• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #29: Chris

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 Chris, who ran VLM19 for Barnardos. Please read on to hear his story.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running in about August 2018 wanting to get myself healthy again for my own children as I used to be quite active playing football a few times a week then due to injury just stopped.

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

I decided to run the London Marathon as I wanted to give something back to an amazing charity, Barnardos.

When I was younger I was in care and when I turned 16 Barnardos became responsible to help me with moving into my own property, providing me a worker to help and guide me on the next chapter of my life journey.

I had an amazing worker and we always spoke about running the London marathon – dressed as storm troopers. But that would have been too much for me this year, as I struggled round with just my running gear on!

I chose Barnardos because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had support from them. Raising money for this I know I have been able to help another person in a very similar situation to me. I was giving back to those who has helped me.

How much have you raised for your charity?

I was set the fundraising target of £2000 and I have a few hundred pounds to go. If you’d like to help me here’s the link to my fundraising page.

Over the past few months I’ve held raffles, football card, signed football shirt and got sponsorship from friends and family.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

I had wanted to get around in 5:30, but ended up finishing in 7:31 due to my knee giving up on my at about mile 16.

How did training go?

My training overall went ok apart from an injury that caused me some niggles on the longer runs.

I tried to make sure I kept to my runs and tried not to miss any, but I would be lying if I say I never missed a few! I found the first few weeks tough, changing my mind-set to get out and go for a run. But steadily over time running started to just become the norm, just at the time the runs just got longer. The Longest I ran before VLM was 18 miles.

What do you love about running?

At the start of March I witnessed a near suicide experience as a friend of mine tried to take his life, this had a massive impact to myself and I didn’t feel like doing much. This played massively on my mental health.

When I went to the gym or when on a run it was the only time that I was able to clear my head. Running gave me a chance to escape from everything.

What isn't so great about training?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the early mornings, I like to sleep.

I will always remember a run that I did in some gusty wind. I had to cut it short as I was struggling to breath when I was running into the wind.

Do you have a post run treat?

I did enjoy a glass of pure orange juice after a run.

What's on your running playlist?

I didn’t really have a motivational song but since running VLM I have chosen Boyzone – When the going gets tough as my VLM 2019 song.

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

I was most looking forward to the run down The Mall as I always think when you watch it on TV it’s the iconic moment. I was also looking forward to crossing Tower Bridge knowing that I was almost half way.

Tell me about race day?

Race day was an early start to get breakfast before getting the to the start.

When I got to the race village it was like a ghost town, hardly anyone there. We were so early to the red start area when I got to the entrance they didn’t have the key to open the gate to get into the park! When we finally got in the park the first thing I saw from a distance was a sign that read “TEA AND COFFEE”, just what I needed as it was a chilly morning.

After a few trips to the loo it was time to get into the pens for the start. A few nerves were creeping in but definitely more excitement and the eagerness to get going.

Finally I crossed the start and started my journey to the end.

I settled into a steady pace and a few miles in was properly the best I had felt on a run in a while. I was keeping to my race plan and bouncing to my music playlist that I had made for the day, with the fantastic support from the crowds and lots of free sweets.

Then we came to the part that I had been looking forward to “Tower Bridge – Halfway”. The atmosphere was amazing and everyone was cheering. Checking the app on my phone and I realised I’d hit a cracking half marathon split and was on time for the time I was looking for.

I kept going then at about mile 16 my knee gave up on me. I tried to continue to run but at a slower pace but I could tell if I carried on trying to push it then I wouldn’t finish. I had no other choice but to hobble my way to the end … it was only about 10miles!!!!

Over the next few miles, I kept thinking that I could just stop and end the pain I was in and it would all be over. Then I remembered all the people that had sponsored me and the ‘reason why’ I was running. I didn’t want my kids to think that when things get hard you should just give up, it wasn’t the message I wanted to send to them. So I told myself all I needed to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving and I would eventually get to the end, and I would be able to take that medal home to show my kids what daddy did.

During the hobble I stopped a couple of times, had a few emotional/painful tears and yet again the crowd were amazing by cheering me on and shouting my name, people telling me that was amazing and didn’t have long to go.

Towards the end of the marathon I did start to experience the unknown story of the marathon which has come to light this more than ever this year. People were trying to start to clean up and re-open roads in London whilst we were still running. Being asked to run on pavements, not having a water station and being sprayed which chemicals was not the ending experience I was expecting!

I finally got to The Mall, the second part of the marathon that I was looking forward to but as I turned the corner the grandstands were all empty, and they were starting to take down the finish line. But that wasn’t going to stop me try and run the final stretch to cross the line.

I crossed the finish-line in 7:31. Filled with emotion I started to cry. I was handed my medal and a T-shirt and went to collect my bag.

I needed to get to Victoria Bus Station for the bus to get home – I had 45mins to get there or the bus would be gone. It took me ages to get to the tube and I knew I was going to my bus.

When I thought things couldn’t get worse, on the tube I felt myself going really light headed like I was going to faint. I let a complete stranger next to me know how I felt and he got me off and onto the platform at Baker Street.

The station manager came down to check if I was all right. I was cold and he made sure that I kept warm. He also got me some sugary food and drink to help me come around and stayed with me for over an hour to make sure I was ok. When I felt ready to leave he arranged for someone at the next station to be there to make sure I was helped off the tube and directed the right way. I honestly can’t sing the praise of the London Underground for all the help they gave me.

Finally feeling normal again I had to work out how I was going to get home. I finally found a bus leaving Victoria at about 11pm, which would get me home at about 4am, but I had no choice. I had a little sleep on the bus with medal on clear display.

Finally home, I just wanted to go to bed, but I opted for a nice bath with some Epson salt to see if I could start my recovery.

Chris You're Awesome! You didn't let VLM19 defeat you!

Marathon Club Hub coaching programme

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.

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