In these days of instant gratification, there’s something immensely satisfying about setting yourself a physical challenge and gradually working towards it. Ask me what I am looking forward to most about London Marathon race day and there are so many things – the crowds, the atmosphere, the famous sights, the ultimate satisfaction of raising money for The Haven. Most of all, I’m looking forward to crossing that finish line and being able to say I ran the London marathon. I am not what you’d call a natural athlete so I am hoping to prove that if I can do it, then anyone can.

Whether you’re standing on the city streets or watching from the comfort of your living room, you can’t watch the London Marathon and fail to be inspired. If this year’s race compels you to sign up for a charity place next year, firstly – you go for it! You won’t regret it and secondly, here are ten top tips to help you on your way.

1.  Make a public commitment

Having a big goal – especially an iconic race such as London – is a big motivator. But, making a public commitment to raise £2,500 for The Haven has made me more motivated than ever. I’ve just clocked up over 400 miles (since starting the training on 1 January) and running for The Haven has given every step meaning.

2.  Enjoy life’s little details as you train

Vary your route and take in what you see and running can be a real adventure. Through my work, I have been lucky enough to train in 14 different cities and eight countries! This included some fantastic (if freezing) places, such as Moscow and St Petersburg where I was the object of some fascination (if the good people of St Petersburg do run, then they don’t appear to do it in their city centre).

My most memorable run was in Moscow along the river and crossing over the bridge where Boris Nemtsov had met his untimely fate just one day before. It was very moving to stand in the exact spot where it happened within 100 metres of the Kremlin.

Running has helped me appreciate the changing of the seasons and welcome the first signs of Spring. Lambs have now appeared in the fields around my home and last weekend I saw one, which must have been born only a minute or two before as it was doing its very best to stand up on extremely wobbly legs. I am certainly enjoying the fact the days are getting longer. It makes it so much easier to get out of bed.

3.  Build your support network

Training and fundraising for a marathon takes a huge chunk of time out of your life. That’s why it is so important to surround yourself with people who understand just how much it all means to you. I am incredibly lucky that my nearest and dearest are so supportive. I really do have the best family and friends. Not a new revelation, but it’s certainly something that’s been reinforced during this period.

4.  Make time for treats

If you don’t like the thought of running in the rain, then try having a warm bath waiting for you and I promise you’ll be wishing for wet weather. The pleasure of a really good bubble bath simply cannot be over-stated. Cheese, bread, chocolate and wine also taste better than ever after a good run. You’re burning the calories, so you can eat pretty much whatever you like.

5.  Celebrate those small victories

The marathon journey is long, so it’s vital you make the most of every milestone along the way. I love the fact I can now run up hills I previously had to walk up and can run 20 miles without stopping. It is great to see your fitness gradually increasing week on week. So while the Kenyans and Ethiopians and Paula Radcliffe won’t have cause for any sleepless nights, I’m probably fitter now than I’ve ever been in my life.

6.  Plan your fundraising

While I have emailed everyone in my contact list and encouraged people to donate on Facebook, in order to raise £2,500 you need a plan and you need people to believe in that plan.

I am already heading for £3,000 and have been humbled and astonished at the support and donations, both large and small, some of which have come from the unlikeliest of people. I do need to give a big shout out of thanks to my lovely mum for the quiz and three coffee mornings she organised (and her general all round willingness to help) and also to my employer, Sedbergh School, and the staff, pupils and parents for their amazing support of the Great Pink Charity Weekend. This was my main fundraising event and included a Saturday evening social for the whole school and a fun run the following afternoon, which was attended by almost the entire school and many staff.

I wanted to come up with an event that was inclusive, fun, had never been done before, and that would raise awareness of the fantastic work done by The Haven and about breast cancer generally (most of our boys had no idea that the disease can also affect males).

There is an iconic hill that overlooks Sedbergh and so I decided on a pink fun run/walk, with a Wear Pink dress code and strong encouragement to wear ‘the more pink, the better’. After obtaining the headmaster’s endorsement, I enlisted support from our prefects and a few other key people and then had to plan the logistics including the route, health and safety, catering, publicity and communication etc.

Once the event was publicised, I did feel quite nervous in case nobody came. I need not have worried, however, because almost the whole school joined in. With everyone dressed up, and various awards given out on the day – including the ‘Best Dressed Dog’, and the hotly contested ‘Least Tastefully Dressed’ – the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic! The glorious spring sunshine on the day was the icing on the (pink) cake and I could not have asked for more.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help

A good plan needs good people behind it. You’ll never look back if you seek support from others who might be able to help you, be prepared to delegate jobs for the bigger events, think through all the logistics carefully and are not afraid to ask directly for help. The fundraising has probably been almost as much work as the training. I am never going to enjoy asking people for money, but you have to be fairly persistent – everyone is busy and sometimes people need to be prodded a few times. I don’t think any my friends or acquaintances are crossing the street to avoid me… yet!

8.  Train your way

While there is lots of generic and useful advice out there when it comes to training for a marathon (I did my last 20-mile run over the Easter weekend and am now in my three-week taper period), you also need to find out what works for you – and stick to it.

I really love running alone, for example, but I also enter races because I enjoy the event atmosphere (running with others always makes me go that little bit faster). I do schedule rest days, but I try to do something every day and run 5-6 days a week (first thing in the morning before work). Something I’ve never yet had to resort to myself but which a couple of friends swear by is sleeping in your running gear then just rolling out of bed and hitting the road!

I’ve been putting my efforts in to building up stamina and getting miles ‘in the bank’ without getting injured, which is quite a delicate balance. Remembering to stretch is boring but necessary, so I joined a Pilates class, which is definitely helping ease those tight hamstrings and calves. I’m also planning in a massage or two before the big day.

You burn a lot of calories in training so make sure you eat really well. My colleagues can’t believe the amount of bananas and bagels I go through and not since breast-feeding my twin boys 25 years ago has my appetite been so voracious.

For a marathon, you also need to work out how you’re going to fuel during the race. I never feel like eating during a run, but for 26.2 miles, to avoid hitting the wall you have no choice. Trial and error has taught me that I don’t like energy gels and I learned the hard way that raw almonds don’t sit well with me. A good supply of wine gums, however, will be absolutely essential on 26 April!

9.  Run your own race

My race day strategy is simple. I am planning to enjoy the day, take in all the sights and absorb the atmosphere. Being overtaken by someone dressed as a banana or a fridge won’t phase me and is all part of the London experience! So while I will push myself, it’s also OK to be quite slow. My race, my pace. They say that a marathon consists of two halves: the first 20 miles and the last 6! So I will be keeping a keen eye out for The Haven support team just after Mile 18 and I am trusting the advice of those more experienced than me which is that the support from the crowd will carry me through after that.

10.  Enjoy

When you’ve done all the training and preparation, there’s only one thing left to do…

Run for The Haven

We’ll be catching up with Jackie after the marathon to find out how more about race day and what it really feels like to be a marathon runner.

If you’d like to help Jackie raise ever more money and support others dealing with the side effects of breast cancer treatment, here is her fundraising page. Or join us at our cheer point at mile 18 on marathon day (26th April). Contact the fundraising team for more information.

If you’re interested in taking part in a run (or any other challenge event) for The Haven here is how you can do it.