A humbled but ultimately proud effort for animals at the 2013 London Marathon
I ran the London Marathon on Sunday 21st April and I think I can only now say that I have fully recovered!
When I decided to run in order to raise money for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and support some of our amazing projects around the world I’m not sure I realised quite what a challenge it would end up being. But am I pleased I did it? Absolutely!
I was actually supposed to run the marathon last year. My training was going well, and I was increasing the distance I was running each week. I had even managed to run a half-marathon race. But then about a month before the event I developed appendicitis and was advised not to compete.
Given how difficult I found the race this year, I’m glad I took that advice and didn’t try to run!
This was my first ever marathon (we shall have to see if it is my last) and so I tried to make sure I was fully prepared. I undertook a number of ‘long runs’ of between two and three hours in the months and weeks before race day and made sure I ate lots of pasta in the week leading up to the race.
Of course my feelings about the run changed dramatically following the devastating events at the Boston Marathon the week before. Initially I was shocked that an event so full of hope could be hijacked in such a malevolent way.
This was followed by anxiety for my family members and friends planning to support me, but this was dispelled by the heightened security put in place and the revelation that the bombers acted alone.
My strongest emotion however was determination: a desire to play my part in showing solidarity with Bostonians and demonstrate that people putting themselves through a challenge to help a cause they believe in will not be cowed by terror.
This was clearly the overriding emotion among other runners as well, and the marathon organisers took a number of steps to enable us to show our support. We all wore black ribbons and for each runner that finished £2 was donated to the One Boston Fund, set up to support victims of the tragedy.
At the start line we held a 30-second silence to remember the terrible events, and then we were off. I had a few injury niggles but had my legs strapped up and was feeling pretty confident. A little too confident it turned out!
Going off too fast combined with an unexpectedly sunny day (especially for London in April) meant that by halfway it was beginning to hurt and by 20 miles I was really suffering.
I slowed quite dramatically in the last few miles and came in a little under four-and-a-half hours. Not too bad but a bit slower than I would have liked.
I am 100% sure, however, that if it hadn’t been for the support of the crowd I would have given up. IFAW staff, together with some (inflatable) animals, were incredibly supportive as I passed by and friends and family were very encouraging.
But it was the support of strangers that really moved me.
In those last few miles having people I had never met call out my name (top marathon tip: get your name printed on your vest) and encourage me to keep at it was truly one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
A lot of our work at IFAW is unfortunately necessary because of the actions of people: the commercial exploitation and cruelty routinely inflicted on animals by mankind is deplorable and depressing. But running that day I saw the very best of people.
Approximately 700,000 turned out to support the run, which was higher than in previous years. I have no doubt that this was because of Boston.
So eventually I finished and was greeted by IFAW staff and a most welcome massage. Feeling humbled but ultimately proud that I had finished and through the generosity of family, friends and colleagues had reached my fundraising target.
IFAW is a fantastic organisation to work for, and it was brilliant to be able to raise money for a cause I believe in.
Knowing that every penny goes to helping animals around the world is something I am very pleased about indeed.
If you are looking for a challenge, but one that is ultimately incredibly fulfilling, I would urge you to consider running the marathon for IFAW!