My name’s Alyson Mitchell and this is my diary about taking on the London Marathon to fundraise for the Water Harvest charity.
One of the few positive aspects of these strange times is that, with all usual social activities banned, I get out and walk/bike more on empty London streets in the beautiful Spring weather. My Pilates and yoga classes move to Zoom (whoever heard of that before lockdown?) With no social drinking and more exercise, I lose a few kilos and feel fitter.
Restaurants, pubs and theatres reopen – social life restarts – exercise regime drops a little.
January – March 2021
Bored by yet another lockdown and inspired by my son’s flatmate, I decide to take on the Couch to 5k challenge. With Denise Lewis encouraging me on every outing, I reach Week 7 of the nine-week programme before an enforced pause following minor surgery.
Back to Pilates and yoga rather than jogging and cycling.
29th May 2022
I read that WaterHarvest is seeking a London-based supporter to take up its one London Marathon place. As I have been supporting the charity’s work for several years through our local church and have met several of the team, I start to think this might be the incentive I need to fulfil an ambition that I should probably have outgrown a long time ago. I find a Beginners’ 16-week Training Programme (encouraging that such a timeframe exists) – the first few weeks seem not that different to my Couch to 5k.
30th May 2022
I happen to be visiting a physio (shoulder injury, not leg). She runs 80 miles+ up and down mountains for fun so I’m a little concerned when she is fully supportive of my suggestion, provided my time expectations are not too high. I email my WaterHarvest contact, half hoping they will already have allocated the place to another volunteer for the London Marathon 2022.
1st June 2022
They haven’t. My adult son who did the London Marathon in 2014 is encouraging and thinks it will be far more pleasant to train over the summer than from wet windy January to March for an April event (perhaps not anticipating how hot and dry Summer ‘22 will prove to be).
2nd June 2022
I rashly decide to take the plunge before I get any older. I copy the 16-week schedule into my diary and steel myself to head out early or late around work and social commitments.
8th June 2022
After two jogs over the Platinum Jubilee weekend, revisiting the later weeks of the familiar Couch to 5k commentaries, I realise I need to invest in new running shoes. I spend 40 minutes on the treadmill trying out various styles and choosing new socks in my local Running shop and emerge feeling better equipped for my challenge.
June 2022 continues..
The first weeks of the plan mix short and longer jogging sessions with “rambles” (which I actually enjoy rather than battle through). I’ve found an app to plan my distance runs in advance and my physio has donated her old Garmin watch so that I can track my times. I agreed with my family at the beginning that I wouldn’t set myself any time targets to minimise risks of injury but it’s encouraging when my average rate improves – less so when it’s slower than the week before. My physio also gives me an elastic belt holding two small water bottles and a central pouch, which is far more comfortable than the ancient bum bag that I’ve been using, in which my phone and keys would rattle around as I moved.
15th July 2022
As a holiday tennis player, I’m in France playing an early morning game when I lunge enthusiastically for a ball that is obviously going out and land in an ungainly heap on the court causing minor scrapes but, more importantly, a significant impact to my ribcage.
This proves to be painful for several weeks and I develop an original style of jogging with my hands supporting the centre of my back. This provides a coping mechanism when running but does not help my long-term healing – the discomfort proves stubborn despite my efforts to stretch sensibly.
22nd – 30th July 2022
July ends with my first attempts at two longer outings (8 miles/12.88k), best described as a slow jog interspersed with some walking, but I know that I’m on track and halfway through my training.
The programme format continues with shorter and timed runs during the week and 10 miles/16k followed by a half marathon (13 miles/21k) at the weekends.
I wouldn’t say I’m a convert to running, but I manage to get to nearly the end of August without missing a single diarised outing.
On holiday with family and friends, we are joined by my daughter/son-in-law/grandson who have been staying with friends nearby.
26th August 2022
Three days later, I go for a short run with my daughter, my legs feel very heavy and I’m coughing.
27th August 2022
The next day, I run to the tennis courts, play tennis for 1.5 hours and feel fine. But back at the house, I’m suddenly exhausted and after a long nap I do a Covid test which is positive ☹. It transpires that my daughter and husband have had sore throats for a few days but, having had Covid before, their symptoms were not as severe as mine and different to those they had previously shown.
Having avoided the virus for 2.5 years, I’m disappointed that I’ve succumbed now at a point when my training is all going according to plan. However, it can’t be ignored and I know that I have to rest and be patient until I feel up to continuing.
I sleep through what should have been my 14m/22.5k outing and sit out four shorter jogs.
4th September 2022
My last day of holiday and a week after my positive test, I decide to test my cough/lung function on a long walk with a friend at a slow pace. We manage 10 miles/16k instead of the programmed 16m/25.75k but I accept that it’s a step (or many steps) in the right direction.
With four weeks to go, I adjust my expectations to a walk/jog the London Marathon, with my only target being to get over the finish line. I remember my physio saying the greatest challenge is to get to the start line and I now know what she means.
9th September 2022
My last long outing (20 miles/32k) before the pre-race taper begins. Everyone has told me that you need to do this distance once before the event and I have had several broken nights’ sleep worrying about missing this. I mentally prepare myself for a long session and set off early so that I won’t feel pressured into trying to go too fast. My Garmin tells me when I’ve reached my maximum heart rate and that’s my signal to walk for a bit until it drops. I end up doing 21 miles (slight miscalculation on my route finder!) and, despite walking most of the second half, I’m pleased with my time and feel positive for the first time post-Covid.
10th September 2022
It’s all taper from here so fingers crossed I avoid any last-minute injuries, beat the Covid residue and make it to the London Marathon on the 2nd October 2022.
Coming up next..
So far over £3500 has been raised on my Givey fundraising page from 48 generous donors, including Gift Aid for Water Harvest. Its almost coming to THE DAY! and I’m not far from reaching my fundraising target to support the millions of people in Northern India, so they can have better access to clean, safe drinking water for their families.
The Good Cause
Clean water changes lives; girls go to school, women are freed from the anxiety of finding drinking water for their families, the health of the family improves and more money is available for daily living when families are not paying for water.
WaterHarvest works with the most disadvantaged people in the most desolate areas to provide a sustainable water source that truly makes every drop count!
If you can donate even just £4, this will enable a family to have water at home for a month. However, the actual impact is even greater than this.
The Story of Water Harvest
Have a listen below to Neil Mehta, Trustee of Water Harvest. In this Givey Community Podcast he tells the story of Water Harvest.
End of September 2022
In conclusion, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated to my Givey fundraising page. I am so grateful for your generosity. Every donation, no matter how big or small, has brought me closer to my goal of helping the many villages in India. With your help, we can make a real difference to the lives of many people. Thank you again for your support.
I will be taking on the London Marathon on the 2nd October 2022, keep watching and supporting me here to find out the impact your support has made on this experience of mine and the families supported by Water Harvest.
Diary written by Alyson Mitchell
If you found this article interesting to read, check out these:
How WaterHarvest is Combating Water Poverty in Northern India
Volunteer Work Can Really Help Tackle Loneliness – Study Shows
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