1 million steps to London


I’m out of the saddle in these next blog posts and chronicling my journey to the London Marathon. All going well, I’ll be lining up with 40,000 other crazies on 28 April 2019, poised for the run of my life.

Nervousness and excitement simmer in equal measure as I envisage that moment. While I have run the distance before, it was on the flatter-than-flat streets of Rotterdam, where speed bumps felt like mountains, and my fitness was on a whole other level.

And while London is no Everest, it will certainly be more challenging, and unquestionably more emotional than Rotterdam. A marathon on home soil. 26 miles to shed the tears of a tough year. A journey from loss to light. A spark of hope, and new beginnings.

Below is a short video I filmed for the charity I’m running for, explaining my motivation.

As I write this, 82 days lie between me and the starting line on Blackheath. The furthest I’ve run this year is 17 km (just over 10 miles). That was last weekend, and a struggle. The emotional toll of countless trips between the Netherlands and the UK last year as my Dad bravely battled an aggressive form of cancer, is still making itself known. The ever-present anxiety, the desperate search for a miracle cure, and finally, the inevitable goodbye: I need to transform those deep caverns of pain into fierce mountains of power. Melt the shackles of grief and sadness into rivers of inspiration and hope. In short, I need to shed my 2018 skin and make peace with my lot.

This marathon journey is also a reminder that my struggles pale in comparison to millions of others around the world. As I sit in my comfortable home at 35 years old and feel the deep loss of both parents, I can’t even begin to imagine what a street child in Rwanda feels like, unsure of when the next meal or hug will come; or a girl in Ghana facing a life of prostitution. That’s why, in running the race of my own life, I’m also raising money for Chance for Childhood. A small UK charity, with a big heart, dedicated to changing the lives of those living in desperate poverty and unimaginable hardship.

Over the next three months I’m going to share the trials and tribulations, the emotions, the milestones, the inspirations and the songs that I discover on this journey to London. If at any point you feel compelled to donate to the cause I’m dedicating this all to, you can do so here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/sarah-fencott

Today’s motivational song: Running Man by Ollie Gabriel. It just gets me itching to break out those running shoes!


Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 16: Rediscovering the joys of running

  • Hours on the run: 3:18
  • Kilometres: 36.9
  • Calories burned: 46 apples
  • Soundtrack: Alvaro Soler – La Cintura

Marathon day is fast approaching! I’m writing this with just 2 days to go and a whole lot of packing still to do!

Last week I fell in love with running all over again. Up until now, it was becoming a bit of a chore, and the excitement of sticking religiously to a well-planned schedule fizzled out some weeks ago. Runs were becoming more of a thing to get out of the way (while seemingly having my life planned around them!). Last weekend, I ran at my own time and at my own pace. That meant I could head out early evening and soak up the beautiful golden landscapes as the sun was setting and quietly marvel at the beauty of spring.

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It really was a joy to be running, and it made me realise just how much of an effect it has on my mind. When I head out into nature and don’t have time constraints, everything just lifts. Dreams come alive again, and smiles work their way through the daily stresses. The world I’m running through becomes far more important than my own struggles and I become thankful for each breath, thankful for the beauty surrounding me and thankful to be just one tiny part of an incredible planet.

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It’s really wonderful to have that joy back, and I’m looking forward to just running for fun after this weekend.

But first! The final challenge, the event I’ve been building up to for weeks and weeks now. The run I’ve been dreaming about, anticipating with excitement and fear! All the training is done… now its all about taming those nerves, building up my emergency playlist, and getting that packing done!

And of course, requesting final donations! There’s still a way to go to reach the target, so if anyone would still like to make a contribution, it would be so very much appreciated!

Sunday here we come! ✈️🏃🏻‍♀️

The soundtrack this week is La Cintura by Alvaro Soler. It’s such a summery tune, it really lit up my run last week


Week 15: Energy boost and a mention on the London Marathon Facebook Q&A!

  • Hours on the run: 4:32
  • Kilometres: 49.75
  • Calories burned: 11 Lindt chocolate bunnies
  • Soundtrack: Masterpiece – Jessie J

I took quite a bit of time for reflection after last Sunday’s run. My initial reaction was disappointment and then frustration for my lack of discipline. That turned into worry – how long will this fatigue last? But was finally replaced with gratitude. I was thankful that all of my previous runs had gone well (in comparison), and I was thankful to experience this mental shutdown on a training run, giving me a bit of time to prepare for it ahead of the marathon.

It really showed me just how much your mental state can affect your performance. Physically, I should have managed the distance. But right from the very start, those doubts crept in, and I let myself get caught up in the discomfort of the smallest things. True, the heat did play a role, but that’s another lesson – I should have slowed down the pace right from the start and not been so fixated on achieving a certain time. I’m happy that I can learn from it, and now it’s all about working on some mental strategies to avoid getting into that same pit on race day.

By Thursday, I had my fighting spirit back and I was boosted by the fact that my speed runs during the week were still going strong, so I wasn’t completely burned out. And I marveled at another beautiful sunset scene this week:

Sunday’s schedule was a half marathon and I was really eager to see how my energy levels would hold up. Well, I spent most of the run trying to hold back my speed! Every time I checked my watch, I was doing more than 11 kmph, and my goal marathon pace is around 10.5. I kept trying to slow down, but it seemed my legs just found their own rhythm today. It was so reassuring (and enjoyable) to run at a good pace again and to feel it was manageable. I even didn’t care when I hit (yet another) bridge that no longer existed and had to loop back on myself. The run went so well, I chose a slightly longer route, and ended up doing just under 25 km, instead of the 21 km on the schedule. It just felt good to get that little bit of extra running in the bank.

I also ran past some of the fancier houses in Almere, each with their own docking (mooring?) station and boat!

The temperature was absolutely perfect today – around 10 degrees but with the windchill factor, it was more like 5. Definitely my kind of running temperature!

This evening I tuned into a Facebook live chat by the London Marathon. Martin Yelling, the charismatic guy who created the training plans was giving advice on the final weeks of training and the marathon, and answering viewers questions. I was quite chuffed that he answered mine (and said my name – swoon!). In hindsight, it actually sounds like quite an arrogant question (he laughed a little), but I didn’t mean it in that way! I was asking how busy the course is, and if it’s easy to overtake if you feel like you can speed up as the course progresses. What I really meant was, is it possible to run your own race, or are you really constrained to the pack of runners surrounding you. The answer, it seems, is that the course is very busy, especially at the start, so you are pretty much stuck at one pace for quite some time. Well, it’s good to know that! Let’s hope I can stick to the pace I specified on my entry form 6 months ago!

This afternoon, I decided to pull together some of the photos I’ve been capturing during the last 15 weeks of training to give myself a boost and to remind myself of just how much I’ve put into this. It felt like such a positive thing to do and made me realise how much of a journey this is – something I won’t ever forget.

Just two more weeks to go now!

The soundtrack to this week is Masterpiece by Jessie J.

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 14: Stunning sunsets and the run from hell

  • Hours on the run: 4:59
  • Kilometres: 51.21
  • Calories burned: 3,397
  • Times I stopped to walk: Too many
  • Soundtrack: Silence. Even music was too much this week.

Following the clock change, I was running in color once more on my evening runs. Thursday’s run rewarded me with this beautiful scene:

Saturday morning saw my first scheduled lie-in of the whole 17-week training plan, and I slept for a full 10 hours! Exhaustion and fatigue have been building these past few weeks, and I really needed that morning off. Then came the big one: the 22 miler on Sunday. It fell on one of the hottest days of the year so far. Good training, I suppose, in case we get this heat on the day of the marathon…

I thought I’d been smart in planning my route: one long stretch from the next town back to where I live, running right alongside the Ijsselmeer lake, and the nature reserve, with the wind in my back the whole way. I forgot to factor in the lack of any shade what so ever, or the mentally exhausting battle of one long straight road ahead of you with no change of scenery for about 20 km. Big mistake.


I started running at 10:00 (again, trying to replicate marathon day) and it was already warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt. During the first kilometer I almost ran over this pair in the middle of the bike path, enjoying their Sunday morning:

I hit another un-crossable bridge due to construction work around 3km in, which sent me back the way I came for another kilometre or so until I could find a new route. By the time I got back on track, I just wasn’t in a good place mentally. Everything was niggling – the heat, my headphones, the running jacket flapping around my waist, the music I was listening too… and my arms just felt so heavy.

I hoped it was just due to nerves and a really bad night’s sleep disrupted by some quite disturbing dreams where I was experiencing Dad dying all over again. 

I pushed on expecting the fatigue and heaviness to lift once I got into a rhythm. It didn’t.

By 11:00 the heat and sunshine had become so draining for me. I know I’ve complained about rain before, but I would take 3 hours of rain over this intense sunshine any day. It was such a shock to be feeling like this – after just 12km I was constantly battling the thought of stopping. That’s never happened to me at such an early distance before, and once the thought enters your mind (for me) it’s almost impossible to shake it.

By 17km I had already taken my first walking break. I just felt dangerously overheated and fatigued. I’m sure I was overreacting, but I just had no stamina or willpower left to push on without walking breaks. It wasn’t for lack of water or fuel (I think) – I had both of those fully covered both in the run up to the day, and during the run. It was all purely mental.

This is me around 22km, when my friend Dennis brought me a water refill:

I lost count of the number of times I stopped to walk after this point. My total running distance was 33km by the end with probably another 2-3 km on top of that from the walking.

I was so disappointed that I couldn’t keep going. It was really a huge shock to feel this tired, and I know most of it was mental. I wasn’t injured, nothing particularly hurt that much. I just had no drive left in me. 

I would love to blame this awful run on the heat, but I think that was only a small factor. I’m really going to take my sleep and rest more seriously over the next few weeks, and just hope that it was a one-off. It’s knocked my confidence quite a lot, especially being the longest run I needed to do before the marathon. But perhaps it will make me appreciate the runs that do go well that bit more from now on (I really hope there will be more that go well).

Here’s the route – beautiful but brutal with the full sun and a head full of battles:

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 13: Another toughie

  • Hours on the run: 5:13
  • Kilometres: 56.77
  • Calories burned: 600g of Tony’s Chocolonely
  • Soundtrack: Freefall – Armin van Buuren

The clocks went forward this Sunday, meaning I was up an hour earlier than usual for the long run. On these sunny days, it really helps to get going as soon as possible – by the time I get back around lunchtime, it’s getting just that bit too warm and sweaty, so it’s good to get as many kilometres done in the cool as possible.

Here you can just see the centre of Almere in the distance…

… And here just over the water is Amsterdam!

This long stretch of road was giving me quite the workout on this long run (physically and mentally). For 50 minutes straight, I was running into a pretty strong headwind, with no change of direction, no shelter from the wind what so ever. That was a toughie!

I was very happy to switch direction at around 16km and start the long loop back home and out of that wind. I also worked out a great solution to my (lack of) water issue. The idea of running back past my house to pick up more water was absolutely not appealing – psychologically having to set off again after reaching home would be pretty tough, so I was pretty pleased with myself when it hit me during the run that I could just ask for water in the bird watching centre which sits half way on the route. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before! They were very happy to oblige, so I filled my boots (so to speak) and headed off feeling lighter for knowing I didn’t need to ration my the water for the rest of the run. And by this point, things were starting to warm up with the full sun so I would need it!

The last 6 – 8km were heavy going. By this point, the soles of your feet are so sore and sensitive, you feel literally every bump on the ground. Everything starts getting really tight, and even turning corners feels like a big effort. Still, you keep counting down the kilometres, and with every step you know it’s a step closer to home.

And here I am! Hot and sweaty and happy to sit down! Relieved to get another injury-free run in the bag. It was pretty exhausting though!

My cat Beertje looks a bit like me this evening after indulging in a few too many chocolates 😀

There’s one more final push this week and next weekend before things start tapering. We’re almost there!

The soundtrack this week is Freefall by Armin van Buuren. Energising!

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 12: Knocked out of action…

… by a hornet.

  • Hours on the run: 4:26
  • Kilometres: 46.92
  • Missed runs: 1 (probably should have been 3)
  • Hornet stings: 4
  • Calories burned: 2,257
  • Soundtrack: Sting – Message in a bottle

Who’d have thought it? (in March as well!) After all the worries about old running injuries coming back to haunt me, and overly tight calves, it was actually a tiny (OK not that tiny) insect that knocked me off schedule!

The unfortunate beast was having a snooze inside my running tights on Tuesday evening as they hung on the drying rack. Not realising what a wasp or hornet sting actually feels like, I let it get me four times before the curiosity of what on earth the pain could be became great enough for me to roll my trousers up, and out it flopped.

I thought it best to still run that evening – my theory was that moving my legs would help the blood circulate faster and therefore drain away the toxins more quickly…

Maybe it helped, maybe it hindered… for the next four days my ankle remained quite swollen and kind of awkward to walk on. I still ran again on Thursday evening, but by the end of that run I felt like it definitely wasn’t helping, so I bailed out of my Saturday run and started taking a bunch of antihistamines and ibuprofen to try and get it to calm down. It seemed to work – by Saturday evening the swelling had almost gone, and so the next morning I headed out with (quite some) trepidation for the big test – the 32km monster.

Nerves and a sluggishness accompanied me for the first 45 minutes or so, until I made a pitstop for the toilet, and also took off my running jacket (the sun was starting to warm things up by then). A  little more composed and comfortable, I got into more of a zone. 

The weather was absolutely ideal for the run – around 10 degrees with sun and cloud. Since it wasn’t overly warm, I was able to manage with just using my 500ml handheld water bottle for the three-hour run. However having just done a search of how much water you should drink while running (obviously it depends on speed and temperature/humidity etc) it seems I should be aiming for around 360ml per hour! Eek. I might need to rethink my water strategy for the next two long runs, perhaps having to circle back around my house to pick up more.

Although I didn’t ever get to a point where I just needed to stop on this run, it was really, really tough towards the end (the last 6-8km). I had to circle round the local park a couple of times to eke out the last 6km, and I did seem to get a few funny looks from people probably thinking why does she look so exhausted when just doing a few laps of the park?! I think a grimace was quite firmly plastered to my face by that point!

Somehow, I made it though. I will admit, there were quite a few times during that run that I really thought, I absolutely, whole-heartedly do not want to run this marathon. Of course, when I finished the run, the discomfort faded away and I got my enthusiasm back, but it was a heavy one, that’s for sure.

More of the same next weekend (all being well)…🤞

The soundtrack to this week is anything by Sting. Of course.

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.


Week 11: A lighter load

  • Hours on the run: 3:51
  • Kilometres: 41.04
  • Calories burned: 18 Cadbury’s Creme Eggs
  • Soundtrack: This is me – The Greatest Showman Cast

The distance scaled back this week, which was a relief. It’s amazing how relative your perception of distance is: at the start of the year, a 20km run (or an almost-half-marathon) felt like a huge challenge. Now, in the most intense part of the training, it felt like a ‘lighter’ end to the week. Of course it wasn’t, but compared with what’s ahead in the next three weeks, it felt like it would be a breeze!

There were still one or two weeknight runs this week in the pouring rain and heavy winds (good for resilience training!), but the sun finally came out for Sunday’s organised run in Almere. Hallelujah!

This race was just a 20-minute bike ride away. It makes such a difference doing a race close to home, when you don’t have to factor in hours of travel time. It was also a small one – there were only about 100 people doing the 20km distance, out of about 500 runners in total. This meant there was lots of space to run your own race, which I really love. For some reason, in crowds, or even when there’s just one or two people running near me, I tire out much faster. When I have an open path ahead I find it a lot easier to get lost in the run and my own rhythm.

They’d posted a weather report a few days before the run, saying it would be relatively dry, with “the wind in your back”. It was a circular route (two loops for the 20km) so I’m not quite sure how they could claim that, but full points for optimism! (The wind was very much not in my back at some points!).

I did spend a large part of the run fretting about an old tendon injury that I started sensing again. It had me sidelined for about 3 months a few years ago, and I could feel an ache in exactly the same spot for the first half of this run. To get an injury now would just be a massive blow, after all the hours of training, so I really need to keep an eye on this one. I don’t want to miss a single training run but I know that taking a few days off could mean the difference between making it to the marathon or watching it on the tv, so I have to be strict and force myself to rest if it gets worse.

I saw my first barefoot runner of the year during this run, which was fascinating! I have so much admiration for those people who’ve built up the ability to run barefoot (or in Vibrams) for such distances. Incredible. Maybe once the marathon is over I’ll give it another go. It gives you the most amazing feeling of being connected with the Earth, and they say it releases all the positive (i.e. bad) ions you accumulate in your body, giving you a much greater sense of peace and wellbeing. (That’s when you’re not howling in pain from stepping on a nail or sharp stone!).

Once the run was over, it was just short ride home (into the wind the whole way, which coaxed a few swear words out of me as my legs were quite heavy by that point and not impressed with more wind!). Then it was some much needed sofa time with the cats and a big bowl of warming soup to refuel.

Next week (this week actually, since I’m already half way through the week as I post this) the distance ramps up, peaking at 32km on Sunday…. so I’m enjoying the rest while I can!

Soundtrack to the week: This is me – The Greatest Showman Cast. Power!

Week 10: Soul searching

  • Hours on the run: 5:24
  • Kilometres: 58.51
  • Calories burned: 3,292
  • Number of times the question ‘Why’ went through my head: Too many
  • Soundtrack: Hold on – NANO

Emotions seem to get deeper as the weeks go by. Anxiety plays a big part in the preparation for each new long distance. Can my legs carry me? Will an injury pop up when I’m miles from home? Can my mind stay focused and not cave in? Will I hit the dreaded wall? Taming those dragons of doubt ahead of each long run has become the norm for me now. I hope one day those doubts will fall silent, but perhaps it’s all part of the process. This isn’t supposed to be easy. Perhaps there has to be an element of fear driving this.

After not the best sleep, and a sad Saturday reading over legal documentation for probate, I set out with a heavy heart on Sunday morning for the 29 km run. Into the pouring rain once more. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of being drenched through to the skin after just 15 minutes, knowing you have to push on out into the elements and keep yourself going for another 2.5 hours. No rally car to pick you up if you start flagging. No hot tea stop halfway around. Just you, your mind, and the distance.

The first half-hour was spent with spirits incredibly low. After a while the soothing motion of putting one foot in front of the other calmed everything down and I settled into a better rhythm and felt determined to get through it. If other aspects of my life are causing heartache at the moment, at least I can still run. Sometimes it feels like that’s actually all I’ve got.

Once I’d got into my rhythm, a bunch of daffodils suddenly popped into view by the side of the path – just one single bunch, no others anywhere else around. I had to think they were a sign from Dad, being his Welsh flower. That was a warming moment.

The rest of the the run was simply wet. One earphone made it 1/2 way around, the other made it 3/4 before being (literally) drowned out. The last 5 km were spent just focusing on my breathing, telling myself with every breath and with every step, I was that bit closer to home. It was only when I was 2 km from the end that I could actually believe I would make it, and the fear of caving dissolved away.

All that rain did a good job of foaming up my running tights (and jacket) again!

And my hair took on a new life of it’s own…. (it was a neat ponytail before I stepped out of the door!)

Relieved to have made the distance, happy to not feel overly sore. Soundtrack this week: Hold on by NANO – “I know you’re tired of surviving but you’ve got to keep on trying, got to hold on.”

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 9: Two dead-ends and a thousand worms!

  • Hours on the run: 4:44
  • Kilometres: 49.82
  • Calories burned: 37 choco soesjes (Dutch profiteroles)
  • Worms crushed: I’m sorry!
  • Wildlife: About 8 great egrets (and a thousand skinny worms)
  • Soundtrack: Bad moon rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival

I learned quite a valuable lesson on this week’s long run: Don’t assume your running routes from 5 years ago still exist! I had a nice circular route mapped out (in my head) for the 26km run on Sunday. It was a route that circles around a wetlands nature reserve and basically hugs the huge IJsselmeer lake, so it’s pretty remote – I didn’t actually pass a single person for a good 16km (my kind of run!). Three-quarters of the way around, as I was starting the home stretch, I hit a dead end – the bridge was being repaired with no way around it. The other cut-through I knew, ended up as another dead-end at a bird watching hut…. (see where the two red lines fork in the map below – next to Almere Buiten). There was nothing for it but re-tracing my steps about 6km back into powerful headwind along the ridge next to the water until I finally hit a turning to take me home.

26km running route

This looping back on myself meant that when I (joyously) hit the 26km finish (red stop icon on the map), I was still a half-hour walk from home. On a clear day, I wouldn’t mind, but I was soaking wet from 2.5 hours of non-stop rain. My running jacket had started foaming, and my white socks had turned blue! Still, half-running, half-walking (I was getting cold by this point) I made it home and then not much further than the front door! 🙂

On the run itself I was really excited to see about 8 great egrets (don’t recall ever seeing these in the Netherlands before). I tried to take a picture, but it spooked them. So here’s one from the google 🙂

I also saw two slightly mad paddle-boarders out on the choppy IJsselmeer. I was psychologically battling the headwind and my dead-ends at this point so didn’t have the energy to stop for a photo, but below you can see the pretty bleak conditions they were out in (taken from the start of the run):

Rather them than me!

The wet weather also brought out hundreds of worms. At first I avoided stepping on them, but all that leaping and dodging was taking too much energy, so I fear I might have crushed a few of them. I’m sorry!

Sunday’s weather showed quite a marked change from the runs of the past week, even the day before. Sun or no sun though, it’s so heartwarming to see the spring colours starting to pop in the skies and underfoot:

Overall, the long run this week went well, definitely up to the half-marathon point. After that, things got heavy but definitely not unbearable. I know I’m going to need a lot of sleep this week (only been averaging about 6 hours a night, which isn’t really enough for all the recovery your body needs to do for these distances) so early to bed from now on – that’s my aim! And bring on next week’s 29km, with hopefully no more dead ends and a little less rain!

The soundtrack to this week: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival – despite the name (and lyrics!) it’s got such a great bouncy beat for running – always puts a spring in my step!

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Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

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Week 8: White feathers

  • Hours on the run: 4:27
  • Kilometres: 46
  • Calories burned: 2.5 roast dinners
  • Times I felt like stopping: Twice (halfway up those hills)
  • Soundtrack: With you – Matt Simons

One word to sum up this week: exhausting. Juggling a new job and marathon training, and a weekend trip to the UK for a half marathon has taken it’s toll. On the positive side, running progress seems to be going well, despite the over-tight calves.

A 05:30 wake-up call on Wednesday had me heading to the physio before work; the immediate prognosis: “Je kuiten zijn erg strak, dame!” (Your calves are really tight, lady!). The physio thinks we’ve caught them in time, but I shouldn’t have waited this long before making the appointment…

After some uncomfortable deep tissue massage, I was prescribed compression sleeves which I need to wear for each run to help increase the blood flow. I should also be foam rolling each time I run, and have another sports massage booked for next week.

The week culminated in a a flying visit to the UK for the Wokingham Half Marathon. While the race itself was really enjoyable, I massively under-estimated how tiring the trip would be. After a full day’s work on Friday, travelling for a further 6 hours (that’s how long it takes door-to-door – minimum) meant that I arrived in Sandhurst pretty shattered that evening.

Saturday morning I clocked my 45-minute training run. The weather was absolutely fantastic – first running shorts weather of the year! I headed over to Horseshoe Lake for a nice scenic route (which meant I could also stop off at the Churchyard on the way back to visit Mum and Dad’s grave).

Sunday morning arrived with another early (06:00) start. I hadn’t received my running pack and race number when they were all sent out in the post, so on arrival at the race venue I went in search of a new one. I was greeted with “Oh, so you’re the international runner – we wondered who that was!” 🙂

Warming up….

I had about 40 minutes to wait until it was time to get ready, so I found a spot in the sun with a cup of tea, watching all the runners arrive. After some time, I glanced down at my feet and noticed a white feather lying right next to my running shoe. That was always Dad’s sign from Mum – letting him know she was still with him, so I really had to smile when I saw it (and choke back a few tears): Mum and Dad were joining me for the race.

The run itself went far better than I expected, and even though the hills were tough, I realised that at least you get to cruise a little on the way down them. When you run on the flat, you need to maintain a continuous level of effort, but running downhill somehow gives you the feeling you get a bit of a breather.

I heard a couple of people shout out “Come on Haarlem” during the run which made me smile (I had a Haarlem race t-shirt on). I think it would be great if the UK races could follow the Dutch in printing names on each race number – it really does give you a boost when someone shouts out your name when things are getting tough.


The key difference I noticed about this race compared to Dutch ones (apart from being able to see over the tops of people’s heads!) was the procedure for overtaking. In Holland, while not everyone sticks to it, generally people are good at using the left side of the road to overtake, and moving across to the right afterwards, which makes things a lot more orderly. There didn’t seem to be any such convention in this race – a complete free for all with people overtaking left, right, and centre!

The final few hundred metres also felt far more competitive. I normally speed up a little on the final stretch (if there’s anything left in my legs!) but don’t usually go all out – so I was taken by surprise when people I’d just overtaken a few minutes earlier who had slowed down suddenly zipped past me to get to the finish!

I knocked 3 minutes off my time from the half marathon in Schoorl a few weeks ago, which I was really surprised about. It was a nice boost as I was anticipating I’d go over the 2-hour mark for this one. The sunshine must have powered me on!

After the race, there was just enough time for a shower and a pub roast before heading back to the airport to fly home. Getting up for work the next day, I was absolutely exhausted and realised (after the relief of completing my first ever race in the UK) that the weekend had taken so much more out of me than I had expected.

I hope to get some energy back this week before the next long run of 26 km on Sunday….. right now, I’m feeling shattered and overwhelmed. Juggling the demands of a new job while training for the marathon and still dealing (practically and emotionally) with everything that happened last year is proving quite a hefty challenge.

But, I’m not done yet.

Soundtrack to this week: With you by Matt Simons. “I’ll be with you, I’ll be waiting for you, on the other side.”  Powerful signs appear when you need them.


Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.

Week 7: Springy steps

  • Hours on the run: 2:64
  • Kilometres: 28
  • Calories burned: 29 falafels
  • Runs in the sun: 2!
  • Soundtrack: Waves by Dean Lewis

With the temperature rising to a balmy 16 degrees this weekend, spring is definitely in the air. It’s so refreshing to feel the sun directly on your skin and warmer skies on the breeze.

This week was a much easier week with only short runs, to help recover from the past four weeks of building. My legs definitely needed it – calf muscles are so tight, at some points on a run they feel like they’re going to snap.

Of course, that won’t be good, so I’m upping the foam rolling and stretching – trying to do it daily. Also planning in a few sports massages to see if they can loosen things up before I start hitting all of the bigger distances in the coming weeks.

It doesn’t look like much of a stretch here, but that heel drop really hits the spot for tight calves (it was a beautiful morning for a run too.).

Slower runs this weekend meant more time for taking photos! This is a nice little route around the main lake in the centre of Almere. I absolutely love running by the water (unless I’m thirsty and don’t have a drink!) – it gives off such a positive energy and is just so calming at the same time.

Almere running routes - Het Weerwater
Almere running routes - Het Weerwater

This week was a bit more emotional for me. After the relief and buzz of finishing the half marathon last weekend, the following day it hit me that it was the first race I’ve done since Dad passed away. The absence of good luck messages ahead of the run, and no post-run excited chatter recounting the day’s events – it brought me bluntly back to reality. Even though I felt him cheering me on during the race which gave me a powerful boost, the silence and tears afterwards were just as profound.

I’ve noticed after you lose someone close to you, life events start being categorised as ‘While they were here’ or ‘After they died’ (i.e. did we share it with them or not). I’ve become used to so many events taking place without Mum over the last 9 years, but from now on, everything that happens will also take place without Dad. It’s a thought that fills me with a lot of emptiness – an emptiness you learn to live with over time, I think.

For now though, I am grateful for all the things I do have in my life – especially my health. So here’s to the next running weeks and hopefully more sunshine guiding us gently into spring.

The soundtrack this week is Waves by Dean Lewis. Emotions up and down, but the energy always there, moving us forward.

Please consider sponsoring me for the London Marathon. I’m running for Chance for Childhood, a charity that protects children from the devastating consequences of extreme poverty, conflict and disability.