Hi everyone, Ash here 🌈
It's true what they say, you really can do anything if you put your mind to it...
Two years ago I ran my first ever 10km race. So confident was I that I would never run a race again, I actually raised money for World Animal Protection as it was such a big thing for me to be doing! I was not a runner - I had never ran further than 1km so doing a 10km race was unbelievable at the time! From a young age I had always told myself that it would be amazing to run the London Marathon, but it never occurred to me that I would actually do it - it just didn't even cross my mind... because I couldn't run!
When my husband Simon signed me up to the 10km race that he does every year to, in his words, 'practise what I preach and take myself out of my comfort zone', I accepted it. I knew that, with some guidance from Sam, I could do it - even if I had to crawl round! I emailed my predicted finish time of 1 hour 15 minutes and set to training. I remember the first time I ever ran 5km outside, I was so excited that I messaged Sam to tell her! I then had to walk back another 1km because my legs couldn't run any further 😆 In May 2017 I completed the 10km run in 51 minutes and immediately signed up for another! I loved what running did for my mind more than anything, it's a time for me to completely switch off. My main reason for running is to strengthen my mental health.
Fast forward two years and here I was, getting ready to start the London Marathon 2019. Standing with thousands of people, I was ready to take on the biggest fitness challenge I had ever set myself. I remember taking in long, deep breaths to keep my anxiety under control. I didn't talk much, I listened to everyone around me talking about their nerves, but I felt compelled to stay quiet and take it all in. I listened to the cheers as different zones of runners set off, the helicopters hovering above to capture images for the news and the announcer at the front telling us we would be starting very soon...
As we set off the crowds appeared immediately, motivating us to enjoy the route! I told myself how strong I was, how capable and determined. These positive affirmations stayed with me the whole race and I even remember talking out loud at some points, especially near the end "You've got this Ash, don't stop now". A SMASH member told me that a friend of hers had dedicated certain miles to people, and I loved this idea! Whenever I felt like my energy was slipping I would think of incredible people in my life - my Mum, my husband, my best friends, family, SMASH crew - I even spent time thinking about all my wonderful pets over the years! One person in particular pushed me through - my Dad. I remember thinking of him around the half way point as we approached Tower Bridge. My Dad was a Londoner and Tower Bridge always makes me think of him and our visits to see family when I was a child - it's my favourite landmark in the world. It was the one time I actually dedicated part of the race out loud to someone and, although I'm not religious, I found myself looking up to the sky, hoping that he was looking down, proud 💕
As I ran around the route, the best inspiration to keep going came from the people who had come out to support - especially those who had actually come out to support me in particular! At 10km I saw my husband for the first time in two weeks, as he had been away on business and only landed in London that morning - I was so happy to see him with my brother-in-law and mother-in-law! My best friends Iva, Jake, Sam and Darren made it to several different points around the course, as well as SMASH members Jules, Mark and Michelle. They said they felt like they had run a marathon... but I had to remind them that I had 40,000 extra steps on my total step counter for the day 😝 It was amazing to see my PT clients Amy, Alex, Ryan and some of The Dog's Trust SMASH crew at two different points, as well as my PT client Olissa, who had to run along the crowds to get my attention! SMASH member Ruth had to scream and wave for me to see her out of the corner of my eye and the last person I saw was SMASH member Lina, who gave me the biggest hug and sent me off to enjoy my final mile! (I'm sorry to those who said they were cheering me but I didn't hear or spot - just know that your energy and motivation was with me regardless 🙌)
I can't describe the feeling you get when you cross that finish line. I couldn't believe I had done it, something I never thought I would do in my life. I had always told myself I wasn't a runner. I had always said that I wouldn't have the strength to run that distance, I wasn't built for it, I wouldn't enjoy it. But do you know what? I am, I had it, I was and I did.
Our thoughts have so much power over us. I know it's easy to say that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, but you have to believe it and sometimes take a risk. For me personally, Sunday 28th April 2019 proved that if you start to believe something can happen, it usually can. I believed I could run a marathon when I signed up to the ballot this time last year. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I knew that I could. After all, there was a time when I laughed at the thought of doing 10km...
A marathon would be hard work, but it would be worth it.
It was so worth it.
Thanks for all your support guys, I couldn't have done it without you. I really mean it 💙
Sam and Ash