Have you ever watched a marathon on TV and wondered “could I do that”? 

I certainly have thought that many times, albeit until a few years ago I wasn’t really much of a runner and so it wasn’t very likely. In fact, I didn’t even know if I could ever run that far!

During the pandemic, I started running more regularly as a way to try to keep fit and healthy and, once we were allowed to do so, I started running with my friend Peter once a week. After a while of running together he persuaded me to try a virtual half marathon and we ran it in just under 2 hours, which felt like a great achievement.

So when my sister approached me shortly afterwards and asked me if I wanted to run the London Virtual Marathon for a small charity that she is involved in, I quickly said yes, without giving it too much thought. 

The Virtual London Marathon - 2021

That small charity was EdUKaid, and I was drawn to their work as I have a personal connection with Tanzania, having travelled there many years ago. I have also worked on various aid programmes in recent years, some of which have had their funding cut and so I wanted to try to address that, even in just a small way by helping to fundraise. 

I soon learned that the training you need to get up to a half marathon is very different to what you need to do to get up to a full marathon.

The human body generally isn’t built to run more than about 20 miles, and so a marathon is definitely not something to be taken on lightly

I downloaded a simple training plan and started training 3x per week for 3 months before the virtual marathon, including doing 3 increasingly longer runs each weekend in the build up to the big day. When that day came, I ran the first half with my wife Juliette, who has also become a runner in recent years, and the second half of the race with Peter. Even though I found it very difficult, I found it really helpful to have company all the way through as that provided a welcome distraction from all of that physical effort.

Crossing the finish line of the virtual marathon in 2021

The virtual marathon was also enjoyable as we saw a lot of other people out doing the virtual marathon that morning and so there was a sense of camaraderie. However it was nothing like the scenes from the actual London marathon that I have seen many times on the TV over the years. So then when EdUKaid asked me a few weeks later if I wanted to run the actual London marathon, with 42,000 other runs and thousands of people cheering us on, I leapt at the chance.

Running the London Marathon - 2022

EdUKaid helped me to set up my fundraising page and shared it with a few friends and family as well as on social media. I was surprised how many people were keen to support me and the cause I was running for and that really motivated me to train harder.

As the big day approached I started to feel quite nervous and couldn’t think of much else, partly as I had a slight injury in my knee, although I think that might have been more psychological than physical. I was also not sure how I’d feel running the whole race on my own.

On the day of the marathon I got up early and, after a bowl of porridge and a coffee, I left the house to make my way to the starting point in Greenwich. There were lots of people already out and about wearing running gear, even though it was still early on a Sunday morning. As we approached our destination, the trains were completely full with other runners and you could feel the excitement start to build.

I still had over an hour to wait so I made sure I was warm enough and did some stretching as well as eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich and a banana, which I believe to be the ideal marathon food (but I have no idea if that’s true and it probably isn’t)! 

As my start time approached, I got ready and made my way to the starting point. I got chatting to a few other runners who were very friendly and we were all a bit nervous and excited. We asked each other about who we were running for and wished each other well, and before long we crossed the starting line. 

Finally, after all of that training and planning and thinking and waiting, we were off! It was a slightly surreal feeling but I also felt relief to be finally on our way

Right from the beginning the support was immense. Lots of people were out on the streets cheering us on and it felt amazing, especially as the marathon begins with a long downhill stretch so that got us off to a really good start, albeit possibly a bit too quick.

Pretty soon I was high fiving kids along the way, and soaking up the atmosphere with bands and music playing at regular intervals along the course which always gave us a big boost. In addition, there were lots of runners in costumes which just looked incredibly hot and uncomfortable to me, and I don’t know how they did it, but I was impressed by their commitment and determination. There were quite a few people who had signs or pictures on their running shirts describing the cause or the person they were running for. Some of these messages were very moving and it really felt like we were part of something very special.

As we arrived at the Cutty Sark, which is about a quarter of the way through, the crowds were very noisy and the atmosphere felt electric. The noise and the energy died down a little after that and reached the next big peak as we crossed Tower Bridge at the halfway mark which was an iconic moment.


Next, we ran towards Canary Wharf where I knew my family were due to be waiting to meet me and that gave me a lot of motivation to keep on going even though I was really starting to get tired by this point, and seeing them was a big boost for me. 

With the final quarter of the race to go, I was starting to feel really tired. There were a few people walking at this point and I really wanted to walk too, but knew that if I did, I probably won’t start running again, so I kept on going. It was also sad to see a few people getting some medical attention on the sidelines, but there did seem to be a lot of help all along the course and people were well looked after, but you could really tell we were in the business end of the race. 

As we arrived on the Embankment, not far from the finish line, I was pretty much running on empty and I kept on reminding myself of the two teachers - Greta and Ashura - and the 130 kids that I was fundraising for, and that really spurred me on.

Greta and Ashura

As we passed Big Ben, there was just a few hundred meters to go and I was aware that I was pretty close to my target time of 4 hours, so I was determined to give it my best shot and see if I could make it in under that time. I kept on pushing right until the end and was delighted to record a time of just under my target. 

Having crossed the finish line, I received my medal from one of the wonderful volunteers who congratulated me and also gave me a shirt and a bag with some drinks and snacks. My legs soon felt incredibly tired and it took all of my willpower to walk to Admiralty Arches near Trafalgar Square where I had arranged to meet my family, who I practically collapsed onto for support. It was a really amazing day and I’m so glad I did it. Having said that, I am also pretty clear that I have no intention of ever doing it again!

Lastly, EdUKaid have been brilliant at supporting me all the way through and I’m delighted to have been able to run for them.

If you’ve ever considered running a marathon then I’d strongly urge you to give it a go. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself if you put your mind to it, and of course keep on putting one foot in front of the other

Has Roland inspired you to take on a challenge?  Find out more about fundraising for EdUKaid here