• Helen Phillips

Meet our marathoners #8 Catherine


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 Catherine, who trained and ran Paris18 after her breast cancer diagnosis. She ran VLM19 as a celebration and closure of that chapter of her life. Please read on to hear her story.

Tell me about your running journey

I've run on and off since my late teens but joined a running club at the end of 2015 and that's when my running really took off.

I started doing weekly Parkruns and training with the club twice a week. Joining the club I also made lots of new friends.

My first marathon was in 2017 in Brighton. I had been aiming for a sub 4 but only managed 4hrs 13 mins due to a freak hot day.

I had also discovered a lump in my right axilla (armpit) a couple of weeks before and was waiting for the biopsy results so my mind was probably a bit preoccupied and not focused on running.

What happened next?

A few days after running Brighton I was diagnosed with breast cancer and this turned my whole world upside down.

I immediately signed up to run Paris marathon the following year (2018). This was my immediate reaction ... to tell the cancer I would not let it beat me and having the goal of running Paris gave me something to focus on throughout my treatment.

Did you run Paris for a charity?

I ran for Breast Cancer Haven which is a charity I have used many times for massages and other therapies through my treatment. I found massage particularly useful for scar massaging, as my scar area felt tight and uncomfortable.

I was aiming to raise £3k but raised £4500 myself and a total of £6200 with the support of others.

My proudest moment was when my 20 year old son ran his first half marathon for me and raised £600!

For my fundraising I held a raffle, a quiz night, a charity dinner party and a cake sale, and my 50th birthday gifts were all for the Breast Cancer Haven.

Did you have a goal for Paris?

I didn't have a time goal for Paris as I just wanted to kick cancer and finish. I ended up Jeffing and did a respectable 4.40.

How did training go?

Training wasn't great because I was drained from the treatment I was receiving. But I did what I could and the idea I could Jeff during training and on the day kept me going.

How did running help in your fight against your cancer?

Running helped mainly because of the support I got from my fellow club runners, I got so much support. They helped me by running with me, because I found running alone too hard as I had dark thoughts about my illness and my future.

What do you love about running?

I love the head space. I love running with music or with mates as I love the camaraderie.

What's not so great?

I hate running in the rain and in the cold. I always get freezing hands and last winter ended up crying as we ran in the snow and my hands were soooo cold.

Also don't really enjoy running in the dark I'm a real summer runner.

I also hate that my cancer and my medication have made me a slow runner (from a 22.30 5km to a 28 5k). I hate it when people say “well at least you're still here to run”. Becoming slow has made me less passionate about running as I feel that now I'm just another slow middle-aged runner.

Do you have a favourite post run treat?

I tend to have no appetite after running but a cup of tea in a hot bath with a Lush bathbomb. Cant beat that!!!

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

My Dad who was a runner himself but never ran a marathon. He died 13 years ago on New Year's Day after a very short battle with a brain tumour.

You're running VLM19, what are you most looking forward to on race day?

For VLM the finish line!!

My cancer journey was a marathon at the end of treatment and VLM will be a celebration and closure of that chapter of my life.

Paris marathon was an emotional finish, as it was my way of telling cancer I would beat it and I did.

One of my running friends, Beverley trained and ran the whole way with me, so we crossed the finish line holding hands.

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.