‘I’m never doing this again’: One SWL reporter relives her experience of the London Marathon


Almost two weeks on from the event, Rachael Knowles reflects on the big day.


By Anthony Lewis-Binns

SWL reporter Rachael Knowles ran this year’s London Marathon. Almost two weeks on from the event, she reflects on the experience of a lifetime.

Anthony: Why did you decide to run the marathon?

Rachael: Firstly, because I know a couple of people who have been affected by leukaemia, and I wanted to do something for them. Also, I wanted to alert people to Anthony Nolan, a blood cancer charity that tries to raise awareness of the fact that anyone can be on the stem cell register – which is so easy to do. You spit on a stick and send it in!

Also, I had put on two stone during uni and wanted to get rid of it – I felt pathetic not being able to walk up the stairs without getting out of breath. I wanted to feel fit and strong again.

A: How was the training process?

R: (Rachael looks momentarily terrified at the mere mention of training). The training process…. at first I was really focused, I had a schedule all sorted out, and I had a job, so I was doing it after work every day; running, increasing my distance and getting really into it. Then, I got really really really bad – like really painful – shin splints, and a stress fracture down my left leg, which meant I couldn’t run for four weeks, which hit my training hard. After those four weeks I started again, but around that time, I started my journalism diploma – which hit my training even harder, to the point where I didn’t train at all!

A: How’s that? I can’t imagine why something as unobtrusive and non-time consuming as a journalism course could possibly get in the way of general life…

R: REALLY? Well, the course itself is really intense. You have to learn shorthand in 20 weeks, and practice shorthand every night, and think about shorthand in every waking minute, which doesn’t leave room for going for a big run, or a small run. And at weekends, you’re absolutely wiped out by doing half a marathon or more, so you can’t even begin to function or think of anything else. And I thought ‘how the hell am I going to survive this marathon?’ I literally thought I was going to die!

A: Okay. So, tell me about the day of the marathon. So, in the morning…

R: I got up at half six, very excited to go to Blackheath [the starting line], and packed up my jelly babies and cereal for sustenance. I met with my friend Alex. Neither of us had ever run a marathon, so we were both feeling really nervous, and when we saw the massive crowds of people, my stomach flipped.

A: Yes – there were 36,000 people running this year….it must have been daunting?

R: Yep- really daunting…

A: More daunting than shorthand?

R: What could be more daunting than having to learn 100wpm by 20 weeks or not getting a job, ever? Although no, right at that point, it’s safe to say I wasn’t thinking about shorthand, although WHEN I was running, I did have outlines going through my head!

A: Which ones?

R: “I want to quit,” “Ouch,” “Jelly Babies,” Food,” “I really need the toilet.” That one happened quite a lot.

A: Did you do a Paula Radcliffe?

R: Not at the side of the road, no….

A: We’ll leave it there… How were you at the halfway point?

R: I was thinking, this is gonna be bad, but actually do-able. I thought, yes, we can actually do this. Little did I know what was coming. We hit a wall between 16 and 20 miles – a MASSIVE WALL – and the boredom started to kick in. We were thinking ‘when is this going to end?’ There was no crowd, and no one was there to cheer us on, so it got really depressing. But by mile 20, we were back in central, and it got mental again.

A: So the crowd really makes a difference to performance?

R: Yes, definitely. The crowd was absolutely amazing. Every time they cheered your speed would pick up. They see your name on your shirt and would shout, ‘KNOWLESY!’…it makes you feel they are there for you, and it’s such a boost, such a good feeling, and you feel like you have to do it for them as well as yourself.

A: And how was crossing the finish line?

R: My friend had suffered a knee injury at mile seven, so I was dragging him along most of the way, but by the time we got near the finish line, I thought I would go ahead and cross the line running…so I ran down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, and the crowds were huge and amazing. It felt like it was just me and no one else, just a massive crowd cheering me on.

A: And as you crossed the line?

R: It was just…I can’t even really remember much…it was just a massive wave of relief. I was happy it was over, but it was very emotional. I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’ve done this.’ As I went through, I thought: I want to go to the pub, then get a massage!

A: What outfits did you see?

R: I saw about 10 different rhinos with names like Harry and Walter, and it got depressing to see a massive rhino overtaking you…how do they do that? At one point, we saw a giant teddy bear coming down a route we had passed 8 miles back, and he looked so sad. I saw a man with a tiger on his back. I saw a two- man camel. Oh, and a Spongebob.

A: And your lasting impression of the experience?

R: During it, I was thinking ‘I’m never doing this again’, but I’ve already signed up to do a half- arathon this year, and I’m aiming to do the Paris marathon next year.

A: And finally, how much money did you raise for Anthony Nolan?

R: Around £650 so far…and people can still donate now!

To help Rachael reach her £1000 target and donate to Anthony Nolan, visit

Related Articles