Words & Interview: Alex Melling
Elen Lewis is running the 2018 London Marathon for the first time and “only time in my life”. So, we at Dure caught up with Elen to find out how it is going and why she has decided to run the London Marathon.
So why only one marathon?
This is going to be my only marathon, so for me it was very important to run for a cause that really matters. On April 10th 1997, my friend Sarah killed herself six weeks before our Oxford finals. They found a sheet of A4 paper with a revision schedule by her body. She’d just won a Kennedy scholarship to study at Harvard. Sarah and I lived next door to each other in the second year of university. I chose to run for The Samaritans because they do a heroic job of helping people when they’re struggling. The Samaritans resonates with everyone, we’ve all felt at the end of our tether at different times in our lives. They do an amazing job of listening to people without judgement and helping if they’re in trouble.
“My husband Martin’s new joke to me: ‘if you find yourself surrounded by Kenyans you’ve gone off too fast.’
Describe yourself in three words...
Determined, hopeful, interested
How’s the preparation going for the marathon?
I’m going for one long run every weekend and then squeezing in shorter runs in the week around my kids and work. I’ve also started seeing a brilliant running coach every few weeks, Kevin Quinn from Real Runners (http://realrunners.co.uk/), who gives me speed sessions. The training sessions with Kevin are so hard and always make me feel like I’m going to be sick, but they’re building up my resilience. Last weekend was my hardest run yet. I ran the Thames Half marathon and then ran 8 miles home to give me my 20-mile run. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it and having to run home at the end of the race was really tough mentally.
I’m lucky enough to live near St Mary’s University, where EPACC (Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre) has helped develop some of the world’s best distance runners including Mo Farah and my coach Kevin. So, every time I’m running in Bushy Park I’m inspired by the sight of a pack of St Mary’s athletes sprinting gracefully past me. “My husband Martin’s new joke to me: ‘if you find yourself surrounded by Kenyans you’ve gone off too fast.'"
I’ve learned to give the training the respect it deserves, so I’m not drinking as much alcohol as I used to, I’m thinking a lot more carefully about fuel and gels and hydration. I had no idea that I’d feel so completely exhausted after a long run. All I want to do afterwards is go to bed and sleep. So, the more I run, the more I’m full of awe at the amazing EPACC runners. It’s not easy.
Have you discovered anything about yourself you didn’t know from this experience?
I’m not a natural runner. My whole family are shocked about me becoming a runner. I only took it up two years ago when I hit 40, so I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I’ve learned that long distances suit me more than short, I seem to get into my stride after about six miles. I’ll never be fast but I’ve discovered that my determination and resilience have helped over the long runs. So many times, it’s been mind over matter. It’s made me appreciate the importance of being strong. When I was, younger I worried too much about being skinny, now I know the only thing that matters is being strong. Running has increased my confidence in my body and what it’s capable of.
It’s also made me realize how beneficial exercise is for mental health. I’m lucky to have a happy disposition and a good life but having said that, when I do feel low or anxious about something, going for a run helps me put things in perspective.
“So, the more I run, the more I’m full of awe at the amazing EPACC runners. It’s not easy.”
What are you most looking forward to?
On marathon day, I am looking forward to seeing my kids (Rosie is 11 and Arthur is 8), I want them to see me do this marathon so it teaches them that hard work does pay off and with resilience and determination they can achieve anything. If I can run 26 miles, anyone can.
To support Elen donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/elen-lee-lewis
To read Elen’s poem on her marathon running visit: https://www.26.org.uk/news-views/members-news/sonnet-talk-talk-running