My Marathon Challenge

In a moment of madness I bet my dad I would run the London Marathon. After he passed away I knew I would have to do it.


Posted: 5 May 2011
by Carolyn McAlpine

Marathon Start
At Grenwich before starting the Marathon.

I joined my local jogscotland group in 2009. I had never been much of a runner but I just thought it would be a good way to get out the house and get fit. On our first night my friend and I ran for a full two minutes and we were really pleased with ourselves. My dad joked at the time that I take everything to extremes and I would be running the London Marathon next! I told him I would run the marathon no problem if he stopped smoking and the whole family laughed about it. The thought of any of us running a marathon was frankly ridiculous. Dad was undergoing treatment for hodgkins lymphoma (a type of leukeamia) at the time. He did stop smoking shortly after that and we used to joke about the marathon from time to time.

Sadly Dad passed away on February 21 2010 after fighting a courageous battle with the disease. I kept thinking about how I would have done anything for him, anything to make him better. I knew there was nothing I could do to get him back but there was one last thing I could do for him, and I knew I had to do it. I registered for the ballot in April 2010 half-thinking I would never get in and I also applied for a gold bond place through Anthony Nolan. I knew if I was given a place I wanted to raise money for this charity - they do amazing work recruiting and matching donors for patients like my dad who are in need of lifesaving stem cell or bone marrow transplants.

After I applied for the ballot I forgot about it for a while, carried on with my weekly runs and put myself down for a 10K in Glasgow in the September. Seven weeks before the race I tripped over a pavement while out for a run and pulled ligaments in my ankle. I was strapped up and on crutches for a good few weeks but with the marathon ballot results at the back of my mind, I was determined I was going to get some race experience under my belt, just in case! I completed the race with my ancle heavily strapped in 1:15.

Shortly after the race in October 2010 I got a call from the events team at Anthony Nolan offering me a gold bond place to run for Anthony Nolan. I will never forget that moment, I was absolutely delighted and jumped around with excitement, I couldn't believe I'd been so lucky. Then I got off the phone and thought "Oh my God, I'm actually going to have to do this!"

I got more serious about my training after that - I knew after struggling with a 10K it would be a nothing short of a miracle if I got round the marathon in one piece. I also got stuck right into my fundraising, I organised a charity dance in my local bowling club, set up an online giving website and got sponsor forms out around the village where I live, I also got in touch with my local paper. The support I received from family, friends and colleagues was amazing and the support from the charity before during and after the race was fantastic.

On April 17 2011 after countless training sessions, more physio than I care to remember and months without alcohol, I lined up at Greenwich a mix of nerves and excitement. The race itself was an experience I will never forget. The first half was amazing: I met my mum, aunt and sister (who had travelled down to London with me to be my cheering squad) at mile 13 and I literally felt like I was on top of the world. The atmosphere was amazing, the crowd kept shouting my name and the other runners that I met on the way round all had a story to tell, it was absolutely brilliant.

I carried on in this haze of excitement until about mile 19 when I hit the dreaded wall. It was starting to get really hot and after training through a wild Scottish winter this was not something I had experienced before. I had to slow up and as I saw people collasping around me for the first time I worried that I might not make it. I plodded my way along to mile 23 with another lady from Scotland who was also feeling the heat. She left me at mile 23 and I carried on for a while on my own until I got into a tunnel, this was really the first part of the race where there were no spectators. I sobbed my eyes out in that tunnel, it completely broke my heart. I was so determined to do it but I had never for one minute thought it would have been this hard. I had a photo of my dad in my running belt and I took it out and looked at it. I knew I couldn't give up and when I came out of that tunnel I gave myself a good hard talking to and got going again.

I pretty much cried for the last three miles and when I saw my trusty cheering squad again with 400 metres to go we were all inconsolable. It did however give me the boost I needed for a sprint finish to the end. I trotted over the fiinish line after 6 hours and 23 minutes of what can only be described as pure hell. I might not have made the five hours I was hoping for, but I had raised over £7000 for Anthony Nolan, and most importantly I had kept my word to my brave old dad. As I sat at the meet and greet area waiting for my cheering squad with my medal hanging round my neck, I looked at my photo once more and said "There you go, old boy". As for the running, everyone said I would get the bug, I vowed I would never run another marathon again but it would be nice to have got round in five hours like I had hoped, so maybe I have one more marathon in me....

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Five Marathons: 2008-2010
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