• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #26: Mary


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 Mary, who ran VLM19 for Cancer Research UK. Please read on to hear her story. If you'd like to help her with her fundraising click HERE.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running in 2011. I joined a local beginner group to make new friends in the area I’d just moved to and to try and shift a bit of weight. I didn’t lose any weight but I made heaps of friends and became a regular at my local parkrun.

I fell in love with ultra running early on, running my first 35 mile event in 2013 and finally entering and completing my first 100 mile event at the Robin Hood 100 last September.

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

I signed up for my first marathon, the inaugural Milton Keynes Marathon in 2012. I got caught up in the whole marathon fever that had taken over my club that Spring and wanted to get in on everyone’s long training runs!

I wanted to run the London Marathon this year to help raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

How much have you raised for your charity?

This year I ran VLM for Cancer Research UK. My Mum died from cancer at the end of 2017. She was the first of five members of my family to die from the illness within 12 months.

CRUK asked me to raise a minimum of £2000 for my place. I wanted to aim for £3000. I’ve raised about £2300 with more money still coming in.

Most of my fundraising came from a talk I organised with ultra-runner and coach Ronnie Staton. I raised £850 from just that one night! I also spent three days in different supermarkets and raffled off various days out to help add to my fundraising total.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My goal was to run a sub 4h 30m marathon. London was my 17thmarathon, having only snuck under the 5 hour mark once before.

How did training go?

My training plan was 6 days a week with long runs, which maxed out at 16 miles.

I had a few set backs along the way. I was attacked whilst out on a run during February, making me feel uneasy about running alone in the dark. Every passer by made my heart race and I felt so nervous. For a number of weeks after I did my runs indoors on a treadmill.

I also was diagnosed as anaemic in the final six weeks before race day. Juggling a toddler and five jobs alongside training and fundraising was rather challenging at times too!

What do you love about running?

I love running speed sessions on my own. It is so, so satisfying hitting the paces for each rep and I would be on such a high at the end of each session.

I love taking my runs off road and exploring new areas. I worked out an off-road route back from parkrun to complete a 16 mile training run one weekend and it was much more enjoyable than getting stuck in traffic on the way home in the car!

Do you have a post run treat?

A cold cup of milk straight from the fridge after a hard session or on a warm day. Nothing beats it!

Who would you like to present your race medal?

Jo Pavey. I was honoured to have been able to meet her at The National Running Show earlier this year. She came across as such a lovely down-to-earth athlete with a real genuine love of running and took the time to answer all my questions.

Do you have any race day superstitions?

I always re-tie both trainer laces whilst queuing on the start-line. Not necessarily a superstition but something I always find myself doing without realising.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

I was really looking forward to crossing Tower Bridge and seeing friends from my running club cheering out around the course.

Tell me about race day?

Race day went so much better than I expected. I had been up late the night before very poorly, so I really didn’t expect much from my time or performance. I PB-ed by more than 15 minutes and crossed the line still feeling super strong having never hit the wall!

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I allowed myself to soak up the atmosphere and hang out at the CRUK afterparty area without rushing back home to the madness of my husband and toddler!

Mary 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!