Column: Marathon Nan

Aged 51 and a granny of six, Jude Clarke is running her first London Marathon this year. As she tells Velvet in her monthly diary, training is back on track. All she needs is a few more hours in the day. . .

I’m writing this in a precious free hour on a Sunday – squeezed in between this morning’s long run (yes, I’m injury free and literally back ‘up and running’), an afternoon playdate with the grandkids and an evening of frantic baking for a fundraising cake sale at work on Monday.

I remember asking a colleague of mine if he was tempted to run the London Marathon this year, and his reply, which now seems so wise, was that he knew he’d either have time for the training or the fundraising, but probably not both. And he has a point.

So I’m navigating this sudden and dramatic uptick in commitments by launching turbo-multitasking mode: spending lunch-hours at work planning my next money spinner or exhorting friends on Facebook, family members in WhatsApp groups and even my husband’s five-a-side team over email to donate to the cause; setting the alarm for 5.15 to cram in a pre-work run, or getting into my running gear the minute I get home so that I get out the door before I have time to rest or think; eating, sleeping, dreaming, talking, living and breathing, running, in a way that, quite frankly, I would not have recognised in myself even a few months ago.

The London Marathon - It's all starting to feel real for first-timer Jude Clarke (Credit iStock)(28210671)
The London Marathon - It's all starting to feel real for first-timer Jude Clarke (Credit iStock)(28210671)

Another colleague (what can I say? I work with wise people) told me that for the next few months I just need to be a bit selfish. I prefer “single minded”, but I get her point. If it means I’m not necessarily around for dinner-on-the-table seven days a week, or I don’t volunteer for that bit of overtime, or I have to spend Sunday mornings slogging round the park rather than enjoying a cosy breakfast in bed with my other half then, for the time being, so be it. Thankfully the important people in my life understand this, and are fully behind me, although I am starting to get a few “ironic” comments à la “Oh, are you running the marathon Jude? You should have mentioned it” from the more hilarious family members…

Which is why it was bliss, one bright and sunny Saturday morning last month, to gather in central London for the TeamARUK London Marathon Training Day. A day devoted to talking about the marathon? With a room full of equally excited, dedicated and obsessed people? And the chance for a training run in Hyde Park? Heaven! I returned home more determined than ever to keep at it, with a whole ream of statistics and helpful tips ringing in my ears. One in particular has become almost a mantra: apparently 98 per cent of people who make it to the start line of the London Marathon will make it to the finish line. In other words, if you do your training, follow your plan and above all avoid injury (most often caused by overdoing it, running too fast or too far too soon, ahem)you are very very likely to be clutching that finishers medal in your (exhausted, sweaty) hand come April 26. If you can make the start, you can make the finish (I often run chanting this to myself as I put down each foot – it’s strangely calming).

And the finish line is where I desperately want to be. And where - with every week of early starts, late finishes, strengthening exercises, long runs in the fog and drizzle and social occasions regretfully declined or deferred – I can feel myself closer and closer to being.

But now I must dash: the kids are just arriving, and I wanted to measure out the ingredients for my baking before they get here so that I’m not up too late this evening cooking. I’ve got an early start tomorrow and my running gear still needs a wash…

Jude is running the London Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK, with one in two people knowing someone affected. Like other diseases, the diseases that cause dementiacan be tackled with research. Sponsor Jude to help Alzheimer’s Research UK to keep people connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer at or find out more about the charity at

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