With the Virgin Money London Marathon only a couple of weeks away, Breast Cancer Now supporter, Ellie, tells us what it was like to run the London Marathon and shares her top tips for anyone taking part.

Tuesday 5 April 2016      Student fundraising blog Challenge events blog
Ellie running London Marathon for Breast Cancer Now

The word 'marathon' triggers a wide range of feelings. Fear, awe and bemusement to name but a few. Deciding voluntarily to run 26.2 miles might seem insane, but it was one of the best things I have done to date and is not as impossible as it might seem.

Why I chose to run

People have many different reasons for running a marathon, whether it’s attempting to beat a personal best, running in memory of a loved one, ticking it off the 'bucket list' or raising money for charity. For me, it was for a whole range of things. Swept up with New Year's Resolution-itus, a need for a challenge, and a desire to prove a particularly doubtful friend wrong, I decided to apply for a place in the 2014 London Marathon and leave it up to fate.

However, it is writing this not long after Mother's Day that I am reminded of the main reason why I chose to sign up. My mummy lost her fight to breast cancer in 2005, having battled the disease for just over four years. I have been a keen supporter of Breast Cancer Now (at the time Breakthrough Breast Cancer) ever since, and I felt that the marathon would be a brilliant way to raise money and awareness for a charity which I truly believe in and to run in memory of my mummy.

While my sporting credentials may have slumped since then, I will allow myself that one crowning moment of crossing the finish line, having raised just over £7,200 for Breast Cancer Now and with my mummy's name proudly worn on my back.

My marathon tips

I wanted to share some of my top tips for those who will be running this year and offer some gentle encouragement for those who are thinking about taking part in the future...

In the lead-up:

  • Run with someone. Running can be a lonely sport and sometimes that thinking time is exactly what you need, but sometimes it’s not. Vary your routine and find someone of a similar ability to run with you for at least a few miles while you’re training.
  • Look after yourself. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating well and really making the most of those rest days by stretching and warming down properly. If something hurts, listen to your body and don't push it.
  • Rally your supporters. Try not to talk about the marathon all the time, but do get people excited about it. I found fundraising in the lead up to the big day really got me motivated as I didn't want to let all of the people supporting me down. Similarly, having people there on the day made a massive difference. Try and spread them out over the course so you have friendly faces cheering you on at along the way.

On the day:

  • Think of five people that inspire you for each 'block' of five miles. I credit my mummy with getting me through those last five miles and even cracked a smile thinking about her as I ran.
  • Make a power playlist. I managed to hold off listening to any music until mile 20. I hit the wall - pretty full on - and thank the eclectic mix of Jason Derulo, Ricky Martin and All Saints for getting me to the finish line.
  • Follow a nice bum. Sound advice from my cousin and greatly appreciated when the anonymous man running for The British Heart Foundation, who went missing in action after mile seven, miraculously reappeared at mile 22.
  • Enjoy the day and crossing that finish line. Cue music, cue applause, think of that MoneySuperMarket.com advert... you will feel EPIC!

To those still thinking about it:

  • Back yourself! It is hard but I promise that it is possible. If it was easy then everybody would do it but that's part of the point. You are the one doing it. Stop talking about it and umming and ahing. If the thought is there, chances are that you are more than capable of doing it.
  • Run for a charity or cause that you really believe in. I have supported Breast Cancer Now for over 11 years and am very passionate about the charity and the vital research that they fund. When my legs were aching, running past the charity’s cheer points at miles 12 and 24 were incredibly poignant moments and made me realise that it was all worth it.

In the time that I ran the London Marathon, 24 women and men were diagnosed with breast cancer. I ran for Breast Cancer Now because I know that one day people will no longer have to suffer from this disease.

Breast Cancer Now's pledge to eradicate breast cancer by 2050 is realistic not idealistic. However, they need your ongoing support to make this happen. I was incredibly touched by people's generosity and support and it was that support that got me round on the actual day. I couldn't let them down and I couldn't let my mummy down. I was running for a very personal cause but could never have imagined how much the marathon journey would affect me. I won't be doing it for a while, but I will definitely do it again.

Here's a final thought for you...

'26.2 miles... because 26.3 would be crazy.' - Anonymous

More information

Find out more about the Virgin Money London Marathon - We will be accepting applications for the 2018 event from Sunday 23 April onwards.

Have you been inspired to take on your own challenge? Take a look at our events page to find a run to suit you.