Graphic advertising the Virgin London Marathon. The VLM logo sits in the centre of the image with a red background and yellow, blue, pink and green coloured stripes in the left top corner. White text along the bottom reads: Virgin Money London Marathon 3 October 2021

Meet our Virgin London Marathon Runners! First up – Abi Hall

In a matter of weeks, 25 of the most awesome people on the planet will be running the London Marathon for LOOK! We caught up with QTVI Abi Hall, to find out how training is going.

Wow, wow, WOW! We are just a few weeks away from our favourite running event of all time!

On Sunday the 3rd of October, 25 runners will hit the city’s streets to raise money for our charity.

Every year, we are blown away by our runners’ commitment and dedication to this almighty personal challenge. And on top of their relentless training schedule,  our runners are also doing their very best to raise money for LOOK, so that we can continue to support visually impaired children, young people and their families to THRIVE!

Meet Abi

Blue banner with a circular photo of Abi (blonde hair in a low pony tail and silver nose ring). Yellow text in speech marks reads: I'm Abi, and I'm running the London Marathon for LOOK!' Yellow illustration of runners foot and trainer in bottom right corner.
Abi Hall

Abi Hall is a QTVI (Qualified Teacher of Vision Impairment). She works with children and young people with vision impairment aged 0-25, and their families and schools (or nurseries, playgroups, college). We caught up with Abi to find out how training is going and what she’s most looking forward to on the 3rd of October…

Why did you decide to run the London Marathon?

I’d recently run a half marathon and loved the experience so thought I’d set myself a bigger challenge. Running such an iconic marathon is a once in a lifetime experience too, especially taking it on in the year I turned 40 and after all the madness of Covid restrictions and lockdowns. I can’t quite imagine being in London let alone to run the marathon after 18 months of barely going anywhere or doing anything!

Why run for LOOK?

LOOK UK provides amazing services and support for young people with VI and their families. I always recommend that my secondary pupils sign up for a Peer Mentor and signpost families to the variety of support groups that LOOK UK run. For parents of my braillists I suggest the LOOK UK braille support group as I just don’t have the ability to offer this locally.

What is your connection with LOOK?

LOOK UK provides services, such as their Peer Mentors, family braille group and family support groups, that really help my pupils and families. VI is a low incidence disability and as such can be very isolating for both pupils and families. LOOK UK provides opportunities to build a wider community with others with similar lived, shared experiences, reducing that sense of isolation.

Have you ever done anything like this before? Why now?

I have attempted to run for a few years, but never really got above a slow 5km plod. During lockdown a friend signed up for a marathon so when we were allowed to exercise with 1 other person outside I started going out with her, building up our distances until we tackled a 10 mile run on my 40th birthday weekend. Surely running an additional 16 miles can’t be that hard….

Tell us about your training so far and what you have planned?

I have been building up week by week, doing 3 short to medium runs a week that total my long run at the weekend. I tried to include some tempo runs and interval training. One suggestion for interval training is to sprint up a hill then jog down it and repeat this 6-8 times. I live near York which is REALLY flat, so struggled to find a hill however the slight incline I did use was enough, it was exhausting and I’m not sure anyone watching would have classed what I did as ‘sprinting’! Last week I completed my longest run yet, achieving 20 miles non-stop, phew! I’m now tapering down to stay injury free. As well as running I’m doing lots of walks and some additional cardio (Joe Wicks at home) and stretching (yoga videos from YouTube).

What has been the most difficult part of your training so far?

No question, without doubt it’s been fitting training in around real life: 2 young children with lots of extra-curricular activities then they were on summer holidays for 6 weeks; a humungous dog that needs lots of play, walks and grooming (his name is Bear and he’s about as big as a Bear!); keeping up with training while on holiday (eating and drinking too much!). Throw in to the mix a husband applying for a new job and trying to buy the house of our dreams, meaning we had a week to try to get ours on the market – all of this was absolutely shattering. Squeezing in runs around painting, trips to the tip and mega-cleaning and tidying sessions was tough! Oh and I work fill-time, so I have to run before or after work and when that’s potentially a 7 mile run that’s going to take an hour and a half, it’s hard not to put it off and enjoy a glass of wine instead!

What have you enjoyed the most?

I have loved the long runs, which really surprised me. Running with a friend has given us time to natter as we jog around our route but most importantly she has really motivated me to keep going, keep my pace up, telling me I can do it. That has really helped not only my physical strength but my mental strength too.

We’ve run through the seasons, which has been beautiful and made me appreciate where I live. We’ve been out in the freezing cold of winter, running in the snow, hail, wind and rain, then bright red and sweating buckets in the baking heat of summer. We’ve witnessed the bare trees coming in to leaf, spring bulbs sprouting, blossom trees blooming, meadows of wildflowers, crops being harvested and now blackberries, rosehips and apples appearing in the hedgerows. One morning a hare ran straight towards me then quickly did an about turn and scarpered off. I’ve had quiet moments with deer, who then leap off across the fields. Buzzards circling above me in clear, blue skies. A fox darting through a field of stubble and bales of hay. It’s often felt like running through a Mark Hearld painting.

What are you looking forward to on the big Marathon day?

Finishing! Apparently 99% of people who start the race finish it, so first and foremost I hope my training pays off and I get to be in that 99% to cross the finishing line. I’m also really excited for the buzz and atmosphere, I think there will be a real celebratory feeling to the day which I can’t wait to soak up. Taking part in something that is such a force for good will be something to remember for ever. I also hope my children love watching me and supporting me and it shows them that they can do anything they set their minds to, with a bit of grit and determination.

What are you nervous about (if anything)?

Everyone I know who has done anything like this says “Don’t do anything new on race day” so I’ve used my long runs to try out clothes, gels, pre-run nutrition etc, so hopefully it will all come together on race day, but I do worry about something unexpected throwing me off my stride, like needing the loo (ideally I won’t need the loo as a loo stop will add valuable minutes to my time), chafing (runners rub at the ready!), tying my laces too tight and having to stop to retie them (I did that once on a 13 mile training run and couldn’t feel my feet at the end, whoops!), not getting my nutrition right the day before and on the morning and then feeling wobbly (or needing the loo, d’oh!), forgetting to pack something vital like my trainers or favourite pants or socks. My biggest worry is not finishing, but I know I’ve done everything I can in the run up to the race to make sure I have the best possible chance to finish, including not wearing my beloved high heels in case I hurt my feet or ankles!

Why should people sponsor you/donate to LOOK?

LOOK UK is a small charity providing a wide range of invaluable services for an under-serviced community. Without the work that LOOK UK does, children and young people with vision impairment and their families would be at risk of isolation and increased mental health issues. Every penny of sponsorship will go to improve social and emotional opportunities for these youngsters.

Click below to sponsor Abi.

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