10 Lessons from running the London Virgin Marathon

by Griselda K Togobo | Follow me on Twitter HERE


I completed the London Marathon last Sunday in one piece. Thank GOD. I can now understand why only 1% of the population have run a marathon. To be honest I had thoughts of quitting throughout the race.  It was far harder than I had expected it to be and quitting was on my mind from mile 10 right down to mile 23! That’s the honest truth. I had started training for the marathon but hit a bad patch towards the end.

It all started 3 weeks before the marathon when I had my last and final training run. It wasn’t intended to be my last run but I just got so busy with work and family (having too much fun :)) that I completely lost track of time.

So 13th of April dawned bright and beautiful and I found myself on the start line knowing fully well that this could potentially be one of the most stupid things I have ever done.  Would my legacy be the lady who died on the tracks because she pushed to finish a race she shouldn’t have started in the first place? A little melodramatic but your mind does play tricks when you are scared. I didn’t want to back out of the run yet again. I was supposed to run last year but couldn’t because my mother was taken ill and this year I couldn’t bear the thought of backing out yet again. To my mind that would have made me feel like a failure and I really didn’t like the emotions that thought brought up.

Also it wasn’t all about me, I was running to raise money for AMREF a great charity working hard to send doctors (and train midwives) to help pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Did you know that a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a lifetime risk of 1/39 of dying in pregnancy or childbirth? In fact 48% of women across the continent will have no midwife or medical professional present when they give birth, meaning any complication at all could prove fatal for the woman or her baby.

I can’t imagine going through the terrifying ordeal of childbirth without the assurance of trained medical people on hand to guide me through the process.

I needed to complete this race so I can ask you :) to donate to support this great cause. Please take a minute to donate at http://www.justgiving.com/gktogobo. Every little helps. Thank you!

Despite all these reasons, or maybe because of these reasons I felt like a fraud at the start line. I was excited but I was also really scared. We’ve all heard the stories of cardiac arrest and casualties in a marathon and I really didn’t want to be part of that statistics. My condolences to the family of the man who died after crossing the finish line. Yet here I was against logic about to embark on a 26.2-mile run when I wasn’t prepared for it.

I wanted to share some really inspirational moments during the run that got me through to the end. Of course there are gems in there that you can use in your business as well as life.

10 Lessons I Learnt From Running The London Marathon

1. Just start. I started even though I was scared and not as prepared as I wanted to be. Sometimes you will be very scared about doing something challenging but you just have to trust that some way, some how you’ll get through. Take advice and just go for it.

2. Its ok to start slow. I took advice from marathon runners who strongly advised that I ignore the other runners  and took no notice of whether they were running fast or not. In fact they told me to start slow and keep a steady comfortable pace, it’s the only way, to make it through the 26.2 mile race. My slow pace soon attracted Paul an elderly gentleman who matched my rhythm and pace and who was also looking for someone to run with. I run together with Paul till mile 3 when he decided he needed to walk so I carried on running as I still felt good. Paul got me through the start.

3. Its not a race.  I then met several other people who I would run with briefly and then they would out run me or decide to walk. I carried on at a comfortable pace until I reached mile 10 when I suddenly felt really tired. My breathing was fine but my legs just hadn’t gotten the training they needed to run this distance, so it was painful putting one leg in front of the other.  I really hated myself at this point for signing up for the race in the first place and then not training properly for it. It was not about finishing in a good time after this point. My ego had finally given up on trying to finish in 5hours. It was about simply finishing and I had to stay focused and injury free to do it. So I watched people run past without trying to catch up.

4. You are very very lucky. I needed a loo break at some point from all the water I had drank so I joined a queue  and that is where I had the most profound lesson of the marathon. Real life is more dramatic than made up stories, I tell you. I was joined in the queue by a group of ladies but I honestly was so tired that I didn’t spare them a thought other than to say Hi. One of them asked how I was getting on. I started telling her just how tired I felt and that my legs are screaming for me to stop. In fact I dramatically told her “my legs are completely gone”. The lady then replied with a laugh, pointing to her legs, “look at my legs, they are really gone, I don’t have a leg!!!!”. I looked down and there she was with only one leg and a thin prosthetic metal leg. I was speechless for a moment and then we all burst out laughing. This was a gift of a moment. It snapped me out of my self-pity and self loathing and made me realise that actually, I can complete this race. I have two legs when there are people running right next to me with just one leg! People really are managing on far less than you have no matter how disadvantaged you may feel. So I waved them good-bye and started running again. The lady was a huge inspiration to me. I was chanting, I was singing and I was dancing. I did anything to get my mind off the pain in my legs and just focus on the finish line.

5. Be Humble. I found the marathon very humbling. It was humbling to see costume dressed runners like the rhinos wiz past you even when you thought you were running your hardest! What can be more embarrassing than that? There were also runners of all ages, disabilities and fitness. Everybody was giving it a go and they were doing a damn better job at it than me.

6. It helps to have people cheering you on. At around the half way mark, 13miles I met with my AMREF friends and they encouraged me to keep running. They took this picture of me and my lovely and ever supportive husband Michael. Michael was the one who got me running! You can read all about it in Charity Works: This is why when I wrote about my first half marathon.


7. Help will turn up at just the right moment. It was lonely running on my own with my mind playing tricks on me so I was ecstatic when I run into my friend Michelle Poole. She was at the Super Growth Conference! Talk about coincidences.  What are the chances of bumping into her amongst 36000 other runners! Michelle was such a great sport through the last leg of the race. We run together and because she was intent on enjoying the marathon, I started to enjoy it again as well. Michelle was smiling, high fiving people, stopping for photos etc when all I could think about was ending the pain in my legs.  Well done Michelle! This is a picture of Michelle and I after we crossed the finish line together. Thank you Michelle. (Michelle is a great virtual assistant. If you need help getting on top of the admin in your life or business, then give her a call)

 Michelle Poole and Griselda Togogo8. Go for the BIG Hairy goal. You’ll surprise yourself and achieve something you never thought you would. Getting the medal at the end was so worth it. I’m so glad I made it to the end in one piece. I didn’t have any of the usual issues I had whilst training. No muscle pull, no blisters, no side stitches, nothing, considering how ill prepared I was. I don’t recommend that anybody run a marathon without proper training though.

9. Mind over matter. I came across this quote on marathonrookie.com that sums up the mental mastery that is needed with running a marathon.
“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” – George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian.

Considering how tired I was, it was pure mental resilience that got me to the finish line. The body gave up at mile 10! Don’t let your body run your life. The body will always be screaming stop well before you should call it quits.

10. Have fun. Last but not least you can choose to enjoy any situation that you find yourself in. Its just a matter of perspective. As I was thinking “GOSH 9 loooonnngg miles to go!” Michelle was smiling next to me and saying “ONLY 9 miles to go! Attitude is everything. She had so much more fun than I did because she was much more positive and prepared than I was. All in all is was great experience and very worth the pain.


I hope this article motivates you to really just go for your big goals. I never thought I would ever run a marathon. Never. I didn’t see myself as a runner but it also become one of the best habits I think I’m developing. I can now eat anything I like without beating myself up about putting on weight. I feel great and the endorphins have been keeping me very happy and productive. Next up is the St Albans 10k run on the 11th of May. Will you join me :)

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Thank you for the donations. Its going towards a really worthy cause that will save lives. Thank you.


AMREF Health Africa is Africa’s leading health charity, with over 55 years of experience bringing sustainable health change to communities across sub-Saharan Africa. By training and up-skilling health-care professionals, peer-to-peer education, and using e-learning techniques for training in rural areas – AMREF has a proven track record of using the most innovative and community specific solutions to problems in local health-care systems. Maternal and child health sits at the heart of everything they do and I am supporting a current campaign to Stand Up for African Mothers and train a further 15,000 midwives.

AMREF_Flying_doctorsAMREF Health Africa has built strong relationships over the last half-century with the communities it works in and with ministries of health in country. They work at a grass-roots level to develop best practice approaches to health improvement in some of the most marginalised communities in sub-Saharan Africa and feed this research back up to the Ministry of Health which in turn influences policy nationally. One of the advantages of their long-term, local presence as an African organisation also means they are able to secure many of their programmes as continued Health Ministry projects after the charity’s initial funding comes to an end. The work of Amref Health Africa ensures that communities have the knowledge, skills and means to maintain their good health and break the cycle of poor health and poverty.

Whilst Africa bears 24% of the world’s disease burden, only 3% of the global health workforce operates on the continent. In no area is this starker than the lack of skilled, trained midwives: in the whole of South-Sudan for example, there are as few as 12 midwives trained to international standards. In South Sudan, this means a woman has a lifetime risk of 1/7 of dying in childbirth or pregnancy – one of the worst statistics in the world. On average across sub-Saharan Africa a woman has a 1/39 life time risk which compared that to the risk faced by women in the UK, 1/4600, is a pretty grim reality that women face across the continent.

You can still donate to support their work here http://www.justgiving.com/gktogobo. Thank you!

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