London Marathon has been and gone for another year. For one day the whole city stopped and watched tens of thousands of ordinary people take on what is often the biggest challenge of their lives. We saw them grinning from ear to ear, closed in on themselves in pain and focus, and most of all victorious as they crossed the finish line on The Mall. It's no wonder that so many people feel inspired to run after witnessing such a great event. So being the shameless individual I am, I thought I'd get one of Team Unicef's London Marathon runners Will to tell you why you should take on a challenge and run for Unicef UK. Then you can all hop over and sign up for The Royal Parks Half and raise a tonne of money for an amazing cause. OK? Good, over to Will!
Congratulations on completing this year's London Marathon Will, how was it?
It was one of the most amazing days of my life. Never have I felt so excited, terrified, exhausted and alive all at once. It was my first ever marathon so I had no idea what to expect. The beginning was tough as I was freezing and the end was tough as I was so tired. However, with the crowds constant cheering and the jacket I picked up off the floor at mile 5 I was able to make it to the end.
Obviously we want as many people as possible to take on a challenge for Unicef. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to run for Unicef?
I am very keen on supporting children's charities. I believe they are fundamental in reducing poverty as the children today are the generations of the future. By supporting and educating the children now, when they grow up they are more likely to be able to break out of the poverty trap.
Tell us what it was like being part of Team Unicef?
It was great! I had such a great time throughout the whole training period. The events managers were so friendly and helpful 24/7. They gave all sorts of adviceand checked up on me every month or so. It was so exciting opening the packages UNICEF sends out such as your running vest, charity buckets and all the other bits and pieces. It also felt amazing being part of such a great cause which definitely helped me get through all the 4am runs.
We'd love all our runners to raise as much as possible for Unicef, what's your top fundraising tip?
I raised a large proportion of my money through hosting parties at night clubs in central London. The first party was at Tiger Tiger and the second one was at Piccadilly institute. Each party made on average £1,000 as well as being fun nights.
I would highly advise doing a fundraising event as it can be both enjoyable and beneficial to the charity you are running for. However, before you start organising any event make sure there is a big interest to start with as you don't want to make a loss. I went from organising a fun fair, to bubble football, to having a puppy pet-athon to a club night. It worked out well in the end, it's not often you can help people whilst downing jäger bombs.
All challenges take training, so what's your top running tip?
I tried to make every run exciting by running through somewhere new each time. Whether it be a whole new area or just a side street, I always tried to see something new every time I left the house.
I made my training milestones more real than just numbers by running along the northern line. Throughout the week I would train in my local area of Mill Hill. Then each Saturday I would run from Mill Hill East Tube Station, stop to stop along the Northern Line a bit further every time. I carried this on throughout the whole of my training until I eventually reached Kennington (via Charing Cross) and Morden (via bank). I can now say that I have been above ground at every stop on the northern line. It makes it more real than just spending hours on the treadmill.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to take on a challenge?
Just do it. Don't think just do it. When I decided to run the marathon most of the original responses I heard were "that's so dangerous, people have died" or "you can't run one mile let alone twenty six". My responses were simply "people also die crossing the road" and "there was also time I couldn't count to ten, look at me now". Here I am six months later; alive, walking and one more event ticket off my bucket list.
Something which I do wish I had done is find someone to share these experiences with. There is only so much you can show people with snapchat stories and Facebook posts. I found this especially true when actually running the marathon. There were many moments where I wanted to turn and laugh with someone. For example when someone walked straight into a traffic light and when I was scavenging through sweaty discarded jumpers as I so cold.
However, the people you meet are all amazing. Come from all over the UK and the world. Everyone was so friendly and excited. If you dos go alone (like I did) you will definitely still enjoy it.
Are you inspired by Will? Do you want to take on a challenge for Unicef? Why not come and join Team Unicef at the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October - sign up here.
*I've partnered up with Unicef UK to help encourage as many of you lot as possible to join Team Unicef. This is an organisation I'm genuinely passionate about and all opinions are my own. Images are courtesy of Unicef UK*