Ranger Things: 26.2 Miles to Self-Actualisation


Whilst most people’s bucket lists consist of bungee jumping or doing a skydive, one of my biggest bucket list challenges was to run a marathon as soon as I was legally old enough. Because of this, I stupidly decided to train over A-levels for the Brighton Marathon 2017.

After running countless half marathons and 10 mile races, I didn’t quite realise the gruelling difference between 10 and 20 Miles. Throughout training there was cramp, sickness and even reaching an all time low of 5 toe nails, however through the help of hundreds of jelly babies and Mum’s encouragement on the end of the phone whilst in floods of tears stranded in a field 12 miles away, I had finally finished training and was ready to embark on the most incredible race. If I could sell any bit of my running experiences to persuade you to run a marathon, the carb loading the days leading up to the race is fantastic. Shout out to Dad who (despite not running) also helped with hoofing down flapjacks and pasta in preparation to support. Brighton was scorchingly hot and hard work along the sea front, but despite the odd stitch and aching legs I came in at 3 hours 40 minutes, a ‘good for your age’ time. Although, I felt awful waddling like a constipated old woman, after a few glasses of wine I felt fab and couldn’t wait to run again!

However, I initially decided I wouldn’t commit to the training whilst at uni, when the opportunity popped up to run the London marathon for DUCK I couldn’t resist. My training in Durham was quite an adventure and included lowlights such as getting lost on dual carriage ways and stuck in snow. I had one long training race – the ‘Slaithwaite SLOG’ – and what a slog it was. I finally reached the finish to surprisingly beaming smiles, only to find out I had won! How anyone could run a 20 mile race and not realise they were first is beyond me, but somehow my ditsy head managed it.


Anyway, moving on to London!  After watching my uncle run in the elite men’s and Dad (not quite so elite) run the London marathon, it has since been my dream to one day brave the streets of London. After years of waiting, 22nd April was set to be the day my dream came true or so I thought anyway. It is safe to say that although I trained better than I had last year, and ‘carbed’ to my hearts content, London ruined me. This year was the hottest London Marathon on record and in the week leading up to the race I had been frantically checking the forecasts wishing for the sun to disappear (honestly I never thought I’d say that), however unfortunately I wasn’t in luck.
The first few miles were hot but manageable, it was when the midday sun and severe cramp kicked in that the marathon became a serious mental game. With runners walking, collapsing and withdrawing from the race all around me I wouldn’t let myself stop. The last few miles were the hardest miles I have ever run however the crowds were immense and helped me plod to the finish! Despite being a fair bit slower than my time last year, I was relieved to have made it without medical assistance! A quote I have followed for all of my marathon training is ‘everything you want to learn about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 Miles’. As cliché as this sounds, it is true and I could not recommend running a marathon anymore. I learned that I become a moody *insert expletive* when my legs don’t work as fast as I want them to and that I am not a quitter. Thousands of runners didn’t make it to the finish of the hottest London marathon and for those who did I am immensely proud of what each and every runner achieved. Really race day is a tiny spectacle of all the months of intense training, desperately fundraising and sacrifice. However, London will be a run I will never forget. As Dad has been my running inspiration and training bud for as long as I can remember, we are embarking on his last marathon together in Edinburgh on the 27th May (hoping for a PB!). I am still raising money on behalf of DUCK and any donation, no matter how big or small, would mean the world to both of us. My justgiving link is: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ailie-McGilligan1

To anyone who fancies a challenge or loves carbs, running a marathon is so unbelievably rewarding and life changing. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Lots of love Ails x

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