"It was the best feeling ever!" - Clare's London Marathon challenge

Clare running under Tower Bridge with a purple Jo Cox Foundation tshirt.In April 2023, Clare Sanderson ran the London Marathon and has so far raised over £1500 in donations for the Jo Cox Foundation. A music and drama teacher at BBG Academy in Birkenshaw, a school in Jo Cox’s constituency of Batley and Spen, this is her story of training, fundraising, and how she stayed motivated.

Why did you decide to take on this challenge of running the London Marathon?

I never thought I would ever run a marathon. It was never on my bucket list and the furthest I had ever run before this was about 10 miles. My friend ran the virtual London Marathon last October and suggested that we both enter the ballot for this year’s race. I agreed, but only because I knew that being successful in the ballot is really rare. I know of people who have entered the ballot for 14 years and never got a place, so I thought I would be pretty safe! I was wrong… I got a place on my first time of entering and my friend didn’t! I was going to decline it, but realised that it was a real opportunity - a privilege almost - to get a chance to run. My friend who didn’t get a place has been my biggest supporter and was there shouting and cheering for me on the day.

What inspired you to fundraise for the Jo Cox Foundation?

I wanted to run for a charity that meant something to me; something that I had a connection to. I also wanted to run for a charity that didn’t already have hundreds of people already fundraising for them, and a charity that had a local connection.

Clare running along a London street with a purple Jo Cox Foundation tshirt.

My school is in Jo Cox’s constituency, and a lot of our students live in Birstall. I will always remember the afternoon when the receptionist came into my classroom and asked the Birstall students to stay in school and wait to be collected rather than walking home. Neither I nor the students had any idea why at the time, but of course we found out later when we saw the dreadful news. It really brought home the fact that hatred and division were on the doorstep for some of our children, and that I needed to do anything I could to show them the right way - to make sure that they were never in doubt that we had more similarities than differences - quite literally that we have more in common than that which divides us. We have taken part in the events run by the local More in Common group at Oakwell Hall as a school, and I have run the Run For Jo every year as part of a BBG Academy team. It just made sense that my marathon should just be an even bigger Run For Jo.

What was the most challenging part of marathon training?

I ran at 5.30am almost every day. One of the most challenging parts was training in the dark winter mornings. I trained in snow, ice, rain and temperatures of -6 or 7. I got sprayed by a gritter numerous times - that is really painful! Another challenge was finding places to train near where I live. The hills of the Colne Valley are not very friendly to little legs!

What were you most looking forward to on the day?

I couldn’t wait to get the job done. I didn’t set a goal time - I just wanted to finish it. Then as the training started going well I decided that my goal was to run every step without walking. I ran 21 miles in training, and people kept telling me that the crowd would carry me for the final five. I have to say, without the crowd, the last 2 miles would have been pretty horrendous! My legs didn’t feel like they were part of my body - I can only describe my running style as “shuffling”! I was determined that I was going to run across the line though, and it was the best feeling ever!

How did you find fundraising?

I was reluctant to start a fundraising page - I think I still had doubts that I would actually be able to finish. Then, after a really good 20-mile run I decided to bite the bullet. I set a low target as I am very aware that money is tight for a lot of people at the moment, but people have been amazing. I have reached over £1500 on JustGiving and separate donations. Our school are hoping to add to this further, as students take part in the mini-marathon in the coming weeks. 

What message would you give to other people thinking of taking on a challenge and fundraising?

This was the biggest challenge I will ever undertake, but fundraising for such a fantastic cause as the Jo Cox Foundation gave me a real goal and impetus to keep going. Training for a challenge is so much easier when you are doing it for someone else and not just as a personal challenge, and knowing that so many people had faith in me kept me going to the very end when my legs were giving up on me!

Inspired to challenge yourself and fundraise for the Jo Cox Foundation?

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