I took up running in 2016. I was already a semi-regular at parkrun but could be found watching from the side-lines rather than participating – it was my wife, Francesca, who was a regular park runner. One day curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see what it was all about and take part in the run itself. That was it, I was bitten by the running bug and over the next few years I found myself doing longer and longer distances, I even joined the Bishops Stortford Running Club.

Mark starting his virtual marathon
Mark setting off on his marathon run

A couple of years ago I did a 100k walk but always had in the back on my mind that now I was a runner maybe I should challenge myself with a marathon. So, last year, in a moment of what is retrospect could be considered madness, I entered the ballot for the London Marathon. Whilst I didn’t get a place in the ballot there was the option to sign up to do the Virtual London Marathon. This is a new event put in place in response to COVID and it meant I could complete the marathon on the same day as all the other London Marathon runners but following a course of my own choosing.

Young boy in kayak
Mark’s youngest son, William, enjoying one of SPACE’s watersports sessions

Whilst signing up for the marathon was a “fun” personal challenge for me, my wife suggested that I could also be using it to raise funds for a charity close to our hearts. SPACE was an easy choice for us. Our youngest son, William, is autistic and we consider ourselves very lucky to have the support and community SPACE provides. William loves their activities – he really enjoys them and looks forward to them. Especially the watersports experiences and Studio Fly. Francesca has also been on a number of their workshops and courses for parents and we always learn something different that can help us at school or at home.

Young boy in yoga swing
William at a SPACE exclusive session at Studio Fly

My training for the marathon began in earnest in June this year. One of the run leaders at my running club put together a 12 week training plan alternating between short runs and runs that got longer and longer as the weeks went by. On Sunday I completed the Marathon in an official time of 4 hours 31 minutes which I was really happy with. I ran the whole way which had been my goal, just stopping briefly to rehydrate with some water at the halfway point that Francesca and William brought for me. Whilst I ran the whole thing by myself I got encouraging waves from people who realised what I was doing and also saw a few other runners doing their own virtual marathon challenge and we exchanged nods and acknowledgements.

It’s fair to say I felt pretty perky for the first half but the second half was hard work and I really did have to dig deep. When I crossed the finish line (ie was met by Francesca and William!) I felt really pleased with myself and also a little bit wobbly. Happily, after a hot bath, the one big ache that was the lower half of my body quickly started to feel a bit better.

Mark finishing his virtual marathon

Would I do it again? I’m two days into my recovery now and am already thinking about my next challenge so yes, I probably would. A big thank you to everyone who sponsored me and helped to raise vital funds for this small and deserving local charity that provides such vital assistance to families such as ours.

A huge thank you to Mark for sharing his story and raising money so generously for SPACE.

We simply couldn’t do what we do without the active involvement of our families and the local community – it is your support that consistently enables us to help families when they need it the most.

Whether you have an idea or just ‘the wish’ to do something and get involved in fundraising for us, we would love to talk to you – please get in touch.