My Marathon Journey – By Kerry McNaney

This years Virgin Money London Marathon’s chosen charity of the year was Heads Together. Heads Together are a charity all about raising mental health awareness, helping to end the stigma surrounding it and to encourage people to talk openly about their own mental health.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry helped to spearhead the campaign this year, with Prince Harry talking openly about his own experiences with depression after the death of his mother, Diana the Princess of Wales.

As part of the Heads Together campaign, Team Heads Together were formed. Team Heads Together consisted of many different people from many different mental health charities as well as members of the public with their own experiences of mental health difficulties running the marathon, helping to raise funds, awareness and helping to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

Dudley Mind was lucky to have a wonderful lady by the name of Kerry McNaney running in this years Virgin Money London Marathon as part of Team Heads Together whilst helping to raise funds for us.

Kerry has had her own experiences with mental health and stayed silent, afraid to talk about it to anyone, keeping it all bottled up inside. One day, whilst going to an appointment to see her health care assistant, she broke down and opened up. After opening up and having the conversation about how she was feeling, she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. Opening up and having the conversation about her mental health lead Kerry on her journey to eventually take part in this years London Marathon where she managed to raise £2093.70 for Dudley Mind as well as being part of Team Heads Together, helping to raise awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health.

If you would like to read more about Kerry’s own experiences and the best conversation she ever had you can do so on the Mind website here.

“Telling someone felt fantastic, it was just what I had needed and like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”

You can also read all about Kerry’s marathon journey in the blog she has kindly written for us below.

My Marathon Journey

On Sunday 23rd April 2017, I woke up early in my London hotel and attempted a breakfast, although I couldn’t really stomach it due to nerves. I caught the DLR before 8am, along with an increasing amount of other runners. After a few changes, I arrived at Blackheath station for the blue start line.

I met up with some other runners from an online group called Run Mummy Run; we had all spoken online beforehand and had virtually supported each other through training, so it was nice to meet up with everyone. I also knew that the Head’s Together charity team were meeting up at the start line, so I decided to try to find them.

When I arrived at the charity tent, it was full of a sea of blue Heads Together vests. I thought that there might be the team from the programme ‘Mind Over Marathon’ there, and I was correct. It was very surreal seeing them after watching them on the TV a few nights previously, and I got to speak to one of the women from the programme, Rhianne, who had taken on the task after losing her son, George, and her husband within one week of each other. Nick Knowles was there to encourage the team and to film the rest of the programme. I had a suspicion up to the run up of the event, and finding out that we would be starting as a team in a different section to the other charity runners, that we may have some special guests, and I wasn’t wrong! Princes Harry and William and Katherine were there, I managed to get some sneaky pictures of them with me in the foreground! It was all very exciting, and the atmosphere was fantastic. For the first time in my marathon journey, it bought tears to my eyes. Being part of this team, speaking up about mental illness, what we were doing was so important.

The start sounded, and we were fed into the main runners, which was quite hard, as they were all fast, and I had been put into pen 9, which was for the slowest plodders, so trying to keep out of the way of all the hundreds of fast runners was really tricky. The weather was hot – hotter than I had expected, and the heat got to me very quickly. Around mile 7, my back (which I had problems with since Christmas) really started to get sore. I met up with another runner who I had met in the Run Mummy Run group, who lives in the West Midlands, and I spent a mile with her, chatting away until she ran off.

Over the next few miles, I started to struggle. The sun had started to affect me, my back hurt, and I was feeling incredibly nauseous. I has started to have panic attacks in training, and I had another on the course, I felt that I couldn’t breathe. Just short of mile 12, I had to stop. I had called both my mom and my husband for support, and I spent the next 20 minutes or so sitting with St John’s Ambulance, out of the sun and calming myself down. They asked me if I wanted to pull out. I seriously considered it, then thought of everyone who I would be letting down if I stopped. I thought of the people at Mind. I thought of the people who I had met at Parkrun, completing their first 5Km runs. I thought of the people who were following me on the London Marathon App. I thought of my little girl, who had already told me that she was taking the medal to school the next day to show everyone. I decided to carry on.

The next mile took me over Tower Bridge, and the support from spectators and charities there was totally overwhelming. I was still feeling very sick, and on one of the official photos taken there, you could see in my face that I wasn’t happy. I have never been to London before, and found myself looking up at the bridge, taking in all of the sights around me, until I started to feel better.

By this time, I was predominantly walking. I was soaking up the sights and sounds, and as I was now towards the back, people were calling my name to encourage me (it was on my top) and I stopped to have sweets that were being handed out by virtually everyone on the course. My aim was to get to mile 19, as I knew that there was a large support group from Run Mummy Run there, and as I rounded the corner at where they were, a huge cheer went up from them (I was wearing compression socks from the company) and I stopped for hugs and encouragement and yet more sweets. I knew from then on that I would make it, and my goal was to finish before the eight hour allotted cut off to receive a medal. I had been receiving text messages of support on my watch and reading these kept me going (I received 117 in total)! Around mile 24, it was really starting to hurt, but by this time, I was having a race with Chewbacca who was running with a charity bucket, I managed to beat him, as he dropped his bucket and all the money came out (I did stop to help, but I couldn’t get down by the floor to pick them up).

With less than half a mile to go, I had a phone call from my mom, which I couldn’t pick up (she was watching me on the app). My brother was texting with the amount I had left, and I knew when I saw Big Ben and the houses of parliament, that I was going to make it. Turning the corner to see Buckingham Palace in front of me, I couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I was nearly there. With the Palace behind me, I sprinted down the Mall and finished in 7 hours, 19 minutes and 35 seconds! Not going to break any world records with that one, but I was ecstatic that I had done it, and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for a week after.

Would I do it again? Well, I MAY have entered the ballot for 2018, so watch this space!!!!!

By Simon Bennett & Kerry McNaney – 11th of May 2017.