200 days to go: Wait, I’m running a marathon?

For years, the two words that I most associate with the London Marathon have been… sausage sandwiches. No, it’s not an obvious combination.

A bit of explanation: for reasons nobody can quite remember, it’s been a long-standing family tradition to watch the Marathon on television while tucking into some tasty sausage sandwiches. Or, as I’ve always explained it, I celebrate watching people get fit by stuffing my face and getting a bit fatter. But next year I’m going to break with tradition. When next year’s London Marathon starts, I won’t be eating sausage sandwiches. Instead, I’ll be running the London Marathon. Oh dear.

My transformation from breakfast bap aficionado to (aspiring) marathon man hopefully isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. It started early last year when, after years in which my weight had gradually crept up while my fitness levels dropped, I finally decided to do something about it and took up running. It worked out pretty well: in the space of a year I lost five stone and around ten inches from my waistline, and went from barely being able to jog half a kilometre to being able to run a 5k in under 20 minutes.

Remarkably, the journey from being a little bit fat to actually being quite fit proved easier than I expected, thanks to one key trait: stubbornness. My ability to stubbornly set goals and stick to them helped drive me forward, and still continues – only in recent months those goals have become based on running further and faster. Which is how I got to thinking that running a marathon was a fairly logical goal, even though for the previous year I’d told anyone who asked that I never, ever wanted to run a marathon. And I believed myself – I just turned out to be wrong.

It turns out I didn’t know I wanted to run a marathon, even though I clearly did. The turning point came when I read that the ballot had opened for the 2016 London Marathon. Conveniently coming almost exactly two years after I took up running, it seemed a good milestone. So I put my name in the ballot. What was the worst that could happen? After all, I knew getting an entry would be a long shot (there were about seven applicants for every place), and when I entered I honestly didn’t know whether I wanted to get a place or not.

Eventually, in early October, I found out: I didn’t get in. I wouldn’t have to run a marathon. And yet, much to my surprise, I was crushed. Deflated. Which is when I started thinking up Plan B. Looking through the list of charities that still had places, I noticed the South West Children’s Heart Circle. For reasons I’ll doubtless explain at a more convenient time, I’d actually intended raising some money for them if I did get a place. So I sent them an email. Then things happened fast.

The Heart Circle replied quickly. Emails were swapped. And within about four hours of losing out in the ballot, I’d secured a place – and not just for me, but for a friend as well. So there we go. I’m in. In the London Marathon. I am going to be running the London Marathon. The London Marathon. Me. Running. The. London. Marathon. Oh…

So here we are: London Marathon entry secured, 200 days until the race and I clearly don’t know what I’ve let myself in for. So far, the longest competitive run I’ve ever done is ten miles: that’s not even a half-marathon. I need to run just over 26 miles by next April. And I’ve got a very worthy charity counting on me. So I need to do some fund-raising too. Where to start?

How will I fare? Well, that’s what this blog is about: charting the final 200 days of my two-year journey from sausage sandwich-loving slightly fat bloke to accomplished marathon runner. I’m not going to claim it’s a rare or unusual journey. Countless people have run more marathons than me, lost more weight than me, overcome more obstacles than me and transformed their lives in a bigger way than me.

Still, I hope my forthcoming ramblings – on marathon training, and some of the things I’ve learnt about running and getting fit along the way – will be at least vaguely interesting, and maybe even enjoyable. Whether it is or isn’t, please consider sponsoring me or making a donation to the South West Children’s Heart Circle (ahem, once I’ve got a sponsorship web page set up… I’ll get back to you). It’s a hugely worthy cause (as I will explain in time), and a huge part of why I’m capable of running the London Marathon at all.


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