• Helen Phillips

Meet Our Marathoners #5 Julie


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 Julie, a busy new mum who ran her first marathon VLM18. Read below to learn how she managed her running with her diabetes.

Tell me about your running journey

My ‘running journey’ all started back in December 2016 when I signed up for the 1st ever Great Aberdeen Run half marathon with a few colleagues due to take place in August 2017, with the aim to also lose a few pounds.

Shortly after signing up however, I found out I was pregnant so instead of losing some pounds I was about to add quite a few! My desire to run the first ever Great Run in Aberdeen was shattered, but on the plus side I’d have a beautiful baby to contend to instead (along with my 3 other children!).

June 2017 comes and baby Emily is born by c-section and my jealousy of seeing my colleagues train for the Great Run was growing and growing. 4 weeks post birth I decided I needed to move the excess weight (whilst lugging around 2 pints of breast milk with me) and just maybe I could push myself to finish the 10k.

I train hard whenever I could. Race day comes (8 weeks post birth) and I don’t tell anyone I’m competing. I decided to just go for it and do the half marathon thinking at least if I pull out, no one would know I was involved anyway!

I was delighted to get round the full half marathon course to find some friends and family cheering me on as my husband obviously couldn’t keep a secret! The feeling of crossing the finish line was one I’ll never forget and though I felt ready to die, I knew I my body was amazing.

Tell me about why you wanted to run the marathon?

October 2017 comes and I read on some social media sites how many people were disappointed to not secure a place in VLM 2018. I didn’t know what all the hype was about so I started looking into it.

I thought what an amazing race and achievement if I could ever be involved. I could also get a weekend off from the kids to travel to London which is approx. 550miles away from my home!

I’d missed the boat to apply for a ballot place (I was still pregnant when it opened), so I applied to Diabetes UK for a charity place and luckily enough in Nov 2017 I got one.

I was over the moon, nervous and excited. Then reality struck when I realised I had to train for a marathon, raise £1850 for charity and bring up 4 kids all within 5 months!

Tell me about your training

My running gave me time to imagine what it would be like to be involved, and gave me time to think about how I was going to raise all that money. I read various running plans but with such a hectic lifestyle, I struggled to stick to it though I tried to do a longer run each weekend.

From no running at all to all this training however, I suffered badly from shin splints. I tried everything! It cost me a fortune too! I tried new customised trainers, orthotic insoles, massages, acupuncture, relaxing muscle oils and sprays, foam rolling, NHS and private physiotherapy! I found out I needed to work on my glute muscles and lift the heels of my feet instead of dragging my legs as I run. I was still so weak after giving birth it hadn‘t occurred to me that I’d need strength work!

Jan 2018 I was able to start my training again with little but proper running form. I felt anxious to pick up speed and go further but I needed to take it slowly to progress. I kept a diary of how I felt and the distances I went.

In February 2018 I was up to around 10 miles for my long runs, and I held a charity night for family and friends all whom supported me so much that I’ll be forever grateful. I smashed my fundraising target in 1 night! The fact that I’m type 1 diabetic myself made people realise why I was raising money for such a worthy charity.

Tell me about race day

21st April came around a lot quicker than I expected and I felt like such an amateur compared to everyone else in the expo but the atmosphere was amazing and overwhelming at times. I bought so much merchandise and soaked it all in as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

22nd April comes and I fight my way to the tube station to find thousands of other runners there and I think I’ll never make it to the start line never mind the finish.

It all ran very smoothly however and I even met a fellow type 1 diabetic also running for Diabetes UK. We are now friends on facebook and it’s great to share experiences with someone else with the condition.

The start line approached and I was so nervous and so hot in the scorching sun that day. I gave a friendly wave as I passed over it and high fived a few kids for the first few miles of the race.

Mile 10 approached and I’m done! The heat has taken it all out of me and I suddenly realise my sugar levels are low so I grab a Lucozade and keep going. All my preparation using gels was out the window as I felt I couldn’t stomach them in the heat. Thankfully the Lucozade worked a treat and I carried one the rest of the way round topping up when I needed.

The Canary wharf area seemed to go on forever, perhaps because I walked quite a bit of it but I thought it’d never end. People were cheering but by now I could barely give them a smile let alone keep running. I hated running at this point and said never, ever again!

Then finally, Big Ben was in sight and I get a lease of life. I knew the finish line was close and I was actually going to do this.

I knew friends at home were tracking me so that encouraged me to pick up speed, plus my husband would be there waiting for me with sweets, hugs and eager to see my new bling! I still get choked up thinking of that last stretch but what an amazing experience to cross that finish line with everyone saying well done, congratulations, giving high fives.

My phone went crazy with text messages, facebook messages, phone calls.

As much as I love my husband and kids, this was one of the best days of my life. I’d worked so hard and it’d all paid off.

How did being diabetic impact your training?

Being type 1 diabetic means I need to balance my glucose levels so I wear an insulin pump 24-hrs a day. Whenever I eat I count my carbohydrates and deliver more insulin to cover the food. When I exercise I take less insulin.

Breast feeding is like exercise to the body so I already needed to take less insulin for this but with the running increasing also, I struggled to find a balance and found myself eating a lot of jelly babies during my runs or gels, and sometimes just having stop as I was exhausted with no more energy in the tank.

These days were hard. On one particular day, I completed a short run but it was the fastest I’d done that route so I was chuffed to upload the data to strava. Soon after however I found myself in the back of an ambulance after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode where my glucose levels dropped so quickly I was unable to catch them in time. This caused a lot of anxiety for while, even causing my levels to be too high as I I wanted to make sure they didn’t drop so suddenly again.

I kept my eye on the prize knowing how much money I’d raised for Diabetes UK and how in the long term this could benefit me and these hypos, plus I remembered the feeling of crossing the finish line.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

Being quite competitive, I’d have loved to finish in 4 hours, but I actually took 4:43:35. Given the heat and the crowds, I’m happy enough with this.

As it turns out, family and friends don’t care about your time but the fact I manage to complete 26.2 whole miles!!

What do you love about running?

I love to put on my music and have time to me, without kids, to just think, ideally in sunny but not too hot weather.

Do you have a favourite post run treat?

I love food, so running allows me to eat pretty much what I like without feeling too guilty. Training however meant I really needed to pay attention to what I was eating not just for my weight but to help me improve my runs. I know eating junk food is going to make that run much harder.

How did you celebrate your marathon running success?

The trip to London alone was a celebration for my husband and I (child free woohoo). I’ve cast it up ever since to my mother by sending her pics of me with my medal every now and then as a reminder, haha. I think she’s now fed up hearing about it but still so proud of me!

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.