September 07, 2023
Olivia only joined GoodGym in early 2022 but soon found herself taking on the challenge of the London Marathon. Here, she talks about her journey to conquering 26.2 miles, how she was inspired to raise money for people with sight loss by her mother, and how her community supported her along the way.
Who would have thought that a quick conversation with a fellow GoodGymer on a dark chilly night would result in running the 2023 London Marathon!
But let’s rewind a little. My running story took off after my first parkrun at Brockwell park 4 years ago, finishing in 34 minutes with an age-graded score of 49%. Being competitive, I would not settle for this. My challenge thus commenced, with regular weekly parkruns and longer running sessions.
Joining GoodGym Greenwich was the best thing I did in 2022. I received so much encouragement and support that I decided to run the Big Half in September 2022, then progress to the London marathon in 2023. 26.2 miles is a long way - without drive and motivation, reaching the finishing line seems an insurmountable goal.
My new GoodGym Greenwich friends told me about Achilles, a charity supporting people with sight loss. Through Achilles I learned that fundraising places for the London Marathon were available via British Blind Sport. I put in an application and the rest is history. Running with Achilles and British Blind Sport is something close to my heart as my mum lost her eyesight in her thirties. Mum had no support in those days, so supporting blind and visually impaired people came naturally. I want people to have a better experience and support to overcome their personal difficulties.
I followed the London Marathon training plan for beginners, changed my lifestyle by getting up for early morning runs and told everyone of my commitments to maximise fundraising and get motivational tips. I combined my training plan with GoodGym’s missions and group sessions as well as joining additional group runs with pacers. Understanding pace and running with a wider group was really beneficial to my overall training. I immersed myself in the task, reading several books, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos to improve my knowledge.
When marathon day arrived, the great support and encouragement just before the start from my GoodGym Greenwich friends was a huge boost. It was rainy, cold, and windy, but I had trained and felt prepared. My strategy was to keep my heart rate low, follow the blue lines for the shortest distance, keep hydrated, take a gel every 45 minutes and just enjoy the day. My target pace was 6 mins/km.
I estimated that I might finish in 4:30 hours when I registered for the race. I finished in 4:30:33! A good estimate considering that this was my first marathon. I had to pinch myself a couple of times during the event as I could not believe that I was running the London Marathon! It was surreal - the crowd, the cheers and music - it was such a fantastic experience.
I constantly reminded myself that this race was dedicated to my mum, and her wonderful support and love on the 20th anniversary of her passing away. Mum kept me going to The Mall and the finish.
As well as finishing, I managed to raise £2,200 for British Blind Sport which felt like a double achievement.