Beginners' Pluck

Meet our three brave non-runners who've agreed to let us transform them into trained athletes ready for the Flora London Marathon next April

Posted: 30 October 2003
by Rob Spedding

Philippa, Kerry and Phil seem a little nervous. That’s hardly surprising, as they’ve just arrived in a chilly Battersea Park for an appointment that has the potential to change their lives.

The trio were chosen from the dozens of people who responded to a request placed by us on the forums earlier this year. We wanted beginner runners who were willing to take on a massive challenge – to get from virtually nothing to 26.2 miles in time for the 2004 Flora London Marathon.

Over the coming months, RUNNER’S WORLD – along with a few of our experts – are going to offer our volunteers as much help as they need to prepare for their first-ever London Marathon. We’ll write them training programmes, give them nutrition advice, help them choose the right running shoes, keep them motivated… all the things you’d expect RUNNER’S WORLD to do. And we’ll bring you regular updates of their progress. But first, on this this nippy September Sunday afternoon, we’ll get to know them and set them on the way to the Marathon. We’ve also got a comment on each runner from Paul Magner of Trailplus – which organises marathon training camps – who, along with colleague Keith Anderson, will be part of the team guiding our volunteers.

Kerry Neale, 32, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire – computer software analyst

“I responded to your request because I really want to lose weight. I started going to WeightWatchers in November 2002. And just before this year’s London Marathon I joined a gym and my weight has been coming down steadily. But after watching the race I was so inspired, I decided I’d give running a try. Logging on to the RUNNER’S WORLD forum and seeing lots of other beginners in the same boat as me gave me a real boost. I know running is one of the best exercises for weight loss. I’m sure that I can lose weight due to sheer determination, but the motivation as well as the training I’ll need for the marathon will help even more."

"So far, I have done very little running, just some gym work, but I did complete the Nike Run London 10K in Richmond Park. I didn’t run it all, but I finished, really enjoyed it and that gave me loads of confidence. Afterwards I think I could have gone round again, and the marathon is only four times 10K, so I can do it. At the moment, though, I do find that I’m gasping for breath, even though I did a VO2max test and was told that my results were excellent! I’m sure that I’ll be able to finish the marathon, as I know on the day the crowds will get me round. The thing that worries me most at the moment is the thought of having to go out for a 20-mile run on my own in the months to come – I don’t know how that can be enjoyable!”

Magner’s View
“For Kerry, the first challenge is going to be losing a lot of weight before we can even start her on a training plan for the marathon. Excess weight places a bigger strain on your body, so if Kerry starts running straight away there’s a real risk she’ll get injured. Instead, we’ll start her off with non-weight bearing exercises like swimming. And, of course, we will also give her plenty of advice on her diet. The great thing about Kerry is that she’s determined to get fit enough to complete the marathon and really up for the challenge.”

Phil Wilson, 36, from Nottingham – sheet metal worker

“I was volunteered for this challenge by my mate Tom Butcher. At the beginning of the year, I decided it was time to get fit and joined Tom for a couple of runs. He thought I seemed pretty good at running, and we entered the Wilmslow Half-Marathon. We didn’t get there, though, as Tom filled his car up with diesel on the day! Since then I’ve hardly been for a run, and although Tom told me about the marathon challenge, I was surprised to get a call. Being told I’d been selected, though, prompted me to stop smoking. I’d been a smoker for eight years, but I thought that if I was going to take this seriously I’d have to give up. It’s been hard, especially on nights out, and I’ve used nicotine patches and gum, but I’ve now gone three weeks without having a cigarette. I’m not too worried about the marathon, as I know I can do it if I do all the training. And I want to run all of it, I don’t want to walk at all."

"But that’s not what scares me. I’m more worried that I won’t keep up the training. My problem is I’m not very good at sticking to things, and find it quite difficult to keep up the motivation to see things through to the end. I’m a little concerned that I’ll give it a go, but then fail halfway through! But hopefully the fact that you’re going to follow us in the magazine and thousands of people will be reading about me will be all the motivation I need.”

Magner’s View
“Phil has done well to give up the cigarettes, and that shows a good level of determination and a sign that he’s serious. From a physical point of view, Phil actually has a reasonably athletic build, so he should be quite well suited to running. The challenge for us with Phil, and with all three of the team, in fact, is to get them to enjoy running for the sake of running, rather than just because there’s a marathon to train for. Phil’s a quiet chap, but I think he has a determined outlook, which means he’ll be good to work with.”

Philippa Braidwood, 48, from Kingston-upon-Thames – writer

“I’ve put on about two stone in the last couple of years. In fact, my weight just seems to be going up and up and I want to reverse that trend. I did join a gym about 18 months ago because I wanted to get fit, but to be honest I’ve hardly been at all, as I’ve been too busy. I thought this would be a great incentive to achieve both my goals. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I think having to report to RW readers will prove a big motivation. I did do a bit of running in my 20s. I worked on Woman’s Own magazine and organised a series of 30 10K runs for women that it sponsored with Nike in 1984 and ‘85."*

"I was slim and fit then, and would run around Clapham Common every morning. Over the years, though, as I got busier with my children – I have five aged from 18 down to seven – and stressful jobs, I found that I had little time for keeping fit. I’m rather daunted by the challenge, as April already seems very close and I’ve never run more than 10K, and that was a long time ago! Six months seems a short time, and I’m not convinced that it’s enough to get to the level of fitness required for a marathon. I’m not 100 per cent confident that I’m going to achieve it but I am committed to trying.”

Magner’s View
“Although Philippa is nervous about the time she has to prepare, I have a good feeling about her and I’m sure that she’ll last the course. By getting the ball rolling this early – we’ll get both her and Phil on an easy walking regime to get them used to regular exercise – she actually has plenty of time. Many beginners won’t even start training until January. And as she has been a runner, albeit a few years ago, she does at least have an understanding of what training for a race involves. She’s a few rungs further up the ladder than she realises.”

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Discuss this article

Runner’s World has plucked three lucky souls from the forums to take on a massive challenge - to get from virtually nothing to 26.2 miles in time for the 2004 Flora London Marathon.

Please give a warm welcome to Kerry, and her very own forum thread. She will be updating us on her progress and is keen for any advice or encouragement you can give her.

You can read Kerry's article here.

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 12:33

Hi Kerry,

i've nominated myself as the ambassador for the plodders who rampage daily across beginners and sometimes launch raiding parties elsewhere.

Whilst we all love the RW training programmes and swear by them, we have been known to make alterations to improve them so here is this weeks one:

Plod training programme
Day one - carbo load with chocolate
Day two - carbo load with chips
Day three - carbo load with beer
day four - rest
day five - think about plod, but look at bright sunshine and decide it's going to rain
day six - hungover
day seven - rest

Repeat as necessary

If you can fight your way through our inane ramblings in the plod thread, there is periodically some very useful advice.

Good luck

(oh and if someone shouts Bogies, it's probably gingerloon)

<don't moderate me - i did put useful advice in there, like go to plodders>
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 15:31

Hi Puff

WOW - I like the sound of this diet better than the one Keith (our trainer from TrailPlus) has put me on... and considering I'm not allowed to run yet, I could probably just repeat Day 3 on Day 5... what do you reckon??

Here's a bit of Keith's e-mail to give you a diet comparison...

"You eat SMALL meals/snacks more regularly but you only eat good stuff - fruit, vegetables, salads and soups. You may eat controlled portions of quality protein (fish is good) with no fat on it. You can eat controlled portions of pasta, rice, potatoes and non sugar cereal like porridge or muesli. Semi skim milk and natural yogurt or fromage frais. No fat of any
description, no cheese, no cakes, no biscuits, sweets, crisps, fast food, sauces, and absolutley (like it or not) no alchohol - it is wasted calories
you cannot afford. I want you to drink lots of water - 3 litres a day.
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 15:54


Are you allowed oxygen Hippo? That seems harsh...

Still, if it helps to get you through the marathon....

(Het convinces herself she never wants to run anything longer than a 5K and reaches for the wine....)
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 16:08

Personally, I'd pop along to Weightwatchers Kerry.

alcohol yes
chocolate yes
cheeses yes

as many veggies as you can eat and everything else you just count and go.

But suppose I'm not allowed to say that as you've got a proper nutritionist on board
agree with the water and the controlled and small portions though.

Think I'd better stay off here - i'll get you into lots of trouble

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 16:21

I lost quite a lot of weight with weight watchers and really like the diet... but I was starting to slip into some bad habits when Keith came along and cracked the whip... I don't mind his diet really - I've kind of got used to it and know that I need to lose some serious amounts of weight if I have any chance of running this marathon. I've already planned a big party for after the marathon with alcohol and food galore... :)
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 17:05

Kerry, I'm Kerry!

Congratulations on being one of the three!

I lost 5 stone with WW in 2001 and swam to help lose it and get fit. At the end I swam a 5k swimathon. With that as a goal it was easier to stick too. You'll do great just get down to it now as every week will be a pound or a couple and each one of those pounds counts when you are running.

I picked up running after losing my weight and its such fun and so addictive. Good luck. I look forward to hearing your progress. If times get hard just think how good you are going to look and feel about yourself when you meet your challenge.

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 17:19

"no fat of any description" sounds abit extreme

some fat is neccessary in a diet - very low fat diets are not healthylong term - but obviously thats not loads of butter, lard, fried foods crisps chocolate, cream, cakes etc

there is some fat in dairy produce - and vegetable oils in small portions and nuts, seeds and oily fish are all beneficial in moderation
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 17:25

hello hippo!
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 17:53

Kerry, you poor thing, coming from Hatfield. That's where I'm from. Have escaped to Lincolnshire now though. Did you go to school in Hatfield, as you are between me and my brother's ages (me 35, brother 30).

Good luck with training for the FLM and everything you are putting yourself through. I weighed 19 stone back in 1997, but have since done 4 FLM's after 29 years as a couch potato. I'm doing it in 2004 too, after a year off. Will look out for your postings on the forum.
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 18:10

Hats off to you, Kerry. If you can hack the diet, the running will be a doddle.

I adapted to a painful diet once - no wheat, no dairy, about two years ago. It meant I could run. Although I fantasize about pecan danishes, I can run, so - we leave the bakery stuff and run.

Have since started eating dairy again, not sure it was wise, and it will be harder next time I think to give it up if I have to.

Still, running is worth it. Even if you have to take it on faith for a while. Take it on faith.

Go ask Snail, or Llama man, or read the nosy thread on training.

<<bows low>>
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 18:29

Hi Kerry!

Again congrats on being chosen. Very exciting! I'm really rooting for you. I've lost 4 stone over the last 2 years (painfully slowly, blah!) and I'm building up my running with a view to running my first half marathon in June. Sounds jolly far enough to me... scarey stuff!

I will be watching your progress and willing you on, figuratively at least we're plodding the same road. Lets giggle as we go.

Best wishes!

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 19:14

Hello Kerry, I've just read the article about you three and thought I'd pop in to say an encouraging hello and wish you luck.
I'm sure they've already told you; consistency and not overdoing it are the key. Consitency, not overdoing it and making sure you do the long runs. Oops, starting to sound like a Monty Python sketch.
Enjoy yourself.
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 19:37

Ooooh Tim, just the chap for lessons in not overdoing it!

Hope your resting peaceful like now.

(To save you chasing round what Tim's done, just a 24 hour race one weekend followed by a marathon the next, and another the following. And perhaps I've missed a few.)
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 20:08

Its ok Stickless, I haven't run a step since last Sunday.
You've summed up October quite well really.

Hopefully I'll be in the FLM myself Kerry, just waiting to see if my cheque's cashed before I try for a club place.
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 20:26

Hello Kerry, just to wish you luck with the training

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 21:13

Hi Kerry!

Just really copying what everyone else is saying and that is to wish you lots of luck with achieving your goals. Whenever you're feeling low or demotivated just pop on to the forum and there will always be someone to get you up and out the door again.

Looking forward to watching you do this in style...

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 21:19

Hi Kerry...well done girl!!!! what a great achievement even just to have the guts to go for it..there are many who would just sit and dream..
I have lost 5 stone too and am now a true running anorak...only started running last christmas and am just about to do my 7th half marathon and have my fingers crossed for london so may well be plodding besides you. I'm so determined to do a marathon that i've signed up for stratford even if i don't get in to do i'll be training too and routing for you all the way..this is really sad but i just love this saying..'The body says stop but the spirit cries never' when you start to struggle think of helps
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 21:53

Hi Kerry

Like Fat Squirrel, I'm also from Hatfield but unlike him I'm still here!

Good luck with the dieting and training, I'm also trying the same and have got a place in the FLM.

So if you're running takes you around the Birchwood area and see a fat bloke puffing and plodding around give me a wave!

Posted: 03/11/2003 at 22:27

Hi Kerry,
Just popped in to say good luck, after reading the article on the home page!

Believe me, its a hard long road, but one that will feel you with satisfaction,and the sense of achievement, when you get to the end of it!

It will also increase your health tenfold, and will benefit you greatly! And the one worrying thing is that it will become mightily addictive, and you will want to do another...after all i had planned just to do the 1..(15 later.....)
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 09:50

Hats off to you Kerry! I just wanted to wish you well in your weight loss & training for the FLM.
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 10:14

Hi Kerry,
When I read the article I thought how frustrating that they won't let you run until you've lost more weight even though you'd alrady done so well. However, it is worth it: I wasn't so wise and am currently paying the price. Having jogged three times a week for a year round our local reservoir (about 4.5km)and got down to 12st10lbs, I decided to do the Sheffield half marathon last year. Although I was cautious about increasing my mileage within a month I had really bad plantar fascitis, ended up having to stop running,see a podiatrist, get orthotics (I was blissfully unaware that I have very unstable over-pronating feet)and am now back to 14st 2. When the pain has gone (its a lot better now), I will be allowed to try running again, but meantime I have got a dog and am walking an hour a day instead. So the caution is worth it! You will be an inspiration to me for next year!Go girl!
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 13:06

Hiya Kerry

Last year I ran the FLM. Well, I say ran, I jogged and plodded. It took me 6 hours, but I did it. I only started training in December, and I was 5 stone overweight. It was one of the best days of my life. I'd like to tell you that I'm now a size 8, but unfortunately no. I'm still very much overweight, but am very fit, and feel great. I've just started training again for next year. Good luck, and I'll follow your progress with interest.
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 14:03

Good luck Kerry. The feeling of achievement you will have during and after the event will be worth all the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations that you will experience during the challenge you have taken on. We'll be keeping an eye on you!
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 14:59

FLM in 2002 was my first marathon. I crossed the line in tears. It was one of the best days of my life and a truly wonderful experiance.

Don't set a time just enjoy the day FLM is the best marathon and a truly great experiance.

Look out for the FORUMITES at mile 18 who will be there to cheer you on.

Also get yourself some URWFRC kit and join in at some of your local races where other forumites will be there to cheer you on and give you support.

See you there next year.
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 15:41

Hello Kerry

can't add much except to say - YOU GO, GIRL!

and if it ever seems to get too much, or things don't go to plan, or you bust your eating plan, then just go to bed at night, and wake up to start again on a brand new day.

Posted: 04/11/2003 at 15:49

good luck guys... and remember to enjoy it all!

also beware of people just pasting identical posts on all your threads! it;s the personal touch that really counts!
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 21:00

good luck all of you - my first marathon was FLM in 2003 - enjoy the experience, the training and camaraderie of the day (and of course the forum). me - I'm sweating on a place for 2004 - and still running for the sheer hell of it.

Posted: 04/11/2003 at 21:21

No you didn't kill the thread, it's just taking everyone 1/2 hour to read it!

Very inspirational though - Thanks
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 08:20

Inspirational stuff EP. That's the sort of thing we like. Shedender. Are you still around. Long time since we caught up. You are always on the forum so late these days.

Must email you soon. Hope Hatfield is OK. Have they built anymore tunnels under it lately?
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 08:39

Wow !!
That brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.
I'm inspired
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 09:53

Evil Pixie,

It's reading postings like yours that gives me the faith to keep trying. You are inspirational.

Posted: 05/11/2003 at 11:42

Hello everyone!!

Thanks so much for all your support - it is very much appreciated!!

I'm envious when I read of everyone elses running endeavours. I'm not allowed to run yet but can do non-impact exercise such as cycling, swimming etc until I lose weight. I do an hour cardio at the gym from Monday to Friday, then something different like walking or cycling on the weekend. I can't wait until I can start plodding with the rest of you :)

These forums are great and very inspirational - it amazes me to hear of so many people that have taken up running for the same reasons as myself...

Good luck to all the other runners training for FLM next year (or any event)... hope to see you at the start line (or @ 18 miles if you're not running)!!

Thanks again to everyone - take care...
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 12:42

Hey good luck Kerry I'm envouis of you. Would love to have the guidance that your getting. I dont s'pose there's any chance of getting the diet sheets they have cooked up for you. The one thing that always holds me back is getting the nutrion right so if you have the data in email format I would appreciate it.

I'll buy you a big cream cake after the run, Honest

EMAIL: just in case

Posted: 05/11/2003 at 13:03

I restrict how much I run still too because I'm still on the heavy side (BMI 25)

My local pool does deep water aqua aerobics. Can highly recommend it! Lots of running in the deep end and good all round workout. Keeps the interest going doesn't it.
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 14:12

mine was 52%... well it was last time it was measured which was a while ago now... hopefully it will be under 50% next time I go... this should make everyone else feel very proud of there BMI's... :)
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 14:50

Good luck Kerry!!!!...What you are doing should be inspiration to everyone!.....Hope the training goes well for you.....
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 15:34

BMI calculator if you want to check!! good luck.
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 15:36

wow... 44.53... I know that sounds really bad but it's heaps better than 52!!
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 15:54

well done!!
Posted: 05/11/2003 at 16:13

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