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Personal Training & Nutrition

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By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 13 2012 02:56PM

After over six months of preparation I can hardly believe the 12in12 has finally landed. I am feeling both incredibly excited by everything this year holds, whilst also daunted by the size of the challenge we have set ourselves - to remain fit, injury-free and 100% motivated for a full 12 months, and to hit a huge fundraising target of £250,000. I may be daunted but I am also confident that I will remain on fire for this mission and cause - I am more excited by this than anything I have ever done before - and I have a real hope that we will achieve our financial goals. Having been to Zimbabwe and visited some of the projects HOPEHIV supports I know that every penny we raise will be put to good use, and I also know that through constantly engaging with the incredible team at HOPEHIV, and receiving feedback on each of our project beneficiaries, there will be so much to keep us focused and to fix the cause firmly in our hearts.

I have such admiration for each of my team mates (of which there are now 26!) Our 12in12 kick-off meeting was last night - 12/01/12 - and it was awesome to see once again how motivated the team is, and hear of all the plans that are afoot...many of which are completely bonkers!

I am certain of one thing: an extraordinary year lies ahead....

Mission 1 Complete!

On Sunday 9 January I completed the first of my 12in12 challanges - the Disney World Marathon. I appreciate this sounds like a bit of a jolly...but a marathon is still a marathon! I would like to add at this point that all of our challenges are self-funded, as a core team principle. We do not believe in using sponsorship to fund our activities.

I ran the Marathon with fellow team mates Vicky Watkins and Kerry McCarthy. As Race Editor of Runner's World Kerry had been able to get us VIP race entries, so we travelled to the start line with Elites athletes...and felt a little under par! The race was fantastic. We started at 530am (meaning a 240am alarm and a 315am bus to the start line) but the weather was cool and dark as we started, which made the early miles fly by, as we ran in the moonlight and through an enchanting dawn mist. As the miles were ticked off the entertainment grew - we passed many a Disney character (best way to get through a marathon is definitely high fiving the likes of Donald Duck), and a highlight for me was definitely running through the Fairy Castle in Magic Kingdom! The supporters were just incredible, shouting words of encouragement and cheering us on by name. The course was varied as we traversed the different Disney kingdoms. Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom definitely topped the bill. Animal Kingdom...a little wiffy. Real goat not as appealing as pretend mouse. The first 18-20 miles I felt strong. Aside from some cramping in my calves I felt good, and my body felt well prepared. The last six were a different matter - these miles you run with your heart and not your legs! The race finished in Epcot and mile 26 (by which stage I was seriously flagging!) unveiled a gospel choice which lifted my heart and spirit to cross the final stretch and run over the finish line with an enormous smile! I ran the race in 3:24:28, a PB by 10 minutes, 15th in my age group and 51st female.

I had been hoping to go sub 3:30 so I was really pleased with this time (and quite surprised!) I was amazed I could hit the splits, and was around 90 seconds faster than my 3:25 pacing strip (they didn't have a 3:30 one) until the very end when I slowed by 60 seconds. Every race is a learning curve - I learnt that sometimes it is better to go to the loo than hold it in and I only lost about 20 seconds overall that mile, and made it right back up the next mile. I learnt that some of your fellow racers will do weird things, like pass you a used sponge, and then you might accidently use it too (gross). I discovered that sometimes other runners seem to be fuelling their running by trumping their way round the course (nice). I discovered that running an even pace really is the best strategy, a pacing strip is a great tool, and that the Running School training had meant that a pace of around 7:30-40 felt quite comfortable for a long period of time. Intense speed drills and hill works slowly teach your legs that pain is sub 6:00 miles and certainly not 7:30. I also learnt that I REALLY need to get a gel/fuelling strategy under my belt. I never got on with gels so planned to fuel with Powerade, but the sugar-free variety on offer meant I somehow ran without any additional carbohydrate. If I'm to go faster I really need to become accustomed to taking on sugars, so that's a big goal for the coming weeks until my next marathon(s).

However the most enjoyable lesson I learnt was that the VIP reception at Disney is so ridiculously cool that no other race will compete going forward - free massage, champers, breakfast and sofas in the sun whilst you watch the other runners coming in. Heavenly.

What's next...

I have my first charity event tomorrow - a hot yoga class at Yoga Haven Clapham, which I am really excited about. Events and classes should form a key strand in our fundraising so I am hoping we make at least £1,000 overall from this event.

Ma & Pa Richardson

Finally, I am VERY proud of my amazing Mum, who has already raised a fair bit for HOPEHIV by selling cakes at school, getting the teachers to donate to HOPEHIV instead of buying Christmas cards for each other, and has also signed up to walk a marathon across London - Go Mum! My Dad is also doing London to Paris with me in June, which should be a big fundraiser, and a huge challenge for us all (my bike may as well have a basket on the front the speed I ride it...) Thanks Ma and Pa for coming on board in such a huge way to support and the 12in12. I feel inspired by you both.

More next month after my second challenge - EnduranceLife Coastal Series Trail Run in South Devon. Terrain = SEVERE. Gulp. No Mickey Mouse anywhere in sight....

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