a shorter distance I need to be aware of slowing it down as my training walks become longer and arduous.

The final factor I take away from the London Winter Walk, and one that has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions, is that walking is not easy. For someone who has spent the last few years developing my running pace and mileage, it was incredibly difficult to stop myself from breaking into a run a times and keeping the steady walking pace. Its not as easy as it looks!

The event was one that I would definitely look at completing again. The organisation by Action Challenge was outstanding; the staff were friendly, the rest stop had a multitude of snacks and refreshments, and to finish off a freshly cooked hot meal upon completion.

London Winter Walk is the first of the Ultra Challenges this year; with the Easter Walk (25km from Windsor) and the massive Isle of Wight challenge (106km) both booked in.

I am sure to become an ultra challenge addict. Not stopping until I have completed them all!

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Adventures, Races, Training

Great Newham London Run

Sunday 2nd July saw me return to road racing, after a substantial break of eight weeks. I am not going to lie, I did not prepare myself for this one. I did not train and the week leading up to the race saw me go through some pretty stressful times. So it is safe to say I was extremely un-prepared. But I was not going to let the weeks events scupper my racing schedule. I just had to except that it was just going to be a “run” and I should not expect any PB’s.

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The day began with glorious sunshine, and on arrival at the Olympic Park Stadium organisers where already advising runners not to run for a PB. It was simply too hot!

Running in the green wave I watched the first few runners set off, including the visually impaired runners, with Jo Pavey signalling the start of the race. Then soon enough it was my wave.

I did not get my pacing right this time round. The first ten minutes saw me running faster than my training pace. Looking down at my Garmin I saw I was running a faster pace of 9 minutes per mile. Which I thought was fantastic – but with 6 miles to run and in higher than normal temperatures I had to think about regulating the pace to my normal speed to cope with the running conditions.

I eventually brought it back down before the second mile – steadily trotting along at 10:30 minutes/ per mile. Which is my standard comfortable training pace. Adjusting to the running conditions and getting my breathing under control was important to see the run through, even if it was just a 10k race.

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The course saw you run around some of the iconic landmarks in the Olympic Park; starting under the Arcelormittal Orbit, round the Copper Box, Velodrome and finishing in the Olympic Park Stadium itself. It was an amazing course, though rather undulating; giving me flash backs to the British Heat Foundation 10k of 2016, which gave me my fear of laps and due to a cold winters morning, pushed me into a poor state of health.

 

During the section of the course that saw me re-trace my steps of the one race that I look back on with dread, I had to fight my mind to push through, to forget that horrid day. It took some will power to do so, my pacing slowed and with the increasing temperature my body was severely over heating. But I pushed through. The hilly part of the course was less of a challenge that it was before, mainly due to participating in the Harlow park runs. Clearly the hills of Harlow Town Park had worked in my favour as when others were breaking into a walk up the hills, I was powering up to the top and ready to take on the next one.

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Soon enough the tough part was over, 7km marker passed followed quickly by the 8km marker. The heat of the day was increasing, so I wanted to finish as soon as possible. So water was thrown over my head and legs to cool myself down, to get me through to the finish. 9km passed, and I knew it was now flat to the end. So the speed picked up again, running around the track outside the stadium then running round the indoor tunnels of the stadium itself for the final 400 meters. 100 meters left and you entered the track inside the stadium. With my name popping up on the big screen, announcing my final steps, I channelled my inner Bolt (as if), and sprinted to the finish line.

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Job done. Another medal. Another stadium finish.

This is an event I would definitely want to run again. The organisation, planning and amazing finish was worth every penny. My only criticism, as with most races, the water stations are slightly lacking. Personally I was fine, I always carry my hydration pack, but there were many around me who were gasping for water. There just did not seem to be enough stations at the right time, especially given the hot weather.

That said, roll on 2018 because I cannot wait to run this one again!

Adventures, Fitness, OCR Race, Races, Training

Rat Race Dirty Weekend

I have never been one for camping. Don’t get me wrong I love being outdoors. I simply do not enjoy spending the night sleeping on the floor and in the cold.

However, when a group of my Boot Camp friends decided to sign up for Rat Race Dirty Weekend the plan was to camp for the two nights. Much preferring to book a hotel but not wanting to be a spoil sport – I signed up for the 13-20 mile obstacle course race, paying an additional £20 to sleep out doors for the night. Booked back in August, it was quickly put to the back of my mind, especially after receiving the news, in October, that I would be running the London Marathon.

To say I was under prepared for this event is an understatement. Months of training for the marathon meant that my strength training was put to the back burner. Every spare moment was spent racking up the mileage and endurance to run the 26.2 miles. I did not take a moment to think beyond the marathon itself and what I had booked in the weeks and months following. To be honest, it showed.

From the get go I was struggling, for a few reasons. Firstly – despite running over 20 miles a couple of weeks prior my body was tired, my legs were still suffering and I had tightness in my quad that simply would not shift. Secondly, I had been running on road surfaces, not fields, farmlands and woods – the kind of terrain that is expected at an OCR race. And finally, like I mentioned above, my strength training had been rather lacking and therefore hoisting myself over obstacles proved rather difficult.

That said, Rat Race Dirty Weekend is by far the best OCR race I have completed to date. Not just because of the race, but the whole weekend itself. Starting with a tame “school disco” in the festivals big blue tent, with the race following on the Saturday morning and a big messy party to follow. It was one of the most enjoyable events and one that I feel was worth every penny.

If you love a good obstacle race, then I would thoroughly recommend this. Boasting over 150 obstacles for those who want to run the 13 mile course, 200 obstacles for the 20 miles or if you were completely mad – 400 obstacles for the “Double Mucker” race – which involved two laps of the 20 mile course. Yikes!

Being of a sane mind, I decided to stick to the 13 miles. Not only did it have more than enough obstacles to appease the most seasoned OCR racer, but it had more enough running too.

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I have to give it to Rat Race – they certainly are experts in their field. Not only did they use the natural obstacles of the Burghley House estate, for lack of a better word every single obstacle was simply epic!

I tried my best at as many obstacles that came my way. Some required a friendly shove up the backside or a leg up, some were simply spot on. Some, simply terrified me to the point of a panic attack. The first of which came on a Fire Man’s pole – which thanks to being vertically challenged – I could not quite reach.

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The second panic attack, and one that set the mood for the rest of the course, came around mile 10. What I can only describe as a the biggest adult climbing frame – complete with cargo nets, tunnels and tyre climbs was swarming with OCR fanatics. Excited to get involved I tackled it – only to loose my footing from one cargo net and diving head first onto the cargo net below and getting kicked in the head by another runner. In true OCR spirit, there were plenty of racers (mainly muscly men – so I shall not complain too much) to lend a hand and get be back on my feet. Though as soon as I was on solid ground the panic started. And so the rest of the course was ruined for me.

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With a new found fear of cargo nets, heights and falling – most of the obstacles that followed were bypassed.

Although shaken and disappointed I did not let that deter me – after all this was one of the toughest obstacle races I had encountered to date. I did, however, have to get to the end.

So moving past obstacles that saw many runners shivering whilst they waited their turn, I kept moving forward to the one obstacle I was determined to conquer – the Travelator!

And I did it. I kept my legs moving and got to the top, elated!

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That was simply enough for me. 13 miles and nearly five hours out in the field, wet and cold, I was happy to get to the finish, get warm and have a well deserved drink!

I am gutted to have missed a large number of obstacles, including the epic slide finish, but I don’t regret doing so. Whatever challenge you are facing, you have to listen to your body and sometimes even your mind. On this day, my body was just not ready.

In hindsight, I probably should have deferred my entry. But after missing out on Hackney Half Marathon the week prior I was determined to get back out there.

However, with every race I learn a little bit more about my strengths and weaknesses. In this case I now know that I need to spend the next few months building up my upper body strength, so I can face further OCR races I have planned for the year with full gusto!

Nuclear Rush was the next race on my list, for this coming Saturday. However, the lovely people at Nuclear already advised I can move my entry to another race after I raised concerns a few days after the London Marathon.

So with that in mind, and a couple more OCR races planned in the diary, I shall be upping my strength training and returning to Fit4OCR (a OCR training facility) to make sure I come back ready to take them all on!

And maybe a return to Dirty Rat Race Weekend in 2018? Who’s going?

Races

No Hackney for me.

Defer! The one word in any racers vocabulary that one never wants to hear and one that so far I have never had to use. However after last Sundays London Marathon, and the stress it has put on an old ankle injury, I have not run once this week and simply not in a position to complete the 13.1 miles tomorrow.

At the time of booking Hackney Half Marathon I was buzzing from my endurance for long runs increasing and I believed that I would be in a peak level of fitness to be able to take on this race for a second year running. And, fingers crossed, improve on my bad performance from the previous year.

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So, all with good intentions, I contacted the race organisers (now Virgin Sport) to explain my situation in the hope that they would be able to defer my entry to the following year or even offer me a spot in another race.

The response I got was rather unsympathetic. I was told that I was neither allowed to defer my entry nor move my place to another race. The only option, even though I had already paid a hefty sum of £49 to enter, was to volunteer as a Marshall to be given a free spot for another race. After complaining further to head office, I was promptly sent an email spouting the terms and conditions I agreed to when signing up for the race and, a rather patronising staff member asked if I would like to be sent a full copy of these terms!

Yes, I signed up to the terms and conditions at the time of booking. However, at that time I had no intention not to run. I had no idea that an old injury, that I had not suffered with once during my marathon training, would re-surface and cause me issues.

The fact that Virgin Sport have no policy in place for those suffering with an injury or have any empathy towards those racing is disgusting. Never before have I experienced races where you are simply told “sorry, tough luck. Come volunteer instead.” I have many friends who have had to pull out of races at the last minute and every time the race organisers have allowed them to defer or transfer their entry to another race that suits them.

It is downright rude and quite frankly shows very poor customer service on Virgin Sport’s part. I suppose it is also a great way to make extra profit. Rely on a percentage of drop outs or no shows and simply say “sorry, its in our terms and conditions.” In other words, give you the finger.

Sadly I have already booked another race with Virgin Sport in the Summer, previously Run London run by Vitality, so that’s more of my money in Virgin’s pocket. I will have to ensure I don’t do anything between now and then to jeopardise running this one – as that too came with a hefty entry fee.

After this, I am going to re-consider entering any Virgin Sport events, which saddens me. All the races they have taken over from Vitality are throughly enjoyable and always a great experience.

However, what I have learned over the last few weeks is there are plenty other 10k’s and Half Marathons out there, with new races such as London Landmarks Half and The Big Half both released for 2018. So, as Virgin Sport do not care enough to show empathy to their customers I will simply take my custom elsewhere!

 

 

 

Fitness, Races, Training

Lots of Marathon Love

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Just over six months ago I wrote a post announcing that I was running the London Marathon. All of a sudden, time has flown by, and in two days time I will be in a pen waiting in Greenwich for the biggest day of my life.

Getting to the start is an achievement itself. Many miles of training your mind and body is something that breaks even the strongest of people. Tears, frustrations and joys of hitting set targets have all been experienced. And I would not got by without the love and support of family, friends and colleagues.

Whilst I wait out the final two days, with little much else to do but rest, I wanted to take some time to reach out to everyone who has helped me on my journey. This week alone I have received numerous messages of well wishes from people far and wide; whether it is simply to wish me “good luck” or to offer me advice, all have touched my heart. And it is time to show my marathon love and offer thanks.

I first met Jackie Scully through the Willow Foundation at the beginning of this year. Hearing her story touched my heart. Not only did Jackie have her pelvis rebuilt in 2007, but she was also diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks after getting engaged. Not allowing to let her illness define her she took to running and will be running the London Marathon on her wedding day! Yes – she will be getting married on the Cutty Sark whilst most runners are making their way to the race. Jackie’s story has been something that has kept me grounded throughout training. I am in constant awe of her accomplishments, her will to keep going and determination to not let illness beat her. Jackie – you are an inspiration and it has been a pleasure to meet you. I am sure that no matter what race day brings it will stay with you for ever.

Amber has been what I like to call my “virtual training buddy.” We did not run together once, due to different abilities (i.e. Amber being a whippet and me more like a giant tortoise), but she has been an amazing support for me throughout training. Every time we faced the longer runs we shared them, we discussed them, we cried about them and with her help I shook off the bad runs and got back up again. I know now that I would not have got through the long Winter months training without her being there.

Ross – my best friend, my partner in crime, my knight in shining armor. For the last few months he has had to put up with me being in one of two states of dress; running gear or pajamas. Listening to me go on about miles, discussing dodgy looking toe nails and at times coaxing me out the door when I just don’t want to go! Many nights runs were planned one way to Sainsburys – where he would be doing the shopping. And on a couple of occasions he was at the end of the phone, ready to rescue me on long runs when I just could not finish. I don’t say it enough – but I could not have done it without him.

Jon – three weeks ahead of me in the marathon schedule, he was running the Rome Marathon. Over the course of my training he was a great support; reassuring me that i’m not alone, that he had been where I was, it will get better and I will finish.

Friends and Family – of whom there are far too many to mention. If I did I would be here all day. But, every single one of you have been amazing. Whether it is donating money, liking my numerous Facebook posts, commenting on my progress or sending messages full of love and well wishes. The last few weeks in particular has brought me to tears with all the love coming my way. These wishes will keep me going during the darkest times on Sunday.

Red Letter Days and my amazing colleagues, who I have pestered with raffles, bake sales and my tuck shop. The support has been phenomenal. In particular, special shout out to a couple of you past and present, you know who you are, who have donated an amazing amount between them. They have been my cheerleaders from the beginning, donating and buying tickets, bringing me back up when I am down and for some of them, even coming down to cheer me along with the Willow Foundation on Sunday. You guys have a special place in my heart – thank you!

To the amazing running community, all who I have never met in person. It has been an amazing journey having you beside me. At times, when I felt I was annoying pretty much everyone in my life with stories of running, having the running community with me was a great comfort. Giving advice, telling me I am not alone and giving me the courage to keep going – it has enabled me to be a stronger person and carry on.

And finally to The Willow FoundationThank you (I think) for giving me the opportunity to tick the London Marathon off my bucket list. If I only ever do one marathon It would have been a dream to run London and at the same time raise money for an amazing charity. I am looking forward to seeing you guys on route and most importantly I will very pleased to see you at the end, once I have hobbled to the recovery center.

For anyone wanting to track my progress you can do so by entering my race number (52825) either online or via an app – information can be found here

So that’s a wrap. The next few days will be time to relax, rest and carb load in preparation for Sunday. Time to switch off!

See you on the other side!

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