People’s reasons for running are very diverse. It is inspiring to hear their stories whilst pounding the pavements with them. You will have noticed that a fair few of our members have chosen to take on marathons this year (as with many years before them). A lot of these are coming to their glorified conclusion, the spring set culminating with London this weekend just gone. With the permission of the respective authors, I would like to capture and share a few of those very personal marathon journeys in this article.

Before I do, here is a bit of the background to that all important training and a general recognition of the accomplishment of completing a marathon. On Monday April 24th about 70 – 80 BPJ’s congregated at the Perdiswell Harvester for food and drinks to celebrate our combined club marathon success. Completed marathons represented by first or second claim clubs included Manchester, Brighton, Paris, Milan, Palma and London. We have had a record turn-out at our Sunday morning marathon training sessions from Perdiswell Leisure Centre and this is testimony to our Sunday Run Leader, Phil Miles, who has selflessly and religiously organised multiple distances, run the course the night before or in the early hours to set out windmill directional markers to map the routes and provided water and jelly babies to mention just a few of the things he does.

He has had big boots to fill as Stuart Wild, a 100 marathon veteran who sadly died in 2013, was the originator of these exceptional weekend training sessions. Phil has shown himself more than worthy of the task. As a result, the marathon accomplishments that Black Pear Jogger members can claim is second to none and these are just the early spring ones!! NeePhil Milesdless to
say, the runners themselves have done all the hard work and training and essentially it is that personal sense of achievement that really matters. There are marathons and many other shorter and even longer distances throughout the year that our runners willingly and very capably participate in, but for the sake of narrowing down the playing field, today I will be concentrating on marathon success alone.

As a very inclusive club, we have encouraged everyone to participate in the training and are delighted that a wide range of abilities have joined in and taken part. Nobody is ever left behind as there is always a back marker (usually Phil) who ensures that all runners are made to feel welcome.

So, enough of my long preamble, let’s have some of those diverse and inspiring stories to whet the appetites of potential marathon virgins.

Tony Colclough I started running in 2006 and did my first half in 2008. My step dad died in April 2008 and I always wanted to run for him, and in London as that was where we’re from. Entered the ballot every year after and didn’t get in. Last April my real dad died, so it will be one year ago since he passed away. The Christmas present to me was to win a place with Black Pear’s ballot and thanks to training sessions with BPJ, I am also looking to shave 15 minutes off my marathon PB.

Becky Hardie I ran the Greater Manchester Marathon to help raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. This charity is extremely relevant to me and my family as my Dad was diagnosed last summer. Luckily for us we have a positive story to tell, he had his follow up appointment the week after I ran Manchester marathon where he was told he was clear. My family had a horribly worrying experience that seemed to last a lifetime, with lots of ups and downs, however not every family is as lucky as us. By raising money for this charity I hope we can make more happy endings with great support along the way.

Although I’m a keen runner that enters a lot of races, I had never run a marathon before so this was a huge challenge. All the training was worth it as I have raised over £1600 and completed my first marathon in 3:33:55.

Lesley-Anne Kerr I started running on the treadmill and then someone mentioned Parkrun to me, which I loved. It was at Parkrun that BPJ was recommended as a friendly supportive club and I’ve certainly found that to be the case! My partner, Christopher, died in 2013 after suffering with Parkinson’s and when I was lucky enough to get a ballot place for London there was really no option but to run for Parkinson’s UK. I’m not a natural runner (as you’ll all have realised when you’ve passed me on Sunday mornings – lol), but I love it.

Roger Stockman I’m on a journey, after having heart surgery just over 3 1/2 years ago, I started with couch to 5k, 82 park runs now completed, Hereford and Worcester 10k, I have run 6 half marathons now, and now I am running the Worcester marathon 2017′ I joined BPJ at the start of the year and now a full member. The rest is history, the support & friendship and the Sunday morning runs are awesome. Oh and have lost 5st 8lbs so far, wish I had joined BPJ earlier.

Jan Robbins I wanted to run a marathon when I was 40 but overweight and smoking heavily. I gave up smoking and piled on more weight! Joined slimming world, lost a couple of stone and one of my work colleagues started up a couch 2 5k, which at first I really struggled with. I couldn’t run a minute, let alone a mile. Entered race for life and ran all the way. Felt great! Then I did a 5 to 10k, entered Worcester 10k, then joined black pear. I have not looked back.

Mark Bradley I always thought ‘one day I would like to run a marathon’ after I joined Black Pears I decided that this was the time. It took 2 years to build it up the distance. I have really enjoyed the training (that makes me sound weird) Then a few weeks before the Manchester Marathon I decided to raise money for Bowel cancer, I had just been screened, April is Bowel cancer awareness month and thought ‘this may help when it gets tough) I have raised £3225 and still have money to come in. I had a really great marathon, 3 hrs 49: 56: I thought I was only going to do one, now thinking maybe I will do another. People ask me what was the hardest part, ‘not having a drink when I was buying my daughter cocktails and wine the night before the Marathon.’ I’ve made up for it since!

As Phil mentioned, I couldn’t fit everybody in, so please don’t be offended if you didn’t make the cut. Everyone’s story is still inspiring and worthy of mention.

I feel it is only fair to recognise the ever increasing list of repeat offenders who run multiple marathons throughout the year, year in year out, irrespective of who they train with or how they go about their training. We offer specific marathon training sessions, but these guys are seasoned runners and often follow their own tried and tested regimes. The likes of Teri Thompson, Sue Shacklock, Nick Hooper, Jan McNelis, Gay Grove and Toby Whitfield to name but a few.

We definitely should also not detract from the incredible achievements of our running elite. The likes of Ian Radford and Emily Seward who both smashed their personal best at London and broke the BPJ club marathon records. Total respect goes to Clive Griffiths too, who qualified for the England Team at the Chester marathon in October too, a ‘masters event’ against unknown opposition and was also fifth in his age category at Manchester, with a time of 2.59.

It is certainly worth mentioning that many London qualifying places were gained through the often phenomenal GFA (Good For Age) times that runners secured on other marathon courses and there are just too many of those to list here. Add to that the efforts of those doing double marathons or even further distances over consecutive weekends and combine it with the superb fund raising capabilities of our members who annually raise tens of thousands of pounds for great causes and we really can be proud of our amazing club’s achievements.

So, I’m sure all of the above stories have given you ample food for thought. If you fancy embarking on the challenge of the 26.2 mile distance, then by all means chat with Phil about the training. We also recommend you check for facebook notifications because there are a few changes afoot. The optional distances (with maps) will still be available, but there will be different kick off times and a variation in location starting points (other than Perdiswell) to mix it up a bit. The spring marathons may well be over for another year, but there are plenty of others to choose from over the coming months and, for many seasoned runners, training never really actually stops.