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Marathon Efforts

Ben Cotterill, a cadet at The Salvation Army’s William Booth College, ran the 2013 London Marathon to raise money for our WATERSHED programme. Here he gives advice for all those hoping to run in 2014.

1) Sow lots of seeds – I was set a fundraising target of £2,000 which I worried I wouldn’t achieve, but actually a few days after the marathon it had become more like £4,000! This is largely down to the generosity of people, especially given the economic climate. However, I think it is also because I tapped into a number of different fundraising avenues such as events, support from local businesses, social media, doing guest speaking, a publicity campaign and getting in papers.

2) Create space in your life - Someone asked me whether I thought ‘spirituality’ and running were linked. I have come to the conclusion that they are not linked directly but are associated via the space. What I mean is that I haven’t had an increased sense of spirituality because of running per se, but the ‘space’ that running provides in my busy and cluttered 21st-century life facilitated time to think, to pray and reflect.

3) Aim higher than your perceived potential - My training suggested I would finish the Marathon in around 4 hours and 15 mins, perhaps 4 hours at best. I decided to aim to run at a consistent pace that would bring me home at around 3 hours 42 mins, knowing that as I became more tired I would have a buffer to reach my target. However, as I was then above target for most of the race I actually came home at 3 hours 58 mins. Now while aiming too high in life can have negative consequences, I think if you aim higher than your perceived best in life you just might surprise yourself and find your true potential. If you fall slightly short you will probably meet your original perceived best anyway.

4) Know what takes priority in life – Whilst I tried to protect my training schedule, I knew that when the really important things in life reared their heads, as they do, I had to cancel.

5) Seek and take advice from experts – I muddled on with a knee injury for two months without seeking proper advice. I tried to manage my body after doing some internet research, but really if I’d gone to a doctor earlier I would have been able to train to a faster time and had less pain.

6) Be economical with time – Training for a marathon takes up a lot of time especially if you’re fundraising as well. Now while it could have taken over my life, I tried to manage it in such a way that where possible I integrated life with my running schedule. For example, my wife occasionally came running with me on short runs, I listened to lectures on headphones whilst running and I ran to or from appointments I had – often beating London Transport! Inevitably training for a marathon has a huge impact on time, but the marginal gains available from being economical with time are the difference between it all becoming too much and having a sustainable balance in life.

7) Enlist support and find the people who energise you – On race day my family and friends were dotted around the course cheering me on, which was such a support. In the months before the race and throughout my fundraising I had a whole community at the training college and online who encouraged me. Thanks, guys!

8) Allow people to help you with their giftings and skills – Some people are born fundraisers and took some of that burden from me. Others hosted fundraising nights, cooked food and assisted with administration etc. It’s amazing what a group of people can achieve.

9) Get the right equipment – Whatever your aim is in life, if it’s practically possible try and get good equipment to help you achieve your potential. For me that meant some proper running shoes and socks!

10) ‘Hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough’ (Sir Alex Ferguson) – I beat former athletics Olympic medallist Iwan Thomas, although he’s getting on a bit now! However, I think this quote is really insightful. It’s an encouragement to those of us without obvious natural talent, and a warning to those who have.

Still looking for a London Marathon place? Choose to run for our International Development work and the money you raise could help trafficked children be children again, or provide people with clean water for life. It could give widows the chance to set up their own businesses or help small farmers grow enough food to stop them going hungry.

Click here for information about how to apply for one of our Salvation Army guaranteed places, but be quick as there are only a few places left!