‘Vivi Stories’ is a series of inspiring tales, thoughts, tips and tricks from real people. From running marathons to cycling 500 miles across Europe, find out what drives people to get fit and what experiences have been the best. This time, we ask Tom Slimming how he fared doing this year’s London Marathon.
Vivi: What made you want to do the marathon?
Tom: I ran for my school cross country and athletics teams up to the age of about 16 to a relatively good standard. A very familiar story – I discovered drinking, smoking and going out and all exercise took a backseat. Fast forward 10 years and after an unhealthy late teens/early twenties I was 4 stone heavier, a full-time smoker and unable to go up a flight of stairs without getting a sweat on.
I’m the sort of person that is motivated by goals and targets and since my late teens, I’ve lacked any real exercise goals. I’ve always watched the marathon on TV and thought that it was something I’d love to complete. Having a history of running, I’d tentatively entered the London Marathon Ballot every year since 2014 with no success. In all honesty, I entered for the sake of it, not really thinking I would ever get a place. In 2018 I thought it would be the same story, however, I was lucky enough to secure a place. It couldn’t have come at a better time and I finally had that goal to work towards.
Vivi: Did you follow a training plan?
Tom: Yes. The London Marathon website has 3 different training plans for all levels of running: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Being slightly cocky, I started off following the intermediate plan. This was a mistake as I went from doing no exercise whatsoever to 3 runs a week along with 2 gym sessions. This was a shock to my body and I quickly picked up a knee injury and also suffered from really bad shin splints.
I admitted defeat and went down to the beginner’s plan. This was still pretty intense and involved 2 runs during the week and 1 long run at the weekend. One of the mid week runs always involved some speed training – intervals, fartlek, hill sprints etc. These were hell but a necessary evil! I also played 5 aside on Wednesday evenings with work which gave my body a different kind of work out.
Vivi: Had you ever done anything this challenging before?
Tom: In one word, no. I totally underestimated quite how hard it would be. In particular, this year’s London Marathon was a scorcher, the hottest on record in fact. All of my training had been in the cold and wet months (with a little bit of snow too!). I was totally underprepared for the heat and how much this would sap all of my energy!
Vivi: What was the hardest part of the run?
Tom: Definitely the 3rd quarter, miles 13 – 20. You’re still so far from the finish and your body hurts all over. This part of the London Marathon for me was a bit of a mental battle. I knew I wasn’t going to hit my target time and finding the will to carry on was tough. The crowds really helped and gave me a massive boost.
Vivi: Would you do it again?
Tom: Definitely. It may be because I’m still on a high from Sunday’s events but it was a great experience. I’ve now also set myself a time to beat!
Vivi: What would you do differently?
Tom: Pace myself. I got caught up in the atmosphere at the start and went off too fast. I ran the second half 40 minutes slower than the first half! I’d read so many articles which told me to be disciplined and treat the first half as a warm-up. This went out of the window and I found a pace which I thought I’d be comfortable at and stuck with it. Big mistake – I paid for this later on! It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Vivi: What tips would you give to anyone thinking of doing it?
Tom: Get your name printed on your running t-shirt/vest. It feels weird at the start when people you’ve never met are cheering your name. In the last 6 miles, however, random strangers shouting ‘Tom, you’re amazing, you’ve got this’ really does get you to the finish line.
Also, cover yourself in Vaseline or anti-chafe balm and put plasters on your nipples. I failed to do this on one of my 16-mile training runs and the result was not pretty!!
Vivi: What kept you going when times got tough?
Tom: As above, the crowds at London really were amazing. It’s like everyone stops being British for a day!
Also when it does get tough, just think about why you’re doing it. I ran for 2 charities which both have a significant personal relevance. I thought about all the people that had sponsored me and the positive impact that the money raised would have on the charities.
Vivi: What nutrition did you use on race day?
Tom: Although I’ve always been told not to take sweets from strangers, I indulged in some jelly babies which were being handed out by spectators along the course. There were water stops every mile. Because of the heat, I took water at every stop. I drank half and poured the rest down my back to try and cool down! I took an energy gel every 3/4 miles and I also had a couple of electrolyte tablets which I mixed with water around the halfway point.
Vivi: Describe the feeling of achievement you felt crossing the finish line.
Tom: Initially it was more relief than a feeling of achievement! After a few minutes, though, the enormity of what you’ve just done does sink in. When I got that medal around my neck there was an overwhelming sense of pride and I can’t lie, I shared a few tears and hugs with some random strangers!
Vivi: Is there any other sporting challenge on your to-do list?
Tom: Initially I’d just like to continue running regularly. I’ve found a means of exercise which I genuinely enjoy and don’t find a chore. Of course, running has loads of physical health benefits but there are so many mental health benefits too. I had a mentality that I had not really achieved anything great, sports-wise, since my teenage years. I was then out on my own for 3 hours on a Sunday morning covering 16, 18 and then 20 miles – things I thought I wasn’t capable of. I’ve since been able to carry this sense of achievement elsewhere into various aspects of everyday life and have much higher self-esteem.
In terms of another sporting challenge, I’ll definitely be signing up for another marathon in 2019 – I’ve now got a PB to smash!
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