Embracing my next big challenge but can I go the distance?

Hello friends,

In a rash moment, while feeling super fit and euphoric somewhere along el Camino del Norte last November, I signed up for the Vancouver Marathon. I know, I know, I sound crazy right?

Ever since the first London Marathon was broadcast in the UK in 1981, I often wondered what it would be like to run such a distance. I could not even comprehend it, as I was never very sporty at school. I hated P.E. and team sports like netball (yawn) and hockey (ouch, how my shins hurt) and much preferred playing music instead, in the safety of the music room, where I couldn’t risk breaking any bones. The only sporting activities I was any good at were swimming and the long jump.

My mum and I used to catch the bus every Friday afternoon after school to the swimming baths in Coventry so that I could take swimming classes. I remember one of my swimming teachers, called Mr Mars…I mean, how could anyone forget that? He reminded me of Magnum and he stretched us to our limits. I loved being in the water and I was very good at breast stroke, back stroke and diving. I earned my badges for swimming different distances and for the life saving exam.

I even remember a day when during the time when the IRA was busy on the mainland, we had to evacuate, owing to a bomb scare. There we were standing in our swimming togs, shivering and huddled in our towels on the concrete pavement in front of the sports centre, while pools of water collected at our feet. Thankfully, no bomb went off, it was a false alarm and we could go home in peace. Happy days!

When I completed the last class of the final grade, I had one of two options – join the Coventry swimming squad and train for competitions or leave. I had no desire to compete so I left and focussed on my piano and flute exams instead.

As for track and field events, well I hated sprinting and relays and would rather stick pins in my eyes that throw the discus, javelin or shot put. The high jump made me nervous, so really, the long jump was the only event I could do comfortably on school sports days, but I didn’t love it enough to train for the amateur athletics clubs. Apart from hiking and a brief foray into rowing, sailing and mountain hiking during my university years I did not partake in any major sporting activities.

However, something changed in my 40s. When my mum was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, for the second time, I decided to run the Race For Life on behalf of Cancer Research. It was only a 5 km fun run in Battersea Park, near where I used to live but it felt like an enormous challenge. I opted for a couch potato to 5 km training plan and ran in the evenings and gathered sponsorship. Race Day came and with eager anticipation and a few collywobbles I set off. The distance went by so fast and before I knew it I had crossed the finish line and managed to raise £1400 for charity, thanks to the generous support of family, friends and colleagues.

A year later my lovely mum passed away and I vowed to walk the Camino Frances of el Camino de Santiago to honour her life – a 900 km trek or so from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees in France across Spain to Santiago de Compostela and then on to Finisterre and Muxia on the coast. The journey was so totally transformative I did not want to stop walking! I felt fitter and healthier than I did in my twenties and wanted to stay that way.

The following year, after marrying Brett, we walked the Camino Portugues route – a 717 km stroll from Lisbon cathedral to Santiago. A year later we trained for and ran the Vancouver Half Marathon. A few months later we embarked on a sea voyage on board Theros, so not much opportunity for running or hiking for twelve months. However, in 2019 we walked the Camino Frances together and returned to France in 2022 to walk from Biarritz to Santiago along el Camino del Norte (about 860 km).

So there you have it, I came full circle on the Camino and then thought I would have a bash at training for the full Vancouver Marathon, which takes place on 7th May 2023. What was I thinking?

I began training in England in November but started training in earnest when I returned to Canada. I have been keeping a video blog diary about my training on my YouTube channel, here is the playlist:

Vancouver Marathon 2023 training

In it, I share some of the challenges I faced, like training in the snow…

….or doing hill practice (not my favourite!)

…and a spot of gym workouts at Ganges Fitness in town…

And then there are the highlights, like the time I reached a half marathon distance….

….or the day I ran a section of the Vancouver Marathon course to test out the hilly bit!

And more recently, coming back from injury, the other day I had a lovely run in Sidney on Vancouver Island….

There is no doubt about it, I have found the training really tough and was quite despondent a few weeks ago when I injured the muscles around my knees (from being over zealous doing leg extension exercises with weights in the gym) and had to take a break of a few weeks. I thought I had peaked at the half marathon distance! I am supposed to reach 30 km training runs, at least 3 times during the training period before race day but I have been unable to reach that target. I have no idea whether I will make it round the whole marathon course, which is why I chose not to do any fundraising for charity, as I do not want to let anyone down if I don’t make it:

I only have one month to go until race day! Yikes, I had better get a wriggle on! However, I am determined to keep going with my training programme and do my very best to get round the course on race day.

Wish me luck!

Lots of love,

Sarah x


5 thoughts on “Embracing my next big challenge but can I go the distance?

  1. Thanks for sharing this, an inspiring story. School PE lessons were designed to put as many people off physical activity as possible, hopefully it’s better now.

    You’ll smash the marathon I’m sure. It’s a heck of a challenge but you’ve come a long way and the excitement of the day will carry you through

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah what an awesome job. I read your tweet about WordPress, clicked through to your blog and am tickled pink because I walked through Battersea Park 1 hour ago, in your old neck of the woods. House sitting in Kensington for 2 weeks. Keep on inspiring and running!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. I really appreciate them. What a coincidence! I am so glad you have walked through Battersea Park. It is my favourite park in London. Enjoy Kensington. I follow your blog and youtube videos. You lead an inspiring life and give so much practical advice to others. Best wishes, Sarah


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