“The news that my upcoming holiday in Paris will be accompanied by a heatwave has not caused me the elation it might have under other circumstances. This Sunday, Paris will be swamped with a 24 degree chaleur, almost one degree for every sticky mile I intend to run, and about 24 degrees warmer than my preferred running conditions.  My training in the relatively arctic conditions of London has not equipped me for such treacherous temperatures, and my skin, over-zealous in its sensitivity and with a tendency to turn red at a light jog, is, as my boyfriend put it, “going to turn such a funny colour”.

I decided to run the Paris marathon on a bit of a whim, when my friend mentioned it and I half-jokingly looked up training plans. The first training plan I found took 17 weeks, and when I realised I was 17 weeks to the day from the race I decided it was meant to be, despite the fact that I had very little running experience and, moreover, very little tolerance for running.

Over the weeks I slowly built up my running distances, discovering that I am most certainly not built for running. Minor injury upon minor injury left me in minor amounts of pain and caused major amounts of anxiety and concern. I started sending daily three page texts to a semi-professional running friend, which initially were met with kindness and patience, and were eventually met with single lines such as “Maddy, you literally just have a stitch”. Several trips to the physio allowed me to describe my incompetence at running with professional-sounding jargon. I didn’t have flat feet, but “collapsed arches”, which causes “pronation”, meaning my glutes and calves were too weak, resulting in tight “ITBs”, painful “calcaneal tendons” and achey “knees”, for which I was set hours’ worth of daily strengthening, stretching, heating and cooling exercises. I was also taught a humiliating new warm-up routine to do before each run (which requires that I slap my ankles, side gallop and do lunges… backwards) which I’m sure any observant neighbours will now have memorised through repeat exposure.

With muscles now slightly more resilient, and having completed a 21-mile training run in Scotland a couple of weeks ago, I am feeling fairly confident that I will complete the race, which I couldn’t have imagined a few months ago when a few hundred metres felt like a marathon. While this will be a big personal achievement for me, it is important not to forget the real reason I am taking part in the marathon.

Bridging the Gap Islington

Having been with Bridging the Gap Islington as a trustee and mentor for almost a year, I have seen first-hand the power of strong mentoring partnerships for those that are in need. The charity was formed in 2012 and is small but growing, helping more and more vulnerable people every year.

The money raised will be spent predominantly on recruiting and training more mentors, and locating more people in need of mentoring. Bridging the Gap’s mentors are trained as volunteers to help those who are vulnerable, homeless or at risk of offending set clear, attainable goals to help them achieve a greater sense of purpose and direction. On top of this, having a mentor gives people someone to talk to without the fear of being judged. Since the mentors are volunteers, such partnerships are often more effective than other services, as the mentee knows that the mentor is not being paid to spend time with them.

This will be the charity’s first fundraiser; any donation, no matter what size, will be greatly appreciated and will go a long way in helping to support life-changing mentoring partnerships for those that really need it. “