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Mind over matter - taking on my toughest challenge for the Heart of Kent Hospice

Clare Clifford, Business Development Manager, GVE Commercial Solutions

I joined GVE back in May this year and have worked within the construction industry for 20 years. Six weeks ago I was attending an industry networking breakfast and chatting to the other guests at my table. Whilst discussing the London Marathon Ballot, I happened to mention that I have never being so relieved to be ‘rejected’. David Dadswell, Fundraising Campaign Manager for the Heart of Kent Hospice (HOKH) who was sat opposite to me nonchalantly responded: “We might have places left, let me check”. My heart sank. The marathon is a pipedream of mine. I love the idea of being able to do what millions of people have done before me but deep down inside I just don’t think I have it in me.

Later on that morning I received an email informing me that the spaces had been allocated but there were places available at the Richmond Half Marathon in early September. That’s six weeks, I thought. How can I possibly train for a half marathon in six weeks? I called my partner, Dean (a marathon runner) and asked if he would be up for the challenge, secretly hoping he’d say not this time. He didn’t. So we’re doing a half marathon, I thought. I need to quit smoking (I didn’t). I need to train (total training consisted of 1 x 3.5k trial run and 2 x 5k runs). I was left feeling like there’s just no way I was going to be able to do this. My race day was fast approaching and the closer it came, the more convinced I was that I was not going to make it across the finish line. I hadn’t completed enough training, I hadn’t given up smoking and my fitness levels were at an all-time low. Mentally, I was already feeling defeated. As I received my race number, the fear really began to set in.

Sunday 10th September soon arrived and I was feeling scared, scared of failure. I didn’t want to let my sponsors down, the charity down and, most of all, let myself down. I had signed up to the half marathon just six weeks ago, unsure of how I would manage it. The weeks had crept up on me and now I felt I was going to be a huge disappointment. I’m going to be known as someone who doesn’t keep her word, that didn’t try hard enough, a big fat failure, I kept thinking.

We woke up at 4am and drove to Richmond. From the car park, we walked two miles to the starting point, still filled with the feeling of fear and dread. My partner, Dean participated in memory of his nephew who tragically died earlier this year in an accident. Other runners stopped to ask him about who he was running in memory of – we were feeling emotionally charged before we had even reached the starting line. At 9.25am we were getting ready to set off. It was one of the hottest days of the year and the temperature had already crept up to a sweltering 27 degrees. I struggled completing the first mile. There's no way I'm going to be able to do this, I thought. I was already slowly jogging and finding that tough. As we made our way towards the first mile point, Dean patiently jogged beside me, making sure I was OK and trying his best to convince me that I could do this. As we reached the first mile, he found his stride and headed off at a more comfortable pace for him. As I made it to 5km I felt a rising optimism that maybe I had found my stride. I felt undeniably overwhelmed when I hit the 10k mark and started to believe I had enough in me to keep going. Due to the extreme weather conditions, we had the option to half our distance. But no, I had signed up for the half marathon. I had pledged to do this and my pride would not allow me to take the easy way out.

At 15k, the thought of edging closer to the finish line was providing the motivation I needed. However, my calves were seizing up and cramp was setting in, making it even more challenging. I started intermittently jogging and walking. I was feeling very emotional. Tears filled my eyes and I choked on my own harsh words racing through my mind, You’re not going to make it. Seasoned marathon runners were experiencing heat exhaustion. I was determined to cross the finish line. I was spurred on by notifications on my phone: Keep going, You've got this. I did. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 23mins. I felt so overwhelmed I cried as I limped across to collect my medal and fell into Dean's arms. I needed that hug! He completed the run in 2 hours 33mins.

I have never signed up to anything that I didn’t think I could achieve. I like a challenge (if it was easy, there’d be no sense of achievement) but this was by far my toughest challenge to date. I don’t quite know how I did it, but I feel incredibly proud to have accomplished something under such challenging conditions. It really is mind over matter. It’s like the saying whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right! I think this is a good example of how your mindset can be changeable as I went through so many conflicting thoughts during this experience. My advice? Feel the fear and do it anyway; you may just surprise yourself!

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