London Marathon 2019: How Couch to 5K graduate Bethany Perry ran 42km

Bethany Perry before (left) and after (right) the 2019 London Marathon

If you watched the magnificent 42,549 runners who completed the London Marathon's 42km this year and thought that's beyond you, you may have cause to think again.

Among them were complete novice runners who have completed the same course as winners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei, and Mo Farah.

Bethany Perry started her Couch to 5K journey a year ago and was "a bit bewildered about being allocated a place in the London Marathon".

"Couch to 5K was a great way for me to get into running properly," Bethany recalls.

"I'm the sort of person who needs specific challenges to get me going and keep me motivated. Couch to 5K provided just the right challenge and could be achievable if I put the work in.

"I remember how difficult I found running three minutes non-stop for the first time, but the steady increase in intervals allowed me to notice my improvements. I was so chuffed when I could run for 20 minutes.

"Running for 30 minutes without stopping was the ultimate achievement and I completed my first 5K parkrun in 41:57.

"I felt amazing and it gave me more confidence, not just in running but generally overall."

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Taking it further

Bethany received notice about getting into the 2019 London Marathon and there was a new challenge on the horizon.

"At that time I wasn't sure I'd physically be able to manage the intense training and long mileage runs as I have a neurological movement condition, dystonia, which affects my voice, neck and body posture.

"Up until this point I'd been using a sensory trick with one of my hands touching and supporting my neck to help keep my head straighter while running.

"After seeking advice to ensure it wouldn't have an adverse effect on my body, I was ready to give it a go.

"I began training in November 2018 as I wanted some extra time to work up to the longer miles.

"It also gave me time to teach myself to run without needing to use the sensory trick, something I'm so proud of.

"I joined my local running club (Newport & District Running Club) - one of the best decisions I made.

"Everyone was so friendly and supportive, with people of all ages and different abilities, all happy to offer advice and tips to a running newbie like me!

"The peak mileage weeks were the hardest, both physically and mentally. I felt I was either running, eating, thinking about running or thinking about food pretty much every minute for weeks!

"In the week leading up to the marathon I was a big bundle of nerves. Every time I thought about it my stomach would lurch.

"I worried about everything. It was only when I heard the marathon mentioned on the radio the Thursday before it struck me - this was an amazing opportunity and I began to feel excited."

Race day

Bethany after five miles of the London Marathon (left), spotting a friend (centre) and at mile 20 (right)

"I tried my best to enjoy and take in the day. The start zones were filled with anticipation and we got to watch Andy Murray officially starting the race, giving me the first of many goosebumps of the day.

"Running over Tower Bridge was incredible; it's such an iconic London feature.

"I also loved the humour of the marshals and passing others in huge costumes such as a rhino, a telephone, and a man carrying an ironing board.

"The support the crowd gives was unbelievable; what other times in life would you get thousands of strangers shouting your name and really rooting for you?

"Making eye contact and smiling at these people - fleeting moments of connection - was so special.

"I wish I could bottle it up and use it when I need a boost.

"The last few miles were tough, my legs were tired and my toes were sore, but I ran and smiled from Buckingham Palace up to the finish line.

"It was all quite surreal in a way. I can't believe I've run a marathon! If I can do this then what else can I do that I didn't previously think I could?

"If anyone is considering running a marathon, even if you have never run before, just go for it."

Bethany's advice about trying the Couch to 5K app?

"Try to make the Couch to 5K training plan work for your schedule and do your best to complete the three runs a week (as it will really help your fitness steadily improve), but don't panic if you miss a run and don't squeeze it in.

"I was given advice of not running two days consecutively as this can be when injuries are more likely to occur."

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