While there is so much information and advice on running a marathon at our finger tips, it can often be difficult to find relatable and helpful advice from just another average Joe whose chosen to take on an exceptional challenge.

With this is mind, and knowing that when training for a marathon it can be incredibly comforting and useful to hear from people going through the same thing as you, we asked four David Lloyd Club members currently preparing for a race how they’re coping.

All with different ages, abilities, experiences and motivations, these dedicated individuals share their experiences and advice…

Pam Gosal

Age: 44

Marathon level: Beginner

First Marathon: London Marathon April 2017

Charity of choice: Sports Aid – helping the next generation of sporting talent

Money raised so far: £3.032.25, with Gift Aid £3,410.50 (but I’m still raising)

Favourite running song: ‘Moves like Jagger’ Maroon 5



What made you decide to want to run a marathon?

I create goals every five years around education and running as these were challenging areas for me. These are the goals I have set myself:

First was a Degree & Diploma – 5 miles

Second was Prince 2 & MSP – 10 miles

Third was MBA – Half marathon

And now PhD – Full London marathon

How have you been training for your marathon? Do you have any insider tips?

Make sure you create a plan from day one and work on a weekly timetable so that you can watch your achievements. As your distance increases every week, and takes you right up to the marathon week, you’ll feel more confident – as 26.2 miles can look a lot of running on its own!

What is your favourite moment from a past running event?

The best part was the crowds interacting with me and motivating me to keep going. Finally seeing the finish line in sight was definitely an amazing moment for me that I had actually done it.

How do you motivate yourself when you are struggling with training, and also on race day?

I remind myself that I am doing it for a good cause and that people are relying on this sponsorship money. Also not to forget this is my five-year plan, so I have to achieve it to move on to my next goal.

 People talk about hitting the wall… has this happened to you?

I have not run any marathons; however, I did run the 20 mile Milton Keynes Festival Run on 5th March 2017, which was my longest run to date. I had only trained up to 11 miles so it was a big step to jump to 20 miles. I did complete it, but the hardest part was the four-season weather from cold and windy, to raining, sunshine and then hailstones. I hit my wall at 15 miles when the hailstones came down; I was cold, wet, sore and fed up.  My Personal Trainer from David Lloyd Milton Keynes – Ozlem Addison – was running with me and she motivated and pushed me to go on. Without her I might have struggled.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about long distance running?

Have a plan to tackle the long 26.2 miles in sections as this will help you create milestones, which will give you a sense of achievement and momentum. I use five miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles and then the big one 26.2 miles.  Some people use landmarks; however, as I don’t know London very well, I will use every five miles as a milestone. Also use a Personal Trainer if you can, or run with a friend, as training can be long and boring and that person will help push you.

If you’re raising money for charity, what fundraising events have you put on so far?

I am fortunate through my job that I have a good connection in Milton Keynes with partners and businesses and have used that pathway to raise money directly through sponsorship requests and through event platforms. The platforms provide a bigger audience at one event therefore results in raising larger amounts for example the MK Sports Lunch raised £1015.25.

Good luck pam!


Kevin Shepherd

Age: 50

Marathon level: Beginner

Running shoes: Asics nimbus 1B & Asics gel kinsei 6

Next Marathon: Milton Keynes Marathon May 2017

Target time: 4 hours

Favourite running song: Too many to pick one song! ‘Day we caught the train’ by Ocean Colour Scene always gets me running and singing. ‘Shake your tailfeather’ by Ray Charles gets me dancing along, ‘Sea Spray’ by Paul Weller gets me lifted, ‘I’m gonna be 500 miles’ by the Proclaimers is a must and ‘Heebie Jeebies’ by The Rifles gets me rocking along.

What made you decide to run a marathon?

My 50th birthday.

How have you been training for your marathon? Do you have any inside tips?

I have been following a Strava training plan for 12 weeks. I had good foundation fitness from being a gym regular. I joined Redway Runners last summer and they have been amazing – the best sports club I have ever been a member of. Very supportive, great fun, friendly, and there are loads of running sessions every day catering for every level. Plus there’s a great social crowd as well!

How will you prepare the night before your marathon?

Not too much food, just the right nutrition and a good night’s sleep.

What is your favourite moment from a past fun run/half marathon?

I really enjoyed the Cancer Research London Winter 10k run. All the silliness of polar bears and wolves was fun and running through Trafalgar Square into Whitehall was good. I also enjoyed the Redway Runners MK50 run doing the 50 MK icons (and doing the Mannequin Challenge on Campbel Park hill!).

How do you motivate yourself when you are struggling with training and on the day?

I haven’t struggled yet as I have enjoyed running!

What was the hardest part of training?

Fending off injuries as I am 50. I dislocated my left knee cap playing football as a 20 year old and that ended my football playing days. Then, 13 years ago I dislocated and broke my right knee at Karate and now have two pins in my right femur under my knee cap.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far? Ensure you get plenty of recovery time and the right nutrition and water whilst running.

Good luck Kevin!


Stephanie Dutton

Age: 63

Marathon level: Beginner

Running shoes: Brooks Ravenna

Next Marathon: Milton Keynes Marathon May 2017

Charity of choice: Crazy Hats Breast Cancer Appeal 

Money Raised: £253.52

Favourite running song: ‘Fight Song’ Rachel Platten



What made you decide to want to run a marathon?

I took up running at the age of 61. My five-year old grandson asked me to run a 10k to raise money for his school, but I’d never run in my life before. I completed the 10k by following an app, and thought ‘now what?’. I saw a post on the Redway Runners about Zero to Hero.

My first attempt in working towards the 2016 MK Marathon I got injured and had to pull out. The Redway Runners asked me if I would like to give it another go. So here I am training for the 2017 MK Marathon!

I have written a blog about my journey.

How have you been training for your marathon?

I have been training with the Zero to Hero programme organised by the Redway Runners. This programme follows a structured training plan and each runner works with a mentor.

Do you have any insider tips?

Make sure you cross train, eat well, stretch and most importantly, enjoy the journey!

How do you motivate yourself when you are struggling with training, and also on race day?

I play inspirational music and give myself a good talking to.

What do you wish you had known before your first marathon (if applicable)?

The importance of cross training, yoga and eating well.

What is the hardest part of training?

The hardest part is the steady increase in mileage, and also having faith that I will get to the end of a run in one piece, no matter how hard or how demanding the run is.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about long distance running?

Enjoy the journey and remember to breathe!

Good luck Stephanie!


Craig Norris

Age: 35

Marathon level: Seasoned

Running shoes: Saucony Kinvara

Next Marathon: London Marathon April 2017

Favourite Marathon: The Picnic Marathon

Best time: 2:57

Charity of choice: Alzheimer’s Society (Each year I make a point of raising funds for them as my girlfriend’s father has the disease)

Money Raised: £3,000+


What is your top tip for marathon day?

Take on nutrition early and regularly. In those first miles into your run you won’t feel the need to consume much but you must (60g of carbohydrate per hour is a fair guideline). Think of your body as a steam engine, requiring constant fueling, if it’s to successfully complete that 26.2 mile journey.

How do you train for a marathon? Do you have any inside tips?

Nowadays I race often and aim to run each and every day, so my body is marathon ready at all times. A few weeks out I’ll lower the mileage and up the pace so that I’m fresh and sharp for the event. This takes time though and for many years I would have specific training efforts when approaching a marathon. I always took a relaxed but committed approach to my training, running regularly – say three or four times a week – though with no pressure on a set distance. My advice would be to incorporate speedwork – be it a track session or fartlek – with one ‘long’ run each week in amongst some gentle jogs. It’s important to remain enthused so don’t put yourself under too much pressure with a strict, set routine.

What is your favourite moment from a past marathon?

I run a lot of trail marathons where the views at certain points are simply breathtaking. The view from Box Hill during the Picnic Marathon and the descent from Beachy Head within sight of the marathon finish line are of particular mention. Taking the final turn onto The Mall at last year’s London Marathon with 2:56 on the watch was a very special moment too with my family in the stands.

How do you motivate yourself when you are struggling with training and on the day?

If you’re struggling on a particular day for motivation to get out there and run, give yourself the day off. What you’ll hopefully find is that by dropping that session your hunger to run the following day will skyrocket. I would also suggest making your race plans public so that you have an accountability to cross the finish line. Additionally, try to hold an image in your head of what ‘success’ looks like to you – be that the finish-line itself or cracking a time goal – knowing that the more you put in the more you’ll get out. That’s the brilliance of running.

What do you wish you had known before your first marathon?

That it doesn’t end there at 26.2 miles. When you see something as the ‘ultimate challenge’ it makes it seem all the more unsurmountable. If I had known then that people participate in 100+ mile ultra-marathons I’d have seen my first marathon as a stepping-stone rather than a mountain.

What inspired you to run marathons?

I’d never really given marathon running a thought to be honest growing up. There was no one that I knew that had ever run one, or at least to my knowledge. It wasn’t until my girlfriend had worn her knee cartilage away after a succession of marathons, of which she had always enjoyed, that I decided to take the baton so to speak and see what all the fuss was about.

What is the hardest part of training?

I guess for many it would be the time commitment. It’s not just the hours spent plodding along, but also the getting ready, the additional eating, the washing…oh the washing. I’m fortunate to both live and work in London so my commute is easily run-able, time that would be otherwise idle.

What was the hardest part of your first marathon? People talk about hitting the wall… did this happen to you?

My first marathon was the Beachy Head Marathon, where the route is entirely on trail and littered with hills, steps and stiles. Only the front runners have the steam to run non-stop from start to finish, so the majority are forced to stop and walk at certain points throughout. Additionally, the aid stations also provide a bounty of food and drink so your body is well fueled and your pace is markedly slower. The hardest part of that first marathon was climbing hill after hill along the coastline after mile 20 with spent legs – the descent being as painful as the ascent.

You’ll hit the wall if you’re running too fast or have been off on your nutrition. Keep these in check and you’ll run right through to the finish line. That’s easier said than done if it’s your first marathon, but hey this’ll come at mile 18-20 so there won’t be far to go!

What piece of advice did you wish you listened to?

I think I would have been a faster runner today if I had joined a running club. For all the drive and commitment in the world you will always run that little bit faster when those around you are pushing you forward.

I’ll definitely join one this year!

Follow Craig on Instagram or read his beginner runners blog post.

Good luck Craig!




For more advice, read our marathon series which explores marathon trainingmarathon day and marathon fundraising.