I really enjoyed athletics at school, but I considered anything over 800m to be long distance. My dad was a county runner and he worked at Birmingham University, so I spent lots of my summers hanging out at the brilliant running track there.
Luckily, I’ve always been naturally slim. When I was younger I kept that way with lots of dancing. But running has always been something I have done.
I’ve always been competitive. I felt annoyed when my friends said they never considered me athletic. Running a marathon was my way of proving that I am.
Because my character, Trixie, in Call the Midwife was going through a lot of turmoil in the last series, I wanted to look leaner to emphasise that. I lost some pounds by running more and by weight training.
One of the oddest places I’ve ever run was while on honeymoon. My husband [actor Oliver Boot] and I were in the Maldives and I started running round the tiny island where we were staying. It took less than five minutes and although running in small circles was dull, the setting was beautiful.
I’m not into spending lots on running gear because I can’t help thinking I’m only going to sweat in it. But I do like the My Asics app; I use it to record my distance and pace, which keeps me motivated.
I usually run on my own and I use it as a time to think. I like going early in the morning or after dark. I don’t think people often recognise me – I’m just another red-faced runner pounding along.
I’ve always admired the work of Macmillan Cancer Support and was delighted to run for them. I said ‘Yes’ at a function, after a couple of glasses of wine. When I woke up the next morning it hit me that I’d agreed to run the London Marathon.
Training was tougher than I expected. It was especially hard when I went to LA in January and ran on a hotel treadmill. It didn’t feel like proper running compared with being on the road here in winter.
Before this year, I’d never done a mass-participation race before. I did do a charity fun run with some of the Call the Midwife cast last summer, which was great.
I thought my running style was fine. But when I started marathon training I found out it was actually terrible. My physio discovered I’m flat-footed, have one side longer than the other and I need to run more from my glutes. Running has taught me a lot about my body.
Route: It’s not an exciting route, but it works as a good, solid training one. It’s around Queen’s Park in West London, and it’s just over a mile.
Music: I listen to Michael Jackson, as the beat matches my rhythm. Anything slow wouldn’t work for me. I also listen to podcasts or radio plays.
Treat: After a long run I have a recovery juice, a protein shake and a banana. It also makes me feel I can eat a big bowl of chips without worrying.
Helen ran the London Marathon as part of Team Macmillan. Visit the Macmillan website to find out more about signing up for an event to help those living with cancer.