“It wasn’t easy but I persevered” - Women's Running UK

“It wasn’t easy but I persevered”

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  July 29, 2016

Kathie Child WR inspiration story

“After just one minute on the treadmill, I collapsed in a breathless heap on the floor,” recalls Kathie Child. A few years later, she would become one of only 11 British women to complete all six of the World Marathon Majors.

Kathie had only started running in 2007, to lose some of the weight she’d gained since giving up smoking. She wanted to change her lifestyle before she turned 40. “I was very unfit,” she says. “I joined the gym and slowly gained confidence and fitness. It wasn’t easy at first, but I persevered. I ran a mile, then two, until one day I got to six miles. I ran further and further, until I wondered if I could complete a half-marathon. I did, and I felt euphoric. Then I wondered if I could run a marathon. So I entered Dublin.”

Tearful Debut

“My first marathon in 2009 was brilliant. The crowds of supporters were amazing. I loved it and from then on I was hooked – after I stopped crying that was!”

By October 2011, Kathie had completed four marathons and had dreams of running all six of the World Marathon Majors: London, New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and Tokyo. But then disaster struck. She developed a case of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), followed by a pulmonary embolism (PE) and was diagnosed with a genetic blood disorder, which means she has to take anticoagulation drugs for the rest of her life.

“This wake-up call made me realise how precious time is,” she says. “I started to regain my fitness and focused on doing things I’d always wanted to do. I started to plan how I could do all the Majors – and hopefully have some great holidays at the same time, an incentive for my poor, running-widow husband, Alex.”

Never mind running, planning the marathons was an epic undertaking in itself. “I had to plan each marathon meticulously. Only two companies would insure me for long-haul flights because of previous PEs and it was very expensive. It was time consuming, too, researching and planning each of them, getting leave from work and paying for it – all alongside everyday life.”

Her Marathon Majors journey started in New York in November 2013. She was unlucky in the ballot, but a company called Sports Tours had places. “I dreaded New York, because I’d heard stories about people freezing at the start, but it was brilliantly organised, with tents to keep runners warm and hot drinks. I loved every minute and hope to run it again.”

Kathie Child New York Marathon

New York Marathon

She ran Boston in April 2015. “It was very stressful getting everything in place. Around the same time as Boston, I entered the Chicago ballot for October 2015, then found out I got a place. But before I went to Chicago, I found out I was unsuccessful for both Tokyo and London for 2016. Sports Tours helped me with a Tokyo entry for February 2016, but couldn’t help with London.”

London Not Calling

“I had entered the London ballot eight times and held out very little hope of getting a place in 2017. So I approached a charity that had helped my niece, the Child Growth Foundation. They had one place to offer and, to my surprise, I got it.”

Each of the races has been very different. “The courses take runners past some really iconic places, which are world famous but unique to each city: Buckingham Palace in London, Central Park in New York, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Sears Tower in Chicago and the Royal Palace in Tokyo. The supporters are different, too. For example, the screaming girls of Wellesley College in Boston are really loud, whereas the Amish Community in New York respectfully acknowledge runners by their silence. In Japan, runners are offered tomatoes along the route, but in Boston we’re offered fruit and tea and coffee. Music along the routes varies, each making the marathon experience unique and unforgettable.”

Kathie Child Berlin Marathon

Berlin Marathon

And if forced to select a favourite? “It has to be New York. The route takes runners through each district and there is something different on every street, each community offering different music, support and sights. Finishing in Central Park felt really special.” Kathie’s toughest moment was Boston’s notorious Heartbreak Hill. “I was tired, wet and cold from a very unseasonal storm. I wanted to quit. A fellow runner started shouting positive affirmations, which snapped me out of the dark place I was in.”

Just 365 Yards to Go

What was it like finally reaching the end of the journey? “Approaching Buckingham Palace on 24 April, 2016, and seeing the sign that said 365 yards to go was really emotional. I’m so proud of myself for completing something I wasn’t sure I could do. I have to pinch myself and look at my Abbott’s World Marathon Major Medal to remind myself I did it. I worked hard, trained hard and made it happen!”

Kathie Child London Marathon

London Marathon

“I was overwhelmed by my family’s, friends’ and work colleagues’ reactions. I wrongly assumed they weren’t really interested or were driven mad by me talking about it all the time. It turns out they are all really quite proud of me! I’m surprised at how driven I was to run all six, as I always saw myself as less capable than others.”

She admits to feeling “strangely empty” now and is thinking about her next challenge. “I will be 50 in two-anda- half years and it would be nice to run a sub-four-hour marathon before that. I’m also interested in finding out more about supporting visually impaired runners. I want to help others achieve their running goals.”

Words: Damian Hall

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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