I’m a London Marathoner!

Before last week’s 2018 London Marathon, 1,042,960 competitors had finished the race since it started in 1981. For the new total add to that the more than 38,000 who finished this year, despite the grueling conditions… a number than includes ME! Even though it was the hottest London Marathon IN HISTORY – and that even slight heat on a day when I’m pottering around is almost too much for me – I managed to get round the 26.2 miles to complete what will forever remain one of the most memorable events of my life.

I went into the day with a plan to enjoy myself as much as possible, and a loose/very adjustable time goal of around 5:15. When I realised we were going to be running in conditions resembling a sauna, I adjusted that goal to “5 something”, hoping to come in anywhere under 6 hours; I’ve ran one previous marathon – 11 years ago, pre-twins, when I was much fitter/slimmer than now! – and I did that in 4:36, so thought being in the one-hour-above bracket versus two meant I would feel less far away from that time! Saying that, I knew I’d be thrilled to finish at all, given the heat and the fact that I was only a few months back to running, but I was delighted to come in at 5:55, so was doubly thrilled to have hit my revised goal as well as have finished the thing!

It was the most brutal run of my life, and I saw so many runners collapse along the route and have to be tended to/stretchered off; I felt grateful that I got over the finishing line unscathed. Over 100 very seriously ill runners were taken to hospital during the race, with many more treated on the course, and it proved to be an even more mammoth task than so many of us had anticipated/predicted. A marathon is epic… A marathon in heat? Almost unbearable for many.

My thoughts – like so many others – are with the family of Matt Campbell who so tragically died just under 4 miles from the finish line. The ‘Finish for Matt‘ campaign will help to ensure that the legacy he leaves is a large one; at the time of writing this his JustGiving page – which he set up to raise money for Brathay Trust in his father’s memory – had reached a total of more than £327,500.

That spirit, which has led to a massive drive to remember him, was so evident on the day itself. As I approached the starting area in Greenwich Park the morning of the marathon, uplifting classical music blared from speakers, and I felt the first choked-throat moment of the day – what was the first of many!!


The atmosphere overall was fizzing… with nerves, excitement, goodwill, emotion… everyone felt part of something incredibly special. Here I am before the start, still relatively fresh-faced, hiding in the shade while I can!


It was great meeting up with other Great Ormond Street runners too. Hats off to this guy who ran in a costume that must have been baking!


After bag drop, and an epic loo queue, it was time for the national anthem, and the cheer when the queen hit the start buzzer at 10am was insane! This was actually happening!!


Us ‘regular’ runners were able to watch that part on screens as we were starting in waves after this point, and then it was our turn to line up in our relevant pens, ready for take-off!

I was near the end of the starters and looking ahead at 40,000 people – people from all walks of life with the same goal that day – was really moving, and I felt moments from tears several times.

The vests of the 3 runners in front of me said ‘In Memory of my husband’, ‘In Memory of my dad’, and ‘In Memory of my son’, and looking at those words – fighting back the tears – it hit home how for so many of us we’d already dealt with more than a marathon distance could throw at us, even in the heat. If we could come through what we all had, then we could do this!



I didn’t cross the start line until 10.50am, and with the heat and nerves I already felt energy sapping, but that soon came back as I crossed the start line to the cheers of the crowd, and we were off! Only 26.2 miles to go – easy peasy!!

start line

The London Marathon itself is a jumble of so many things: crowds; people shouting your name; costumes; run-through showers; thinking ‘one foot in front of the other; looking out for friends and family; taking in landmarks; having an ‘OH MY GOD I’M RUNNING ACROSS TOWER BRIDGE’ moment!!’

tower bridge 1

tower bridge 2

Most people I saw were running in a charity vest, and it was so moving to think of all the reasons why people were running. My own – raising money for Great Ormond Street who treat my three-year-old son’s kidney failure – was something I thought about in the darker moments, reminding myself of everyone who’d supported my run and digging deep to push on, and thinking of how much GOSH will be doing for us in the coming years. Every time that voice said, ‘you can’t do this’, I thought of why I was doing it, and for who, and kept putting one foot down and then the other, and repeat and repeat.

It was great having people to look out for on the day, and what really helped me was knowing at what mile to look for people – the crowds are so insane, with everyone calling your name to support, that it can be easy to miss people you actually know! The spots my husband and friends went to were Mile 6, just round the bend of the Cutty Sark, around Mile 14 (top end of Narrow Street, which was a top tip from someone as a quiet-ish location, which it was!), and then Mile 24, just after the Blackfriars Underpass. Here I am then and I can tell you the smile here is all about seeing my husband/friends, and knowing the end is close, and not reflective of how I’m physically feeling at that point!!

mile 24

And then it was on to the homeward straight! It was such a strange feeling at this point – my entire body feeling like lead, but the thought of finishing and the excitement of the crowds making the adrenaline pump. Running down towards the palace and around the corner onto the Mall, with everyone cheering, is seared into my memory as a TOP moment!! Just indescribable!

Here I am on the final approach… willing myself to get to the end, and get that medal!!

805696_274602565_XLarge copy





And then, the final part of a long journey… 26.2 miles, and 6 months of training…



t shirt medal

A journey complete, and the running bug officially kickstarted again after it being pushed to the side (i.e. splattered with a sledgehammer!) since I had my twins almost 4 years ago. The past 6 months of training, building my fitness from scratch around an already hectic schedule, has seen me have to reach very deep and as well as feeling fitter and stronger physically, the same can be said for mentally and emotionally.

The London Marathon may not be a marathon I’ll ever have the opportunity or luck to do again – and it might be a distance I never get to repeat – but forever I’ll have the honour of saying I’m one in a million… a London Marathon finisher!

London Marathon: T minus 2 days!

This time two days from now I’ll have run the London Marathon! Eek!! This will be such an emotional day for me: fundraising for a charity close to my heart (Great Ormond Street), and the conclusion of 9 months where I have focused on trying to rebalance life as a freelancing parent of twins, where there is also a serious chronic illness to manage.

When you’re the parent of a child with additional needs, the needs of their health and care – even if that means big sacrifices within the family unit – have to always come first. Doesn’t mean to say you have to lose yourself, but more that if you’re not careful that could easily happen.

Subsequently, adding ‘self-care’ as a regular item to my task list has been a focus, and I feel great benefits from carving out a regular slice of time for the marathon training.

I’ve been officially training for 6 months (and spent 3 before that building up to a half-marathon), and even though it seemed like a mission to begin with and a big chunk of time to commit (and a lot of people did think I was quite mad taking this on, on top of everything!) it really has gone in a flash.

6 months on I’m fitter, healthier, stronger, happier. It would have been so easy – and tempting, to be honest! – to put it on the long finger, and say “I’m too busy; I’ll never be able to do that … I’ll start a bit down the line”. But here I am, about to run a marathon!

I still have a chunk of weight to lose, but I have lost quite a bit during the training, and most importantly I feel good, and I feel like I’ve found a bit of myself again that had been swallowed up by twins, 12 months of reflux, kidney failure, vats of meds, hundreds of blood tests, various unexpected life emergencies, managing work on top of all of that…

I feel I’ve rewired my brain a bit during the last few months, and now a run is often the answer to a stressful day with the kids – not that glass of wine/calorific treat!! (Nice as they are!) It’s important for the kids to have healthy role-models – especially my son who will really need to mind himself and his health – and I love that they now think it so normal that on Sunday mornings they have time with their dad while I run, and they seem so proud when I come back from a race with a medal. Sunday’s medal will most definitely be the best yet!!



And then there were 4…

Yes, this is not a drill… 4 weeks left to the London Marathon!!

With my longest run now under my belt, I thought I’d reflect on the last 5 months of marathon training.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Running is hard, but the feeling after a run, once it’s done, is hard to beat!
  2. Running very long distances is still easier (and often less tiring) than dealing with three-year-old twins!!!
  3. Having a week-by-week fitness schedule in place is the only possible way for me to fit training in and around work, kids, and all the other crazy drama going on in our lives
  4. In this phase of my life, audio books and podcasts are way more my thing when running as opposed to music. I’ve been on some really interesting journeys on my runs through my phone. Makes me think back to my last marathon, 11 years ago, and training with a Discman!!
  5. Planning very long running routes in London around a public water tap/toilets is not easy! Thank you, Regent’s Park Hub, which has been a bit of a saviour to me
  6. Annoyingly, as your mileage goes up for marathon training, and your nutrition needs to increase to compensate, weight loss may slow; it has for me anyway. I’ve lost a good chunk of weight over the past 5 months, and feel my health/fitness has improved, but after the marathon know that what will be best for me and my weight loss journey is taking back the distance a bit, and mixing in another exercise one/twice a week, eg Zumba, HIIT
  7. Running is really, really good for stress. I’m now 8 months alcohol-free, and I’ve tried to train myself to reach for the trainers rather than a glass of wine when in the midst of high-level stress, or after a really tough day with the kids. Ironically, going for a run makes me feel more energised and able to deal with everything I’m juggling
  8. Social media accounts, like on Instagram and various running pages like Run Mummy Run and This Mum Runs London, are really motivating to follow. I’m so much more likely to put the trainers on, if I’ve been deliberating whether to run or not, if I’ve seen someone else has been able to suck it up and get out there. Particular useful during the horrendous weather of late!
  9. Good trainers are a must! I went to Runners World in King’s Cross, and had gait analysis done there, and it was so useful hearing the feedback, and learning where my foot needs to be supported (incidentally inside of the back of the heel as otherwise my foot goes in a little)
  10. The generosity of my friends and family continues to amaze me: from my husband’s support, taking the twins at the weekend after a busy week so I can run; to those who have sponsored me, donating money to the amazing cause that is Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Charity. Thank you everyone. ❤️

Here’s to the final 4 weeks of training!!!

10 weeks to the London Marathon!

Ok, it’s all getting real now! The miles are ramping up – 18 miles tomorrow – which coincides, possibly in a good way, with life getting quite a bit busier and more stressful at the moment; it’s been useful having the outlet of running, and I feel in the habit of turning to it more readily for stress relief, which is positive all round.

February is a busy running month for me. I did a 10k last weekend, and have a half marathon in 2 weeks, with two more half marathons in March. Then the big day itself! That’s a lot of miles between now and 22nd April, so hopefully see a few more cms drop from the waistline/pounds decrease on the scales too.

I’ve got my new trainers ahead of the big day (experts recommend changing every 300-400 miles), which I’ll be breaking in over the next few weeks, my GOSH vest, and am starting to experiment with various fuels on my long-distance runs, which will hopefully help on the day. All of that is really helping to make the big day feel a lot closer! I wore my GOSH vest on my long run (16 miles) two weeks ago to wear it in a bit, and I got a lot of ‘well done’ and ‘you can do it’ and ‘great cause’, which felt really motivating as well as quite emotional; I’m clearly no Mo Farah and having people recognise my efforts, and be supportive of the cause, was really heartening.

I’ve reached 49% of the minimum fundraising goal I’ve set, and am really pleased with that. Thanks to everyone who’s dug deep and supported me on the journey so far. I read the other day that a marathon is the training, and the 26.2 miles on the day itself the victory lap, and I thought they were wise words!! The training is quite a slog, but I can’t think of a cause more worthy. For anyone who did plan to send a few pounds to Great Ormond Street Hospital via my channel, here’s my link!

I’ll continue to post regularly with small updates on my Facebook page!

Join me for a run in February (‘virtually’, at least!)

Calling all runner/walkers/non-exercisers who might be up for a small challenge!

Fancy running (or walking) a 5k or 10k in February and at the same time help raise money for the amazing Great Ormond Street Hospital and Children’s Charity, and bag yourself a cool GOSH pin in the process? If so, read on!!
I’ve set up two virtual runs here, with all the details about how it works on each post:-

> 10K (£10): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/february-10km-run-in-support-of-great-ormond-street-hospital-childrens-charity-tickets-42401997516

> 5K (£5): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/february-5km-run-in-support-of-great-ormond-street-hospital-childrens-charity-tickets-42402344554
For my London Marathon training, in February I’m set to do 164km (102 miles) – would be great to have virtual company for some of those!!

(Read about why I’m running here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-hillyer)


Snow joke, this training-for-a-marathon-in-winter malarkey!

It’s been a busy month since my last blog update, which takes me up to week 8 of my marathon training, and 18 to go to the big day – argh! 18 weeks….that seems very, very close!

A week and a half ago I ran a 10k (6.2 miles) in Regent’s Park, non-stop in 1 hour 2 minutes, so I was really proud of that. Running non-stop was the main objective – I still have a long way to go to build up the endurance and fitness needed for 26.2 miles – and I was delighted that I managed that, although I had to dig deep towards the end. I’d been at a big Christmas lunch the day before – three courses, with cheese after – and got a stitch a mile in, and just had to run through it! So a race I’m really chuffed with, but not one I’ll remember as being especially easy!

And then…huge slump! Not because of motivation, but more the weather in London – ice, snow, frost, so haven’t been able to get out for the last week and a half as the last thing I want is to slip and injure myself. I realised I probably should have gotten some trail runners in anticipation of the winter weather, to stop me slipping all over the place, so will look into that after Christmas. I still haven’t gotten round to getting my gait measured/new trainers to match, so need to get on with that too, especially as my distance is creeping up. My weekend runs to the end of the year are 6, then 13 and 14 miles, so it’s starting to get serious now!

I’m off to Ireland tomorrow for 2 weeks, so will try to fit my runs in as planned around Christmas meet-ups with friends and family, but at the same time won’t be stressing too much if it’s too busy. I’ve been on the fitness trail since July, and maybe this is a good point to pull back a little ahead of the January countdown to the marathon.

My plan, from week one of January for the 16 weeks to the marathon, is as follows:

  • 3-4 runs a week, averaging 2-4 miles
  • Long Sunday runs as follows: 7, 15, 8, 16, 8, 18, 9, 19, 10, 20, 10, 21, 10, 22-23, 8…. 26.2 miles: MARATHON DAY

My new year’s resolution for January, assuming life and all its chaos accommodates it, is at least one official run every month. I work best when I have goals, so I know this will help to keep me on track with my fitness plan, and hopefully the weight loss will follow.

My plan so far is as follows:

  • Jan: Regent’s Park 10k
  • Feb: Regent’s Park 10k, Roding Half Marathon
  • Mar: The Big Half (half marathon), Brentwood Half Marathon
  • Apr: London Marathon
  • May: London Vitality 10k, Moonwalk Marathon
  • Jun: Cork Marathon, Ireland
  • Jul: Richmond Riverside 10k
  • Aug: Hyde Park 10k
  • Sep: Richmond Half Marathon
  • Oct: Dublin Marathon
  • Nov: TBC
  • Dec: TBC

Hopefully I’ll manage most, but a lot will depend on the health of our son, as he gets closer and closer to needing his kidney transplant. We found out from Great Ormond Street Hospital last week that they will begin, in the new year, the process of testing my husband and me to see if we are a compatible match, so am excited about that process starting, and nervous. It will take at least 6 months, so a while yet before there is an answer.

We’ve spent the past 3.5 years since his birth wondering constantly – daily – whether it will be in our power to save his life when he needs that help. I cross everything that at least one of us is compatible and given that opportunity. It’s impossible here for me to describe what that has been – and is – like, but suffice to say it’s a very, very stressful situation. I’ll continue trying to get the weight off, in case that chance lies with me, and only me, so that I’m below the BMI of 30 that’s the limit for what is classed as voluntary surgery.

So with all that looming, perhaps a slightly easy next couple of weeks in Ireland is just what the doctor ordered – then time to grab the bull by the horns on Jan 1st!

I’m also hoping to do a little more come the new year for the fundraising element of this challenge. One idea I’d had is supper clubs at our house – currently a building site as we’re in the middle of a big refurb! We’re moving back in end of March, so I’m hoping things are finished enough by then to host supperclubs to groups of local people, with a different local person as the chef for each night, with the ingredients provided for them, and them kindly volunteering their time and know-how. I bounced the idea off a local foodie group of Facebook, and lots were keen, so fingers crossed we have a house by then in which to do it!! I think it would be a fun way to raise funds, while giving me and others a chance to meet other local people in our East London community! Watch this space for more updates!!

For anyone tempted to contribute, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-hillyer