7 top tips for running the London Marathon from a lady who knows

Julie Creffield, author of The Fat Girls’ Guide To Marathon Running, shares her top tips with runners for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

Taking on a marathon is a daunting task, particularly if – like most of those running for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust – it’s your first.  This year the marathon falls on the 25th anniversary of Stephen’s death, making it particularly poignant for all those running.  The Trust decided to add inspiration to all the perspiration by organising an evening with Julie Creffield, who writes popular blog toofattorun, recently published The Fat Girls’ Guide To Marathon Running, and is an all round good egg.   I was really chuffed to sneak a place at the evening, even though the furthest I normally run is to catch the train…

All the Trust’s marathoners said that running for a cause they really care about keeps them motivated whilst training, but Julie had some other practical advice to get them to the finish line.  I’m sharing some of her wisdom to help others, and if you get something out of it, please make a donation to the Trust or sponsor one of their runners.

marathon team

#Stephens Team meeting Julie Creffield (3rd from the right)


Julie’s top tips

  • Have a plan. Work out which will be your fast miles and where you expect to go more slowly; if people are coming to cheer for you, tell them in advance where to be; think about the sights and sounds that will motivate you, so you can count down to them as you run.
  • Let loved ones know that in the six weeks run up to the marathon, you are the Mo Farrah in your family. That means you need looking after – you don’t want to be humping shopping and get an injury at the last minute that means you have to pull out.
  • Don’t change anything on the day. Wear the kit you have practised in.  Eat and drink as you have been during your training.  Marathon day is not the time to find out that your expensive new trainers give you blisters!
  • Vaseline is your friend. It’s not glamorous, but every runner gets chafing, and often in the most unpleasant of places.  Avoid the worst of it by lubricating liberally!  You can also avoid it by re-dressing carefully after a toilet stop – lots of chafing happens because people rush to get dressed and don’t put their clothes back on properly.
  • Have an emergency plan. Statistically more people die playing monopoly than running a marathon, but its still worth planning for the unexpected.  Know what point you are happy to walk from and how you will get in touch with your loved ones if they, or you, are not in the place you expect at the end.
  • Make sure you have someone to travel home with. You’ve already been heroic and now your blood sugar will be low and you will be exhausted.  Now is the time to take it easy and let someone else take the strain of making sure you get home safely.
  • Remember the difference the money you raise will make. For Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust it means more support to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them learn about different careers, and helping them get the qualifications, knowledge, skills and confidence they need to follow their dreams.

A massive thank you to Julie Creffield for giving up a precious evening to talk to #StephensTeam and for sharing her amazing expertise!  If you like what you’ve read, please show your appreciation by supporting the runners and donating to the Trust at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/25thanniversaryappeal or by texting the word SLCT25 to 70070 followed by either £50, £25, £10 or £5.

marathon 2


Glitz, glamour and good work

I work with the NHS and the voluntary sector, so whilst my job is big on satisfaction and full of lovely people, it is very low on perks.  Unless, of course, you like to gorge on hospital food in the deluxe surroundings of the staff canteen in between meetings (I don’t).  So you can imagine how excited I was when my very lovely client the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust invited me to a ball.

Keen readers will recall from my blog about dinner with the ambassador, that I will happily sell my children into slavery to spend the night wearing a fancy frock and scoffing canapes.  In fact, I love canapes so much, I sometimes think I should eat them at home, and perhaps start a ‘Canape Thursday’ tradition, the same way some couples have ‘date night’.  But I digress…


Arnold Oceng and Colin Jackson

On Friday night, I glammed up to the eyeballs and set out for the swanky Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London to attend the EYBN Black Tie Ball.  The ball is hosted by EY’s (previously known as Ernst & Young) Black Network as part of their celebration of Black History Month, but it’s theme was very much future-focused: aspire and inspire.

It’s always a thrill to eat something I haven’t cooked myself (because my cooking is rubbish), but the real highlight was the guest speakers, who each gave a personal insight into how to build success.

Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson, who hasn’t aged a day since about 1990, talked about learning from the people you admire to become the best you can be, and of building a team of people around you who share your dream.

Scientist and the BBC’s ‘face of space’ Maggie Aderin-Pocock described how, despite her dyslexia, she changed from being ‘the dumb kid at the back of the class’ to sitting at the front when she discovered her passion for science.

Actor Arnold Oceng, who escaped from Uganda with his mother after his father and most of his family were killed in the civil war, reminded people that you don’t go from being a refugee to a film star, you have to start small and work hard.


Richard Blackwood & June Sarpong

Finally, broadcaster June Sarpong, who is now full-on and active in a range of charities, told the audience that you only need two things to succeed: equal access to opportunity and self-belief.

So how can I summarise the messages?  Have a dream, believe in your own ability to achieve that dream, and then work hard to make it a reality.

All that wisdom AND dancing afterwards?  You just can’t top it.  Suddenly my job seems awesome, not just because I went on a great night out, but because I get to work with organisations like the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust who are helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their dreams and build their own success, like Colin, Maggie, Arnold and June before them.  How lucky am I?


Neil & Chelsea from the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

And as if all that glitz, glamour and good work weren’t enough, over £4,000 was raised for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and when the dancefloor was heaving with a mix of glamour and cool, I was dancing ’80s-style and wondering if the DJ would play anything by Take That.  I think that’s how every great evening should end, don’t you?

It’s all about community and opportunity

Everyone of a certain age recognises the name Stephen Lawrence.  He was the black teenager killed in a racist attack in south east London in 1993.  His death was followed by a botched police investigation and years of campaigning by his family and in particular his mother, Doreen Lawrence, to find his killers and to make policing fairer to all.

But out of this terrible tragedy something amazing was born: The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.  The Trust works with disadvantaged young people from all backgrounds to inspire and enable them to enter professions that might otherwise seem beyond their reach.  So it felt like a tremendous privilege to be invited to the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Lecture held by the Trust last Tuesday.

Because Stephen wanted to be an architect, this annual event features respected architects talking about different aspects of architecture.  This year the focus was on the relationship between architecture and the community, and the lecture hall at the Royal Institute of British Architecture was packed with architects – from those leading well-known successful practices right down to those still in training.  It was basically an architects’ geek-fest.


L-R: Sonia Watson, CE, Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust; Elsie Owusu OBE, leading architect; Asher Bourne, beneficiary of the trust; Stuart Lawrence, trustee; Bob Shiel, Prof in Architecture & Design, UCL; Kibwe Tavares, filmmaker

There were some big names on the platform (the Chief Executive of Scott Brownrigg, one of the UK’s largest architecture practices, chaired it and award-winning architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Thomey were amongst the speakers).  But the stand-out star of the show was Stuart Lawrence, Stephen’s brother.  He took the theme of architecture and community by the scruff of the neck and gave a talk that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

He talked about a happy childhood growing up with Stephen and their younger sister Georgina, bombing around Woolwich Common on their bikes during the day and opening their bedroom window in the evening to hear the rumble of music and laughter when the funfair came to town.  But most of all he talked about community, how mixed and diverse it was, how everyone knew everyone, and the friendships between them.  In fact, until Stephen was killed, Stuart had no notion or awareness of racism.

Although our sense of community is often lost, Stuart spoke about his firm belief in the old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and that we need to design our environment to foster communities.  He recalled the days when, like so many of us, he would leave his house in the morning and be out on an adventure with his friends till tea time.  And he expressed the hope that we can get back some of the things that we all had growing up but which seem to be lost to our children.

Stuart’s final words were to tell the audience that community spirit is not dead, it is in each and every one of us, and just to prove it he brought tomatoes from his garden to share with everyone.  You didn’t need to be an architect to know he absolutely nailed it.  Thank you, Stuart Lawrence.



Chelsea from the Trust –  call her!

I actually really care about what the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust does.  I know lots of people reading this will be in different jobs in different industries, and I firmly believe that young people shouldn’t be excluded from those jobs because they come from a disadvantaged background.  If you agree with me, you can help.  Maybe you could be a mentor, or your organisation could offer workshadowing.  Why not have a look at their website?  If you think you could get involved, or you want to find out a bit more, you can have an informal chat with the Programmes Manager, Chelsea Way, call her on 020 8100 2800 or email her at chelsea@stephenlawrence.org.uk.  Tell her I sent you (I know her – she’s lovely).   Maybe it will lead to nothing, but maybe, just maybe, it will lead to something amazing.