“Running the Virgin Money London Marathon” by Emily Watson

On Sunday 3rd October 2021, I ran every single step of the London Marathon for Follicular Lymphoma Foundation. Words honestly cannot express the feeling of crossing that finish line knowing how much money and awareness I had made for the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF) – I raised over £3,000 for the FLF!

When I found out I had got a ballot place for the Marathon many large charities contacted me asking to raise money for them, many of which I would have loved to raise money for. However, I chose the FLF as it is a charity very close to my family’s hearts. My uncle was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma 9 years ago and I felt it would be a great opportunity to support a charity that directly focuses on his cancer.

The FLF were so grateful for me choosing them as a charity to run the London Marathon for, I was their first ever London Marathon runner, and it was just as huge for them as it was for me. 

The Training

I started slowly training for this back in March when I struggled to run over a mile. My amazing mum, who is not a runner herself, would wake up early with me and drive us to a flat area where we would both tackle a small run. Together we got up to 5K!

My fantastic dad (who is a runner and has done this loads of times) then took me and mum out for a run pushing us to about 5.5 miles! This was huge at the time; it was my longest run ever and I had just done this with both of my parents!

I started using a 12-week training plan, which as it got longer, became tougher and more time-consuming. I will always remember my first long run where my boyfriend, Jack, and I had done about 9.5 miles when we thought we had done 8 miles! Both of us were over the moon and it was a huge step in my training. I also booked into a couple of half marathons to help keep my training going and have a feel for races; practising pacing myself and running around other people.

I then had to start pushing for the higher miles; 15, then 18 and then 20! It was not easy, but I would always share on Facebook how I was getting on whilst sharing my JustGiving page. After completing these longer runs, having the support through donations was incredible and helped me so much. 

I remember the day I hit my target. I was so happy, I cried! I couldn’t believe that I had raised £1,000 for a charity that meant so much to me. As the date was getting closer, I was raising more and more money. I remember discussing with Caroline Lane, FLF’s Head of Marketing and Communications, one day how I’d love to reach £2,000 and then that day I did! 

The Marathon

That day, the nerves did not hit until I was in Greenwich Park surrounded by thousands of other people about to run the race. While waiting to start, the lady next to me was tearing up which made me emotional. You really start to think at this point; you remember all the training you have done, all the money and awareness you have raised.

As I began the run, there was one man who run past me and said, ‘thank you for running for Follicular Lymphoma, I am a follicular lymphoma survivor myself’. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to chat with him further, but to have someone say that to me at the start of the race really touched me.  I was so proud to be wearing the FLF branded running vest that the charity had provided for me.

Caroline Lane, FLF’s Head of Marketing and Communications, who had supported me with the fundraising came to cheer me on at the start of the race which was fantastic. She was so smiley and encouraging – it was amazing to have the support from the charity themselves. My family and friends were there every step of the way, it was honestly the most surreal feeling. I could not be more thankful to everyone that was there supporting me on the day!

Nothing felt better than seeing my family and friends when it started getting tough from mile 15. Though I kept pushing as I told myself I was not allowed to walk unless I had run further than the 20 miles. I knew I could do it as I had done that before. Seeing my family at 18 miles was a huge help as I was massively struggling at this point (running about 15 minutes a mile) but I kept going!

When I hit between 19-20 miles, there was a lovely lady who was walking alongside me that looked like she was struggling too. We got talking and started sharing our stories and journeys.  We completed the last bit of the race together and I could not have been more thankful to her as I would not have been able to keep going without her support! We were laughing and embracing the atmosphere (and the pain) – it was phenomenal!

Crossing that finish line had never felt so incredible and I could not have done it without the support of everyone there.  

The support I received from the FLF was incredible and made it even more worthwhile. They were so grateful for every penny that was raised! I even had Nicola Mendelsohn, who founded the charity, contact me directly on Instagram after the race to personally thank and congratulate me. 

By the end of the race, I had raised over £3k for Follicular Lymphoma Foundation.  I’d encourage anyone to raise money for the FLF – their support throughout has been incredible – from the moment I told them I was running for them in the Marathon to on the day and after, checking in on me a day or so after to ensure I was ok and resting. If you have any doubts about doing fundraisers for them, don’t. You will be supported brilliantly throughout the whole process. I’d like to thank everyone who donated and helped raise over £3k for the FLF.