It’s the London Marathon next month - and we’ve spoken to two first-timers

Freya Savidge-Conway (left) and Rachel Lowe will both be taking part in the London Marathon for the first time.
Freya Savidge-Conway (left) and Rachel Lowe will both be taking part in the London Marathon for the first time.
(Left to right) Sue James, Owen Plunkett and Elizabeth Longland from the Portsmouth Oxfam Group

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It’s the London Marathon next month – and thousands of people are training hard for it. Here we speak to two first-timers to find out how they are doing:

Rachel Lowe hasn’t run a marathon before (and she wasn’t planning to run one this year).

However, after receiving a call from the mental health charity, Mind last year, she immediately dug out her trainers and strapped on a wrist band.

We’ve spoken with Destination board game inventor Rachel to find out why taking part in London’s 26.6 mile race will be one of her most important challenges to date.

When Mind contacted Rachel to ask if she’d consider running with Heads Together, she did not hesitate.

‘When I lost my first company I had a complete breakdown. It was very public and a very dark time for me. I hid away and let my thoughts get the better of me, which was a dangerous place to live as I suffered with both the mental and physical side effects of depression.’

Heads Together is 2017’s London Marathon’s Charity Of The Year. The campaign, headed by Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry plans to raise funds and awareness whilst removing the stigma still placed on mental health.

Rachel went on to experience enormous success with her popular board game series Destination but this is a different kind of challenge for the entrepreneur. When asked how she is finding the training, Rachel advised ‘When it’s pouring down with rain I drag myself out of bed at 6am on a Sunday, but it’s worth it.

‘I’ve now managed 18 miles!’

When asked what advice she’d give anybody thinking of running a marathon, Rachel says: ‘Join a running club – It’s so much more fun.

‘I’ve made so many friends through Baffins Fit Club and now I never run alone. We even plan one social activity each week. We’re like one big family.’

As well as joining the local run club, Rachel has also enlisted a personal trainer to help her prepare for the big day.

‘Antony Pink is my trainer and he’s amazing. He provides me with a plan and routine to make sure that I stay on track.’

When asked about any major lifestyle changes Rachel has experienced since beginning her training she says: ‘Well, I’ve replaced my high heels with trainers and the Jane Austen classics on my bedside table have been replaced with running books.’

The London Marathon is one of the biggest fundraising events in history and a great platform for Rachel to raise awareness and shout that it’s OK to talk about mental health.

With a goal to raise £2,000 the entrepreneur is calling for Portsmouth to get involved and support the worthy cause. ‘I will be so grateful for any donations. Mind makes such a huge difference. They’re a much-needed lifeline for people who feel they have nowhere to turn and they’re always there to listen. I hope that together we can help remove the stigma attached to mental health and get people talking.’

If you would like to make a donation to Rachel’s campaign you can do so via her Virgin Money Giving page – uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rachellowe77

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Determined mum Freya Savidge-Conway has strapped on her trainers and is taking on a marathon to raise cash for a good cause.

Freya, from Havant, is training for the London Marathon in April.

She is hoping to raise £2,000 for autism charity Ambitious About Autism.

The social worker, who has three children aged 13, 10 and nine, was inspired to take on the challenge as two of her children are autistic.

Freya, 35, says: ‘I chose the charity Ambitious About Autism because I have autistic children and it’s a charity that is very close to my heart.

‘I know the everyday struggles children and parents can endure - everything from behaviour and safety to bullying and abuse every time one of my children leaves the house.

‘I thought that once I got a diagnosis a world of support would open up. Instead we got discharged and left.

‘I have tried to access support from so many resources but there is very little out then. Charities like Ambitious About Autism are really the only places you can turn to.

‘I have seen my children face bullying, discrimination, difficulties adjusting to the education system, extreme anxiety and depression over lack of friends or friendship difficulties.

‘It is also hard on them when there’s the inability to hire childcare for an older child who is not safe to be left home alone and exclusion from clubs where staff are not experienced enough to manage the difficulties.’

Freya ran for the British Heart Foundation’s Marathon in a Month in September last year and although she was not able to complete the planned 26.2 miles, she certainly got the running bug.

‘When I signed up for the Marathon in a Month challenge, I could only run a mile at a time so had to run practically every day to complete this in a month,’ she adds.

‘As someone who is unfit and overweight I really enjoyed seeing my fitness improve and the pounds shed so I set a new challenge.’

In October she ran 30 miles in a month for the mental health charity Med3 Music.

She says: ‘At this point my husband entered me to be notified of any charity places available for the London Marathon.

‘After my initial shock, I decided the challenge was exactly what I needed to keep my fitness and weight loss goals on track so I applied.’

Freya said she picked Ambitious About Autism, as it provides support, awareness and understanding about the mental condition.

‘If I can help other families while doing this lifetime challenge then that will make exhilaration of this challenge all the more rewarding,’ she adds.

‘The charity sector are currently under so much pressure and demand to keep up with ever increasing numbers of people turning to them in the absence of funded support.

‘They need all the help we can give to keep these lifelines open.’

Freya has set up a running blog Fat 2 Fit to keep people up to date with her marathon training. She has lost one-and-a-half stone, plus reduced her blood pressure, in five months.

She says: ‘My training is going very well and I run every weekend.

‘I have now built up to running half marathon distances and a few days ago I did my first 16-mile run.

‘My legs hurt and my back is sore from rubbing clothes but I am still enjoying every second of my running.’

Freya is hoping to raise £2,000 for Ambitious About Autism.

So far, she has raised nearly £700. She adds: ‘I want to say thank you to everyone who has donated for their kind messages and support.

‘I really appreciate it and how touched I have been by their messages.

‘I am getting close to halfway to my fundraising target now and feel so humbled by such support.’

Freya is also trying to arrange a social media-based raffle in aid of the cause. But she is struggling to get online-based companies to offer prizes.

To donate or to offer a prize go to virginmoneygiving.com/FreyaSavidgeConway or justgiving.com/FreyaSavidgeConway.

Donations can be taken by texting SAVI 81 for £5 or more if chosen to 70070.

To keep up-to-date with her running, visit her blog at fat2fit2017.wordpress.com.