Running The London Marathon - From Couch To 26.2 Miles For Brain Research Trust

My name is Sophie and I'm here to talk about my experience in training for and completing the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Let me start by saying that I did not start out on this journey as a runner…believe me when I say I was the person who got out of breath running up a flight of stairs. Embarrassing, really.

I have always admired people who were able to run long distances (or just, you know, at all!) and I wanted to be one of those people myself but had somehow never ‘got around to it’ (terrible excuse!)

Running For The Brain Research Trust

Rewind back to the end of 2013, and I receive the devastating news that one of my closest friends is battling a brain tumour, namely a rare Anaplastic Ependymoma. Cue all the feelings - anger, sadness, and for me personally, perhaps the worst which was helplessness. Anyway, this isn't a pity party, because my amazing friend is a true fighter and is in the best hands, having had access to cutting edge treatments and top level care from some of the best clinicians in the country. If there is anyone that had ever taught me to take each day as it comes and to live in the moment, it’s her.

When it comes to any type of disease, particularly the rarer types, it goes without saying that research into new treatments and a better understanding of the disease in question is of the utmost importance. The problem is, to enable scientists to conduct this vital research isn't free…it's extremely expensive.

This is where the incredible team at Brain Research Trust come in, and it is for this charity that I was selected to fundraise and run for in the London Marathon 2017. Brain Research Trust fund vital research to discover the causes, develop new treatments and improve the lives of those affected by various neurological conditions, including brain tumours. You can read more and donate by visiting


Couch to Winter Training Plan

When I found out that I had a place, I excitedly told everyone, purchased some new trainers and began training. I think my husband will agree that if there were a competition for moaning during a run, I would win it! I’d begin by running round the block a couple of times and it felt awful. My chest was tight, I had bilateral stitch, I felt like I couldn’t breath....blah blah blah. It was at this point that I wondered what the hell I had let myself in for! And who enjoys running anyway? It’s awful! I certainly wasn’t feeling this ‘runners high’ that you hear about.

If I could recommend one thing, it would be to follow a training plan. I found a good one for beginners and followed that - it really helped to have a plan to follow, ticking off goals each week. I also caved and bought a treadmill, knowing that I wouldn’t always fancy pounding the icy pavement in the depths of winter.

I remember one morning in early December, 1 year ago now, I managed to run 4 miles without stopping. I felt on top of the world....until I realised that I just had to add another 22.2 miles on top of that to make a marathon. It seemed like an impossible task, but I persevered.

The miles got longer, my endurance improved and by the beginning of February 2017 I had managed a half marathon which really boosted my confidence. In the meantime, donations were coming in thick and fast which only served to push me on through those long, lonely runs! My last long training run clocked in at around 22 miles, and I then enjoyed a nice one and a half week taper prior to the race. That meant no running at all and indulging in what is known as ‘carb-loading’!


Race Day

Before long, Sunday April 23rd rolled around and this was it. I barely slept a wink the night before the marathon, and woke up feeling like I’d already run a few miles! I arrived at my start in Greenwich Park along with a few thousand other was a hive of excitement, nerves, and the longest queue for the loo I’d ever seen - although when I reached the front I discovered that there was in fact no toilet at all, rather cardboard female urinals (google them!) All dignity went out the window and a good giggle was had with some fellow runners.

The atmosphere was electric, and it was incredible to see people raising money for so many amazing charities. The countdown began, and we were off. The first few miles were nice and comfortable, as expected. It took quite a bit of concentration to keep a steady pace and not shoot off like some people around me. I knew that if I started too quickly, I’d fatigue too soon and I was terrified of hitting the infamous ‘wall’. Morale was high and the route was lined with spectators, all shouting encouragement and holding up signs. There were so many children who would want a high-five as you ran past, and since I tried to stick to running on the outside, I must have high-fived about 100 of them!

Just past mile 7 at the Cutty Sark, I saw my husband and friends which was a huge boost, even that early into the race. Running over Tower Bridge was an incredible experience, particularly since it signalled the HALF WAY mark! I was feeling pretty good, but it didn’t last. At about mile 15/16 I began to feel quite unwell and really had to fight the urge to throw was a hard balance to keep hydrated without making the nausea worse (over the course of a marathon you sweat between 3 to 6 litres). By mile 21 I swear that someone was moving the mile markers - whereby earlier in the race they seemed to appear in reasonably quick succession, at this point they seemed very few and VERY far between!


The Last Mile

I made it to Embankment, and thanks to the lactic acid buildup, my body was screaming at me - every physiological system was being pushed to the max. It was at the stage that I can safely say that it was the crowd that got me through it. They were incredible - hundreds of people cheering your name is such a boost. My parents had come down to support me but I hadn’t spotted them yet and as I approached the finish I was desperate see them for that final push. As I reached Birdcage Walk, just prior to turning the corner for the final straight on The Mall, I heard my Mum screaming my name (she said that she screamed herself hoarse). That’s when I lost it - complete blubbering wreck, crying because I just wanted to hug my Mum and Dad!

I can’t remember crossing the finishing line, but I do remember the sensation of my quadriceps seizing up from the rapid halt after running for 5.5 hours! Medal around neck and hugs from my wonderful husband and parents, I was in shock. I just couldn’t believe what I’d done and it definitely took a few days to sink in!

The support from friends and family both during training and on race day was incredible. Thanks to them, I smashed my fundraising target and raised £2845. Brain Research Trust’s 2017 Marathon team collectively raised a staggering £150,000, the most they have ever achieved at this event. It was a privilege to be part of such an amazing event, and I can safely say that it was one of the best days of my life so far.


Sophie is the owner of Coco & Kate, Bridal Boutique

Coco & Kate opened its doors in May 2014, and specialises in luxury bridal wear and

accessories. Designers include Jenny Packham, Made With Love, Anna Campbell and Hayley Paige. Nestled within the picturesque setting of Hatton Shopping Village, Warwickshire, a warm welcome awaits as you privately browse the beautiful collections with fizz in hand! As seen on Rock My Wedding.

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