• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #18: Sara


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 Sara, who ran VLM19 for Antenatal Results and Choices. Please read on to hear her story.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running around 5 years ago. I had just qualified as a midwife, fulfilling a lifelong dream, but was hitting 20 stone on the weighing scales. I decided something had to change so started eating healthily and then discovered C25K.

Being rather hefty, I was very self conscious and only ran in remote places. I ‘graduated’ C25K and decided to attempt my local Parkrun. There I was accompanied by the lovely tail runner Esther (who is now one of my best friends) and its been onwards and upwards from there.

I’ve continued with parkrun, ran numerous 10K’s, one Half Marathon and, most recently, London Marathon.

My weight loss started way before I even considered entering London. I’ve battled for years with mental health and running became my own form of therapy.

2018 was a very tough year. My mental health took a complete nosedive and, at one point, I considered taking my own life. Thanks to the wonderful NHS, my beautiful family and amazing friends, I had so much support. Running once again became my therapy. I’m not a huge fan of medication; I don’t knock those who need it but I struggle to even take a paracetamol. Running allowed me the much needed space I needed, time to process my thoughts and the level of exhaustion needed to sleep.

People talk about depression as a black dog. For me it was like a giant bear; it enveloped me in a hug which felt warm and secure, but the hug got tighter and tighter until I couldn’t breathe. When I run, the bear gets lost in the woods and I feel free.

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

I’m always looking to challenge myself, to push myself to my limits. In 2017, I trekked the Atlas Mountains in Morocco so it had to be something epic to beat that!

How much have you raised for your charity?

I chose to run for Antenatal Results and Choices. As a midwife this is a tiny charity that is very close to my heart.

I set myself the target to raise £2500 and right now I’m tantalisingly close to the £3000 mark.

I started a weekly bonus ball, with 50% going to the winner and £50% to charity. If you start it early enough, I can make up a big chuck of your target.

At Christmas, I made sweet and hot chocolate cones which flew out like hot cakes. In between, I’ve held numerous raffles. If you can, buy a really good prize (I went for a gin advent calendar). People will always take a chance to win something they wouldn’t buy themselves, and the takings should easily cover the cost with a nice lump to add to your fundraising. Don’t rely on people just sponsoring you, get creative!

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My goal was to finish the marathon in 6 hours 30 minutes.

How did training go?

Apart from a few small niggles. My last long run before London put me comfortably under my target time.

Training is really hard though. 3 days running plus two days of other training. Working full time, fundraising and training meant that my family had to be very understanding. There were many times when I would spend less than an hour a day with them.

What do you love about running?

I run for me. When I run, I feel amazing! I good run makes you feel like a rockstar, a not so good one makes you determined to make the next one better. I run to clear my head, as I said earlier, it’s my own form of therapy. I usually run off road, in country parks. I love the peace and tranquillity. When I need noise, I pop on my bone conducting headphones and get to listen to cheesy music without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Do you have a post run treat?

A cup of coffee, then Greek yogurt with honey and almonds.

Do you have any running superstitions?

Lucky pants. Always the same pair of knickers!

If someone could present you with your finisher medal who would that be?

My granny. I lived with her growing up and we watched the marathon every year. She would never believe that I had the gumption to do it.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

The finish line and the bling. I also love the marshals and try to thank as many as I can on the way around.

Tell me about race day?

My race didn’t go to plan. I suffer with Morton’s Neuroma and it started playing up around mile 8.

Seeing my family for the first time at the Cutty Sark reduced me to tears. By Tower Bridge, I had been caught by the sweepers and missed the craziness of the crowds. By mile 15 I had developed a huge blister so both feet were on fire. I was then joined by the mum and sister of a very lovely friend and they navigated me through the streets.

By now I was solo. No marshals, no mile markers, just me. The one thing London can teach you is the kindness of strangers. I was never really alone as random people shouted words of encouragement. I posted a video around Mile 18, to tell everyone I was now walking but determined to finish.

Before I knew it, my hero and partner in crime Martyn, came to my rescue and walked me to the end. Somewhere along the way I bumped into Tanni GT, who told me to keep going and gave me a much needed boost.

My finish line wasn’t the great sprint down the mall, but a shuffle down a path at the side of it. I didn’t care. If anything I felt more special because a few wonderful marshals stayed to make sure that I got my medal. They really were angels.

My official time was 8:41:04 and I’m proud of every last second.

How did you celebrate your achievement?

A hot shower and a Nando’s while sitting in bed.

Sara 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!