This weekend’s London Marathon will see several Shetlanders don their running shoes and make their way from Blackheath to Buckingham Palace to raise money for their chosen charities.
The event is now in its 31st year and an estimated 36,000 people from elite athletes to those in wheelchairs and fun runners dressed as anything from bananas to teddy bears will be taking part.
Shetlander Vaila Smith (née Hughson), originally from Sandwick and who is now based in Edinburgh, will be running in her first full marathon.
Vaila, 31, who moved to the capital in 1997 to study maths and finance at university and later actuarial science, now works as a credit risk analyst for Virgin Money, the sponors of the event. Thanks to this she will start the marathon in the company of celebrities (including Richard Branson’s daughter) and VIPs. And her parents, sister and niece who are coming to support her will get grandstand seats!
Already “quite fit” after a lifetime of netball playing and the veteran of several half-marathons (after which she vowed never to try anything longer) Vaila embarked on a “very tough” training plan several months ago.
This has involved running five or six times a week – typically from Leith to Prestonpans – and changing her diet to include more fruit and vegetables (for minerals) and more carbohydrates: “I’ve never eaten so much pasta in my life.”
Netball training had to be ditched for fear of ankle injuries, her personal life has been put on hold and her focus has been entirely on Sunday’s 26-mile run, with the treadmill having been used a lot.
“I never knew how much it would take over your life,” she said. Now, however, she is looking forward Sunday with a mixture of nerves and excitement.
Vaila is running for the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, a charity dear to her heart as various people close to her have suffered the condition. In an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo develops outside the womb, usually in a fallopian tube. The baby can never be saved and the condition is potentially life-threatening. Vaila pledged to raise £1,000 but already has £2,000. This has made her more committed than ever to the marathon: “I’ve got to do it now.”
She would welcome donations – her web page is
Lerwick lass Sarah Slater, 24, is running for the Anthony Nolan Trust. Now known simply as Anthony Nolan, the charity operates the UK’s largest and most successful bone marrow register which matches and provides life-saving bone marrow transplants for leukaemia patients.
Sarah got involved after seeing an advert in Runners World. She said: “I filled in a pledge saying I would love to run for the charity and I would fund-raise for them. To my amazement they phoned and said I’d been selected. I was over the moon!”
Sarah, who works as a clerical assistant at Shetland Freezer Foods, agreed to raise a minimum of £1,700 for the charity – she is currently at the £650 mark.
Her training is going well. She did her last long run, 22 miles, two weeks ago before starting her “taper down” for the marathon. It has been hard work: “I’ve been training six days a week for the last 10 weeks, doing a mix of speed work, threshold running, long runs, pilates and Zumba [a Brazilian-inspired dance fitness programme].”
Although she has been a keen horse rider for 20 years Sarah only started running two years ago. She said: “I’d just booked a holiday abroad and I needed to save. I decided I couldn’t afford the gym any more but still wanted to keep in shape. I thought running would be the best option and it’s just stuck. After my holiday I kept it up and was persuaded to enter the Spiggie 10k. Then, with just four weeks to train, I got persuaded into entering the Great Scottish Run, a half marathon. I tend not to do things by half, or the easy way. I was not fit enough to do a half marathon but that never stopped me!” Since then she has done four other marathons or half marathons.
Now, she said: “Running for me is a way of life. I get up every morning and go for a run, even if am not training for a race. I enjoy the freedom you get when you run. It’s also become what I’m known for, I’m always getting: ‘I know you, you’re the lass dat’s always running!’ It’s influenced me that much, that I’m leaving Shetland in August to train as a personal trainer. I’ll still be running when I’m 80!”
Donations are welcome – go to Sarah’s fundraising page www.justgiving.com/SARAHL SLATER.
Also running for Anthony Nolan is 23-year-old Anne Wisdom from Lerwick.
Anne is studying medicine at Hull York Medical School and will qualify as a doctor in 2014. She decided to run the marathon to achieve a personal goal and to raise money and awareness for Anthony Nolan, “a very worthwhile charity”. Anne said: “Before training for the London Marathon I had never done much running, but always enjoyed maintaining my fitness. I used to row for the novice women’s team at the University of Edinburgh, and enjoy playing squash and badminton. “I wanted to run the marathon to be able to overcome both the physical and mental challenges that running a marathon present. With the support of another more seasoned runner to guide my training, I began working on my fitness in November, doing short runs of about five miles. My running partner and I then started doing a long run every weekend from January onwards. We increased the distance every weekend peaking with a 20-mile race at the end of March, which I completed in three hours 18 minutes.”
She is proud to have completed the “extremely gruelling” training and said: “I am now very much looking forward to race day.”
Anne would welcome donations – her webpage is: http://uk.virgin moneygiving.com/AnneWisdom.
For Jacqueline Gray (née Young), who hails from Tresta, taking part in the London Marathon will be the achievement of a long-held ambition.
The 31-year-old, who is training to be a doctor (and who previously worked as a nurse in Shetland before deciding to go back to university), lives in London with her husband Bryan, from Unst. She first applied for a marathon place in 2009 and was awarded one for 2010.
Jacqueline said: “I was supposed to run the marathon last year with my husband on our second wedding anniversary but unfortunately I got injured and had to defer my place for a year.
“So Bryan ran last year on his own, and I’ll be running alone this year. Having been troubled with injury I originally decided not to raise money for a charity in case I had to pull out again. However, having reached the last few weeks of training, and seeing the devastation in Japan I decided to raise money for the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund.
“Currently I am a fourth-year medical student on the graduate entry MBBS course (completing a degree in four years rather than five) at Kings College London. When I graduate I will work as a junior doctor for two years before entering specialty training.
“This will be the first time I have run a marathon although I ran the Edinburgh half marathon in 2009 and really enjoyed it. I only started running in 2007, when we first moved to the mainland, and never thought I would be fit enough to run a marathon.
“Having experienced the atmosphere and excitement from the sidelines, I think it’ll be amazing to actually be a runner. I was so disappointed I couldn’t run last year and can’t wait to get to the start line this time. I have friends travelling down from Edinburgh and others from university who are coming to cheer me on, hopefully their encouragement will get me over the finish line.
“I began training in January, following a schedule and building up my distance gradually. My long training runs have been around the parks in London and along the Thames. It has been a tough few months but got much better when the nights got lighter.”
To support Jacqueline go to her JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/jaxgray.
Eleanor Macklin, 25, from Tingwall, is running to support Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Eleanor has been in London for three years since graduating from university, working as a process engineer Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd (which built Sullom Voe), and started running from scratch last summer. Inspired to run the marathon out of a desire to “lose weight, get fit and to support a good cause”, she has now been in training for 10 months. In this time she has covered over 400 miles and raised over £1,700 in sponsorship money. Last November she completed a 10k race in a “reasonable” time of 59 minutes and seven seconds and hopes to complete the marathon in five and a half hours.
An unscheduled trip home to Shetland last month meant that instead of preparing for the London Marathon in the south of England, she was braving the Shetland weather. Fierce gales between Sandwater and Tingwall slowed her to a walk. “I appreciated those drivers who gave me an encouraging toot to keep going.”
Most of Eleanor’s training has been around Hyde Park, braving the dark and freezing temperatures in the winter. Recently, refusing to be beaten by her trainers causing her pain after 12 miles, she ran for a further four miles in her socks. Eleanor hopes this determination will see her across the finish line on Sunday, plus the fact that she is helping a worthwhile cause.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People train dogs to alert deaf people to everyday sounds – which could as basic as an alarm clock – providing a life-changing level of confidence and security. An extra bonus for Eleanor, who is passionate about rescue animals after years of involvement in the Shetland branch of Cats Protection, is that 75 per cent of the dogs used were previously unwanted.
Eleanor’s target is to raise over £2,000, the cost of supporting a hearing dog and their recipient in their first year together.
To support the work of Hearing Dogs please visit
www.justgiving.com/Eleanor-Macklin. All donations are hugely appreciated and Eleanor thanks everyone who has already given.