• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #12: Matt


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 Matt, who ran VLM19 for Terrence Higgins Trust. Please read on to hear his story. Click HERE to support Matt with his fundraising.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running June 2018, after finding out I had secured a charity place running for Terrence Higgins Trust. I could barely run 5K so started a 10K training plan, running my first 10K August 18. I then started training for a Half Marathon, running my first Half in October at the Putney & Fulham Half Marathon and started my marathon training in the New Year.

My best friend Emily also ran VLM for Terrence Higgins, so we did most of our training together. She unfortunately fractured her ankle in December which was a huge set back but she still managed to run VLM!!!

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

My sister and Auntie ran VLM18 and I was massively inspired by them.

I was also looking for something to improve my health and fitness after generally living an unhealthy lifestyle for quite a few years.

How much have you raised for your charity?

I ran for Terrence Higgins Trust who care for those affected by HIV. They also raise sexual health awareness and work tirelessly to erase the stigma surrounding HIV

I have been absolutely blown away by people’s support and kindness. I’ve raised £3500 and so so grateful.

As well as loads of activity on social media including videos/photos of my training and at races, I held a fundraising event back in December. I’m lucky enough to have a fabulous husband who works for an amazing hair salon in Kensington. They let us hold an event where people could come and drink bubbles, get lots of product freebies, hair up-dos etc. We also held an auction and raised £1300! I also did a bake sale at work where all my work pals helped by baking too and raised £200, and my work kindly matched the amount.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My initial goal was 4 hours but after various injuries that changed to 4.15. I did it in 4.30, which means I just have to do it again to beat my time!

How did training go?

On the whole I absolutely loved the training. My training journey was pretty much 10 months in total with a brief break over Christmas!

Quite early on I was having problems with a sore left glut and hip. I started seeing a physio who gave me lots of strength exercises. After years of sciatic pain down my left leg my muscles were quite a bit weaker on my left side. I also started doing Pilates.

I managed to get to March with pretty much nothing more than niggles. I ran the Dartford Half in March, which is a great course but seriously hilly. In the last mile I started to get a really sharp pain in my hip. I was supposed to take this race nice and easy but my competitive streak got going and I really pushed myself. I got a PB which was awesome, but also this was the start of quite a few injury problems.

A few days later the pain in my hip had radiated down the side of my left leg to the outside of my knee. Hello ITBS!!! After seeing physio I had a week off running and then eased back into my training plan. Lots of stretching, rolling, ice. On the whole I managed to keep the pain at bay, I had to stop my intervals and hill training and just focus on building my weekly mileage up each week.

Then on my 16 miler I got really bad pains in my right foot. Hello Plantar Fasciitis! So now had ITBS and Plantar Fasciitis and felt really down in the dumps. After religiously rolling my foot over a frozen water bottle, calf stretches and lots of standing on a tennis ball, it started to ease off within a few weeks.

My longest training run was 20 miles (3 weeks before VLM). Despite dreading it, it went really well, perhaps too well! I had no issues with ITB during the run apart from the usual tightness. Then the next 3 weeks during tapering it decided to get really angry. I had sports massages, iced it 3 times a day, tons of foam rolling. Add that to maranoia, and a sinus infection, those 3 weeks were probably the toughest mentally.

What do you love and hate about running and your training?

I soon found that running was having a really positive effect on my stress levels, anxiety and general mental well-being. Where before if I’d had a bad day or feeling a bit duff I’d have a wine, now I’ll go out for a run. For me running is a bit like a form of escapism, a time where I can forgot about those stresses and worries.

I’m also probably in the best shape I’ve ever been, never been happier with myself and it’s probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.

However, I found it really tough mentally to push through the self doubt especially when the injuries started kicking in. I hated running in the dark. I’m also a morning person so running at 5.30am on a cold dark January morning was definitely testing.

Do you have a post run treat?

Yep tea and chocolate digestives, before the kits off and I’m in the bath.

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

It would be my husband. He has been so supportive through my whole running journey and dragged along to quite a few 10ks and half marathons (although there have been quite a few rolled eyes when I’ve talked about nothing but running). He always wells up at the end and gives me the best cuddle.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

I knew where my friends and family were watching for VLM so that really kept me going and I couldn’t wait to see them. I’d heard so much about the atmosphere but nothing really prepares you for how amazing it really is.

Tell me about race day?

I was soooo nervous and excited that I slept really badly for a few nights before VLM. I was also really nervous about my IT band but thought to myself it is what it is and you have to give it your best shot.

It was an amazing experience that I loved but also quite tough with the knee and hip pain. The first half was incredible I absolutely loved it. The rush of adrenaline you get going over Tower Bridge is unreal.

Despite practising with my water and gels religiously, I got a really bad stitch at about mile 16, I think Percy Pigs are to blame. That stayed with me until about mile 20 so that was the toughest bit of the whole race for me.

I absolutely loved the last 5K. When I saw the sign for 37K I thought oh my god I’m actually going to do this!!

How did you celebrate your achievement?

All my family came to watch which meant the world to me. I think they were all knackered after trying to get around London on the day. We booked an area in a pub in Victoria and I had a few champagnes, then tea, a really long bath and an early night!

Matt You're Awesome! You smashed VLM19!

If you're already thinking about your next marathon, maybe you've got a race this autumn or you're entered into one next spring you'll be pleased to hear I'm opening up Marathon Club Hub.

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 get going NOW!


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