Our new Chair of Trustees Paul Roberts tackled his first marathon – The London Marathon – on Sunday 3rd October 2021 and through fundraising has raised £2,738.75 to share across three charities!
In 2019, Paul pledged to run for Petrus, Shelter and Parkinson’s UK in memory of his late father before COVID restrictions put a stop to his attempt. Now he’s finally over the finish line, having completed the run in 4 hours and 39 minutes and has reached an amazing 87% of his fundraising target.
We sat down with Paul to talk about how it went and how he very nearly didn’t make it to the end…
How are you feeling after running your first marathon?
Oh, I’m a relieved man! Following COVID-19 restrictions and postponements, I’ve waited around two years since I said I’d run it. I’m so pleased I could finally do it. I mean, dog walking and using the stairs these past few days hasn’t been ideal but it’s been good to get moving again.
How did you find taking part in the London Marathon?
It was really amazing; it was a brilliant event and I’m really grateful for Petrus for the opportunity to take part. The only frustrating thing was that it was all going so well for the first 16 miles but then I encountered a problem:
My left leg gave up the ghost.
It had never happened to me before during my training, but I’ve since spoken to other runners, and they explained that it’s the nature of the event – to expect the unexpected.
I was only 17 miles in and still had loads to go but I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.
I kept thinking ‘What happens if I can’t run?’
There’s always risk of running on an injury, so I had to adapt to make sure I didn’t make it worse. I had to rest it by stretching and accept that I had to walk a few miles, then run a bit, walk again etc. But every time I started to run, I was fearful that my leg was going to tear.
I’d set myself a goal and I do wish I had cracked running it in 4 hours, but I thought ‘Better not make this worse, just got to keep moving forward and put targets behind me and give it a good go!’
I’d been really inspired by our Petrus Project Worker Maggie who had completed the Manchester Half Marathon the week before, running in her Petrus t-shirt. How she had felt that the struggles she faced during her run did not compare to the struggles some of the people we support face. It really spurred me on!
What impact did COVID-19 have on taking part?
Alongside the two year wait, I kept hearing a lot of runners on the day say how they’d had COVID in the lead up. It was definitely a pressure on top of training and preparing for such a big event. I didn’t want a situation where we’d raised all this money, had all this support behind me and geared up to do it and then getting a positive COVID test saying I couldn’t. But luckily I was well and it was literally two years to the day when I ran that I pledged to do it, so that felt quite special.
Would you run a marathon again?
I would, even though it was more challenging than I anticipated, because you get to meet some amazing people running for some fantastic charities. There was even a man walking around with a wheely bin on his back – for 26.2 miles, that must’ve been so difficult!
It’s hard to compare it to anything else, you feel like you’re being surrounded by an atmosphere of goodwill and positivity. If you could bottle that goodwill to have it around you all the time, you’d be in such a brilliant frame of mind, we’d all be dancing on air. The way the crowd makes you feel, whether it was people running alongside you or the people cheering you on from the side, the atmosphere was fantastic.
Everyone was so supportive of one another as you went around – there was someone close to me also called Paul who must’ve had someone in the crowd following him to shout his name and cheer him on, but it felt like it was for me and gave me motivation.
Why is it so important for people to fundraise for charities?
Whatever the economic situation, there’s always a place to support others and different ways to do it, whether it brings in the pounds, the contacts, the lobbying in some cases - spreading awareness about a cause or charity can help brilliant projects that are making crucial differences in people’s lives. It also makes you feel good to do some good.
It was really evident on the day of the marathon too how much it impacted the runners and their mental health. While time has passed since my dad passed away in 2006, there was a lot of people there experiencing recent losses, running in their loved one’s honour – fundraising in their name can be a good way of dealing with it.
How does it feel to have raised £2,738.75 for Petrus, Shelter and Parkinson’s UK?
It feels brilliant and great to make a contribution. It’s great to raise whatever amount, but the most important thing is the charities themselves and raising their profile to support the work they do.
It’s a good foundation to build on, whether it’s me or with other people, I’d love to continue supporting charities. I just keep thinking about what I can do next!
What would you like to say to the people who have supported you?
It’s very difficult to ever say thank you enough – whether I say it in Welsh or English. I really appreciate people digging into their pockets, showing interest and giving the time and effort to support me.
The money raised is going to some great causes doing some fantastic work.
At times, having that support felt like a weight of pressure to stay healthy and make sure I got over that finish line. When I had that problem 16 miles in, I thought about all the support I’d received. The donation wasn’t just a one off, it had a much longer lasting effect than they’ll ever know; it kept ringing in my head to spur me on, made me feel determined to get to the end.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who supported me on this two year journey to completing my first marathon for Petrus, Parkinson’s UK and Shelter.