Ria’s story – London Marathon 20…21?

Posted 29 June 2021

Ria is a running fanatic and an old hand, having run the Paris marathon six years ago and raising some impressive funds. She’s also run a number of half-marathon events and a fair few off-road 10k events, as well as improving her swimming to then take part aquathons. Single mum Ria lives in South Devon: when her daughter was very young, she ran with the buggy. These days, she says running with a growing toddler/pre-schooler and the various toys or books she wants to bring with her is training in itself! You can follow Ria’s journey on Twitter.

Fourth time lucky!

I remember filling in the application to run the London Marathon for Gingerbread back in the summer of 2019 and then, in September 2019, find out that I’d been chosen. That’s coming up to two years ago now… Wow!

Over the time that’s passed, I’ve started my training not once, not twice but… four times (I guess that’s numerous lockdowns and a global pandemic for you)!

Despite starting my training plan four times now, I’ve only actually run two marathons in that time: once over the course of a week with my daughter in her buggy for the 2.6 challenge and once virtually (on a VERY wet and windy day) in October 2020. It would be fair to say that, while good fun, neither was quite the London Marathon experience I’ve been hoping for all this time.

So here I am again, back at week one of training, hoping and praying I actually get to pound the streets of London this time!

Whatever happens, I’m ready to share my journey with you.

Thinking back, the decision to actually run the virtual marathon in October 2020 came after a few weeks of going back and forth with myself in my own head (as you do) about whether I was actually going to be able to do it. My training had dropped right back, I hadn’t run more than 16 miles in distance and even that was a few months back and, while I was still getting out, the thought of running a marathon seemed very daunting indeed. On reflection, I was most likely feeling the impacts of being in lockdown and everything that came with it, both practically and emotionally. Childcare restrictions, lack of clarity for the future and isolation from friendship and support groups all took their toll. However, it was some of the running groups I’m part of that finally gave me the push I needed and reminded me there was more to running than just getting a good time or pace. Well…that plus the thought of hours of alone time, in the fresh air, with my choice of music. A rarity for any parent, let alone a single parent!

So, on the 4th October 2020, when I should have been with 40,000 other runners in London, I set off from Plymouth out towards Dartmoor. I very quickly realised I wasn’t the only one who’d chosen this route – it was great to see all the other runners and have that extra support. The weather was terrible; I was drenched through after 20 minutes and I was carrying a lot of weight in my bag with supplies I was convinced I’d need but I loved every minute of it. I ran, I walked, I reminded myself a lot that I was so lucky to be able to do this, I planned in my head how I would train for the ‘real’ event this year and, for the last 8 miles, I had a good old catch-up with a friend who’d joined me on her bike (something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do in London). 4.5 hours later and I was back – I’d done it!

Fast forward to now and I’m about to start my new 16-week training plan, ready to run London 2021 in October. So what’s changed? Work commitments have increased, the restrictions placed on everyone last year resulted in me getting way too overexcited and booking in A LOT of camping holidays this year, my daughter will have officially started school by the time October arrives and I’m currently battling a trapped nerve in my back. So, I’m under no illusion that training this time around will be easier.

Despite this, I’m committed to it – because, whenever I run (even for just 30 minutes), I’m always reminded of how good it makes me feel, both physically and mentally. I think better, I’m a better mum, I’ve more patience and I’m energised. As a single parent, everything is on you so prioritising the things that make you feel and operate better must be top of the list. You cannot afford for things to fall apart…well, at least not before bedtime, anyway!

I’m raising money for Gingerbread, the leading charity that supports single parent families. Gingerbread has always been a huge support for many single parents, but the impact of the last 12 to 18 months has meant that the work they do is more essential now than ever before.

It would be great to hear from anyone else running or training for any events – perhaps we can support each other over the coming months.

Ria x