Aniek & the VLM – Not Just One in a Million…

VLM charity run marathonLast year, we were contacted by Aniek who had been successful in obtaining a place for the Virgin London Marathon and wanted to run for SSJ- we were thrilled as no one had entered the VLM for SSJ before.

With race entry for the first ever Southampton Marathon now open and the 2017 VLM places announced, we asked Aniek to tell us about her experiences training and on the day of the big race itself and we would love to share those with you today and hope that she inspires you to get involved.. With every step, she made a difference to local vulnerable people. Here’s Aniek’s story:

I am a real London Marathon fan. I’m one of those people who get up early on that Sunday morning in April and switch on the BBC to soak up the full coverage. I love watching as the elite women and wheelchair athletes kick proceedings off, interspersed with stories of regular Joes and Janes doing their bit for a good cause. It always makes me quite emotional – clear cut examples of the potential power of humanity – as I sit curled up in my dressing gown, sipping my first cup of tea of the day. 2016 was about to change that…

After 4 years of inspired but unsuccessful applications to the public ballot in April/May – still high on the adrenaline of watching all those thousands of people achieve such a fantastic feat – I became pretty used to receiving the “better luck next time” magazine that you receive in October (when you’ve completely forgotten entering all those months ago and are thus quite relieved). October 2015 was different. I got in. On my fifth attempt. I was speechless. The rest of the autumn and start of winter 2015 was spent mentally calculating how many weeks were left until the big day!

Now, fitness is a big part of my life – my job as a personal trainer and nutrition coach means that I work with women across Southampton every day to support their efforts in forming healthy habits and healthy lifestyles. Some people probably thought a marathon wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for me – I basically run for a living, right? WRONG.vlm charity marathon run

I love to run. I’m one of those people. I love sunny Saturday morning parkruns (5km) on the Common and the odd local 10km race. I use running as a way of clearing the mind and snatching in a quick and easy workout here and there. 26.2 miles on the other hand, is not quick and is definitely not easy! Training went relatively smoothly – I approached the task with a slow and steady mentality and the aim of completing the distance in one piece, as opposed to breaking any records. I made sure not to over-train, prioritized mobility and flexibility, did regular strength and conditioning work and didn’t stop eating for 4 months – at least that’s what it felt like. Marathon training is a hungry business!

I always said that I’d try to raise a few pennies for charity if I ever managed to get a place in the ballot to run London, so that’s exactly what I did. I decided to raise funds for the Society of St James because I am always so impressed with their work in our city. Being a born and bred Southamptoner who lives and works centrally, I’ve grown up being confronted with homelessness on a regular basis. The support and services the Society of St James offer to some of our city’s most vulnerable people is really important. I’m always struck by stories of homelessness that have accelerated so quickly due to events that could easily happen to you or me.

I relied on the great generosity of my friends, family members near and far, acquaintances and clients and they were amazing. Their combined generosity meant that by the time I was ready and waiting behind the start line in Blackheath on a slightly chilly April Sunday morning, I’d smashed my original target of £250 and amassed just over £1,000 in sponsorship!

vlm charity marathon run


In the end I managed to raise £1,146!!

The generosity and support shown to my marathon efforts really did help me through the experience on the day. Nothing can quite prepare you for the enormity of the London Marathon. Watching it from the comfort of your sofa is very different to being one of those many thousands crossing the start line!

I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of those long 26.2 miles, but I’ll present some of my most memorable moments of the day in bullet point form:


  • Running past a man dressed as a huge dinosaur and going for a Guinness World record within the first 3 miles and spending the next 23 checking over my shoulder that he hadn’t caught up with me!
  • Bumping into my friend’s sister and dad and enjoying a friendly mile in their company.
  • The deafening experience of running over Tower Bridge just before the halfway point.
  • Seeing my parents and support crew just after the halfway point and wondering how much further I had to run before they couldn’t see me and I could have a little walk!
  • Realising the guys and girls running on the other side of the barrier at the halfway point were already at 21 miles…!
  • Wondering whether this is all a dream… 17 miles in and running around the Isle of Dogs can do that to you.
  • When your legs feel like they’ve got nothing left after 23 miles, having random strangers shout encouragement can be both very heartening and very annoying.
  • Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” proved excellent musical accompaniment for the last 3 minutes and 25 seconds.
  • The sign that says 200m to go is the longest 200m I have ever seen.
  • Crossing the finish line as one in a million runners who have completed the same race.
  • Nothing quite beats the realisation that you don’t have to run anymore!

vlm charity marathon runThe London Marathon remains a very special event for me. I will continue to be a huge fan and encourage anyone who has ever been inspired by it to consider pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and setting themselves a challenge – however big or small.

I’d also encourage people to consider raising money for the Society of St James; I’m chuffed to have raised £1,146 by running the London Marathon – it made the whole experience (including the blisters!) completely worth it.

Looking forward to watching it from the sofa in 2017!

We’d like to thank Aniek again for undertaking such a large challenge on behalf of SSJ and for raising so much money that will have a real impact on vulnerable people in her local community.

We do not reserve Charity places for the VLM, however, if you have a place for the VLM this year and would like to race on behalf of SSJ, please get in contact with us!

If you would prefer a challenge a bit closer to home we do have charity spaces available for the first Southampton Marathon in 2017, as well as places for the Southampton Half-Marathon or 10k.

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