My name is Andrea Chapa and I’m running the 2021 London Marathon for MS-UK. I hail from across the pond, but my story began in 2014 when I was studying abroad in Australia. Very early on during my summer term, I ended up at the hospital due to severe eye pain and partial blindness. I had an MRI done and some other tests when the doctors found spots in my brain. I still remember feeling alone and frozen in panic as I heard the doctor say ‘multiple sclerosis’ for the first time. The doctor said there wasn't enough evidence to fully diagnose but warned me that I could have more symptoms come up. But when? There was no way to know...
The following year sent me into a whirlwind of emotions and I was constantly living with the thought of MS creeping up around the corner. A year later it arrived. I had just graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles to start my career when I woke up with the room spinning. Vertigo paired with my history of optic neuritis gave me the diagnosis. I have multiple sclerosis.
I didn't know what that meant at first. Like many people I went online and saw and read things I wish I hadn't. Wheelchairs, canes, loss of motor function, mystery symptoms, shorter lifespan... I was scared and felt lost. It’s a feeling that I do not wish on anyone, but what got me out of it was the immense support from my family and loved ones. After that, I started reaching out to other people in my position and we shared advice, stories, sadness, and hope.
In 2018, I decided to do something that, to me, felt absolutely impossible. I wanted to run the six World Major Marathons before I turned 30. I was never an active person, even before MS, but I knew I needed to take control of my life. That year I ran New York Marathon and raised over $7,000 for the MS Society. I ran the Berlin Marathon in 2019 and was set to run the Chicago one in 2020 before the pandemic cancelled that.
This year, I’m taking on the London Marathon and I’ll have a partner to run with me! My girlfriend, Marette has been by my side since my diagnosis and has helped me immensely. I convinced her to take on London (our favourite city!) with me and we are both proud to be raising money for this amazing organisation. I truly believe that MS is not something one should have to face on their own and I feel honoured to represent an organization that is there to help out.
Phil Shanahan describes the incredible experience of the Virgin Money London Marathon
Running the Virgin London Marathon (VMLM) is not a chore, it’s not a contest and it’s not easy. It is literally walking in the footsteps of giants! For 40 years, men and women have done what you are going to do next October. Over 1 million people in total have completed the distance and have asked the same questions that you will ask yourself before the day. “Can I do it?” and “have I trained enough?” are among some of the questions that you will ask. The answer to the first is Yes!! The answer to the second is “Probably not!”.
Leading up to the big day, you will be very excited and will add “After the London Marathon, I will…” to every sentence. It becomes everything in your world for a few days. You will feel so special when you go to the Expo and get a VMLM running number and goody bag. You will meet the fantastic team from MS-UK there and feel part of the team.
The big day
On marathon day, you will arrive at the start – expect to feel nervous. It’s a mixture of excitement, fear, pride, adrenaline and a desire to get going. The sounds, the smells, the sights, the colour and the music will stay with you for life. You will meet with all the other MS-UK runners. The Anthem plays, the jets scream past and the tension rises. You will be focused, you will think of the hard training runs, the cold, the wet, and you will think about family and the reasons that have brought you to the start line of the greatest event in the world.
Once you start running, your body will take a little longer to adjust than usual but this is normal. Go with the pace of the people around you and enjoy the first six miles. At six miles you are passing the Cutty Sark. The crowds are massive and the TV cameras are panning out over your head. Smile and show your colours. Tower Bridge is next – it will never look better and it will never be a normal bridge again.
Canary Wharf is visible from a long way away but you are heading there. Again, the crowds are massive, the food smell is coming from every pub and restaurant and you are building in confidence. There is no stopping now. Twenty miles done, and it’s time to dig deep.
Heading back towards Tower Bridge again and you will see the people across the road still heading out east. Life is good and you are singing along with the numerous bands that play along the route. You pass underneath Waterloo Bridge and the road opens up. You have space for the first time so enjoy it and lift the crowd, it’s a long day waiting to see a hero, so make it worth their while.
The last mile. This is what it’s all about. You are going to make it. All doubts are gone, you will finish. Stay compact, run strong and keep smiling. Think of your fellow runners, help them with little words of encouragement. Just a simple “you’ve got this” can do so much for a struggling comrade.
Cross the finish line proud, get your medal and be ready to never be ordinary again. You are now a marathon runner and you will feel different, feel stronger, privileged and feel extremely proud.
“Pain is food” is my motto. You will not remember the pain a week later but the fantastic memories will live forever. Have fun, stay safe and listen to your body. You are running for yourself, for your family, for all those less fortunate and for MS-UK. You have come so far. You have created a moment in time that will outlive you. Life is short, smile and enjoy every minute of your marathon.
You’ve got this!!!
If you want to experience the Virgin Money London Marathon then apply to run for MS-UK here.
If you didn’t attend the Virgin Money London Marathon ‘Meet the Experts’ event, our Events Fundraiser Jenny Poulter reveals you what you missed
On Saturday, Lucy and I went down to the Meet the Experts event organised by the Virgin Money London Marathon events team.
The day was broken into two-time slots with sessions in the morning and afternoon covering training, nutrition, fundraising and more. There was then a chance to visit the charities that had attended, have a sports massage, have your gait measured by New Balance and buy some new running gear! To see more on what was covered, visit www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/event-info/meet-experts/.
It was also a great way to meet some of our #TeamPurple runners and catch up with you about your preparations for the big day.
Some of the points Lucy and I took from the talks were
The Virgin Money London Marathon is working really hard to become as sustainable as possible, and here are a few ways in which they are doing this.
We’re hoping to get hold of the slides that were shown on the day to share with you all too. If you haven’t yet seen this video do take a look www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGBANm2xlhs – you will be part of this amazing event sharing its amazing milestone! It really will be one of the greatest days of your life!
Don’t forget we are on the end of the phone, so if you need any support from us just call us on 01206 226500.
Virgin Money London Marathon runner Alison Rosenberg shares her journey
I started running later in life, my challenge just prior to my 40th birthday was to be able to run a 5km park run without stopping! I completed a ‘walk to run’ course with Chase Life UK then proceeded to regularly take part in park runs, 10KM races and eventually a half marathon.
Early on in 2019 a very close friend was hospitalised with what was a severe acute episode, an Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis followed. My friend received this diagnosis and to be honest, none of my friends fully understood what MS meant or how it affects the individual, family and friends.
So, after three years of running I had thought about maybe taking part in a marathon but had never really had the time or motivation to commit myself to the training. I attended the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2019 as a spectator and on that day, I decided that it was my time to apply! My friend has had to deal with so much and I wanted to show my love and support by raising money for MS-UK. I mean, what better motivation is there, than to run for one of my greatest friends in the iconic London Marathon!
As soon as I was offered a place to run London, I started my fundraising. Initially my head was just full of ideas! I could barely sleep with the mix of excitement and nerves all at the same time! I found it useful to sit and write all my ideas down and to talk to friends about which ideas were the most practical and realistic.
Firstly, I set up my Just Giving page followed by my London Marathon Facebook page. Facebook has been a valuable tool for me to advertise my fundraising events and update my followers with my achievements.
Fundraising has been a challenge, but enjoyable and rewarding at the same time! Here are some of the main ideas that have helped me reach my initial target
I sold every date of the year for £2 each, with a great 1st, 2nd and 3rd cash prize!
My friend has an online Body Shop products page, she supported me with making a marvellous hamper. It had around £75 worth of products and goodies, including Pizza vouchers kindly donated by Domino’s. I attended a couple of Autumn Fayres with the hamper followed by a Body Shop party hosted by a friend
I arranged three separate cake breaks at work. I was very busy making cakes, but my work, family and friends all supported me and baked cakes too! These cakes breaks to my colleagues raised £250
I emailed and telephoned many companies to do with dogs and dog walking! I was totally blown away with the generosity of both small and large companies who donated over £500 worth of products to me. I have two Labradors myself, which only added to the excitement of the wonderful prizes on offer and I was able to share this with all my fellow dog walking friends!
A local sweet shop kindly donated a sweet bouquet worth £22. The owner of the shop counted the sweets and wrote the answer in a card for me so that nobody else knew the answer!
I have emailed and telephoned several companies over the last few months, asking if they would consider donating to my London Marathon fundraiser for MS-UK. Many companies have emailed back to explain that they are unable to support me due to other charitable works, however others have supported me with wonderful donations. I have been so grateful for each one of my donations, however big or small, each one has helped me push forward with my target.
At just £106 away from my £2,000 target I received a message from a local accounting company to inform me that they would like to donate the remaining money to get me to my target. I was overwhelmed and very happy to meet with one of the Directors to collect the cheque.
Since reaching target I have continued with my fundraising ideas and have received further items from larger brand companies. I am busy planning my final event which will take place in March, a craft and products sale at our local social club. I have organised for people to come and buy a table to be able to sell their products, while I will be running a Tombola and “Name the teddy” stall.
I am the type of person that likes to feel that I can be of some help, to try to make a difference. Through my running and raising money for MS-UK I feel that I can make a difference for my friend - along with many more individuals and families.
To date, I am at the 15-mile mark with my training, this is a huge personal achievement, but I know I still have a long way to go! My running friends have all signed up to the Virgin Money London Marathon as well. All 10 of us are training together and raising money for charity. My friend Rachel is running alongside me for MS-UK and is keeping very busy with her own fundraisers! We are all excited and nervous for race day, but between us we know we will make it and in the process, raise as much money for charity as possible!
If you would like to support Alison and follow her on her journey to the Virgin Money London Marathon, you can donate to her Justgiving page below
John Mills tells us about his marathon motivation and how training helps him manage his MS
Here’s a quick introduction for those of you that don’t know me. My name’s John Mills and I’m going to be running the London Marathon for MS-UK this year.
I was delighted to be asked to blog on the run-up to the big race by the team at MS-UK. It’s a cause that’s very personal to me. The year 2017 was one of big changes. My wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter, I turned 30, and I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
In this blog, and further forthcoming ones, I will write about my journey and progress from the perspective of a runner, how my training is progressing and how my MS is in relation to this.
I tried my hardest for over a year to ignore my diagnosis. I didn’t want MS to define who I was but, with the help of MS-UK, I have now realised that I can help define the condition instead, by raising awareness and promoting the fantastic work that MS-UK do.
Having already started fundraising, raising over £2,000 in a month, and meeting 20 or so #TeamPurple runners at a recent event means that there is now no turning back for me!
I am using the Nike Running Club (NRC) app for no other reason really than I have had it since 2013 and I know what to expect when using its training plans.
Royal Parks run
To get me off to the best start possible, I signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I am so pleased that I did. More than anything, I learnt what to expect come the 26 April 2020.
Here is what I took away from the day.
1. As silly as it sounds, 16,000 people is a lot to get across the start (and finish) line and that number will be doubled come April, which feels a little overwhelming.
2. Headphones are not needed. You won’t need headphones come race day (for training they are a must, for me anyway) as there is so much more going on to keep you occupied other than a playlist; the sights of London, steel bands, marching bands and the incredible support. It’s amazing that someone who you have never met before shouting your name can put a smile on your face after just having ran 13 miles!
3. Try to at least roughly plan where your supporters will be beforehand as you will undoubtedly miss them, as I did, if you don’t know where they are. My first recommendation to anybody running the marathon for the first time is to try and get some race day experience so you know what to expect.
My wife Sasha and I ran the Colchester half marathon for the MS Society back in 2016 because someone Sasha knows had been diagnosed with MS earlier that year. We raised £1,800 and, ironically, I had no idea that just a year later I’d be diagnosed myself.
I’ve always enjoyed running, but even more so now, as for me it is a form of meditation. All I need to think about is putting one foot in front of the other – nothing else matters. You are only competing against yourself. I wanted to act now with regards to running a marathon because with MS you just don’t know if or when it will have a greater impact on your everyday life.
Running and, more specifically, training for the Royal Parks half marathon and now the London marathon is part of my daily routine. It may sound odd, but if I wasn’t running, fatigue would get the better of me and I would spend the rest of the day in bed.
Today is a perfect example of that. I find maintaining a routine is key and exercise forms a strong part of that. I’m told that there is science behind that, but I am by no means an expert. All I know is that it helps me.
Training for the marathon is a great incentive for me to get out and maintain a certain level of fitness. After a run I get a sense of accomplishment and feel like I am beating MS one day at a time.
Currently I am not on any disease-modifying therapy for my MS, but I am due to start Ocrevus which works perfectly around training as it’s a six-monthly infusion. I take it as a sign that I am supposed to be running this marathon.
To sponsor John, visit his JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-mills-msmyselfandi
As soon as I found out I had a place on #TeamPurple in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020, I started telling everyone, and I mean everyone!
Setting up a JustGiving page makes sharing your fundraising story so easy. As soon as I had mine set up, I shared the link with friends, family, work colleagues, clients and suppliers at work, even the WhatsApp group that all the neighbours in my building are part of.
Spreading the excitement
Being passionate and truly caring about the cause you are running for is infectious. People feel it and get behind you because of it. Don’t worry about boring people, or get wrapped up in what they think about what you’re doing, as that’s not a productive use of your time and energy.
As well as donations from friends and family, I sold teams on a football scratch card. If you search ‘football scratch card’ on Amazon you can buy a pack of 10 for £3. I sold each team for £10, with £200 to go to the winner and £200 for MS-UK. I timed it to be drawn just before Christmas which I think helped get the squares sold. I’ll definitely be doing another card pre-race day.
I have also been in touch with my local community manager at Tesco to organise bag packing. I’ll be pushing for Easter weekend so that the shop will be a bit busier, and it’s not long before the race itself! I have linked up with a couple of other runners near me so that we can take this on together and have more of a presence in-store.
Running for my mum
My mum had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Her left leg was worst affected, making walking a daily struggle.
She would often fall in public and be left humiliated and, of course, in pain.
In September 2013, she was admitted to hospital for an unrelated skin infection. On discharge she was largely bed bound as her MS became increasingly aggressive, spurred on by a weakened immune system. A combination of all of the above led to her suffering a pulmonary embolism and passing away on 26/09/13. I don’t need to tell anyone how hard losing a parent is. I am completely and utterly lost without my mum and, even six years on, it’s as rubbish as it was then!
I was too young, selfish and naïve to take control of the situation for mum. I want to run the London 2020 Marathon in memory of her and to raise funds for MS UK to be able to help others with MS because of this. MS is misunderstood, it affects everyone differently and is completely unpredictable. I want to play my part in changing this.
My top tips
If you’re training for a big run, get started on your fundraising as soon as you can so you can smash it out of the park early and focus on training
Talk to everyone about it. It will connect you with people in a way you would never have imagined.
Use social media. I’m documenting my training on Instagram (@healthylivinglisa_). It’s an amazing tool to get chatting to other runners and widen your network even further.
Get yourself into the Facebook group and connect with other MS-UK runners. There are also a few London Marathon Facebook groups with thousands of people to chat to and get tips from.
Not everyone has this opportunity, certainly not those that are badly affected with MS, so it’s important to recognise how much of a privilege we all have to be part of #TeamPurple and what an honour it is to spread awareness and take this challenge on.
Sarah Creed shares some of her fundraising experiences from the last few months and a few tips in the lead up to Christmas
Guess the time!
I was lucky enough to get a place in the New York Marathon and I decided to run a ‘guess my time’ competition, which required people to make a £2 donation and their guess. The prize was a £50 John Lewis voucher and the person who guessed the closest to my finishing time won the voucher. We managed to raise more than £260 and a lot of people donated more than the £2 minimum. It created more of a buzz and I had lots of people tracking me on the way. If you are doing any races before London marathon you could do the same thing. I've had another £50 restaurant voucher donated too so I will do the same for my Virgin Money London Marathon time.
We also ran a charity pub quiz. The pub gave us their function room for free and my husband wrote the quiz for me. We charged £2 per person and had a raffle on the night. I sent off hundreds of emails to companies using the MS-UK letter and my own one I wrote using the London marathon letter template and had reasonable success. The most generous companies are the local ones so definitely get out there and ask and give them good press in return. It was a really fun night and we raised over £300 too.
Name the bear
Currently, we are running a name the Teddy bear contest in time for Christmas. I have a beautiful hand made Bear that I am giving people the chance to name. For £1 they can pick a name from the list of 50, for £2 they can pick add a name of their choosing to be added to the draw. The latter has had a fantastic response with people trying to outdo each other on who can come up with the funniest name.
Lastly, we are organising a charity ball for March with a sit-down meal, DJ and raffle. I have found the best way to get donations is to really get a buzz about what you are doing and promote constantly with deadlines as people always think 'I'll do that later'. I try to make everything I write engaging, humorous and relevant so those donating feel involved in the process and share in celebrating the successes.
A final tip
I have also found that having a slightly lower minimum donation has increased the amount of interest I get and often people donate more than I am asking anyway.
I hope these ideas help with everyone's fundraising and you all have a lovely Christmas!
If you would like to donate to Sarah’s Just Giving page, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sarah-Creed4.
After logging thousands of miles over the past decade, I’ve consulted my running journals, reflected on my best and worst races, and compiled the information I wish had been available to me before running my first 26.2.
If you’re a little (or a lot!) apprehensive about running your first marathon, the following information is sure to help you feel prepared and more confident.
You can read my full blog ‘The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Running your First Marathon’ on the hobby help website today.
Marathon packing checklist
In 2013 my lovely mother got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). When we got the news of course we were devastated, not knowing much about the condition apart from the fact it was “incurable “ through medication and put her in a lot of pain, we just all did what we could to support her but for years I have felt helpless. She decided not to tell anyone but her close friends and family of the condition she was living with...why you ask?
My mum is one of the most strong, independent, driven and successful women you will ever come across. In 1999 she was awarded the Ernst & Young trophy winning Young Entrepreneur of the Year. From 1992 - 2012 she owned a very successful business expanding world wide in over twenty countries and for years she was on the panel of the DSA and was well respected in the industry she was in. Sadly, I believe because of all of this she put pressure on herself to portray this strong business women, I think she thought people would take pity on her or think she couldn’t get the job done if she came clean that she had MS. So instead she suffered in silence, for a few years she was CEO of a large network marketing business which was an extremely high pressured job and to get her through the pain day to day she would take morphine based pills which again is something none of her colleagues knew about.
In 2017 my mother found herself heading up Europe for one of the largest essential oils company in the world doTERRA, here again she would be working 70 hour weeks, another high pressured role but this time she would be taking over 100 flights a year around Europe. Anyone that has MS will know that one of the biggest struggles is tiredness, so it won’t come as a shock to you when I tell you that she was exhausted. But this time something was different, as she was now part of this essential oil business she discovered natural medicine and in time found the perfect essential oils to support her immune system and pain relief and now to this day is morphine free.
In June 2018, even though my mum was at her healthiest, her strongest, pain free and our “happy mum”, I still felt I needed to do something to help her and others with MS and also families that have lost loved ones through MS. I took the plunge and decided to apply to run the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 to raise money for MS-UK. They help people and families through some of the darkest times. This journey has been incredible - I have not just been able to raise over £2,000 but I have also learnt so much about myself too, I feel so proud to be a part of it all and to have run for such a good cause with an amazing charity.
Last month my mum told me that I had given her the strength to tell the world what she had been hiding for years, she told her colleagues and thousands of people who work alongside her, friends she had not seen for years that she has had MS for over 6 years. People where stunned, some sad, some happy because her story had also helped them, but most of all no one took pity on her!
So my 'WHY' is my mum, I ran for her, for the strength she has shown, for never giving up, for still pursuing her career even though at times it was nearly impossible to get out of bed let alone run a business, for now helping so many other people with MS find a natural solution that works with them, for having the strength to tell everyone that she will fight and lastly for being the best mum I could wish for!
Applications are now open for MS-UK #TeamPurple places in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2020!
We can't quite believe it but we have just seen another Virgin Money London Marathon take place and it was amazing to see so many #TeamPurple runners taking on the challenge in aid of MS-UK! Thank you to every single person who made the day so special.
Now we're looking to next year and the date has been announced - 26 April 2020! The ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon is now open, so visit the website to register today! It will close this Friday at 5pm, 03 May.
Good luck everyone!