Preparing to run The London Marathon

As part of a series stories focussed on “challenges” we asked some of our subscribers to share the highs and lows of their journey. This is a very honest and heartfelt piece by a young lady we met last summer who lost her mother to cancer. This is Carly’s story…

At times I wonder what I was thinking the day I decided I was going to run a marathon. Back then I was not fit, had never ran in my life (and had never felt inclined to either), and was really indulging in the party scene.

But I now know that I was lost back then and that I was looking for something meaningful to do, something bigger than me, that I could focus my energy on. I’d lost my mum to cancer just a few months earlier and so naturally, my mental health wasn’t at its best. It was also a way for me to give back to the hospice that looked after her in her last weeks, as I was going to raise money for them by running.

On the first day of training, I threw on an old pair of trainers I’d found a few years earlier in a hostel where I was a housekeeper. They were a couple of sizes too small for me but I couldn’t really afford to buy a new pair. Turns out a few months later I had to shell out, because I was doing damage to my feet and knees. So I got a credit card and invested in a pair of running shoes adjusted to my gait, along with a new sports bra and a few basic accessories.

My first run was horrendous. I ran for about a minute before I ran out of breath. I thought I was going to die. To imagine myself running for 5 hours just half a year later seemed a completely alien concept to me. I’d never be able to do it, I thought. Thankfully I found the Couch to 5k app which (very) gradually builds you up to running for five entire kilometers without stopping. Low and behold, I got there in the end! This was the hardest part of the journey; it literally took me 3 full months to be able to do that. After that, you can just keep on adding a kilometer to each run, it’s not that much of a stretch.

The problem for me was that I never ended up enjoying running. People said I would catch that “bug”, but it just didn’t happen. But I still had to keep running. In the cold, in the rain, in the snow, in the dark (thanks to extremely short UK winter days!), and in the blistering sunshine.

The challenge of raising £1750 was almost as big of a challenge as preparing for the actual marathon. That’s one heck of a lot of money. Car boot sales, pub quizzes, constant posting on social media, begging friends and colleagues... you have to do whatever you can! This was lots of fun of course, but very difficult to juggle with a full-time job, starting my own business and studying a part-time postgrad. Not to mention dealing with my grief (that doesn’t exactly come with an instruction manual).

On top of this, I was constantly watching Youtube videos and researching correct running techniques, how to avoid injuries, and getting the scoop on healthy nutrition. I was now running three times a week and burning about triple the amount of calories I had been before so I had to stay nourished, and hydrated. And as it turns out, when you’re going on a two-hour run, you can’t put just anything in your stomach. Nor can you eat just any old meal afterwards. I learned this the hard way: funny stomach during runs, emergency stops in public toilets, dizzy spells and nausea after stuffing myself post-run.

Really, nothing about running a marathon is straight-forward! It’s all new ground. But I’m thrilled to report that the actual marathon went very well, and ended relatively injury-free! I ran it in a decent amount of time and stopped to rest just a handful of times. And guess what? I would do it all again!

But do you know what got me through? People. People. I experienced an unparalleled level of generosity from friends, family and strangers. I was touched by humanity’s true beauty.

I learned lots of important lessons during this journey. The first was how to ask for help. This is something that came in very handy for me (and still does) in my recovery from experiencing a huge loss. The second is that you can do anything you set your mind to. People would tell me that they admired me, that they could never do it. But I told them that I had literally said the exact same thing a year earlier, and yet here I was, at the finish line.

Never say never. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. If you want to make excuses, great. But don’t say you can’t, because you can.

Carly Forsaith London Marathon 2019 Entrant 39110