Beginners’  Pluck

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.”