• Helen Phillips

Meet our Marathoners #1 Joanne


Not everyone can run a marathon. You have to be a special kind of determined and crazy to train and then complete 26.2 miles on the day.

In my Meet Our Marathoners series we meet ordinary people who have battled through and achieved extraordinary.

Today we meet Joanne, who ran VLM18, her second marathon, going from couch to marathon in 28 weeks.

Tell me about your running journey

In the 1980’s I ran a bit and did a few Great North Runs. In 1989, after watching London Marathon on TV, feeling emotional and motivated, I decided I wanted to run the race. I did, and it was one of the best experiences of my life, finishing my first and what I thought would be my last marathon.

Nearly every year after than race, I watched it on TV and the last few years I kept thinking I’d love to do it again.

I entered the ballot in 2016 but wasn’t successful and entered it one more time in 2017, not thinking I would get in.

In October 2017 I was an unfit, fat, fifty one year old facing a huge personal challenge. But I wanted to show myself, and anyone else who would listen, that you can get fit enough in 26 weeks to complete the best marathon in the world.

Did you run for a charity?

Even though I had a ballot place I chose to support 2 charities, Macmillan Cancer Support and 4Louis.

I’ve been very lucky that neither myself nor my immediate family have had to use either of these charities, but my inspiration were friends and work colleagues and their families who have been supported by these 2 wonderful charities. I’m sure without this motivation I may have given up.

I set myself the goal to raise £1000 and did memory miles and a sweepstake to raise money.

Memory miles were inspirational not only in training but on the day. What turned out to be a fundraiser became so much more.

I also started writing a blog which I updated every Sunday, so people could see my journey and feel part of it promoting my fundraising link at every opportunity.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My training plan had me running 15 minutes per mile, so my goal was to finish around 6 hrs 30.

OMG race day! It took me 8 hrs 1 minute 9 seconds!

I was so disappointed I cried buckets in the first week and it took me ages to come to terms with the disappointment. I was the only one who thought this all my friends and family thought I was still marvellous!

How’s did training go?

I followed the My ASICS plan as it was straight forward and easy to use.

Initially I followed C25K - I was panting like a dog in the first couple of weeks but stuck with it.

I trained mainly in the gym from October to December. I was too scared to go outside as I was really self-conscious (the reality is though most people just don’t care). However, once I ventured outside I loved it! Running on a treadmill is good for early mornings when it’s dark or icy outside, but it’s much better to run outside, it’s not so boring.

I missed a few runs when I was ill and during a January holiday but I was straight back on it after.

However, I didn’t understand the different runs I should be doing in my training plan, so never really got any faster. This is a mistake I’m trying to rectify for my training this time around for VLM19.

I did my long runs on Sunday’s. My fantastically supportive husband would drop me off the required number of miles away from home so I ran back. This worked for me, as I couldn’t give in if I wanted to get home.

Hubby was always close by in a lay-by if needed him for an emergency, but I never did. Although he provided well needed words of encouragement during the cold months of winter.

I doubted myself all the time and still do. But I tried to learn and told lots of other people that they should trust in their plan and it will get you to the starting line with the ability to finish.

Starting in October was tough as training was relentless for 28 weeks. This year I’m plodding along but proper training doesn’t start until January.

What do you love about running?

The freedom and time to think is what I enjoy most about running. It also helps to boost your confidence.

The support I got from other runners was amazing, from meeting people on my runs to the online blogs.

What were the best bits about race day?

I helped set up the blue start snails group so couldn’t wait to meet some of them on the day.

The Crowds. Getting my medal. Seeing my husband at the end. Everyone afterwards on the tube, in hotel and going home next day on train treated me like a celeb.

Telling everyone I DID IT.

I knew this would be a huge physical challenge as i hadnt exercised for 28 years but i didnt bank on how emotional it would be. Running a marathon is only 50% pyhsical the other is 50% mental.

Honestly if i can anyone can but you have to want it and be mentally strong.

How did you celebrate your marathon running success?

It was low key as I was exhausted and I think dehydrated. Went back to the hotel and had a hot shower.

I had a glass of champers, cried at all the messages on FB and ate chocolate.

If you could choose who would present your finishers bling who would it be?

This is easy Kevin Keegan - I’m a football fan and seeing KK Run the Great North Run started my running journey. He’s still my heart throb!

If you're already thinking about your marathon next year, you'll be pleased to hear Marathon Club Hub is now open.

Marathon Club Hub is my training & preparation programme for first and next time marathoners to provide you all the advice, information and support you need to get ready to run.

Click HERE to join Marathon Club Hub to get going with your training for next spring.