What’s on your Bucket List

What's on your Bucket List

Nikki Helm - Marathon Runner

Each month we ask a businesswoman to share her week with us here in the diary column.

This month we take a slightly different approach and follow the diary of a long distance runner!

What’s on your list of things to do before you are…..?

My name is Nikki and I am 44 years old. I started running at the age of 40 because I didn’t want to be ‘fat and 40’ and didn’t want to spend loads of money on a gym membership; plus I hate the gym anyway. I’m always the fattest person there! So running was, cheap, easy and could fit in around my job/kid/home.

I started running with a friend who was an experienced runner. We entered a few running meets and we didn’t do too badly. In October of 2008 we ran the Peterborough half marathon. I did that in 2 hours 35 mins, which was the best time I had ever run for a half marathon. So I thought that since I would be 45 in 2009 why not try to run the London Marathon!

I applied for a Gold Bond place for the 2009 London Marathon for Keech Cottage Children’s Hospice in South Bedfordshire and had to raise £1400 in sponsorship monies for my place.

I went onto the internet to search for training places. My running partner could not commit to the time required to train for a full marathon. She is the experienced one and knows what she is talking about. I, on the other hand, can do anything and so I just knew I would be able to fit it in!!

So the training plan is printed out, stuck on my wall at work and the training starts……

22nd November 09
Today is the start of my training for the 2009 London marathon. The plan states that I have to do 3 miles on Mon, Tues, Wed, 1 hours cross-training on Friday and 6 miles running on Sunday. A piece of cake – I have run half marathons; this amount of running will be easy. So this week I complete the training as required. A big fat tick goes against the weeks training plan which is hanging in my office.

This training plan only slightly increases over the next couple of weeks but the weather is now starting to get to me; it’s cold, wet and miserable. When I get home from work I still have to cook the tea. My husband, being really supportive, does help out a lot but I still have to think about who is having what, how long the oven needs to be on for and when it will be ready, this is all before I have to go upstairs get changed and go out. A couple of times I have opened the front door to an absolute downpour and my young son has literally had to push me out! Why oh why am I doing this?

I have an 11 year old son who still needs help (well really pushing) with homework, reading, whilst he is studying for his 11+. I am the creative one who has to help with stories and projects! This is normally completed before I eat my tea which by the time I have sat down is about 7.30ish. By 9pm I am totally knackered and I haven’t even started the training in earnest – yet!!!

Why oh why oh why didn’t I listen to my experienced running friend!

11th January 09
Today the training plan says 3 miles Mon and Wed, 6 miles on Tuesday and 12 miles on Sunday with cross-training also included. I have a cold and feel like rubbish, I didn’t go running at all last week and really don’t feel like it this week but I have to go!

This week I attend the Marathon function at Keech Cottage Children’s Hospice. I cried all the way through the presentation. Keech Cottage provides a wonderful service to children who have terminal and life limiting illnesses whilst also supporting the families of those children. However the presentation coupled with the cause I am running for spurs me on to get back to my training plan. Cold or no cold and feeling like rubbish are not good enough reasons to not go out running.

The training continues to go ok! (If you could see my face now!)

1st February 09
This week I had a phone call from an acquaintance who heard that I was running the marathon and who is also running it. So we decided to train at the weekend on our long runs together. To be honest it does get lonely and can be quite scary running on your own in the countryside, I live in a small village in Northamptonshire and when I need to run distances I have to go through country lanes which can be quite daunting and the last thing you need is your old adrenalin kicking in! That knackers you out before you have had chance to complete the run!.

In our plan we have to run 15 miles on Sunday which up to now is the longest I have ever run. What an achievement. My new found running partner and I run neck and neck for 14.5 miles until the last half a mile then from somewhere we both find the strength to compete (I never believed I was so competitive!!) I just beat her by the hair that is sticking out of the front of my running hat! We then have to walk back to our car/homes which are about another mile away, but we are both elated. 15 miles was a big milestone for us both.

The following few weeks we run half marathons at the weekends, which are now becoming easier except in the ice and snow! But we still don our boots and running gear and go out running despite the horrible weather.

8th March 09
This weekend we are now ready to attempt the longest run we have completed upto now – 17 miles! My running partner plans the rout on Mapmyrun.co.uk and we set off. Hill after hill after hill, oh joy, we did complete it but it was hard going and my running partner is never picking the run route again!! We are ecstatic. We have never run 17 miles before and we are so proud of ourselves. We now know that we will be able to run 26 miles 385 yards – well can we? We are so convinced that we will be able to do it we plan for a 19 miler the following weekend; we then run the 20 miles, 21 and finally 22 miles before the big race!

The night before the big race.
We stayed in London the night before the race. On the day of the race I had to force my weetabix down because I felt really sick with nerves and my husband decided to pick the morning of the race day to ‘mother’ me with suggestions of wearing a jacket and a jumper because it is cold, (on one of the hottest days this year – so far!) I told him where to go in no uncertain terms but ended up wearing a thin jacket to appease him, which I ended up binning on the way to the start line!

Race Day 26th April 09
I got onto the train with about 2,000 other people all heading for the ‘RED’ start line; I was heading towards pen 9 which was right at the back of the start zone. On the walk to the pen I got chatting to a man who was also running for Help the Hospice. Whilst in the pen ‘TheWombles’ turned up and so did a 9ft Nurse! There were people dressed in Star Wars costumes and people dressed in all sorts of fanciful and un-practical outfits.

At the start line I stood behind a guy who was using crutches, he had only one leg and was running for Help the Hero’s, I got chatting to him and it was very humbling! God if he can do it then surely I’ll be ok. As the start time approached I became very nervous and apprehensive but also glad that the day had finally arrived and that in just over 6 hours it would be over!!

As the race started we moved, very slowly, towards the start line with crowds cheering. It was a monumental moment as I crossed the start line I started to run. I got to five miles before I asked my running partner where we were at? – we had both run the first five miles really quickly which is a fatal mistake. My running partner started to move ahead of me and I started to fall back. She had her own race to run and me, mine.

When I reached 8 miles I had Rich, Derry and Harvey waiting for me and cheering me on and oh how glad I was to see them, their cheery faces were a great help. Rich shouted that he would see me at 10 miles which really helped as I knew that I would at least have something to spur me on! I then passed the 10 mile mark and no Rich, but I arrived at nearly 12 and saw John and Jack (my husband and son); they really cheered me on. I crossed over Tower Bridge and ran round the corner to the half way point. I was knackered!! I was passed by a StormTrooper, a boat, the 9ft nurse and a Womble!! It was so, so hot it was unbearable; I hadn’t trained in the heat, only the winter weather which was everything but hot.

At 13 miles I met my brother James, Nikki, Amy and Emma, all friends and supportive family, and they cheered me on with banners quoting ‘come on Auntie Ninny’ They are the only people who can call me a Ninny!! I then saw my friend Debbie and her family at 15 miles and from 17 to 20 I don’t remember a lot; I’m not sure what happened but before I knew it I was at 21 miles.

I’d had my name printed on my running shirt and thank God for people who had come out to support us, shouting my name!

At 22 miles I knew that I only had four more to go, and found some energy from somewhere to continue. I had never before in my life wanted to see the number 26 so much as I did then. However there is no number 26 because once you pass 25 they count you down in metres! Once I reached Birdcage walk and all my family and friends were there I found even more energy to run the last few yards, with everyone shouting your name and urging you on it was a magical time. I turned right and passed Buckingham Palace on my left and just around the corner was the finish line. I could hear someone shouting ‘I’m actually going to complete the London Marathon’ and it was me, everyone was cheering and I balled my eyes out as I crossed the line in just over 6 hours.

What then?
I had trained for well over 10 months for this and it was over! – You get directed onto a platform where someone takes off your chip and then you get your medal. All this time I am crying and not sure who I am, John had said to me at the start, ‘make sure you head for the meet and greet and head for H because if anything else you won’t forget your name’ I thought he was bonkers but he was right. Someone asked where I was going and I could just about manage to say meet and greet and my name and I walk towards the area and there was my wonderful family all waiting to greet me. We took some photos and they all left for home and I went to the charities hotels where I had a massage; which I must add was wonderful and I didn’t want to move off the table. Then the train ride home, a sleep in the car, all the time feeling sick, to arrive home to a massive banner ‘Well done you Marathon Diva!’ stuck on the front room window. It stayed there for two days! – which was the length of time it took me to be able to walk again! Still it was over; I had set out, trained and achieved running the London Marathon, ticked my list and moved onto the next item!

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