• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #15: Fiona


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 Fiona, who ran VLM19 for Children with Cancer UK. Please read on to hear her story.

Tell me about your running journey

In 2012, one of my daughters became unexpectedly and seriously ill. Life was turned upside down and it was a tough year. A year later I started running. I needed something for me.

I hadn’t really exercised since having children. I was always active and not one to sit on my bum, but didn’t train or work out.

My running journey has been a bit stop-start. I got injured just before my first half, I still ran, but took a few months off afterwards.

Just after I was getting back into running, my daughters health went down hill again and we were back in hospital for surgery, followed by a 9 months recovery. I couldn’t see beyond what was happening with her and gave up running altogether. I realise now, my mental health suffered. It was a huge hurdle to go out and run again. I even felt guilty running when my daughter could barely walk.

A year later, and yet more surgery, I didn’t quit running. I didn’t run a lot, but when family visited, I would try and get 3 miles in. This time, I coped with my daughters surgery and recovery much better. I felt I could focus on life in general. If it was a bad day and she was in pain, I could run and it helped me cope.

She’s had more operations and now a total hip replacement at only 13. Keeping running in all this time has been challenging. But I hope that I am an example to her. Hard work and effort and you can achieve anything. She’s a strong girl and when it gets tough. I often focus on what she has been through, to get me through that mile or up that hill

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

I had a bit of a health kick, after seeing a bit of a tummy on my Christmas photos. I lost half a stone and was running 3-4 times a week and felt good.

My sister in law had always wanted to run a marathon and I didn’t! She got a place for London 2018 and I simply thought, how will you feel if she does a marathon and you don’t? So I set about getting a charity place. It was late in the day and most were full. But in October I found one!

However 2018 was the hottest marathon and I am not great at running in the heat, let a lone a marathon. My day was tougher than hoped and slower than planned.

So I had to do 2019! Unfinished business.

How much have you raised for your charity?

VLM19 I ran for Children with Cancer UK. My husband and I were running together and decided to really go for it and said we would raise £8,000.

We utilised Christmas well, making and selling things in the run up. We also held a Christmas fair. We had a local school run a non uniform day, we did 3 cake sales, a Neales Yard party, Christmas advent raffles, a car boot sale, a gin night and sold London Marathon Training buffs.

It was quite hard work to be honest, but I was a woman on a mission and the charity is important to us, so you keep going.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

2018 – I hoped to finish and then under 5 hours and finished in 5:32. So for VLM19 I knew I could finish, but really wanted under 5 hours and as near to 4:45 as possible.

How did training go?

Through VLM18 training I had suffered with ITB issues, mainly on the left. I had had physio and did exercises to help.

By January 2018 it felt good but during a half in February, my right IT went! Couldn’t believe it. But I know what I needed to do and did all my exercises, even when my daughter was back in hospital. A 21 mile race at the end of March, went so well. It showed that I could finish the marathon in 4.30-4.45, I felt good!

I also had regular sports massage, something I hadn’t done during my first marathon this time, my focus was injury prevention.

What do you love about running?

It has really helped me cope with my daughters health issues. I can run with the weight of the world on my shoulders and then by the time I am home, everything is clearer and in perspective.

My body is much better too. I am heading towards 50. I know I don’t look like a spring chicken, but I’m doing ok! I like the fact it helps me think about my diet. Plus when there’s an occasion to eat and drink, I really enjoy myself and know running will help me burn off those calories!

Do you have a post run treat?

Cheesecake Runner told me about ham and cheese toasties post run – yummy. I also like a handful of nuts after a run, a glass of water and a strong cup of tea.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

All my siblings, partners, their children etc were there to watch this year. I couldn’t wait to see them! I simply love running over tower Bridge – best feeling.

Tell me about race day?

I ran with my husband – that’s pretty special. Our lives are fairly busy and he works away 3 weeks in 5.

The first 14 miles were fantastic. My knee unexpectedly went at 15 and was agony by 17. It affected me a lot from there and I slowed down. There was some walking involved in the last few miles. That was frustrating as I had felt strong going into the race. I usually go half empty attitude (I am just not that good) but did feel really positive this year.

After I crossed the line, I had my medal photo taken and my left leg gave way. I was caught by a steward and wheelchaired to physio. That was fairly memorable!

AND I still managed under 5 hours – 4:54!

How did you celebrate your achievement?

We were hoping to join our charity for a party, but we had so much family with us, that it wasn’t possible. We went for a lovely Italian altogether. Champagne when we got home with my parents.

Fiona You're Awesome! You smashed VLM19!

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