‘Running has saved my life and I will continue to run for my mental health’

PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 April 2020

(left to right) Ruth Gray, Tom Wake, Ian Elden. Picture: Submitted

(left to right) Ruth Gray, Tom Wake, Ian Elden. Picture: Submitted


With London Marathon cancelled this weekend, 7 Suffolk readers who were due to take part share their alternative plans for Sunday.

Runners head down The Mall during the 2018's Virgin Money London Marathon. Picture: Steve Paston/PA ImagesRunners head down The Mall during the 2018's Virgin Money London Marathon. Picture: Steve Paston/PA Images

With tens of thousands of runners putting in hours of dedication and training for the London Marathon, you can imagine their disappointment when it was announced that the upcoming 40th edition of the race is postponed.

Now scheduled to take place in October due to the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak, runners up and down the country are coming up with creative new ways to stay in peak condition.

From training in the garden, to taking part in virtual replacement races, there’s a number of ways runners are keeping busy – all while staying safe and maintaining social distancing.

Seven runners across Suffolk tell ushow they feel, what they’re doing to keep fit in the meantime, and how they’ll continue to support their chosen charities during this tough time.

Tom Wake at 2019's London Marathon Picture: Tom WakeTom Wake at 2019's London Marathon Picture: Tom Wake

Tom Wake, 34, of Kesgrave, had managed to achieve a championship qualifying time, which meant that he’d automatically qualified for a place in the 2020 London Marathon. He said: “I started training properly for London just after Christmas, around 11 weeks in total. We had our first baby, George, at the end of October so I’d been doing a lot of my training early in the morning, getting up at around 4-5am while George and my wife Pip slept.”

Seeing the affect that the Coronavirus outbreak had around the world, it came as no surprise to Tom when the London Marathon was officially cancelled back in March. He said: “I’d actually been anticipating it for a week or two beforehand, and I think subconsciously I’d started to back-off my training a little. This was due to seeing other large sporting events and marathons around the world being cancelled and wondering how London could possibly carry on with so many spectators and runners.

“I was slightly disappointed, as I believe that my training had been paying off and I was possibly the fittest that I’d ever been and running better than ever. However, I know that there will be lots of other races and it’s more important to look after everyone’s health and contain the spread of Coronavirus. I know as I’ve done the training once I should be able to do it again.”

With 2020’s London Marathon postponed for now, Tom is making sure he’s keeping on top of training so he doesn’t lose sight of what he’d been working so hard to achieve. He added: “I have been doing a lot more indoor workouts to improve my strength and conditioning and I have a turbo trainer for my bike, so I’ve been doing more cross-training, which I would never normally do. I’m also an ambassador for Salomon Running and I created an Instagram TV workout for them to help runners with their hill running through an indoor workout. I’m currently sussing out the possibility of a garden run, however our garden isn’t too big, so it could turn into a lot of laps!”

Ruth Gray, who was due to run for Salvation Army Picture: Ruth GrayRuth Gray, who was due to run for Salvation Army Picture: Ruth Gray

Like many runners across the country, Ruth Gray, 35, of Ipswich, had chosen to run the London Marathon in aid of her chosen charity. She said: “I was due to run the London Marathon for the amazing Salvation Army, but I’m now running on October 4. I’m so proud to be running for the Salvation Army and all they are doing to support the communities at this very sad and difficult time.

Ruth continued: “My family have been my rock over this situation and will support me until I cross the finishing line. I have a dream and I will continue to chase my dreams till the end.”

In the meantime, Ruth is continuing her fundraising efforts and still training where she can. She said: “I’m not giving up, and this gives me longer to train and fundraise. I’m still running, but a lot less than I was, but I’m still working hard with my Core Club family to stay fit. I have also joined classes on Zoom and run in my garden to get the miles up.

“Running has saved my life and I will continue to run for my mental health. It’s important to stay safe at these times,” she added.

Ian Elden of Ipswich Jaffa Running Club Picture: Ian EldenIan Elden of Ipswich Jaffa Running Club Picture: Ian Elden

Similarly, Ian Elden, 45, of Ipswich, had planned to run in aid of Sepsis UK, and had been training for the London Marathon since December 2019. He said: “I’m always in training, as like most club athletes, I race various distances regularly. However, in December I began focusing on marathon specific training, and by January I was averaging 50 miles a week. Like many local athletes I used the Tarpley 20-mile race in early February to gauge my level, and was pleased with a big personal best which indicated that my 3 hour 15 minute target for London was definitely achievable.”

“I was fortunate to get a ballot place, but was intending to set up a fundraising page for Sepsis UK and will do so before the rearranged date,” he added.

“We were all expecting the postponement when it came, and any disappointment was minor compared to the seriousness of the current situation. Even though we can’t now put our block of winter training to the test, no exercise is ever wasted effort,” Ian said.

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Ian continues to on the bright side and remains hopeful for the future of running. He said: “I am grateful we are currently still allowed out to exercise once a day. Provided it’s done responsibly, with appropriate social distancing, we can all keep ticking over until we’re able to race again. My mileage and speed have gone down a bit but for the moment it’s more about trying to enjoy my time outside and staying mentally healthy.”

For some, preparation for the London Marathon had been in the making for years. George Baldwin, 25, from Ipswich, had been training for the London Marathon two years.

George, who runs for Ipswich Jaffas, said: “I was due to run April 2019, but I snapped my Achilles in a boxing match.”

“I’d actually done an interview with International Medical Corps, the charity that I’m running for, the same afternoon it got cancelled.”

Andre Wright, who has been running with Stowmarket Striders Picture: Andre WrightAndre Wright, who has been running with Stowmarket Striders Picture: Andre Wright

To stay on top of training, George said: “I bought a bike – thought I’d got a bargain but when I collected it, but it had no pedals, so I’m also doing daily runs and workouts at the house.”

Andre Wright, 48, of Stowupland took up running just under two years ago. In that time, he’s managed to build up enough stamina and confidence to put himself forward for what would’ve been this weekend’s London Marathon. He said: “I decided to enter the Marathon to give myself a goal, and raise money for Old Newton Playgroup, near Stowmarket. Old Newton Pre-School had a golden ticket for the marathon place, so I applied to them for the space once I found out they had it, and they voted for me to run for them.”

Fully dedicated to the cause, Andre added: “As you can imagine, I was over the moon with this and started training hard with a 17-week training plan. I was absolutely gutted when I received the news it was postponed.”

Not one to be deterred, Andre is keeping his spirits high, and thinking of his charitable cause. He said: “The training has been hard, and sometimes the weather would be awful after getting home from work. But you just have to keep going and think of the charity, and the help that you’re giving them. They really struggle at times for money, and every bit counts so I will keep going and raise what I can,” he added.

Juliet Garnham running in the Berlin Marathon Picture: Juliet GarnhamJuliet Garnham running in the Berlin Marathon Picture: Juliet Garnham

“I have still been training hard as 26.2 miles is a long way. I’m still not sure how I’m going to make it, but with the help from Stowmarket Striders, I will get there. I’m lucky that where I live in Stowupland I can still get out once a day and train,” Andre said.

The overall impact of the London Marathon not taking place as scheduled doesn’t just affect the runners and their physical efforts however, as many charities stand to potentially lose out if 2020’s edition doesn’t happen in October. Juliet Garnham, of Wyverstone, was due to run in this year’s London Marathon and raise money for EACH in what would have been her third World Marathon Major. She said: “London Marathon is known for its contribution to charity. Last year it contributed over £66million to charity through charity places and as well as voluntary fundraising raised with ballot places. Challenge events form a big part of their income, not just through running events but also cycling, trekking and international events.

“Since the lockdown, charities have suffered with the closure of their shops and also the loss of income from their own fundraising events which have had to have been cancelled as well as all the income that would have been raised through events like London Marathon. If it doesn’t go ahead in 2020 then this will have a knock-on effect going into 2021 and the potential they have to raise through charity places,” she explained.

However, in light of this, the London Marathon is still aiming to raise money through its 2.6 Challenge on the Sunday April 26, the day the Marathon was due to take place. Julie said: “It is to encourage those that would have taken part, as well as the general public, to set themselves a challenge and to either raise money for their charity distribution or for their favourite charity. You can do anything as long as it has a two and six in it, in that order. So that could be a 26-minute walk, or a 2.6 mile or km walk or run, 262 tennis volleys, 26 minutes of Zumba – basically anything.”

Kesgrave Kruisers have organised their own Kesgrave Landmarks Half Marathon Picture: Kevin Ward and Neal HardwickKesgrave Kruisers have organised their own Kesgrave Landmarks Half Marathon Picture: Kevin Ward and Neal Hardwick

Julie, who is ladies captain at Stowmarket Striders, will be partking alongside her family this weekend, and added: “Both my children are doing 2.62 miles. One of them is also doing 262 tennis volleys on different objects, and the other a 262 goal challenge. I will be running 26.2 miles over the week and cycling the equivalent of two lots of 26.2 miles within the current guidelines and raising money for our wonderful local children’s hospices EACH.

Kevin Ward, 44, along with Neal Hardwick, 41, both of Kesgrave, had some big races to compete in this year. After being faced with cancellations and postponements, the two took it upon themselves to set up their own ‘virtual run’ with Kesgrave Kruisers. He said: “We’re offering replacement virtual races to runners locally, so they can still get medals while raising a bit of cash too.”

Open to anyone, Kevin decided to share the local Kesgrave Landmarks route in return for a minimum donation of £2.50. “When our race was cancelled, we decided to do our own local landmarks race along with a load of friends – and we would do it in fancy dress. Lockdown got in the way of that though, so we decided to do solo runs instead, but I was very aware that a number of running friends were missing their motivation to train and feeling low. One of the main motivations for a lot is the chance of a medal - there’s something nice about getting one,” he said. “People who shared photos of themselves with the landmarks and completed the run, either in one go or in a few sections, would get a medal which would be a unique Kesgrave Landmarks medal.”

“We’ve had over 30 take part now with an average of £9 donation each, and it runs until the end of April so more people are still doing it,” he added. As well as the Kesgrave Landmarks route, Kevin and Neal have set up the Battle of the 10ks, which consists of four local routes that replace local 10k races.

“I’m really missing not having a target to aim for, so I’m pretending I still have and am training accordingly,” Kevin said. “My other motivation now is to try and help others stay keen and motivated and keep them wanting to stay fit and healthy – mentally and physically, thus helping myself and them all through this.” Those who wish to take part can do so at a minimum cost of £2.50 by contacting Kevin Ward at

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