In the December issue of RUNNER’S WORLD, we introduced you to three intrepid volunteers willing to let us train them up from being absolute beginners to running the Flora London Marathon in April. You’ll be pleased to know that, after six weeks of training, Kerry Neale, Philippa Braidwood and Phil Wilson are still training and making great progress to boot.
It hasn’t been a case of simply going out for a run after work, though: all three have agreed to completely reshape their lifestyles. Under the guidance of Keith Anderson – a former international marathon runner, now a coach who runs the Trailplus training camps – all three have had to alter their diet, exercise more than ever before and change long-term habits in order to reach their goal. And all three admit that they’ve found it tough: Braidwood has suffered an early injury setback, Neale has had moments of despondency when the temptation to reach for a chocolate bar seemed like the only way to pick up her mood and Wilson has ploughed a lonely furrow running and walking to and from work, as well as facing the additional challenge of trying to give up smoking.
It’s been tough for Anderson, too. He has devised training programmes and dietary advice for our three runners, and been in constant contact with them. When things are going well he has had to remind them not to do too much too soon, and when they’ve felt down he’s had to encourage, and at times cajole them to stick with their schedules. But with Anderson’s careful mentoring, and the avid support from forum users at www.runnersworld.co.uk, all three are on target for their 26.2-mile challenge in the spring. Here’s what they have to say about their new lives as bona fide runners:
Kerry Neale, 32, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire — computer software analyst
Neale has become the toast of the www.runnersworld.co.uk Beginners’ Forum, shedding two stone since she started her training programme, mainly by changing her eating patterns and doing one to two hours a day of cardiovascular exercise. She swims, bikes, walks and jogs, and after two months, her resting heart rate has dropped to 48 beats per minute, her motivation is sky high, and she has been able to fit in the demands of her training around a busy work and social life.
“I’ve been going away a lot on the weekends and that is when Keith schedules the long sessions. Sometimes it’s a real pain having to fit more than two hours of training in – especially if you’re travelling with a non-sporty friend,” she says. As she needed to lose weight before she could start running, Anderson set an uncompromising diet for Neale. He has set strict rules about her food intake, and demanded that she follow them to the letter. There are no cakes, no biscuits, no sweets, cheese, crisps, fast food, and no alcohol allowed. Surprisingly, the diet hasn’t been the hardest thing for Neale. Anderson wouldn’t allow her to jog during the first six weeks of her schedule – getting her to swim and cycle instead – and she found it incredibly frustrating. Now she is allowed to run, she’s finding it hard to hold back. She also admits that simply having to do things like staying hydrated throughout the day is tough. “I actually find having to drink so much water one of the hardest things,” she says. “The only time I used to drink water was when I was exercising.”
Understandably Anderson is delighted with Neale’s progress. “She’s been absolutely fantastic,” he beams, “ I can’t praise her enough.” He has been in close contact with her by e-mail and phone, and kept her spirits up when she has hit a rare low patch. “She’s totally committed, it’s an amazing turnaround,” he admits. He says that their relationship has to be absolutely honest if Neale is to reach her goal, but that doesn’t mean he’s a complete ogre: on Christmas Day he allowed a slight relaxing of the rules. (Knowing that all three runners are attending a Trailplus marathon training camp early this month and any major seasonal lapses will be found out.) “That was the carrot," he says, “the promise of a day off!”