There is a school of thought that says the real challenge of the London Marathon isn’t the race itself – it’s bagging an entry in the first place.
With a limited number of charity and ballot spaces available, thousands of runners are left disappointed each year – and nobody knows this better than Wiltshire woman Eleanor Amos.
The 40-year-old IT manager from the village of Purton has tried and failed to secure a slot in the world-famous race for the past 15 years. Her unlucky streak finally ended last year, when she grabbed a charity place with St John Ambulance for the 2020 event.
However, it wasn’t long before misfortune struck again.
In the middle of her training, the adventurous mum was hit by two serious, separate injuries – broken toes and then a broken ankle – that threatened to destroy her marathon dream. Unable to train, she was convinced that, once again, she’d miss out on the big event.
Then, much to her amazement, the marathon was postponed, giving Amos the time to recover and get back in shape for October 4.
After overcoming so many obstacles, it looks like nothing will stop this running enthusiast from completing the marathon. Amos talks to Runner’s World about her journey to becoming a runner, her injuries and her plans for this Sunday’s virtual London Marathon.
The journey to the London Marathon
Amos may not be an elite athlete, but she’s far from a beginner.
Having run regularly as a child and a teenager, she drifted away from the sport once she started her university studies. But over the last two decades, she has renewed her love of pounding the pavements and now uses it to escape from the stresses of modern life.
'Before my two children arrived, I used to run with music, but now I generally like the quiet headspace that running through the countryside gives me,' she says.
Now an avid runner – she has already run the Paris Marathon – Amos has long had her heart set on running the London Marathon
'It's the only sporting event that has me glued to the TV for hours,' she says. 'The emotions run high from the sofa, so I have always wanted to experience the emotions from within the running pack.'
Having tried and failed for 15 years to gain a place, Amos was delighted when she got an entry to this year’s event. But her path to London 2020 has not been easy.
Disaster followed by calamity
On New Year’s Eve, 2019, Amos broke two toes when she tripped over a wooden doorstop at a party. Her foot healed after a month-long break from running, and she decided to gently resume training. But just 20 minutes into a light jog on her village cricket pitch, disaster struck again.
'As it was a lovely evening, I took my eyes off the ground to enjoy the sun and view,' she says. 'What I failed to spot was the rabbit hole until I had my broken ankle falling into it.'
With the London Marathon scheduled for April, Amos knew she was unlikely to recover in time to take part. However, just as she began to resign herself to this fact, the marathon was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What was a major blow for other runners was a window of opportunity for Amos. The rescheduling gave her the crucial time she needed to rest, recover and retrain.
'Recovering from both injuries has required a lot of rehab and steady building up of stamina,' she says.
While this process has not been easy, Amos is grateful for the extra time the postponement has afforded her.
'The Covid lockdown has allowed me to stop and take the recovery at the correct speed.'
Eleanor’s virtual route
Like many of this year’s participants, Amos will be using the virtual marathon as a chance to explore her own neighbourhood. Rather than branching out into the wilderness, she and her running companion, Abby, will be sticking close to food and aid stations.
'We are starting in our village in Wiltshire and then doing a lap of the countryside and local town to ensure the correct number of comfort stops,' she says.
Their final ‘comfort stop’ will be a local pub, where friends and family will await to watch the two women cross an imaginary finish line. Once they have uploaded their results, they plan to have a medal ceremony and toast their achievement with a well-earned glass of champagne.
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