• Phoebe

How I ran a Marathon in a Global Pandemic

On Sunday 28th April 2019, I went to watch my sportiest friend run the London Marathon. I never thought that would be me. But one cancer diagnosis (for my mum) and a global pandemic (for everyone else) later, on Sunday 4th October 2020 I ran the world’s first virtual London Marathon.

My sportiest friend runs marathons and does triathlons for fun. I always thought she was a little bit mad. I didn’t get it but she loved it! After we went to see her run, way back in April 2019, we naturally went to the Pub to celebrate. After a few wines, her sister persuaded me to enter the ballot for the 2020 London Marathon, so I did…then promptly forgot about it.

About 6 months later, an email surprisingly appeared in my inbox “Congratulations…we are delighted to inform you that you have won a place to run the London Marathon 2020”… oh dear. I later found out that only 1 in 10 people get a place for the London Marathon in the ballot. After some of my friends laughed for a week when I relayed this story to them, I decided I was going to do it and training began. This is my first tip – be stubborn and ignorant of what it will actually take to achieve your goal. It wasn’t until 3 months in that it really dawned on me what it would take.

I am not going to lie to you or sugar coat it. It was hard.

I pretty much hated every single second. I was never a runner and never thought I would be a runner. I am not going to lie to you or sugar coat it. It was hard. It was boring. Going for my first 10k on a cold Sunday morning in November, after accidentally being out nearly all night the previous night at my brother’s birthday party, was truly hellish. My second tip is just get out there, what matters is your put on your trainers and run.

My friend Grace, who will definitely read this so I had better say something nice, trained every day with me. She was dedicated when I shouted and screamed and did not want to do it. She has not ended our friendship on the many times I have shouted at her that I hated her and wanted to go home. She ran every step of the way with me in training and on the day. It is not an understatement to say that my third (and actually my biggest) tip for training is get a solid group of friends that will be your running support team in the good times and the bad.

I carried on training but soon events overtook us all. In February 2020, my mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. In March, Coronavirus quickly became the new hot topic and the Marathon was postponed to October. In April, when I was supposed to originally run the Marathon, my mum was admitted to Hospital with suspected Coronavirus and 10 days later we were called in to say goodbye when she went into a medically induced Coma. We were told survival rates were 50% at this point. In May, her heart began to beat abnormally, and her kidneys began to fail. We were told that once dialysis is required her survival was down to 1 in 5.

In this time running was an escape for me. We were all trapped at home with nowhere to go. All we had to do was wait at home and wait for the Critical Care Doctors to call with yet more news. It was at this time I decided to fundraise for the Hospital treating her and I ended up raising over £4,000. We were the lucky ones. Against all the odds, she began to show signs of improvement. She began to recover and she was released from Hospital on the last day of July. Getting special dispensation to visit her for the first time in the Critical Care Unit on a stifling hot Tuesday in June is something I will never forget.

Just decide you will do it, and do it.

Running in this time was hard. It was hard to find time, fun things were opening up, the weather was glorious, and I wanted to spend time with my mum. But it soon became clear that there would always be a reason not to train. Soon enough the Marathon came around. The day itself was awful. It rained all day. I hated every second. My fourth tip is just decide you will do it, and do it. My running support team (Grace, Naomi, Hannah and Becky) didn’t let me give up and were all behind me when I crossed the makeshift finish line.

My fifth and final tip is aftercare. You need to stretch and relax your muscles. Two of my other dear friends (Rachael and Paula) waited at the finish line with prosecco (which I later drank in the bath), flowers and chocolates. I am currently resting with my knee up as a I write this and eating those chocolates.

And yes, my mum was there when I crossed the finished line – and yes reader, I ran straight over the line and into her arms while she brandished a bunch of flowers at me. Through tears, she told me she was proud of me. Turns out you are never too old for a hug from your mum.


Phoebe is 27 and works in the legal world but outside of that, she loves books and talk about them a lot at @pausebooks on Instagram. She loves writing and is currently writing her first novel. She is still deciding whether to take up her place for the London Marathon 2021.