Every year, thousands and thousands of runners shed blood, sweat and tears as they look to complete the London Marathon. The race can act as a life-changing experience for many, especially those fundraising for charity, as they push hard to generate sponsorship money while growing an even greater affinity for the cause they represent.
That is very much the case for Team SportsAid runner Sarah Ottery, a senior business analyst at SSE, who raised over £3,000 to help support the next generation of British athletes during the charity’s 40th anniversary. Sarah was so inspired by her experience that she will be taking on the London Marathon for SportsAid for a second consecutive year in 2017.
“Running the London Marathon has changed my life,” said Sarah. “I feel like anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Hard work and determination can make your dreams happen. I’ve found a real passion for running and organising events that I never knew I had. It’s a great feeling being able to raise money for charity and to help others.
“When you run the London Marathon, you actually feel like an athlete. People shouting out your name along the route, the crowds, the atmosphere. I can’t describe what it feels like to cross the finish line - it’s just incredible. I’ve joined a running club since the marathon, entering other races and encouraging others to keep fit by setting up fun runs at work.”
Sarah was one of 10 members of staff from SSE who ran for SportsAid last year. Her creative fundraising saw her run lots of activities including cake sales, yoga classes and a marathon sweepstake for people to guess her finish time. She has enjoyed being able to see the impact of her fundraising, and is grateful for the help she has had as a member of Team SportsAid.
“When I got the chance to meet Toby Gold [Paralympic silver medallist] last year it really put all my fundraising into perspective,” said Sarah. “The team at SportsAid have been really helpful in all my fundraising activities and I’ve enjoyed tying in some of my ideas with the sport related theme - fun runs, exercise and salsa classes, and quizzes.
“I’ve found SportsAid to be really helpful with training advice, fundraising tips and providing lots of material for events. I’m really impressed with how organised the team are and I was lucky enough to be invited along to some great events last year. The London Marathon Meet the Expert Day was fabulous - it really set me up for the day.”
Sarah finished last year’s London Marathon in 4.44.17. She trained five days a week from December to April to ‘make my dream come true’ after not being from a sporting background. This year she would like to set a new personal best but is more focused on making the most of the occasion once again and soaking up the atmosphere.
“I started out with the 4.30 pacers last year and I will aim to do the same again to keep me at the right pace,” said Sarah. “I managed to hold that pace until 21 miles and then started to hit the wall at 22. I had only trained up to 21 miles so it really felt tough towards the end. It made getting that medal at the end even more special.
“I worked really hard in training. It wasn’t easy; lots of tears along the way, running mile after mile in rain, wind and freezing cold weather. It took all I had, sheer determination and to give it my all to keep me going. I wanted to make everybody that sponsored me proud. I put in 110% and didn’t miss a day off my training plan. I was determined not to fail.
“My training has been going well this year. I’ve found the speed work and longer runs easier the second time round. I’m already up to 15 miles in training. Unfortunately, I took last week off due to illness and knee pain. If I get a personal best, that would be fantastic, but overall I just want to enjoy the day again and take in all the atmosphere.”