Diary of a London Marathon Runner

News and Blog

Hi, my name’s Chris, and I’ll be running the London Marathon in April, in aid of St Catherine’s Hospice!

Since a young age, I’ve loved playing sports and going to the gym, and so naturally, running the London Marathon has always been on my bucket list. That said, I’m a treadmill dodger, preferring to lift weights rather than do any sort of endurance activity.

Why have I chosen to run the 2023 London Marathon in aid of St Catherine’s Hospice?

After a six year battle with prostate cancer, my Dad was admitted to Guildford Hospital in July 2021. A potentially fatal blood clot had formed in his body. Very early one morning we were told to come to the hospital to say our goodbyes to Dad, but were not able to stay with him in what we thought were his final hours, due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was by far and away the toughest moment of my life.

Later that day, Dad was given the option to take a blood clot busting drug, which from memory had a less than 50% chance of working. Fortunately for him, it did work, and he went on to survive another three or four weeks. We potentially had the chance to say hello to him again!

As mentioned though, COVID-19 restrictions meant that now only Mum could visit him for limited hours, and no one else.

A shortage of homecare nurses meant that he couldn’t be released from hospital either. It was torture not being able to see him again, with him essentially being in a ward, with the occasional visit from doctors, nurses and Mum. This went on for 10 days.

Luckily for us and Dad, St Catherine’s Hospice came to the rescue! They provided Dad with homecare nurses, which allowed him to be at home for his remaining time on earth.

He took full advantage of this, with a constant stream of visitors stopping by the family home to say hello (and goodbye) to him. He got to watch a shed load of sport on tv too!

It also meant my Mum, Brother, Sister, and I got to be by his side for his final breaths, something that would not have otherwise been possible.

I will be eternally grateful for what St Catherine’s Hospice did for our family, for making Dad as comfortable as possible in his final few weeks, allowing him to say his final goodbyes to his huge network of friends and family, and pass away peacefully where he wanted to.

This gave me all the motivation I needed, to know  that one day, I’d want to run the London Marathon in aid of this amazing charity.

I’d already signed up to the July 2023 Jurassic Walk, and around the middle of November 2022 whilst talking to Emma, who was organising the walk, I loosely enquired about how I could go about running the marathon for the charity. She mentioned that the London Marathon was reverting back to April, but that it was possible to train for it in as little as 16 weeks, and that there were still spaces available!

Knowing that it was less than a year until I turned 40, could do with improving my fitness/losing some weight, and that I really wanted to run the London Marathon for St Catherine’s, I filled out the London Marathon application form. On Monday 21st November 2022, my application was accepted!!!

My marathon training to date

I’m now eight weeks through my 16 week marathon training plan, with less than 8 weeks remaining until the London marathon!

Training has gone relatively well over the last few weeks. Previously I’d been struggling to run four times a week due to calf muscle tightness and injury concerns, so I was substituting running for cycling, to keep my cardio fitness up, whilst not hammering my legs too much!

My calf muscle tension has definitely eased as my legs have started to adapt to regular running sessions, and so this has started to allow me to average the four scheduled runs per week.

Although the mileage I’m doing during the week is a little lower than planned, I’m managing to hit the weekend long run mileage each time. Sometimes I’m having to split the long runs into two sessions due to time constraints, or from playing rugby, but I’m getting the mileage done which is the main thing. The plan is now to gradually up the mileage during the week to training plan levels, whilst continuing to hit the long run mileage.

One thing that has made a massive difference to my running pace recently, is running with someone else. Sam Drane and I have been doing a 5.30am pace run every Thursday morning for the past four weeks around Billingshurst. Training with a more experienced runner has helped push my boundaries, and my fitness levels have really kicked on as a result. Meeting him the same time every week has made me accountable to hitting that Thursday run, when the temptations of the weekend looming would make me think twice about a run that day.

St Catherine’s Hospice have arranged a couple of events in the last few weeks to help with the fitness too! On 11th February a group of us met to do the Tilgate Parkrun. It was my first ever Parkrun, but it certainly won’t be my last! Strangely I’d never attempted to see how quickly I could run a 5k, but managed it in just under 25 minutes which was much quicker than expected! It was great to meet some of the other St Catherine’s marathon runners too, and really enjoyed the community feel of the Parkrun. I look forward to doing another one soon!

Chris (far right) and runners at the Tilgate Park Run

On 25th February, St Catherine’s Hospice laid on the annual Treadmill Challenge, where 5 other marathon runners and I clubbed together and took it in turns to run a marathon on a treadmill. The challenge took place in the middle of Crawley County Mall shopping centre. We ended up raising £451.10, which was equally split between the runners, and put towards our fundraising targets for the marathon. It was such a great experience getting to know some of the other runners and also touching to hear some of the life experiences that some of the shoppers had gone through, and how grateful they were for everything St Catherine’s had done for their families.

Week eight of my training ended with running in the Brighton half marathon! I wasn’t too sure how to approach the race, as weekend training long runs are suppose to be run at a slow and steady pace. However, my competitive nature got the better of me and I went off at race pace!

I struggled around mile four, but consuming an energy gel that I’d been carrying, coupled with seeing my family in the crowd, gave me the boost I needed to kick on again. From that point on, I got into a really good running rhythm, and mentally started breaking the race down into small sections based on knowing where the drink stations were and likely places I’d see my family.


Chris at the Brighton Half

I ended up running it in 1.57.38, which far exceeded my expectations given the 2.09 I’d run in training only a few weeks before! I’m really glad I decided to enter this as a warmup to the London marathon, as it gave me a good insight into what it’s like to run in a big event, what I can achieve if I push myself, and that a good support crew and lots of energy gels are key!

Fundraising is still going strong, with £1,700 raised so far for this great charity. I’m going to push the fundraising over the next few weeks by organising a charity golf day and pulling together a “guess my marathon time” game. If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do so on the following link: https://2023tcslondonmarathon.enthuse.com/pf/chris-francis

To read the full training blogs from Chris visit Sussex World.

Chris (second from right) at the Treadmill Challenge