Weeks 1 – 4: Snow, ice & a monster cold

  • Hours on the run: Not enough!
  • Kilometres: Still not enough!
  • Calories burned: 15 lemsips?!
  • Tissues sneezed into: 300
  • Snow: Yes!
  • Soundrack: Dog days are over – Florence + The Machine

The first of January 2019 should have marked the start of my 17-week training, kicking off with a 30-minute run. Instead, I was coughing and spluttering on the sofa, amidst a sea of tissues. No worries – in a few days I’ll kick this and will be back out there getting stuck in to that plan…

Longest cold of my life! Week 2 started and still no improvement. I forced myself out for a few 30 minute slow jogs (breathing very laboured), but it wasn’t until Week 3 that I was able to start following the schedule properly (and even then still spluttering!).

Week 4 brought us many beautiful scenes like this (crunch crunch):


This freshly-fallen snow is actually fine for running on, you still have a good grip, and it makes a really satisfying sound. It’s usually the following day after a night of frost that it becomes slippery and not so fun for running.

Thankfully, the Dutch authorities are fantastic at keeping the country on their bikes in wintery weather, so all of the major bike paths get cleared regularly after any snowfall – much to the gratitude of winter runners.

Week 4 culminated in a 1.5 hour run on English soil as I was over there for the weekend. I almost quit after 45 minutes! I’m not sure whether it was a lack of fuel before the run, or simply the hills that took it out of me…. but it was exhausting!

Each time I run in the UK I find it so much tougher than in the Netherlands. In Holland, I’m actually running below sea level (check the graphs below!). In the UK, the hills just feel brutal, and I often feel like I’m running through treacle, using so much energy and still moving at a snail’s pace. I much prefer running with the fishes!

UK Running Stats
UK Running Stats
Netherlands Running Stats
NL Running Stats

This is why I feel this London Marathon is going to be so tough. I’m due to run a half marathon in the UK in a few weeks’ time, so that will be a really good test of how slow and sticky things are likely to be!

Still, I’m happy now I finally seem to be on track with the schedule and I know I’m building strength with every step. Just no more colds please (or hills!)!

The soundtrack for these build-up weeks is a good reflection of my progress: starting out slow but definitely building! Dog days are over by Florence + The Machine. Yeah!

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.

All going to plan? The schedule!

I’m putting all my faith in the folks at the Virgin London Marathon and using their intermediate training plan to (hopefully!) get me to London. Four running days per week just seems a lot less daunting than the five listed in their advanced plan!

I have it sitting on my coffee table as a constant reminder of my journey (lest I forget while relaxing on the sofa with a tub of ice-cream!).


As with all marathon training plans, this 17-week plan includes one long run each week  – the most important run that you really shouldn’t skip – and then a mixture of shorter runs during the week (which you also shouldn’t skip…. but, you know…!). It’s quite refreshing mixing up the runs and alternating the speed – it keeps you focused and is far better for your fitness development (apparently!).

If I’m able to follow this plan diligently, I’ll be running substantially more ‘longer’ runs than I have in past training. Looking over the distances ahead of me: 22.5km, 26km, 29km, 32km, another 32km, and finaly 35km before the full 42km on the day – it’s all quite daunting. Let’s hope I don’t run out of bike paths!

In addition to the four days of running, at least one day each week should be dedicated to these torturous activities (cat participation is not recommended):


Torturous exercise one: Foam rolling. That’s what the orange tube is for (the ridges in this one make it extra hardcore!), and the handheld black one. The idea is you literally roll out the knots and tension in your legs. Supple legs mean less chance of a dreaded injury. The more tense everything is, the more painful it will be when using these. Grown men have been known to scream. Honestly, if you’re partial to a bit of pain, get yourself one of these. You won’t regret it!

Torturous exercise two: Planking. When I first started running, I kept getting injured. Runners’ knee, aggravated IT band, tendonitis… I went through the lot! During my first visit to the physio, the guy was astonished that I was expecting to run a half marathon yet I didn’t do any work on my core. Leaving his office slightly humiliated, but armed with a new arsenal against my recurring injuries, I was determined to locate those abs (and the rest!) and give them a bit of a thrashing. I still don’t enjoy core work, or do it often enough, but I know how vital it is if you want to increase your chances of running injury-free. It also helps running efficiency – when the middle part of you is (somewhat) toned and not wobbling around, more of your energy is directed to your legs which need it the most.

Less tortuous exercise three: Therabands. These oversized elastic bands are great for strengthening your hips and lateral leg muscles. Since running consists of forward motion only, if your main or only form of exercise is running, it won’t be long before the muscles in the front and back of your legs will be a lot stronger than those down the sides. These imbalances can easily lead to injury, so strengthening them with therabands is a great prevention.

Torturous exercise four: The cold shower. While there are conflicting opinions about this, taking a cold shower after a long run certainly won’t do you any harm, and can be truly invigorating. I also do think it helps speed up recovery. Plus, it’s great for enhancing your mood and chasing away those blues. Win-win! It also secretly makes you feel like a bit of an Andy Murray pro (maybe that’s just me though…).

Best exercise of all: Rest! This is, hands-down, my favourite exercise. It’s during the rest days that your body rebuilds your muscles, repairing all those little tears that occur during exercise, making you stronger. If only every day could be a rest day!

The motivational song that just has to go with these training exercises: Stronger by Kanye West. Na na na na that don’t kill me…..(sometimes it feels like it might)… can only make me stronger…

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.

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.