Introducing Jo’s Journey!

Our very own Jo Popham is running the Virgin London Marathon on 26th April 2020!
It was her 50th birthday last year, and she had always told herself that she would complete a marathon in her 50th year. The only marathon close to her birthday is the New York marathon; however, after many years of applying for charity spaces for the Paul Popham Fund, it was looking unlikely that this would happen. So, in 2018, Jo and her training partner, Stephen Arnold, decided to begin training together for the 2019 London Marathon.
Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, Jo had to pull out in 2019, but undeterred, she instead set her sights on the 2020 London Marathon!
As we count down to the big day, Jo will be documenting her training progress and giving an insight into the reality of marathon training.
Without further ado, let’s hear how Jo has been getting on with her training so far!

Week 1
I coach the beginners groups in the Paul Popham Running Club, and I thoroughly enjoy it. However, trying to find the time to train others while also working towards own personal goal is so tough! With great sadness, I had to pull out of coaching for the first quarter of this year while I train for my first marathon – London 2020!
When you’ve been coaching for three years and suddenly swap to focusing on yourself, it’s like learning to run all over again. So, on January 6, I started training from zero running with little fitness in the tank.
Steve Arnold just completed his coaching license in 2019, and he sent over a training plan he put together for me and the team. A grand total of 16 of us are training for the marathon this year!
So, back to training. This week was kind – we had to run five miles and fit another run in before our long run on Sunday. Easy! I ran the first five miles on my own along one of my usual routes, which felt really comfortable. The next run was with my partner in crime, Lisa Arnold. We took it easy and chatted the whole way – the five miles just flew by! The eight-mile club run on Sunday was lovely again!
Training has been a walk in the park so far!

Week 2
This week I was able to fit a circuits session in on Monday night, and I ran with the club on the Tuesday night – a lovely 10k!
There were seven of us on this club run. My partner in crime and I were joined by another partner in crime – Julie Dunn – and we soon became fast friends.
On Wednesday, for the first time in three years, I ran with the club instead of going ahead as a leader. It was lovely! Steve and Vicky explained the session to us, which we managed to get completely wrong! We were supposed to run a steady half marathon pace and take five seconds off each loop; however, we managed to run a fast half marathon pace and take 30 seconds off each loop! It was absolutely exhausting but hilarious at the same time.
Lisa and I arranged to meet on the Thursday to do a tempo session around Fendrod Lake. We ran for five minutes at an easy pace and five minutes at a fast pace, so there was no chatting involved! We were running the fast-pace five-minutes at around a seven-minute mile pace, which we were so proud of!
On the Friday I went to the gym for a weight and cardio session, and Saturday was my rest day.
However, I slipped off the wagon slightly! On the Friday, my boyfriend and I had a night out which ended in Noah’s Yard in Uplands with a few too many gins! My Saturday was spent recovering and attending my cousin’s 16th birthday party – I resisted a glass of bubbly so that I could be fresh for Sunday’s session.
Well, Sunday’s session was anything but fresh! I started off strong, but by the time I reached halfway my head hit the ground and I was plucking positive words from the road signs! Thankfully, Nicola Davies ran with me and we made it back to the club unharmed – nine miles in the bag!

Week 3
After Sunday, my mood began to slip. I met the team on Tuesday to run a gentle seven miles, and I ran with Julie and Lisa – I was so glad to finish that run!
Wednesday’s club session was hills, and my mood picked up! Myself, Lisa, and Liv Arnold took the session together and we had a lot of fun! It was painful fun, but fun nonetheless.
On Thursday I hit the gym, and Friday was another group training session. However, I was having my hair done and had just got out of the salon when the training started, so I decided to go home, put my kit on, and complete the session alone. Don’t tell the others, but on the fast bits of the tempo session I cheated slightly – I had just got my hair done after all!
Saturday was my rest day, preparing from the increased distance of 10 miles on Sunday.
On the Sunday, it was raining outside as well as on the inside of my head. I just didn’t have the motivation! It was so tough – I’d had a busy weekend of visiting friends and going to see Fleetwood Mac, so the training really hit me hard. I was so pleased when the run was over that I didn’t even stop and say hi or bye to my fellow runners – I just wanted to go home and forget the run had ever happened. Thank you to Simone for keeping me company at the end of those 10 miles!

Week 4
I decided to skip the gym on Monday, and was also contemplating dropping out of my Tuesday run and cancelling all socials for the next three months – thank the Lord I didn’t! Julie, Lisa, Anna, Laura and Liv soon picked my mood back up. We were joking about our marathon outfits which are now silver hot pants and a crop top – God help the spectators!
Wednesday’s club session was great. Lisa, Julie and I egged each other on and the session just flew by! However, the doubts started to creep in on Thursday.
I could feel the stress and anxiety eating away at my thoughts, and I was developing a few niggles and pains. What do I do? Where am I at with progress? I agonised all day! Should I run Thursday or Friday, or just go to the gym? I was worried that if I missed training I’d be off track and fall behind!
Wait. Stop. Hang on a minute Jo! I started to remember all of my coaching tips and thought back to my training sessions for a good half marathon. I told myself that rest is part of the training. If I ran Thursday night or Friday I’d be in danger of making these niggles and stresses worse, and then I’d really be in a tricky situation.
I downloaded stretches for my hips and told the team that I was taking a three-day rest to stretch. Fast forward to Sunday’s session and after 11 miles, I was loving life! Training is back on track!

My training plan is to work my long runs around my socials, work on my nutrition, sleep, sleep, and more sleep!

As well as training, I am raising money for the Paul Popham Fund, and I met with the club’s Social and Fundraising secretaries this week. We set out some amazing fundraising ideas – I do have the best club!
I’ll be writing a weekly training diary right up until the day itself – only a couple of months away now! I’m so grateful for any support possible – all of the love and encouragement I’ve received means so much.
The link to my VirginGiving page is:

I’ll see you all next week for another update!

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