‘It will be a show of unity, togetherness and hope’: Norfolk runners reflect on London Marathon postponement
PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 April 2020
On Sunday, April 26, for thousands of runners months of training, pounding the pavements in all weathers, was supposed to culminate in the London Marathon. With the event postponed until October, we meet some of the Norfolk runners who were due to take part.
Chloe, 20, from Acle has a place to run the London Marathon for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which looked after her sister, Ella, and gave her a lifesaving heart transplant.
“I’m not a professional runner at all but started running for enjoyment last summer so my friend and I both entered the London Marathon ballot, and I also decided to apply for a Great Ormond Street Hospital place. The reason I chose GOSH is because my older sister, Ella, was diagnosed with an incurable heart condition when she was a baby. GOSH looked after her until she turned 19 and had to be transferred to an adult’s hospital, and this included a life-saving heart transplant in 2011. My family and I have raised more than £10,000 for GOSH since Ella’s operation and I wanted to continue that with the marathon.
“I can imagine I speak for a lot of people when I say initially the postponement was a massive blow. I’d known it had been coming but when I heard that it had been confirmed my heart sank.
“It felt like months of blood, sweat, tears and miles had been for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with the decision and have done since it was made, it is absolutely the right thing to do. But it was still quite hard to take at the beginning. I also personally really struggled with motivation to keep running initially.
“However, my mindset changed pretty quickly and now I’m seeing it as more of a positive than a negative. I’ve rediscovered my love of running for enjoyment which has massively helped with my physical and mental wellbeing throughout lockdown thus far. I also know it gives me longer to train, I know I’ll run a better race than I would have this Sunday, and I’ll be a part of an incredible day in October.
“When the race happens, it will mean so much more to everyone than it would have done this week, and even that would have been a lot. It will be a show of unity, togetherness and hope. A symbol that we can get through the tough times and all come out the other side together. And I feel honoured to know I will be a part of it.”
Go to justgiving.com/fundraising/chloslondonmarathon if you’d like to sponsor Chloe.
A 23-year-old primary school teacher from Hevingham, Daisy is running her second London Marathon, to raise funds for Breast Cancer Now.
“When I first heard that the marathon was cancelled I cried. I had worked so hard on my training and suddenly it all meant nothing. Not only that but you make sacrifices with training like not going out, etc and then that was all for nothing. I’m also running for a charity, so I felt like I had let the people who had sponsored me down. However, I now realise that it actually means I have longer to raise more money for the charity and increase my fitness.
“Last year I ran for the British Heart Foundation and for my dad who suffered from a heart attack five years ago. This year I was running for Breast Cancer Now and for my mum. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last August. It was a heartbreaking diagnosis, but she has been amazing and so positive throughout everything. She finished her treatment in February and is doing well. She is my inspiration.
“My training had been going really well. I ran the marathon last year and previous to that I was not a runner at all. This year I felt fitter and stronger than last year. My pace had increased and I was feeling good. I found out the marathon was cancelled on the Friday and I was meant to be running a 20-mile training run on the Saturday morning so it meant I didn’t do that. The furthest I had run in my training was 18 miles. I run with a running club who are great for motivation. Training is not easy on your own and getting up at 4.30am to eat something before a long run is hard. But remembering why I’m training – for my mum – made it easier. I have been running most days since I found out it was cancelled I have just brought my mileage down. I just need to maintain my fitness at the moment. I ran 10 miles at the weekend and plan on doing 13.1 miles (a half marathon) this weekend.
“The whole experience of running the London Marathon was amazing, I loved every minute! The crowd were incredible and all cheering you on. Seeing my family and friends along the way was also amazing and really spurred me on. It was highly emotional day, my dad was my inspiration, but one I can’t wait to do all over again.”
Go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaisyClarke1 if you’d like to sponsor Daisy.
Mitch, 33, from Holt, started his training on New Year’s Day. He’s running to raise money for Children With Cancer UK in memory of his dad and uncle’s sister, Suzi, who died of cancer before she got a chance to become an adult.
“The mileage was really starting to get heavy and I’d heard mutterings from late February that the marathon could be postponed, but I carried on. The news of Covid-19 got louder and from more creditable sources and it played on my mind and deflated me and my training levels fell off a cliff before the postponement. When the announcement came of the postponement I was instantly disappointed as my fundraising was really starting to take off and I was in decent form, but I thought about it and took an ‘it is what it is’ attitude towards it and gave myself a few weeks off to get rid of the niggles the training had given me and reset my mind.
“Since the lockdown I’ve trained every day, whether it be going out on my bike or running. I’ve not been pushing myself doing big distances as the new goal is months away so I do small distances working on my speed and generally just enjoying paying attention and appreciating my surroundings. A lot of my football mates have joined Strava and it’s good to see them running and chatting to them in the group chat about it.
“I ran the London Marathon last year and it was such an experience – one thing that I’d always wanted to do. The atmosphere is something to be experienced, even if you’re just watching. You can’t put it into words – it has to be felt. I was happy I’d done it but I crossed the finish line with regret finishing in 4:25, knowing I was chasing my dad’s 3:45 from 2000. Knowing full well I could do better I got bitter about it and felt like I’d failed and fell in some bad habits which consumed my mind. So after a few weeks I applied again and this year I’m running for Children With Cancer UK.
I will be running on Sunday. Children With Cancer UK has organised a virtual ‘together as one’ race, conforming with the government’s rules, which is to run as far as you can within a one hour time limit from 9.30am. I hope to do as close as I can to eight miles within that time and dependant on how I feel I may just go a little bit more.”
Go to justgiving.com/fundraising/mitchell-hare1 if you’d like to sponsor Mitch.
Nathan, 27, from Hethersett, is running in memory of his dad, who died of kidney cancer in January, to raise money for Big C.
“I was initially really disheartened to hear the marathon has been postponed; to a certain extent I think it was because I had really stepped up my training the last few months, but the main feeling of disappointment was that I have to put on hold making my dad proud.
“My dad was a larger than life man who always put others before himself and he was very proactive with raising money for charities. He was super active and he did the Three Peaks Challenge two years ago for charity with his partner. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in July 2019 and had to have it removed. The operation went as successfully as possible and we thought we were on the road to recovery, but sadly it was too aggressive and it spread to various areas and became untreatable. He passed away on January 8. He knew about me running the marathon and it meant an awful lot to him and brought him a rare bit of optimism and joy in his final months.
“I think once you hear the news that the marathon has been postponed, it’s easy to feel deflated, but I have managed to maintain a fairly high level of endurance training. On Sunday I’m going to be doing a half marathon, running from my house in Hethersett into Norwich and back instead.
“The London Marathon will be my first full marathon. I’ve completed the Norwich Half Marathon three times and the Sydney Half Marathon once. The atmosphere in Sydney was incredible, as well as taking in all the sights. I have watched the London Marathon on television and the atmosphere looks even better, so I’m extra buzzed for that. I’ve tried to get a place in the London Marathon for the past three years and it’s something I’ve always said I’ve wanted to do, so it’s extra poignant considering the circumstances.”
Go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NathanCooper6 if you’d like to sponsor Nathan.
Jack, 29, from Coltishall is running the London Marathon and Manchester Marathon to raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of his mum, who died in 2007, and his dad who died last year.
“I’m a member of Coltishall Jaguars Running Club and have been running for approximately three years. I had a place for the London and Manchester Marathons. I signed up for the Manchester Marathon after being unsuccessful in the London Marathon and then I was lucky enough to be one of two people picked out in my running club ballot for a London place too.
“Leading up to the marathons I was running 40-50 miles a week but since the postponements I’ve lowered my weekly mileage to approximately 25 miles a week. I will gradually start to increase mileage again 16 weeks before the London Marathon when my training plan will kick in again.
“I was disappointed that the races were cancelled, but it was the right decision. Manchester would have been my first marathon. I’ve been training so hard and have felt physically fit so on Sunday April 5, which would have been the day of the Manchester Marathon, I went out at 6.30am and ran the distance by myself in the countryside and completed it in my target time of 2:59:00. It felt great.
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“Originally the two marathons were three weeks apart. However, they now have been postponed to just a week apart. I still plan to run both of them later in the year, because I still want to experience my first proper marathon and because people have donated so generously, I want to fulfil what I originally set out to do.”
Go to justgiving.com/fundraising/jack-stuttle if you’d like to sponsor Jack.
Leanne, from Norwich, got her place for this year’s London Marathon after many tries. On Sunday she will be taking part in the #TwoPointSixChallenge, where participants take part in activities based around the numbers 2.6 or 26, to raise money for Norwich social enterprise The Feed.
“After years of unsuccessful ballot entries I was honoured to have been awarded the club place by my running club, the Bure Valley Harriers. My training schedule drawn up by my coach Brenda really kicked off in January and I was running six days a week, sometimes twice a day, I was absolutely loving it and getting faster and stronger than ever before. Then on Friday, March 13, I got the news that the decision had been made to postpone the marathon. That coming Sunday I had biggest pre-marathon race on the schedule, the Milton Keynes 20-miler. It was bittersweet, but I felt like I needed to go and give it my all and after running this in a sub-three hour time my confidence was soaring. I knew a sub-four hour marathon was well within my reach, when I eventually get to run it.
“I’m keeping up with my training as much as I can whilst adhering to the government guidelines. The long distances have decreased, as living in the city centre restricts the time I can spend outside without coming into contact with people. In addition I’m doing home workouts and online fitness classes. I’ve decided not to let the marathon day pass me by without acknowledgement so I’ll be doing my own personal challenge. On Sunday I will be taking part in the #TwoPointSixChallenge which has just been launched by the London Marathon.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far and am busy planning for Sunday, collating the exercises which have been nominated and drawing up the route of my run around NR3 to pass by my friends and neighbours’ houses.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge and marking the day which means so much to me and I’m just over the moon that I can help a local charity, The Feed, who are doing some amazing work at this difficult time. The plans are coming together, I’ve had a friend offer to do a live DJ set via Facebook to play motivational music for me, I’ve been lent a static bike stand for one of the challenges and the local pub has lent me some backboards to draw up the exercise schedule and I’ve got lots of requests for houses to run past so I’m in the process of mapping out my route.”
See Leanne’s fundraising page on justgiving.com if you’d like to sponsor her.
Jonathan, 52, is chairman of the Dereham Runners and is running in memory of his brother, Julian, who died in 2017.
“This Sunday, April 26, is a ‘special’ date, with it being my late brother’s birthday. Julian died on June 22, 2017.
“I am planning on going for a run on Sunday and will be planning 26.2 km rather than the 26.2 miles of a marathon. There is a 2.6 (run/walk/cycle/swim any distance to include two and six in the final distance completed) fundraising challenge being arranged for this Sunday to support all charities that would have benefited from the London Marathon, and other marathon events.
“I’ve run in other ‘big city’ marathons such as Rome, Paris, Marrakech and Palma, and the atmosphere at London is just something that overshadows all other events. The support along all of the route is incredible, and that feeling to turn the corner at Buckingham Palace to see the finish line on The Mall is one to live with someone for a lifetime.
“Whilst I’m a keen runner having done about 40 marathons/ultras, London Marathon will always be the ‘special one’. Having run the event back in 2006, I have applied every year since but have always received the rejection letter via the ballot, 14 times. The running club I am now chairman of, Dereham Runners, have a single place allocated each year, and I was fortunate to have my name drawn in their own ballot for this year’s marathon.
“Training for the marathon had been going well in the couple events run this year, with completion of Peddars Way Ultra (48 miles) and most recently, the Cambridge Half Marathon in a personal best of 1:44:39 – this my best time for seven years.
“Obviously the postponement of the event is disappointing not only because of what it means to a runner, but also personally for my brother’s memory. But I will go into the rearranged date of October 4 with the same mindset, and running for my brother.”
Fran, 45, from Mundford, is running for the Norfolk Community Sports Foundation with her colleague Lynne Hall and ex-Norwich professional footballer Simon Lappin.
“I was lucky enough to be offered my place a few months ago when the Community Sports Foundation was given two places in December. We were all putting in the training hours in recent weeks. On the day I found out of the postponement I had almost hit my fundraising target and managed to get up to 18 miles, which was a real achievement for me.
“This would have been my first marathon. I completed a couple of half marathons last year, but as I haven’t run more than 13 miles, and that was tough, this has been a real challenge for me.
“I know I will feel disappointed on Sunday knowing that I won’t be running that day, but in truth with everything that is happening I am just grateful to be healthy and knowing my family are OK. Once this is all over I will pick those trainers up again and give it my best shot!”
Go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FranBrown6 if you’d like to sponsor Fran.
This year’s marathon would have been a first for Arron, 29, from Buxton. He won’t be able to take part on the rescheduled date, so he is deferring his place until next year.
“Even though I could completely understand why they had cancelled the event, I still felt truly gutted about the news. What was worse was I cannot do the marathon on the postponed date in October as I will be away for my 30th, so that meant I would have to delay my chance until next year.
“The part I had struggled with most over this was the thought that the training had all gone to nothing. As part of my marathon schedule, I was running between 50-60 miles, training nearly eight times a week, which to someone like me who has never done this before, really does take it out of you both physically and mentally. At times I had found it difficult as I was never really around at home because of training, but I knew that the training was worth it especially with the target of aiming for a marathon time of sub 3.30 would be possible if I kept this up and my wife, Becky, was very supportive throughout that time.
“The Sunday after I had been told of the news, I was meant to have done 22 miles, but during the run it was as if my mind and body had shut down and I had to stop at 10 miles. It was so bad that I had to get my wife to pick me up in the middle of nowhere, which I had never done before.
“I am a part of a great running club called Bure Valley Harriers and our coach, Brenda, has been keeping us on our toes during this crisis with weekly activities. I wouldn’t be able to do them all as I do try and keep a balance with running and enjoying walks with my wife, but I still do my best to go out for a run around eight, 10 or 12 miles every Sunday.
“I had never run a marathon before so it was going to be my first. I have done a couple of half marathons in the past and also participated in the Round Norfolk Relay for my club. Last year I had to do one of the longer legs of 16.6 miles which, at the time, was the furthest I had ever run. It is something I have always wanted to try and I was one of the very lucky people who got through the normal ballet after my third time of trying. However, I still wanted to raise money and awareness for a charity that is close to my heart, Endometriosis UK, because my wife has the severe chronic illness. They were very appreciative of the support and were even going to send me a vest that I could use.”
For Graham Bloomfield, 40, who grew up in Norwich and moved to Cambridge in the last five years, the London Marathon was supposed to see him complete the London Classics series, which also inlcudes the RideLondon-Surrey 100 bike ride and Swim Serpentine.
“Training had been going well. My training plan started first week of January and I had been steadily building up the miles and aside from a week out with a calf niggle I had been injury free. A key focus for me was to keep my eating sensible as the miles increased – there is a running joke that you know you are training for a marathon when it’s 10am and you’ve already eaten your lunch as well as breakfast – and aside from my 40th birthday in late January I had given up alcohol and therefore lost well over a stone which made the training runs much easier. I was really pleased with myself at heading out for my long runs on a Sunday morning when we had a series of storms what seemed like every weekend earlier in the year.
“Since the postponement I have reduced the running as it would not be sensible to maintain that mileage through to the postponed marathons in the autumn, but I am still going out three to four times a week but mixed up with some cycling for variety. I think there is potentially some doubt as to whether the events will take place in the autumn, but my 16-week training plan for Edinburgh starts in late May through to September 6 and then I will keep the mileage up for London hopefully a month later
“I have completed five marathons to date – Brighton twice, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Nottingham’s Outlaw Triathlon, which is an iron distance event finishing with a marathon. My first marathon was Brighton in 2017. The atmosphere was amazing and the finish was very emotional. For that run and again in 2018 we raised money for Breast Cancer Care which was very important to me personally. My running started in 2008 with Norwich Half Marathon to raise money for the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital who were incredible when my son Dylan was born and I have also done a lot of events for Each hospices. Therefore, more recently I have done events for the challenge as friends, family and colleagues have already been so generous donating before – and I didn’t raise money at the Outlaw as I genuinely didn’t think I could complete it.”
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