• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #11: Donna


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 Donna, who ran VLM19 for Motor Neurone Disease Association. Please read on to hear her story.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running whilst still at school, breaking two British Forces records in Germany for the 800m and 1500m.

Throughout my adult life I’ve used running as a stress reliever, working in the ambulance service and now as a Macmillan Specialist Nurse, it has helped me deal with what I seen and experienced in these roles.

I never run with music, I love to be at one with nature, hearing the birds sing is very calming. The last race before VLM19 was about 34 years ago, although I had been running twice a week prior to getting my place in a New Balance prize draw.

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

Over the last year I have been running with grief. I lost my dad to Motor Neurone Disease last April, 8 months after he was diagnosed. He used to run with me and always shouted the loudest encouragement in whatever I did.

I used to watch the marathon with my dad and told him, one day I would run it. I needed to run the marathon in memory of my dad and I also wanted to raise funds and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease.

There currently is no cure for this disease, a diagnosis is literally a death sentence and it is such a cruel disease. It takes away mobility, the ability to care for yourself, your voice and most of all your dignity. You are basically locked in a body that no longer works and it’s absolutely heart-breaking to watch. The money I raised will help those suffering and also research into eventually finding a cure.

How much have you raised for your charity?

I had my own place but ran for Motor Neurone Disease Association. I’m looking to raise £1500 in total.

I sold items on line which were donated by my family, I made memory mile ribbons, which I carried round with me during the marathon and then sent to their loved ones.

I shared my dad’s story on social media and friends shared it on theirs which helped greatly. My local community have a fundraising committee and I appealed to them to hold an auction, which they kindly did and they donated the proceeds to my page. I could have done more but I just didn’t have the time as I only found out at the end of November I had won my place.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

I started with a goal of sub 5 hours, however I spent time thanking and ‘high fiving’ the crowd and also just soaked up the atmosphere. I also got cramp towards the end and finished in 5:02. A tiny part of me a little gutted!

How did training go?

Training went well, joined London Marathon Training & Support Facebook group and the support everyone gave each other was amazing.

Running is my ‘me’ time. Listening to the birds, saying hi to everyone I meet, running in the rain and the feeling of wellbeing and sense of achievement I feel after each run.

I’m not so keen on running in the dark and getting hit in the face by flying objects in gale force winds!

Do you have a post run treat?

Toast with either honey or peanut butter and jam and a very large cup of earl grey tea.

If you could choose, who would you like to present your race day bling?

My hero, my inspiration, my training partner in my younger days, my dad x

Do you have any race day superstitions or habits?

I always run in sunglasses, in the rain, gales, snow and sunshine. I think it helps me focus (excuse the pun) a bit like blinkers, I am in my ‘running zone’.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

The atmosphere, seeing my family in the crowd and most of all, kissing the pic of my dad which I had on my sleeve and saying, ‘we did it dad’ whilst crossing the finish line.

Tell me about race day?

The crowds were absolutely amazing and I took time to applaud them, the musicians and marshals too.

There were marshals shouting ‘Hump’ around mile 1 and they made me chuckle, and the charity cheer squads were fantastic.

Downsides, there was a lot of congestion throughout the race and I feel altering my stride time and time again contributed to me getting cramp. However, my run and the whole experience is unforgettable, one which I would love to repeat in 2020.

Donna 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.