Just over a week ago I ran the London Marathon. Nothing can really prepare you for what a life-affirming and joyful event this is. The joy of the occasion is truly overwhelming and kept me running almost all the way.

Physically, I was ready. I’d followed a good training programme and my long runs after that had taken me to 22 miles up and down the Bristol to Bath Railway path. I can thoroughly recommend it as a practice route.

From cancer to marathon is quite a process

Anyone who has had a life-threatening disease may understand what a big deal it is to go from having cancer to running a marathon in three years. Chemotherapy, the operation and radiotherapy had all completely rinsed me out. For a long time, managing to work felt like enough of an achievement.

Exercise and sensible weight management help reduce the risk of re-occurrence of cancer and also the risk of getting it in the first place. That knowledge was enough to start me running. I gradually increased my running distance over several running events, raising money for cancer charities. By late 2018 I decided that the Marathon was doable and that I would ask the people of Bristol West to help me, including deciding who they wanted me to run in aid of.

Your support got me over the finish line

People in Bristol West have been fantastic, letting me join in running sessions, cheering me on and wishing me luck when you see me out training. The messages on social media, emails and warm wishes in the street have been overwhelming. Thank you so much!

My family cheerleading squad was also amazing. They were just as amazing, and just as well organised, when I had cancer so it was no surprise to me but an utter privilege to feel so loved and encouraged by those who were there in person and those who were following me on the app from home. I am also grateful to the crucial person who got me running in the first place, Emilie – thanks!

BDP’s Youth Groups: the charity you chose for me to fundraise for

All along the way, whenever I felt a dip in energy, I thought of the children and young people who use the Bristol Drugs Project’s youth groups I was running to support. They’d sent me beautiful good luck letters and pictures, including one who had written “I hope you come first, second or third!”.  I am looking forward to coming to meet them all and thanking the children and young people for their faith in me as soon as possible.

I’m still collecting for the BDP Youth Groups – £300 is enough to fund one group session which helps children and young people who have a parent with problematic alcohol or drug use. £350 is the average cost of a session with external activities, such as horse riding or trampolining. Such sessions are a real treat for children living in very difficult circumstances. So far I’ve raised more than £5,000, which will fund a good number of group sessions. If you want to help pay for some more, you can do so on my fundraising page. The money goes direct to BDP, there is no commission or charges.

Thank you to everyone who has donated or helped me choose this great cause in the first place. And to BDP – thank you for everything you do. You are amazing.

Crossing Tower Bridge with my colleague Steph Peacock.
Crossing Tower Bridge with my colleague Steph Peacock.

Would I do it again?

Totally! The crowds, with their brilliant and witty homemade signs of encouragement (“you’re running better than the government!”, “Touch here for more energy!”, “toenails are over-rated anyway!”, “good luck random stranger!”), for their jelly babies, slices of orange, offers of drinks, local bands playing music and people cheering us all on every single step of the way. These are things I would love to experience again

The event was everything I love about Britishness, about human beings at their best, about kindness. I want to do it again – and get a better time.

So what’s next? I’ve found out over the course of the last year that it is trail running, not road, that I really love. And I have a few trail race goals over the next year, to stretch myself further and increase my fitness but most of all to enjoy the feeling of running through a wood, across a hill-top, along a river – all great for mental health.

Whatever your ability, whatever your preferences, finding a form of exercise which gives you joy as well as keeping fit is a truly life-enhancing experience. There is loads out there in Bristol – if you haven’t found your thing yet, try Everyone Active as a starting point. And have fun!

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