Running the London marathon for Tommy's

In less than one week I will strap on my trainers and join thousands of other runners in the London Marathon. I am so excited I could squeal, so nervous I could vomit, and so proud I could burst.

Rachel in her running vest.

By Rachel Marsden

In January 2012 one of my closest friends Caroline told me that after years of trying and IVF, she was pregnant. Her pregnancy would be high risk as Caroline has a rare condition that makes premature birth much more likely, but they were hopeful. I was doubly delighted, as I was about to give birth to my third child. On 29 February 2012 I gave birth to my daughter Emily, Caroline’s pregnancy was progressing well, and she and her lovely husband Nick were expecting a boy.

However tragedy struck when seven weeks later Caroline and Nick’s son was stillborn following the onset of premature labour. They named him Quinn. I can’t describe how I felt. It was so unfair, it was so wrong. I felt angry that the world was carrying on as if nothing had happened, when two people were going through grief and pain that I could only imagine.  

I wanted to help, but after words of condolence and food parcels, I ran out of ideas

I wanted to do something to help, but once I had given words of condolence and food parcels, I ran out of ideas, after all, the only thing that would have made it better was to turn back time and give them Quinn back, and I couldn’t do that. A few days later I was watching the London Marathon and thought, why not? I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and I could do it in Quinn’s memory. I just needed a charity to support and I found Tommy’s straight away.  

Two days later I was signed up to the London Marathon!

I threw myself into training and my two older daughters, Rebecca, now 13, and Evie 7, got into the act as well. I had three stone of baby weight to lose, but didn’t let that stop me. We started with a 3k ran by all three of us, then a 5k ran by me and Becky, then a 10k and a half marathon.

I discovered I had quite a knack for baking cupcakes and was selling them in vast quantities. I set up a blog and funds were coming in. We even organised a small Christmas fair complete with Santa’s grotto. Unfortunately I became quiet unwell in late 2012 and missed a lot of training, leaving me with no choice but to defer my place over to 2014. I was devastated and felt a failure.

If I saw a bus I would not only have hopped on, but also borrowed a phone and pulled out of London 2014.

Rachel in running gear.

Once I was better I started training once more, and in secret entered the Yorkshire Marathon as well. I needed to prove to myself I could do it, but by this time I had returned back to work as a junior doctor, and the reality of fitting marathon training around three children, nights and thirteen hour shifts was like being hit with a wet fish. I went into my first marathon ridiculously under prepared, and the run was about as much fun as taking part in the hunger games! If you had offered me a bus at mile 19 I would have not only hopped on, but I would have borrowed the driver’s phone and pulled out of London 2014. However I got round, it hurt, it was unpleasant, but I did it. It was though a sobering introduction to the monumental mental and physical challenge that a marathon represents.

I dusted myself off and got ready to train for London 2014. I downloaded a basic ‘get around without dying’ training schedule that I could fit around work and have stuck to it rigidly, running four times a week, squeezing runs in where I could. I have run before and after work, and, as I work one weekend in three, on many occasions have completed 12-17 mile runs after a full day at work. The weather has been atrocious and I have run in weather conditions that have led me to believe that the god of British weather hates me!

It’s not all doom and gloom though, my family and friends have been wonderful and their encouragement and kind words have kept me going when my legs scream at me to stop. One friend came all the way from Paris to run the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon with me, and others have taken time out of busy schedules to come and support my events, buy my cakes and publicise my blog. My blog has just passed 10,000 page views from people all over the globe and I am touched at the interest a boring mum from Sheffield is getting. I can only hope it translate s into more money for the charity. At the time of writing I am set to raise well over £2000.

When I have felt weak, or like giving up, I have thought of the strength Caroline and Nick showed in those early dark days

Rachel with her friends' baby

Training for a marathon as been hard, both physically and mentally, but it has also been a very uplifting and rewarding experience. It has given me an insight into what I can do and how strong I can be. When I have felt weak, or like giving up, I have thought of the strength Caroline and Nick showed in those early dark days after losing Quinn and the strength of all those parents who have lost a baby, either before or at birth.  They faced insurmountable pain and found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and so on 13 April 2014, no matter how hard it gets, I too will keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get to the mall. I will do it for Caroline and Nick, for Tommy’s and for Quinn. Wish me luck!

Perhaps the ultimate uplifting part of my story is that on 2 July 2013, Caroline and Nick became the parents to a healthy baby girl, Indianna Michelle, born at term and gorgeous! They had faced the pregnancy with immense bravery, as there was no guarantee it would end happily, but their perseverance was rewarded with the ultimate prize.

To support Tommy's stillbirth research centre, click here.

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