• Helen Phillips

Meet our VLM19 Marathoners #30: Claire

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 Claire, who ran VLM19 for Children with Cancer UK. Please read on to hear her story.

Tell me about your running journey

I started running in January 2018, after recognising that both my physical health and mental health was taking a bashing.

I had been on anti-depressants and anxiety mediation on and off for about 15 years. I had a series of counselling sessions late 2017, that seemed to flick a switch in my mind. I decided that to really become better, I needed to take control. So, I carefully weaned myself off all medication and replaced that with running. I had not done any exercise since school, so this really was couch to marathon!

Why did you decide you wanted to run a marathon?

After I’d caught the bug for running, I decided I wanted to give something back. I also wanted to make sure I stuck at running and didn’t quit. So I thought running a marathon would give me something to focus on!

How much have you raised for your charity?

I ran for Children with Cancer UK. My target was £3,000 but incredibly I have raised over £7,000!

I did a very successful virtual run last Christmas (I’m hoping to do another this year, so watch this space!) I also did two pub quizzes, one with a raffle, a children’s charity Halloween party, a Peaky Blinders themed charity evening with an auction and a special celebrity guest, and right at the end, nearer to the marathon, I did a guess my time competition.

Did you have a goal for the marathon?

My goal was just to get round, but I did have a secret goal of getting under 5 hours, which I did! I finished in 4:58:13!!!

How did training go?

My training went ok. I must admit I struggled mentally with all of the distances over half marathon distance.

Unfortunately I also sprained my ankle in March. However, some diligent treatment at home and plenty of physio sorted it out quite quickly, and I was able to get back running. Through this period swimming was a saviour as it kept me ticking over whilst my ankle healed.

What do you love about running?

I love to run because I feel free. Because it has helped my confidence and self-esteem to grow. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I am.

I also love the many incredible, wonderful, generous, warm hearted people that you meet from the running community. The surprise for me was the connection that I now feel with my charity, Children with Cancer. I will always run for them, if they will have me!

What isn't so great about training?

I didn’t hate any of my training. The long runs really did test my mental strength, but I got them done. You just have to push through those negative feelings and finish those runs, they are such an important part of the training. Not just because of the miles in your legs, but because of the mental resilience you will need to finish your marathon.

I was amazed that on the day, all of the hard lessons I’d learned in my training, came flooding back and provided me with the strength I needed to push through to the end.

Do you have a post run treat?

A hot Epsom salt bath and a glass of red wine!

What's on your running playlist?

I listen to electronic music – Hernan Catteneo’s 1 hour mixes got me through hundreds and hundreds of lonely miles.

Do you have any running superstitions?

I have a lucky pair of pants that I always wear on race day!

Who would you love to present your marathon medal?

Tom Hardy, for obvious reasons!

What were you most looking forward to on race day?

My bling!! The achievement of running that distance.

I got up to 19.2 miles in training, so I wasn’t even sure if my little legs would carry me over the line. The feeling of elation and achievement was incredible! Its addictive, as I’m hoping to do it again!

Tell me about race day?

Race day was pretty incredible! It was very cold waiting around at the start. I was on my own too, so I just tried to stay focussed and kept queuing over and over again for the toilets!

The race itself was incredible! The support was amazing. My family were there to see me at miles 6, 18 and 24. 6 was amazing as I was still on such a high!

Mile 18, I was very emotional, as between 8 – 18 I really had to dig deep. I’d had some issues during the race that meant a few unplanned stops, which could have put an end to my race entirely, but I battled on! There was no way I was stopping! It also helped that another runner from my charity, Matt, who I had been in touch with for pretty much the whole year before the marathon, but who I had not yet met, tapped me on the shoulder at about mile 8, and we ran together for many miles! I can’t thank him enough, as I’m sure I would have taken a few sneaky walk breaks! I like to think we kept each other going.

I lost Matt at mile 18 I think, when I saw my family for the second time. So I ran the final 8.2 miles ‘alone’. I got into the zone from then on, and powered through to finish in a time of 4:58:13! I was over the moon.

Turning the final corner, with Buckingham Palace on my left, and the finish line in front of me is something I will never ever forget. Running a marathon has been one the biggest achievements of my life. Topped only by having children. But safe to say, two children is enough for me, but marathons ….. The amount that I will complete is open ended! I absolutely loved the journey, and everything it has taught me about myself and what I can really achieve in my life.

You will too! Good luck to you all!

How did you celebrate your achievement?

I celebrated with champagne, then a few beers and pizza in bed!

I’ve had some wonderful, thoughtful gifts from friends and family too, which has been so lovely.

Claire 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!