James Ingham is a freelance journalist, personal trainer, and founder of celebrity charity event Jog On To Cancer.
He has raised over £360,000 for Cancer Research UK running 10 London Marathons and was awarded a Spirit Of London Award for his efforts in 2019.
He will be running this year’s official Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon in preparation for his 11th marathon.
This April I will run my 11th consecutive London Marathon. Whenever I tell people their general response is one of complete awe, followed by: ‘I wouldn’t be able to do one marathon let alone, 11.’
But that’s the beautiful thing about the marathon, practically everyone can complete the dauntingly difficult but actually achievable 26.2 mile distance. Obviously there are some people who are medically not capable of running a marathon. But for the majority of us, regardless of age, fitness, or size the only thing standing in our way is we just don’t want to, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But for those of you who would like to, but just don’t believe you can, I’m here to tell you that you can!
Often ‘none believers’ just need a good enough reason to challenge their own self-doubts and sign-up. For example running in memory of a loved one, to raise money for a charity close to their heart, or to prove something to themselves.
Once committed, people are able to achieve things they never thought possible.
Still not convinced? With the marathon, like most things, I’m a great believer in mind over matter. We can achieve amazing things if we put our minds to it. Just ask Fauja Singh BEM who took up running when he was in his 80s after moving to London from Punjab in northern India. Fauja, known as the ‘Turbaned Tornado’, now holds the World Record for oldest marathon runner, aged 106-years-old.
It doesn’t matter if you are underweight, overweight, young, old, suffer certain disabilities, struggle with your fitness. With the right training programme and a huge amount of determination you can do it. Depending on your fitness levels, it may take you anywhere from 12-weeks, six-months or a year to get race fit but you can get there.
That’s the special thing come race day. Seeing all the runners of different backgrounds, sizes, ages and levels of fitness pounding the streets together as one mass of love. There is no ‘i’ in team and that couldn’t be more true for an event like the London Marathon. Hearing other runners stories and posts on why they are running is both humbling and empowering. I also can’t think of another event where the whole of London forgets to be inpatient and grumpy for one day in order to unite together in one over-whelming sea of positive goodwill and emotion.
I’m not going to lie. When I start on race day I have my own personal targets and times I want to achieve. But when it is all over, regardless of what time I’ve run, all that truly matters is making it to the finish line. And what a personal achievement that is. The mental and physical battles you will face along the historic course will cover pretty much every emotion you can think of.
The level of support and camaraderie you will receive from fellow runners, all running for their own personal reasons, is truly breath-taking and utterly phenomenal.
As is the impact of the ever-faithful crowds who turn up every year in their millions come rain or shine. Hearing literally thousands of strangers call out my name, wishing me on, has caused the hairs to stand up on the back of my neck, has made my skin tinkle and has brought tears to my eyes on many occasion.
Every marathon has brought me a different experience and a different mix of emotions as I constantly strive (and have so far narrowly failed) for a sub 3hour time. I’ve run with my arm in a sling, I’ve hit the dreaded wall (twice) and broke down in tears having to walk the final few miles, I’ve also paced the race to perfection and been able to showboat the crowd as I sprinted in the home straight.
Yes you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions, both in the run-up while training and on race day. Yes you will have to dig deep and often wonder why you signed up – especially on those cold, lonely training runs when you’re being battered with wind and rain.
Over the years I’ve chatted to many a first time marathon finishers post run. While celebrating over a well deserved pint or two I’ve only ever really heard two types of response to what they’ve just achieved. I’m obviously paraphrasing here but one is ‘That was incredible, I’m so proud of myself but I’ll never do it again.’ The other ‘
That was incredible, I’m so proud of myself but I know I could have gone a bit quicker.’
Basically you will fall into two categories, you are either incredibly proud of what you’ve achieved but never want to put yourself through that torture again or you have caught the marathon bug! To this day I’ve never heard one person say they wish they hadn’t bothered or all those long lonely cold winter runs weren’t worth the end result.
And even if you strip away all the many other good reasons to run a marathon, like fundraising and personal achievement, that simple fact proves why in my opinion practically everyone could and should run a Marathon.
It is a once in a lifetime experience unlike anything else, that in my opinion everyone should experience once! Well unless like me you get the marathon bug and then you can experience it over and over again!