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What no-one tells you about the London Marathon...

It's 10am. You're in your pyjamas munching on cereal. You turn on the telly & thousands of people are running round London, including some idiot in a banana costume.

You look more closely and realise...wait, you know that person in the banana...isn't it...Ali Walsh?!!!

Yup, my secret's out: on Sunday I'll not only be running the London Marathon but I'll be doing it top to toe in yellow, desperately hoping it doesn't rain so much I become a soggy banana.

And I ask you, if there were ever a time someone deserved to be sponsored, surely it's when they're dressed as a piece of fruit?

That's right: I'm really keen to raise money for Coeliac UK. And I'm not quite at my target. But I will be with your backing!

Before the banana: how it all began

Back in October, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I applied to run the London marathon (aka run of my dreams!) via Coeliac UK. They only had 9 places so I wasn't sure I'd get one. I've heard so many stories from runners who are desperate to run the London marathon (still considered the best in the UK by many a runner) but just can't seem to get a place.

So with a deep breath I nervously phoned Coeliac UK to see if I'd got in...and I was THRILLED when they said yes. I went straight out and got new trainers (ahem, they don't look quite so new now I've been through multiple muddy runs), had my running gait assessed, saw a physio after an injury (which I was really worried about but thankfully got better quite quickly), and basically ran my backside off for the months that followed.

Ali Walsh's muddy trainers
The trainers have been put through their paces!

Wait... Injury? How did that happen?

My plan was to start at 5 miles and increase my run each week by 1 mile. That is, until the dreaded injury. What was really annoying about it was I'd gone on a treadmill instead of outside because I was worried about slipping in the ice (it was January). And instead of injuring myself on the ice, I managed to pull something in my upper thigh within seconds of starting out on the treadmill.

Saving grace

But! All was not lost. The next day was The Running Show in Birmingham where I got expert advice from none other than Iwan Thomas, who firmly said, "LISTEN TO YOUR BODY". And since I didn't dare disobey, I took things very gently, saw a physio, and swapped my runs for bike rides and then, when 3 weeks had gone by, the pain had totally disappeared.

Ali Walsh & children on bicycles
My children helped motivate me by cycling, too!

Then I went on a small run (as in, a couple of minutes) to see how that would fare. The next day, all was well, so I followed it a day later with a 3 mile run. That weekend, I was meant to be doing a half marathon in Cardiff but decided it would be a BIG MISTAKE to push things. So I did a 10 mile run instead (at a very gentle pace) and didn't feel guilty in the slightest about pulling out of the half.

The new plan

And from then on I alternated bike rides with stretches, yoga & pilates plus big runs. I finally hit the 18 mile jackpot two weeks ago, absolutely triumphant I had done such a big run without too many complications.

Fitbit running chart
My Fitbit recorded all the runs!

I mean, there was the usual muscle ache (sorry, legs!) and from mile 10 to mile 16 I was inching along at a pace mocked by snails. But then something weird happened and I had new life in my legs for the final two miles. My Fitbit seemed very pleased and kept buzzing with excitement.

Changing my diet

I decided there was no point putting in all the running training if I didn't help myself out in the kitchen. It'd been a while since I'd tracked what I was eating and I'd got to the stage where I wasn't fitting into my jeans. (Even my bigger size jeans.)

This seemed a bit wasteful (the jeans wanted to be worn!). I know people say just to go out an get bigger jeans, but honestly, running along with a big belly wasn't likely to help my knees (or my heart for that matter). So I implemented a plan as soon as the new year began: 1900 calories a day no matter what. Regardless of what I'd been doing, I wanted my body to know it could rely on me to be consistent. I didn't want my metabolism to slow down from doing a weird fasting diet or worse, start a diet so impossible that I'd give up after 3 weeks and go on a binge. So to lose a bit of fat around my middle I figured I probably needed to be in a deficit of about 200 calories a day, which would mean I'd gradually lose the tum without going hungry.

Mental challenge

With such a plan in place, I knew I'd have to have patience. It took 2 months before I saw any physical changes. Yes, TWO WHOLE MONTHS! And that meant felt like a very long time indeed.

But! As you can see, it was worth trusting myself, because in the following month I definitely saw (and felt the benefit from) a change. It's certainly easier to run when you haven't got a gut to contend with.

Why Coeliac UK?

This one's fairly obvious, but I know people think there are "better" charities out there. To those people I'd say this: Coeliac UK may not be mainstream but that doesn't mean it should be forgotten. There are so many people affected by coeliac disease who deserve a better time of things. You'll know from my previous blog posts how tough things were for me after I was diagnosed; I felt so alone. But Coeliac UK was there for me to make sure I knew about ways to make my life better. They're the reason I got some lovely gluten-free goodies in the post, kept up-to-date with my dietary needs and (crucially) helped increase awareness of what gluten-free really means for coeliacs.

And why the banana costume?

It's meant to be a bit of a joke. How many times have you seen the gluten-free meal on an aeroplane offered as just a banana? And everyone gets cross they only got a banana. Doesn't the banana deserve a better deal? A time to be celebrated? (Sort of.)

That, coupled with the fact that wearing a costume really gets the crowd going (I'm going to live for the moments when people encourage the banana!) means I'm determined to get as much attention for Coeliac UK as possible.

Nervous with excitement

So as Sunday draws ever nearer, I'm giddy with excitement, but also a bit anxious. And it'd really spur me on to know I've got your backing. So whether you're saying a prayer for me or you can help out with my sponsorship, I'd be hugely grateful.

And I know what you're wondering: what does that costume look like? Well, there's only one way to find out: tune in to the London Marathon to see if you can spot me on Sunday!

Big thanks!



Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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