My TCS London Marathon Experience – How I achieved my dream and how you can too, by Abi Truelove.

The TCS London Marathon 2023 already feels like so long ago.
It was without doubt one of the best and proudest days of my life.

Why I wanted to run the TCS London Marathon and how I got my place

I had volunteered at the finish line of the TCS London Marathon twice in previous years, and the atmosphere was like no other event I’d experienced.

My second time volunteering involved hanging medals around runners’ necks. It’s a very special job.

Each person has their reason for running and many come over the finish line very emotional, and you are the one to give them their medal and congratulate them.

I have several friends who have run the event including Ever Present Chris Finill, and had heard so much about the course and crowd support — I remember thinking at the end of that medal-hanging day that I wanted to run this course and cross that finish line.

I was lucky enough for my ambition to come true. My name was drawn in my running club the Waverley Harriers’ ballot for a place in 2023. It was very much an ‘oh my goodness is this real??’ moment!!

I had my TCS London Marathon place. Now what?!

When it came to training, I asked my friend and fellow Waverley Harrier, Alexandra Oliver if she would coach me.

Alexandra had qualified as an athletics and running coach with England Athletics and knew my strengths and weaknesses as a runner as we’d run together many times previously — including three virtual TCS London Marathons and one virtual marathon around Hampton Court and Kingston— and I knew she would be spot-on in preparing me for my first event marathon.

I knew very little about how to approach my training. By using a coach that uncertainty is taken away as they structure your schedule to your individual needs according to how you are progressing, checking in with you as to how each session feels.

They teach/remind you of best practices regarding warming up, cooling down and stretching properly, and in doing so help to minimise your injury risk — which let’s face it is foremost in all runners’ minds when we’re training for an event and especially one that means a lot to us.

With a coach, you can trust that provided you follow your training plan, you will be as ready as you can be to run your event the best you can.

Alexandra has a mantra of sorts which she encouraged me to use: that you have a job to do: you are running an event you have chosen to run and as such have training to do for it.

When you’re having a good day, feeling strong and positive, enjoy and embrace that and know you’ve got this.

When you’re having a bad day, remember you have a job to do and bad days happen but are way fewer than the good ones. It works.

The training – mental and physical

I had my set locations for most of my training. Both were parks, and I ran laps round the outside which was helpful in gauging distance, and familiarity with the routes allowed for focus on pace and also timings for hydration and refuelling.

I remember for my longest run I ran mile laps around Stoke Park in Guildford. I had on my running vest with two gels in each front pocket and a bag of more gels hidden along the route. Alexandra had advised practising with a gel every 30 minutes as this would maintain energy levels during the event.

My plan was to use the gels from my vest and then restock when I ran past the bag. It worked well. I think people in the park wondered what the hell I was doing, though, when I passed them for the 5th, 6th, 7th etc time.

Running laps definitely helped to tune me into my own pace and headspace, which you need to be able to do on the day when lots of other runners are all around you. Plus, it was an excellent test of the shoes I planned to wear on the day.

Training Schedule and why a coach was so crucial

My training schedule also involved strength and conditioning (S&C). Alexandra designed and incorporated S&C sessions into my schedule which were run-specific, coaching me through them so I was confident of correct form and technique.

S&C is an area in which I admit I do not excel. I don’t especially enjoy weights etc. However, it is essential as part of a runner’s training as without strength your body will not have the endurance to perform.

As you train, week after week, you do feel the difference that S&C makes. So, as with runs, on good days it feels good; on less good days it’s a job you need to do. And for me, when you are training for our dream event, you owe it to the opportunity you’ve been given, to the coach who is investing and believing in you, and to yourself to do your best.

Plus, I had decided that running the TCS London Marathon was an opportunity to raise money for a cause very close to my heart, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and so I was also running the best I could to thank everyone who supported and sponsored me.

Training for any event involves investing, and whether you are running to just run, to achieve a specific time, to raise money, for another reason, or a combination of these, you want to enjoy the moment you’ve trained for.

Nothing beats reaching a finish line feeling strong, and the best way to achieve that is to know you’ve prepared well in your training. And that is where a coach, for me, was invaluable.

Abi T TCS London Marathon Abi TCS London Marathon

If you would like Alexandra to coach you, get in touch with her here!

I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to comment!

Words of Wisdom


''You'll never be brave if you don't hurt. You'll never learn if you don't make mistakes. You'll never be successful if you don't encounter failure''

Alexandra Oliver

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