• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #25: Kieran

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 Kieran, who ran VLM19 for Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford. Please read on to hear his story.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running in 2014, with the classic couch to 5k, which I turned into a zero to 10k, and ran a 10k event that summer.

I had a love-hate relationship with running for a couple of years but entered the VLM ballot and was lucky to get a ballot place for VLM 2016 at the first time of trying! Injuries and lack of commitment meant I deferred for a year before I completed my first VLM in 2017.

When I ran VLM 2017, I was well inside the “obese” weight bracket.

That marathon went very badly, although I completed it. I walked from about 14 miles. I met a lovely lady on the start line and we ended up having a stroll round London for nearly 7 hours! We’re still in touch on Facebook and both in the ballot for next year.

I came away from that one thinking “I can do better than that”. I was obese, badly trained and naïve about what a challenge running a marathon is … even just to walk most of the 26.2 miles!

At the end of 2017, I had put on more weight and had not really run since the marathon. I’ve never been skinny, but I was now at the heaviest I’d ever been and I decided to take control.

I qualified as a football referee and started working on my fitness and diet again. After Christmas 2017 my wife and I really hit the healthy eating hard, and I started building up my running again, working towards the London Winter Run, then Colchester Half Marathon (with no walking at all).

I continued losing 4 stone over the year and recording PBs at every distance up to Half Marathon in 2018.

October 2018, I’d got a “no” from the ballot and a big national charity for VLM 2019, but my local hospice e-mailed a couple of weeks later with their offer of a place. The timing was perfect. It gave me further focus on running over Christmas and the winter where it’s all too tempting to stay indoors and eat!

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

Initially, I have no idea, it was a moment of madness because I was in the “love” stage of my relationship with running when the ballot for 2016 opened. After VLM 2017 I had unfinished business with the Marathon, and it had to be London again.

How much have you raised for your charity?

My Local Hospice, Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford. They were amazing to run for, with a team of almost 40 of us, and a really good support team, including Richard, our training “guru”, who organised a long run once a month where there were sometimes 20 or more of us running. This made a massive difference compared to those tedious long runs I’d done “solo” when training for VLM 2017.

They asked me to raise £2000 and I hit the target with about a month to go, and the night before the big day my total went through £3000, which gave me a huge lift for the day.

I started early – organising a “Christmas Mingle” for the neighbours – put a gazebo up on the front drive and served mulled wine and mince pies, along with a raffle, tombola, selling sweets and hot chocolate cones and the like. We raised about £250 that evening.

Other than that, it was mostly about sponsorship. I have a lot of good clients through my consultancy business who made some fantastic single donations. I donated all my refereeing match fees to the cause from January onwards too.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My goals changed many times (including on the actual day). I struggled to set a time target because my long run paces were all over the place and I really didn’t know what my natural pace was.

On reflection I should have put time targets out of my mind and just ran, but it’s difficult to do that having already completed it once before.

I had thought 4:30 at one stage, then sub-5. On the day itself I was running at sub-5 pace, but that idea went out of the window at 10 miles and I just had a word with myself and slowed down and enjoyed the day.

I’d struggled with the long wait in the cold before the start (about 3 hours in Greenwich Park, which you can’t train for!) and felt very lethargic from the beginning. But, I knew there was no way it would be slower than 2017 and I just tried to keep running. That didn’t quite work and there were a fair few little walks, but I finished over an hour quicker than my previous time so I was ecstatic with that!

One of my charity team mates has a saying “don’t be shit”. It’s all relative of course, but I like to think I wasn’t! [Cheesecake Runner: Kieran you ran a marathon … you definitely were not shit!]

How did training go?

I amazed myself. I wrote a 6-month programme, to get me a sub-1hr 10k by Christmas (which I smashed), and then followed a standard 16 week marathon programme.

I started early and got ahead of the game, so the long runs with the charity team were distances I knew I could comfortably cover.

I stayed relatively injury free, and even did some interval and hill sessions properly! There were a few missed runs of course and I continued refereeing, so I was doing some form of activity 3 or 4 times a week. A minor issue with my big toe tendon slowed me up a bit just as I hit peak mileage, but I rested for a week or so, then got a 22-miler in before taper which I was really pleased with.

What do you love and hate about running?

Just being able to open the front door and go. It’s the only form of exercise (other than refereeing) that I even remotely enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, there were many days where I was miles from home thinking “what on earth am I doing”, but running gave me extra focus for my weight loss too. I would calculate how many minutes per kilometre I could get quicker for every stone I lost and was seeing such rapid improvement in those 18 months (it’s about 30 seconds per KM for a 10k distance for every stone lost, by the way!).

I was really focussed on it this time. I don’t enjoy running long distance on my own, which is where the charity team runs helped massively.

There were some days where it was absolutely freezing, and that’s never fun, but I think I’d rather that than it be too hot. One of our team runs was in the middle of Storm Freya, and there were points during that run where I nearly turned round and walked home, but we were all out there together and that really helped me keep going.

I’m lucky in that I’m self- employed, so most of my training was done first thing in the morning during the week, so the weekends with family didn’t suffer too much. I suppose the worst thing is the “recovery” runs after a long run – I could never understand (and still don’t) how running anywhere counts as “recovery”!!

Do you have a post run treat?

It has to be chocolate milkshake and I have a new-found love of flapjacks. Our charity training guru made the most amazing flapjacks for us for after our long runs and I’m sure it made me quicker – trying to get back before the speedy people scoffed them all (they know who they are!).

Who would you like to present your race medal?

Kipchoge. I am just in awe of what he is capable of and to think I ran the same route as him in London is pretty special, even if he could have made it back to Kenya by the time I finished!!.

Do you have any running superstitions?

I never run over 3 drains, or under road signs – even if that means leaving the pavement and running in the road!

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

The finish line. And fish and chips.

Tell me about race day?

It’s such an amazing experience, and it was very different this time round compared to 2017 - more in the thick of it before the crowds thin out later in the day.

I can’t think of a time where there wasn’t any noise, or someone shouting my name, the London crowd are just fantastic. Of course the classic places – Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, The Mall are just a wall of noise. The charity had cheer points all round the course and seeing our training guru at Canary Wharf next to the huge drum band was a real boost after a difficult few miles.

It didn’t go to plan pace-wise after the first 10 miles, but I got over it and ploughed on. I texted my wife at 17 miles and told her I’d messed it up a bit (funny how your mind tells you that at 17 miles into a marathon you’ve “messed it up” because you’re a bit slower than you’d planned to be!) She told me I was ahead of Jay from Eastenders and Candice from Bake-Off and to keep going!!

She and my and eldest daughter had grandstand tickets which I won through the charity, so seeing them in the stand on that final finish straight was just brilliant. There were points where I just wanted a bit of peace and quiet, and it can be a bit intense in places, but you just have to embrace it and enjoy it for what it is – just one big street party, in my case a 5 hours and 40 minutes long street party!

It might be my last London Marathon (who knows) but I’m thinking of a local event in the Autumn where, maybe, I can push towards that sub-5 without the intensity of London or the pressure of fundraising.

Don’t be shit, and never give up!

Kieran You're Awesome! You smashed VLM19!

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