With just over six weeks to go to his epic London Marathon run, here’s Tim Shorten’s latest blog:
“OK, so it just got serious. At the end of February I ran my first half marathon! Admittedly it was on a treadmill, and I walked a few times (all part of the training programme!), but OMG – six months ago, I never thought I’d be saying that! It just so happened that I was back in Zambia meeting with Marie Stopes Zambia again (where I had been in October and which I wrote about in my November blog), and this provided a real opportunity for reflection on how far I have come.
It also happened that I had just been working with Marie Stopes Kenya (MSK), and had to travel to Eldoret in Western Kenya to interview some MSK staff. This part of Kenya is the running capital of the world, and a mecca for serious runners with ambition to be world-class long distance runners – something to do with the altitude. The epicentre is a town called Iten, which was featured in the book ‘Running with the Kenyans’, and it is a relatively short drive from Eldoret. Iten is also perched on the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment – and the Great Rift Valley is famous for being the ‘cradle of mankind’ (where Lucy was found in 1974). So me and my anthropologist colleague headed off at 5am to be inspired in Iten and see the sunrise over the Great Rift Valley. I won’t go into detail, but it was both inspiring and beautiful (see photos).
A few days later and I was pounding out the miles on the treadmill, for the first time on a long run without earphones or distraction from my audiobook. This was the first time that I had to really explore the mental side of the marathon challenge – how do you keep going when your legs are hurting and you are just bored. I have read in a few places that the thing to do is to focus on why you are running – and the Children’s Home in Mwatate provides a clear and motivating focus; but also to develop a mantra that you repeat in your head over and over. I tried a bunch of different ones, including combinations of my kids names, “run like a Kenyan” (don’t laugh!), “just keep running” (a la Finding Nemo!) and others.
But I was mainly struck by the number of people that have inspired me and accompanied me on this marathon journey. People that you’d not be surprised by, like: Jem Shorten for being 150% supportive (even when I have to prioritise training over childcare!), Andy Shorten for encouraging me to take up the challenge, Dave & Sue Shorten and the EdX trustees for giving me the opportunity, Ellie Stewart, Mark Tredgett, James Jones for taking steps along the way, and Ady Sweeney for his expert physiotherapist advice! But there are others who are probably less aware of their support: like Jaan Larner for his book Fatboy to Ironman which has given me a few ideas for how to get through an endurance event, Rebecca Calder for putting up with my running stories during two work trips, Meb Keflezighi for his book about winning the Boston Marathon and those Kenyan runners whose lives I got a teen tiny insight into during our trip to Iten. And of course, there are the generous supporters who have sponsored me and helped to reach £2562.50 (incl gift aid). I really got a sense that invoking the spirit of this growing group of supporters is what is going to get me through when I hit ‘the wall’ as I am sure I will.
So I’m feeling inspired. I have the Silverstone Half Marathon coming up (12th March – wish me and Mark Tredgett luck!). And week on week the distance I need to cover in my long runs is going up by around 3 miles a week. By the 3rd April I will start tapering towards the race itself, so it’s getting really close now! Keep the positive vibes flowing, your support is hugely appreciated.
And if you haven’t yet got round to sponsoring me, don’t delay! Here’s the link: