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7 top tips for London Marathon success

"In the days that follow the marathon, it will all sink in; what we've achieved, all the training, all the aches and pains, but maybe the amount we've raised will be the bit that’s needed for the next big breakthrough."

The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place this weekend. Tens of thousands of people are taking part, including brothers Steve and Kev from Bristol who are raising money for Worldwide Cancer Research. They decided to take on the challenge of running their first ever marathon for their step dad Mike, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2014. So far, they have raised an incredible £17,000 to fund vital cancer research projects around the world.

But how do you train for a 26 mile race and raise thousands of pounds in the process?

With next year's ballot for places going live in early May, here are Steve and Kev's top tips on everything you need to fundraise and train ahead of the big day.

  1. Start Early.

    This applies to both fundraising and your running training. We decided to do the marathon one night on holiday after spending some quality time with Mike and our family. We knew right from the beginning that we wanted to fundraise for research into cancer because of his situation. He was overwhelmed that we would do such a thing in his name. Sadly, he passed away in June 2015. We’ll also be running in memory of friends Colin Lewis, Mark Burgam and Ian Meek, who have all been lost to cancer, but we're also running for those who are currently facing the fight. Neither of us have attempted to run a full marathon before, so it’s been a difficult challenge. We estimate we will have run approximately five hundred miles in the weeks and months leading up to this weekend. The earlier you start training the better, so you can gradually build your running distance, one week at a time.

  1. Write down your targets. 

    Do it for both your running schedule and fundraising plans and have them in a place you’ll see them every day; on your fridge, on your phone calendar, on the mirror in your bedroom, everywhere! Keep the running targets gradual and realistic, building up the number of  miles slowly as you go. Ask friends, local running clubs and gyms about good 5k and 10k routes around where you live to get you started. In terms of fundraising, our original target was £7000, then it grew to £10,000, then up to £12,000, but our total has now reached £17,000! Because we wrote these targets down, and then kept smashing them one after the other, this gave us the energy to keep raising more and more money, to see if we could pass our previous target.

  1. Get the right gear.

    If you think those beaten up trainers at the back of your cupboard will get you through a marathon, you’re wrong! It doesn’t take a lot, but look into equipping yourself properly for this kind of challenge. You don’t have to have all the best, flash gear, just enough to get you through. Head to your local running or outdoor gear shop, discuss your budget with them and they’ll help you choose the right equipment for your needs. Nutrition is also vitally important. Your body will be enduring a lot more physical activity then it’s used to, so you need to give it the right fuel including healthy snacks and you'll need to drink water more often then you are used to.

  1. Listen to your body.

    Don’t be afraid to miss the odd training session if you are feeling tired or sore. Stretch and roll your muscles every day at least twice, especially in the latter stages of your training. Get into a routine of stretching: once when you wake up, once when you get home from work and finally just before you go to bed. Expect to have a few physiotherapy sessions if necessary. If you suspect you have an injury, seek professional advice sooner rather than later. Expect a lot of aches and pains, as it’s all part of the journey.

  1. Whenever it feels tough...

    ...whether it’s getting up at 5.30 am in the cold and wet, or doing a long run on your day off, take a moment to reflect on your real reasons for running. Whenever we're tired, or we want to give up, we think that what we are going through can’t be as tough or as painful as someone who has to face cancer every day.

  1. Give something back.

    We realised early on that if people got something back for their donation to Worldwide Cancer Research they are likely to give again and again for different fundraising events. The more fun the event for everyone involved, the better. We did everything we could; car boot sales, coffee mornings, dress down days at work…we even roped in our kids to do a sponsored 5k race! Our most successful event was a sponsored head shave at work with the senior managers, which raised over £5000. It got loads of people involved in the office. Don’t be afraid to approach local businesses for prizes for raffles or events nights, and get your family and friends involved in any way you can (they’ll find it hard to say no!) Seeing the overwhelming generosity of people in our community is the best part of fundraising.

  1. Always remember the cause.

    This past year has been so busy, between fundraising events and training hard – that sometimes we started to forget why we were were running the marathon. Cancer impacts the lives of so many people, and if the research we helped fund can help even one person with cancer then it’s the right thing to do. We were actually offered places by four different charities, but we chose Worldwide Cancer Research because they were so friendly and helpful, and their cause felt right after everything that happened with our step dad Mike. I think crossing the finish line will be very emotional, and in some ways so far we have been holding all that emotion back. In the days that follow it will sink in, what we have done and achieved, all the training, all the aches and pains, but maybe the amount we have raised will be the bit that’s needed for the next big breakthrough.

Steve and Kev

Steve and Kev are fundraising for Worldwide Cancer Research, and you can donate here. Inspired to run? The ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 opens in early May.

Communications Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research

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