• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #3: Rachael


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 VLM19 Meet Our Marathoners Series we meet ordinary people who have battled through and achieved extraordinary.

Today we meet Rachael, who ran VLM19 for Mind. Please read on to hear her story. If you'd like to support Rachael with her fundraising click here.

Tell me about your running journey

I first started running in 2014, completing a Santa Dash for charity with a group of friends. I felt like a champion crossing the finish line after 5k having never properly ‘ran’ before.

Between then and signing up for London, I’ve kept up one or two 5k runs a week and a completed a couple of ‘fun runs’ like Colour Run and Run to the Beat.

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

I first applied for the ballot in 2012. I had always loved watching the marathon on TV and decided it was a bucket list dream that I’d like to achieve sooner rather than later.

How much have you raised for your charity?

I ran for Mind and had the target of £2,000 which I’ve reached.

I have been incredibly lucky to have very kind and generous friends and family members so I am feeling fortunate that other than a lot of social media sharing, I haven’t needed to run any fundraising events.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

I wanted to finish in 04:30:00 this time was based on my half marathon time. But as injuries happened it was a case of getting to the finish line (still hoped for a sub 5 but it wasn’t meant to be on the day).

How did your training go?

My training started off brilliantly, I stuck to every run on my plan and signed up to my first half (Queen Elizabeth Park Half).

During the final mile, I heard a lady shout “if you want to finish in under two hours you need to hurry up!” I wanted that so bad I sprinted as if I was being chased by a lion and finished in 01:57:54. However, knew I had damaged my ankle in the process.

I am quite a stubborn person so assumed it would get better on it’s own if I had a rest from running. Three weeks later, it felt better so I did a few short runs and then signed up to a 13 miler with the influencers ‘Twice the Health’. Two miles in my ankle felt just like it did after the half and I aborted mission and ordered an Uber.

I was recommended an amazing physio who I have seen every week since!

It was only two weeks before the marathon I was finally given the green light to run again and had to quickly build up those miles in a plan she described as unorthodox. I got to 18 miles just eight days before and was so glad I continued to cycle throughout my injured period to maintain my fitness.

What did you hate about training / running?

People! A lot of my training runs took me through central London (running home from work) and it really made me realise how important it is to ‘look up’ as a pedestrian rather than my phone so I don’t bump into runners like plenty of people walked into me, completely oblivious to the fact I am coming towards them.

What did you love about training and running?

I loved the achievement of reaching each milestone in distance and time and that amazing feeling of saying “I’m ONLY doing 10 miles today!”

I love to keep me sane – when I was injured I really noticed the difference in my mood and mental health!

Do you have a favourite post run treat?

Strawberry Yazoo Milkshake

Do you have any running “superstitions”?

Triple drains must be avoided and there are SO many in London.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

The crowds – everyone had said how amazing they were and they really did live up to expectations. A shout out to the Dementia Revolution cheer points – WOW, I haven’t heard noise like it, even for runners from other charities.

Tell me about race day?

I began the day by meeting other Mind runners staying/living near me and we travelled to Greenwich together. It was great having others to talk to on the way and know we would be there in plenty of time.

We then had various Mind meeting points and photo opportunities throughout the morning and it was great to speak to other Mind runners – we had all spent so long talking on our Facebook group beforehand, it was lovely putting names to faces of people who I genuinely believe will be lifelong friends.

I headed off to the start line with two other runners and slowly walked to the start line. Crossing the actual start was quite underwhelming, we were suddenly there and off! As soon as I crossed the start line, I knew I had less than a marathon left.

The first half was amazing, I felt strong, my pace varied between 09:58, 09:59 and 10:00 minute miles (the best pacing I’d ever done) and I knew I had the sub 4.5 finish in the bag. It was great seeing friends and family in the crowd and chatting with other Mind runners along the way.

Seeing Tower Bridge was the greatest feeling and one I’d longed for, to me that really made me feel like I was running the London marathon!

I got over the bridge and my stomach started to hurt. I knew the feeling straight away – an IBS flare up. I have never had it whilst running before and normally know what the triggers are. I had not eaten or drank anything different or unusual. The best way to get rid of it is normally lying in a foetal position.

I knew I still had a long way to go and could see the mile 22 marker on the other side of the road. I tried to ignore it and still thanked every person who cheered my name. But inside I was feeling a lot of discomfort and feeling quite emotional. I stopped to use the toilet three times between mile 14 and mile 22 and had accepted the time goal was out the window, it was just a case of finishing!

I also had to start jeffing. Personally, I only wanted to run a marathon. I take my hat off to people who walk/run the whole way, but for me personally if I complete a marathon, it would be running the whole way. I saw friends around the mile 23 mark and just wanted to cry to them but didn’t have the energy other than to tell them to feel how bloated and hard my stomach was.

My family were waiting along the Embankment. It felt like miles away. Before starting, a Mind runner asked me if I felt like living in London had it’s advantages. I was now thinking definitely not as I know how far this straight road is along the embankment. By now, I was also experiencing waves of sickness and just knew at some point I was going to vomit. There crowds lined every part of the street and I really didn’t want to throw up in front of people. I eventually found a gap and an empty beer cup and vomited.

Almost instantly I felt as right as rain and ran the whole way to the end finishing at 05:11:08. The adrenaline quickly ran out and I felt sick again. I smiled for a quick photo and dashed to my lorry to collect my bag and needed to get my Yazoo milkshake inside me!

The experience wasn’t bad enough to put me off and I’ve got some unfinished business getting that sub 4.5!

Rachael You're Awesome! You smashed VLM19!

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.