Progress Makes Perfect

New Year's resolution - a brief catch-up with our three marathon first-timers finds them well on the way to marathon success

Posted: 22 December 2003
by Marguerite Lazell

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, 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 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!”

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

With a nasty muscle tear in her right calf just two weeks into training, Braidwood has had the toughest start to her programme. After a couple of days off, she resumed the walk/jog sessions set by Anderson, but the pain soon flared up again, and she was forced to to stop running. “I went swimming – aiming for 75 minutes a day – and cycling,” she says, “and visited a local physiotherapist for some ultrasound treatment and deep tissue massage.” Braidwood found, as most runners do, that there was no instant cure. In fact, she was forced to avoid running for four weeks. “I can’t believe it took so long to heal,” she says. “I have found it very frustrating, and the lay-off means that I’m increasingly nervous about the idea of the marathon.”

Braidwood, too, has been set a strict diet by Anderson and she admitted to him that she had slipped. “She had a bad couple of days, and she had a couple of glasses of wine,” says Anderson. “But after that hiccup, Philippa became a lot more positive and got back into the swing.” In fact, the determination Braidwood has shown to maintain her fitness while unable to run has delighted Anderson. “Seventy-five minutes of swimming is mind-numbingly boring, so well done to her,” he says.

With the support of her children, Braidwood followed a detailed plan throughout the school holidays, and having lost a stone already, is feeling fit. She and Neale e-mail each other regularly, and Braidwood says that the support from her fellow beginners, from the forums and especially Anderson has inspired her when she has needed it most. “I think we are lucky to have such a superb coach on tap,” she says. “Keith patiently responds to endless questions and really inspires us to carry on when we feel like giving up.”

Phil Wilson, 36, from Nottingham — sheet metal worker

While the running has been going well for Wilson – he is doing 12-15 miles a week – kicking his smoking habit is proving to be the biggest challenge. “I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks,” he admits, “My mum went into hospital, so I’ve been smoking one or two cigarettes.” He realises, though, that he will have to quit completely if he is to achieve anywhere near his potential at the marathon.

He is enjoying his running though. “It’s such good stress relief, and it’s really good fun,” he says, “especially after a day’s work. I used to just get home and sit down in front of the TV with a cup of tea and a fag.” In fact, most of Wilson’s weekday miles are done on the way home from work -– he does the two-and-a-half mile route home each day, with a longer session over the weekend.

Like Neale and Braidwood, Wilson has also noticed some weight loss benefits of his new regime and has so far shed five pounds in weight. He admits that he is feeling much fitter. “I’ve cut down on fat, and I’m not eating any rubbish. I’ve cut down my drinking, too,” he says. He says his only problem – apart from the cigarettes – has been a couple of blisters. He remains highly motivated, even though he does all his training by himself, and cannot keep in such close contact with Anderson, as our other two runners. “Sometimes when it’s cold I just don’t want to go out, but once I’m out there it’s great,” he says. After a quiet Christmas, Wilson is considering entering a race in the New Year, maybe even a half-marathon.

Anderson is impressed with Wilson’s inner determination, but hopes that he isn’t afraid to contact him if things get difficult in the coming months. “If Phil’s not communicating with me, that could mean one of two things: either he’s not doing it, or he’s happy to get on with it. Thankfully, I’m convinced that he’s quietly getting on with it at the moment”.

Click here to read Kerry's forum thread.

Click here to read Philippa's forum thread.

Click here to read Phil's forum thread.

Previous article
Beginning Running: The First Of Many Miles
Next article
Resurrection Of The Sole

beginners general, marathon general

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

See more comments...
We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.