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From zero to 26.2 miles in 7 months: my marathon journey - Neville Haneef

My journey began in March 2022 after securing a place in the October London Marathon. This triggered the start of my preparation for the challenge. This was a crazy challenge as, up to March, I have never run a marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k or any k. To get started I downloaded a beginner’s training programme adapting it for myself.

I also watched lots of YouTube videos from experienced running coaches; some of which were helpful. However, running alone and YouTube videos have their limitations. I joined the Gladstone parkrun in April. The route of the parkrun brought back many fond memories as I grew up in the Dollis Hill area during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Looking for more, I joined Queens Park Harriers in May to give me some structured training. To add a bit of spice to my programme, I signed up to The Big Half Marathon in London on 4th September.

My ultimate goal was to finish and clasp that medal. Secondary to this was to complete the course in less than 3 hours. I managed a respectable time (in my eyes) of 3:02:57. Whilst it could be viewed that I was on the lower end of the performance scale, I felt that I was at the higher end of the personal achievement scale. Knowing how the process works e.g. getting to the start, bags pickup/drop off, the all-important loos (and how to avoid the queues) and the hydration stations, was very helpful.

As a result of taking part, I know that I need to improve the strength in my legs, the pace that I should aim for, where I need to put additional lashings of talc on essential moving body parts, what hydration I need to carry onboard, any real need for energy gels, and whether there is any merit to wear headphones.

Besides being a fantastic experience, I have gained much from taking part in The Big Half which I will be taking forward to the full marathon in October. By joining the Gladstone Park parkrun and QPH, I can say that this has helped my take-up of running. Everyone that I have come across is willing to help & inspire, and are very friendly.

At the time the starter's gun goes off in October I will have turned 70 years of age, providing me with the unique opportunity of celebrating my milestone birthday with my first marathon.


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