Capital gains! My epic London running challenge in honour of my mum
On March 31, I’m going to attempt to run further than I ever have before.
Following my first trail marathon last year, I wanted to take on something new – so I’ve chosen the ‘Capital Ring’. It’s a 126km (78 mile) route around London and I’m going to try and do it in three consecutive days.
I’m putting myself through this to raise money for dementia research in honour of my mum, Wendy, who was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago and lives with its life-changing effects.
The disease has taken a lot away from Mum and my step-dad Mike, who is now her full-time (and incredible) carer. It has stolen a big chunk of a retirement they always thought they would enjoy together.
It is easy, and understandable, to feel upset by what feels totally unjust. But it is not all bad. There are simple pleasures too. I can be silly and Mum will laugh, much more easily than she would have in the past. She is less affected by ‘what other people might think’, something she always worried about in the past. And she will sing happily along to songs, knowing more of the words than I ever will!
Mum would have to be having a ‘very good’ day to be able to greet me by name now, but it is nice that she seems pleased to see me. Someone asked her recently how many children she has, and I was surprised to hear her answer correctly – she has told me before that she doesn’t have a daughter. I’m not sure who she thinks I am, but she doesn’t mind that I’m with her. Celebrating Mother’s Day this year was interesting – we continue to give presents and cards, and it’s a lovely reason to spend time together, but she doesn’t know or understand that she is a “mum”.
Thinking of my mum and the cause I’m supporting is helping me through the gruelling training and will hopefully help me get through this challenge.
I’ve never completed an endurance event before and didn’t really know where to start or what was needed in terms of a training plan.
I started it in early January and, with only 12 weeks to go to the challenge, things had to ramp up pretty quickly. My takeaway from research and speaking to friends who I think of as ‘proper runners’ was to focus on long runs and not getting injured.
I wanted to be flexible so it didn’t feel like too much of a chore, while still putting in the work that will mean I’m mentally and physically ready.
The principle I’ve stuck to is to complete the longer runs on consecutive days. I wanted to get used to running on tired legs for more than one day in a row but can accept that I’ve missed or moved the occasional mid-week, shorter run.
At the peak of my training I ran 60kms in one weekend. However, I’d actually been looking forward to this part of my training plan because it was a chance to prove to myself that I could run longer distances on multiple days.
I compare it to my attitude to decorating and DIY. I don’t really want to spend time doing any of the smaller, more detailed preparations at the start that will make things easier in the long run. I’d much rather just get stuck straight in and be able to see significant progress. Like being able to paint a big part of the wall and see that lots of it is done, but perhaps not benefiting from putting down dust sheets!
I did, however, have a moment of feeling really quite overwhelmed. On the first weekend of the much longer back-to-back runs, I’d completed 42kms in two days and my thighs really hurt, no matter how much stretching I did.
It was very worrying that I would need to do more than that on the first day of the challenge alone, followed by two more days of nearly as much.
Thankfully, Luke, my husband, kindly talked me down – reasoning that in the moments after finishing a half marathon and having completed another half marathon only the evening before, of course my thighs were going to hurt. That in trying to squeeze the training runs in around work and social plans, and letting myself be competitive trying to do ‘good times’, I’d pushed hard to do them quickly. I had run a lot faster than I plan to do for the actual challenge. I want this to be an experience. A chance to see bits of London that I never normally would. Something I won’t be able to do if I’m purely focused on going quickly. I will have to remind the competitive person in me (repeatedly) that this is not a race and I need to focus on being able to finish!
The most important thing is I’m supporting a cause that is so close to my heart. I’ve been blown away by everyone’s generous donations and kind words. It’s hugely motivating.
Effective treatments, and ultimately, a cure, would have made a world of difference for mum. I’m proud to being do something to help raise money that might make treatment and a cure a possibility for other people in future.
You can sponsor Mel or follow her progress here Melissa Williams is fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK (justgiving.com)
If you are inspired to take on your own epic challenge for dementia research, you can download a fundraising pack here: https://alzheimersresearchuk.org/fundraise/do-it-for-research/
About the author
Melissa Williams is Legal Director for Northern Europe at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health and lives in West London. She supports Alzheimer’s Research UK in honour of her mum, Wendy, who has young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.