Taking on the London Marathon for families facing dementia

Anna and Abbie after completing the London Marathon for Dementia UK
Anna and Abbie

When we took on our first parkrun back in October neither of us had much faith that we’d complete the London Marathon six months later. But here we are, barely able to stand, but proudly able to say that on April 23, 2017 we took on the challenge of a lifetime and ran 26.2 miles for a cause that we truly believe in.

What took us both by surprise was the range of emotions we went through in the week leading up to the big day – anxiety, fear, pride, elation – it was all in there. We were on an emotional rollercoaster and it was hard to predict what mood we’d be in from one minute to the next. Luckily, we both have very understanding family and friends who offered us words of encouragement and kept us as calm as possible.

 

When we were training, our lives were on pause, running came first and we had to cut a lot of things out – alcohol, caffeine and, to a large extent, fun. Lots of people told us that it would be worth it on the day but I don’t think either of us actually believed it.

I don’t think you can really appreciate just how fantastic it is until you’ve done it for yourself. It’s hard to put into words just how overwhelming that day is. From mile one to mile 26, it’s a high like nothing else.

As Abbie and I crossed the start line hand in hand, I was filled with such pride. We’d gotten each other through the early morning runs, injuries and doubts and we were there together to tackle the many miles that lay ahead of us.

Abbie was much better at holding it together than I was, for the first 12 miles I welled up almost every time someone cheered my name – especially when I heard ‘you’ve got this Anna and Abigail’ which is the motto we’d adopted throughout our training to spur us on when times got tough.

I also burst out crying shortly after I crossed the finish line, but all my tears were tears of joy. I smiled a hell of a lot too and waved like crazy when I spotted people in the crowd that I knew. Having so much support from our loved ones really made all the difference. Just when we’d feel like giving up we’d spot a familiar face and that would keep us going for the next few miles.

Being cheered on by hundreds of thousands of people along the route is the most amazing feeling. As I was running along I wondered how feasible it would be to hire a crowd to do that for me every day of the year, I’m sure I’d be a better person for it.

Of course it was difficult and points and painful – both of us are walking a little like John Wayne at the moment. But was it worth it? Unequivocally yes. We’ve both spent a lot of our training moaning and complaining, but neither of us would trade this experience for the world. It was one of, if not the, best days of our lives.

26.2 miles, two best friends and one amazing cause. We did it.

Feeling inspired by Anna’s blog? Why not take on a challenge and help us support families all over the UK who are facing dementia.