By Dr Kathy Grant
My first marathon
It was Autumn 2008 when I decided to run a marathon. I'd done a half in 1989, but whenever I'd tried to run in recent years I had trouble with my knee or hip or back… About this time I'd finally been offered a GP retraining post after several years away from work. I had been in partnership with my husband until 2001, when I had taken early retirement due to depression, and I reached my lowest point in 2006: suicidal and an in-patient.
Back to work
In 2007 the 'Returner Scheme' had been suspended, but attempts to arrange my own supervised retraining met with resistance from the deanery. So I did some voluntary work for the local mental health resource centre which had supported me during recovery, then some private occupational health assistant sessions (minimum wage, part-time, with protection of benefits) and in 2008 retrained in family planning.
Running for charity
Used to walking on the downs with my dogs, I nevertheless started with just two minutes slow jog on the road, having first invested in good running shoes. Most of 2009 would be taken up with my returner job, so I aimed for the marathon in 2010, running for the mental health resource centre and a local youth charity (for a very deprived locality nearby).
I built up my time/distance by a minute at a time to fifteen minutes, then by fifteen minute increments to an hour. At this point I switched to off-road jogging so the dogs could join me without leads. I prefer to run by myself, finding it the perfect opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. Unable to get a London Marathon ballot place, I put in my entry for the inaugural Brighton Marathon in the summer of 2009 as this was near home. By February 2010 I had got up to twenty miles over four hours, with a few setbacks on the way due to viral illness, holidays or extra stress at work. In the final weeks I did regular short and mid-distance training runs, including hills and (relative!) speed aiming for a five hour slow jog on the day. I don't carry any water with me, preferring to drink plenty before and after. I did increase carb intake in the final few days.
On 18th April 2010, my husband dropped me off at the start. It took me over five hours and the 20 to 25 mile section was fairly grim; but I was delighted to finish, with lots of support from friends and family along the way. I raised about £1300, mainly by emailing everyone at a distance and carrying a sponsor form everywhere I went in the three months before the race. I won't do another marathon in a hurry! But would use the 'Just Giving' website for future sponsored events. I still run for fun, fitness and best of all ... it keeps me sane.