Essex: London Marathon runner Ellen Marshall finds the spirit is willing but the body is weak

We’re following the preparations of London Marathon debutante Ellen Marshall, who grew up near Manningtree, between now and the big day on April 17. Here, she tells of an unexpected setback that could hurl all the good work down the drain . . .

AT the end of January, Anthony Nolan (the charity) hosted a Marathon Information Day for all participants. “All runners will get an injury at some point,” said Gavin, a physiotherapist who was giving us tips on how to look after ourselves during training. “The human body just isn’t designed to run marathons.”

I have an old knee problem from my hockey days, but a knee support has so far prevented that from causing me any real pain. (NB: don’t purchase said knee support before a night out, because you will get some very strange looks from bouncers checking your bag. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) “Injuries?” I thought. “Hah. Whatever.”

But then, a couple of weeks ago, I went out for a gentle eight-mile run and, in the last half-mile, my right hip started to hurt. “Odd,” I thought. “Maybe I didn’t stretch well enough.” The next day I ran an even gentler eight miles, but after an hour the shooting pains in my hip were making me physically cry out, somewhat to the s urprise of unfortunate bystanders. “I’ll give it a rest this weekend,” I thought as I limped home in the drizzle, “and get back on it next week.”

On Monday I pulled on my trainers and went out for a 10k, but within two miles my hip was agony. I finally admitted defeat and went to an osteopath the next day after work. “I don’t know what I’ll do if she says I can’t do the marathon,” I said to my friend Victoria before the appointment. “I’ll be devastated.”

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After pulling, prodding and massaging me for 45 minutes, the osteopath diagnosed an inturned left leg, some pelvic joints that don’t work correctly and an excessively tight muscle in my right outer thigh. “Can I still run?” I asked, my voice slightly too high. “I don’t know, to be honest,” she said. “Take the next few days off, come back next week for some more treatment, and we’ll see how it goes. But if it gets any worse…” She left the sentence hanging.

So, now we wait. I’m frustrated and upset – I didn’t realise how much I wanted to run the marathon until there’s the chance I can’t. As my brother said, “It’s just so unfair when what’s lacking isn’t effort, commitment or will, but something as intractable as the human body. Sometimes Kipling is wrong – sheer will sometimes isn’t enough to keep heart and nerve and sinew going. But I’m incredibly proud of you whatever happens; there’s a little thing called heart and you’ve got it in spades – always have done.” Let’s just hope that’s enough come Marathon day.

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• Ellen Marshall is raising money for Anthony Nolan. If you would like to sponsor her, please visit

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