Going Strong

When the going gets tough, the tough get going - our three first-time marathoners show they have real staying power

Posted: 27 February 2004
by Marguerite Lazell

As the Flora London Marathon draws closer, RUNNER’S WORLD’s three marathon protégés – Kerry Neale, Philippa Braidwood and Phil Wilson – have been stepping up their mileage. While all have found the running hard but enjoyable, they’ve also discovered that life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of training.

Their coach Keith Anderson, from training experts Trailplus, has helped them adapt their schedules through what have been tough times for all three. “It’s amazing that you can take three people with such different stresses and problems, and that they can still do so much,” he says.

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

Four months into her training, Neale shows no signs of flagging. With plenty of advice and support from Anderson, she has made incredible progress – the figures speak for themselves. She has lost four stone (56lb) and is running for up to two and three quarter hours. In January, she joined Anderson at the Trailplus marathon training camp in the Forest of Dean, “It was just fantastic. I’m going on another one, I liked it so much,” she says. “We did an easy 5K, a threshold session and a long run, and there were lots of informative talks.” But one of the best aspects of the camp for Neale was having people to run with. “I usually run alone, so it was nice to have other people to train with. Everyone was so encouraging.”

It also made a welcome change from the tough regime Neale follows during the working week. She gets up at 5am to fit in her run before going to the office. “I like to know it’s out of the way,” she says. “And at that hour, I’m not awake enough to know how stupid it is!” Running four or five times a week, plus some cycling and swimming, fills a lot of Neale’s leisure time, but she is enjoying it.

In fact, she enjoys it so much that a two-week business trip to Singapore left her frustrated at the limits it put on her time to run. “We were working 12-hour days, but I was getting back at 8pm and still hitting the gym,” she says. Anxious that the trip should have minimum impact on her training, Anderson scheduled Neale’s rest days for when she flew, with the days immediately following for recovery runs, to allow for jet lag.

As far as she has come, Neale knows there is a long way to go if she is to reach her marathon goal. But she’s planning ahead. She is holding off from shopping for new clothes, and is going to wait until she has lost even more weight.

Most of all, though, Neale is positive that running is now a permanent part of her life. She ran on almost every weekend in February and has RW pacing events or races mapped out throughout March. Then there’s that second Trailplus weekend camp, and the RW spring training camp in the Algarve. And it’s not going to stop after April 18. “I’ve already told Keith I’m coming with him to New York,” she says.

Philippa Braidwood, 48, from Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey — writer

After two frustrating months when she was unable to run because of injury, Philippa Braidwood has turned a corner in her marathon training. “I ran for an hour non-stop – I can’t believe it,” she says. “Admittedly, it’s a slow jog, but I’ve never in my life been able to do that before.”

A muscle tear in her right calf had consigned Braidwood to eight weeks of bike rides and swimming. Her local Esporta gym has been a haven from the stresses of combining working and family life, and after sticking rigidly to her programme, her calf has healed, and she is not as behind schedule as she feared. “All the time, I kept exercising,” she says. “It never felt like it was making a difference, but it obviously worked.” For Braidwood, the easiest way to deal with the problems she has faced has been to take one week at a time. Anderson sends her the programme every week, and has not allowed her to slack. “He’s tough, but it’s helpful to have someone to push you,” she admits. For example, Anderson made Braidwood e-mail him what she ate every day for a fortnight. “It made me think twice before I put anything in my mouth,” she says. Having over-indulged during the Christmas period, she has got her weight back down again, and is 17 pounds lighter than before she began training.

Anderson admits to a massive amount of respect for the way Braidwood has managed to carry on training through a difficult time. She’s been fostering a newborn premature baby with pneumonia and bronchialitis that at times has needed feeding and medication every two hours, round the clock. “It’s a superb effort,” he says. Braidwood comments that her husband, Steve, is mystified as to why anyone would want to run 26.2 miles, but he still helps out – if relucantly – when Braidwood is training.

Braidwood also has an extra incentive to complete the marathon now. She has picked up sponsorship forms from the Cancer Appeal Office at Kingston Hospital, which is raising money for a new specialist unit. She had wanted to start collecting sponsorship, but was so worried about whether or not she would actually make the 26.2 miles that it is only now she is confident to start collecting names. “I used to feel sick at the thought of it,” she says. “It feels marginally less daunting now.”

Phil Wilson, 36, from Nottingham — sheet metal worker

Any marathon is an enormous challenge, and takes up a huge part of a runner’s life. But there are some things that make it shrink to insignificance. Phil Wilson’s mother lost her battle with leukaemia in January, and his running has simply not been a priority since then. “I’ve had a lot on my plate,” he admits. “But what I’ve decided to do is run the marathon for charity, either Leukaemia Research, or the City Hospital in Nottingham [where his mother was cared for]. It will give me a bit more of an incentive.”

After such a tough month, Wilson hopes that getting back into training will help him regain a semblance of normal life. He had managed more than two months without a cigarette, and although he has – understandably – had a lapse, he is sure he can now quit for good. “I’ve pretty much given up – I went 10 weeks without, so I know I can do it for good,” he says.

A 10K race after Christmas was Wilson’s first competitive outing, where he posted an impressive 44:05. Shortly afterwards, he started getting pains in his knee, but with time off running, it is now better. He is looking to start building up his distances, and rope in a friend or two. “Tom Butcher, the guy who put me up for this, is also doing the marathon, so he’s going to come over from Derby for some long runs at weekends,” he says.

Agreeing to the challenge has also unexpectedly rekindled an old friendship for Wilson. Through his forum thread on the forums, he has been communicating with a friend he had lost contact with. “It was a bit weird, but a nice surprise,” he says. It’s the support from friends that gets you through the toughest times, be they running-related or not.

Click here to read Kerry's forum thread.

Click here to read Philippa's forum thread.

Click here to read Phil's forum thread.

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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 london...so 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 that...it 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: adaly@jerseymail.co.uk 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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