It’s a marathon, not a sprint – the importance of perseverance

Posted on: 21st February 2017

For many of our members, life can seem like a series of challenges: no sooner have they overcome one obstacle than another one appears in their path. We work to support our members throughout their lives, for as long as they need us – we’re in it for the long haul.


Someone who knows a thing or two about the long haul is Emma Cole, who is running this year’s London Marathon for Body & Soul. Here she describes some of the challenges she is facing as she prepares for a showdown with 26 miles in April.


As I begin to write this it is 61 days until the 2017 London Marathon that I will be running on behalf of Body & Soul. When I decided I wanted the challenge of completing 26 miles in my 26th year of living with HIV, I had no idea just what a mammoth task I had set myself.

I have never been a runner so I was beginning this adventure as a complete novice. I started off with all good intentions: I invested in a proper pair of running shoes and got advice on running techniques; I downloaded an app to ease me gently into a routine of a 20-minute walk/jog three times a week, and set aside time in my busy work schedule to ensure I could do this – even getting out of bed early to run before work (this took a great deal of determination as I am NOT a morning person).

Emma out for a run

Emma out for a run

But then the setbacks came. Within the first month I developed a calf strain, trying to do too much too soon. Then a couple of weeks later I slipped on wet autumn leaves on a pavement and jarred my knee – another two weeks out of the training schedule. Frustration and disappointment and fear that I might not achieve my goal were setting in so I looked to find other things I could do to build up my stamina and strength while I couldn’t run. Having other options, I came to realise, is really important not just for marathon training but for life with HIV too.

I resumed light workouts and was back to my pre-injury routine when jogging one Sunday morning I felt a sharp pain in my right foot. I slowed down to walking pace to finish the three-mile target I had set myself but was aware that something was not right. It transpired that I had developed plantar fasciitis in my foot and over December and early January I could do no training whatsoever, on some days I struggled to even walk without excruciating pain.

In those moments I wondered if I should even be trying to run a marathon but I didn’t want to let myself or anyone else down so I began researching what I could do to aid my recovery. An ultrasound massager and proper strapping to the foot worked for me and I was able to resume training, but after nearly a month off it did feel like I was back at square one. Getting help from experts or professional advice at the right time for whatever problems you face in life can be really beneficial and can get you back on track much sooner than you might realise.

For me each setback was just another opportunity to set my goals again and dig deep into my inner strength and self-belief that I am going to achieve this.

Yesterday I ran ten miles for the first time in my life and did that in less than two hours. As I was working my way around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park there were many occasions when I could feel my knees, legs, muscles all wanting me to stop but I was determined to reach this first big milestone. As I was running I was having a conversation with myself in my head, motivational words of encouragement – you are strong, you can do this, you have loads more to give, look at what you can achieve if you just believe – and it really did seem to give me a little more energy every time I started to think about giving up.

As the final weeks of training loom, I know I will experience a rollercoaster of emotions but that mirrors my life with HIV and as I have survived that so far then I know I can get through this too. On 23rd April I will start the race in the knowledge that I will have done all the preparation I can and even if it takes me all day I will cross the line a winner.


If you think all of Emma’s hard work and determination should be rewarded, you can donate here.

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