London Marathon girl Ellen Marshall: What keeps me going when the going gets tough

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. Today, she explains what’s keeping her going when the going gets tough . . . which it does. Often

IF the last six months have convinced me of anything, it’s that anyone can run a marathon – if only they have the time and the inclination. This week I received my final magazine from the Virgin London Marathon organisers: the one with the final four-week countdown, the last-bid pleas from charities to those with ballot places, and instructions for the big day itself. My first reaction was panic; “I haven’t done enough training,” I thought. “I can’t do this.”

When I first found out that I’d won a place, I had every intention of running five times a week for the six months preceding the race. But real life got in the way, and instead I’ve run three times a week for the last three months. Even with the best will in the world, it’s hard to stay motivated over a long period of time – after all, when the rest of the world is logging off and heading to the pub on a Friday night, choosing to come home, eat pasta and have an early night is not an easy thing to do, especially when you have to keep doing it for weeks on end.

So what keeps me going? Sometimes I think of the Anthony Nolan (charity) runners who I’ve met through my job – some who we’ve helped to defeat blood cancer; others who have family whom we’ve not been able to save, yet who want to raise money so that we might help someone else. Other times I think of my family. I know how proud they are of me, and I can’t wait to see their reaction when I cross the finish line.

And finally, a couple of weeks ago, I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon. After several false starts – “Alright, guys, GO! Oh no, hang on . . . there’s a bit of congestion . . . everyone just keep walking” – I was finally over the start line and officially racing my first half-marathon. “What on EARTH am I doing?” I thought, as an overweight girl in unforgiving Lycra overtook me. “I hate running.”


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But then, at the one-mile marker, something strange happened. As the crowd started to thin out; as I settled into my pace and the sun broke through the clouds for the first time; as the supporters lining the course shouted out encouragement, I suddenly found myself grinning like a fool. The months of training, the hip pain and the blisters haven’t been in vain. In an unprecedented turn of events, I was actually enjoying running. So take it from me: if I can do this, anyone can.

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

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