Running for Life

Running for Life

When Support Raising and Training Manager Adam Pope began running, he could barely make the end of the street. Six years, and thousands of miles later he is pounding the pavements to raise money for MAF.

It is 10am on Sunday April 22nd 2012. The sky is cloudless. It is cold, but I am kept warm by the body heat of thousands of people dressed in brightly coloured lycra.

Story and photos by Adam Pope

On my right is the Royal Observatory, to my left Greenwich Park, in front of me 36,000 people and 26.2 miles of tarmac. There is a loud cheer and ten minutes later we begin to inch forward together.

I had always wanted to run the London Marathon. When the charity I worked for obtained a fundraising place they asked me to take it and I eagerly accepted. I had no way of knowing that this decision would transform my life.

I have finished over 225 5km parkruns, 15 half-marathons and 10 marathons. Next year I'll be running the Paris Marathon to raise money for MAF.'

Life-changing 

Six miles into the race and I am feeling good. Every kerb and grass verge on both sides of the road has been lined with cheering crowds. Children offer their tiny hands for me to high-5. Adults proffer trays of jelly babies. Bands are playing uplifting music. Then I see the Cutty Sark and the River Thames. Everyone is smiling and so am I.

As a boy I enjoyed running but it was never something I took seriously. During my teenage years I turned to alcohol and nicotine for my kicks and this continued through university. The year after graduating I took part in a short-term mission team to Peru and gave my life to Jesus.

My lifestyle changed, and my focus became my spiritual health. It never occurred to me that I might deepen my faith and discover more about God through running….

The screaming crowds continued to push me onward. I turned the corner and there it was – Tower Bridge. What a glorious sight. I will never forget seeing the two towers stark against the blue sky and hearing the roar of those who had come to watch. It was a wall of noise. Half way.

At the age of 26 my mother died from cancer. A year later I left to spend three years in South America as a missionary with Latin Link. It was the best of times and the worst of times. When I returned, I was diagnosed with depression and started on medication. The doctor advised finding a hobby and considering doing exercise, but I couldn’t find the motivation.

Great strides 

It was another 6 years before the opportunity to run London came up. I began my training programme a few months before I was due to take part and soon realised what I had taken on. I managed to run for 100m but I would soon run out of breath and have to stop. I began to wonder how I was going to run 1 mile let alone 26.2.

Canary wharf looms above me. The streets are now cast in shadow. We weave between the skyscrapers turning this way and that. It’s tough but I keep going. One step at a time…

'It never occurred to me that I might deepen my faith and discover more about God through running….

I persevered in my training and was soon able to run a mile without stopping but it was hard work. Winter arrived, and it was even harder to leave the warm glow of home to pound the pavements in the rain and snow. My training plan began to lose momentum and then, in January, a case of shin splints brought it to a juddering halt. I didn’t run again until the day of the marathon.

I reasoned that on the day I would have no option but to finish. Sheer force of will would take me across the finish line. The charity and all those who had sponsored me would be my motivation. Besides, even if I had to walk it’s only 26 miles right?

With three miles to go I feel like I’m running but spectators on the other side of the barriers are walking faster than me! My watch says I have been running for 5 hours.

Finishing the race

My wife and children were going to try and watch me towards the end. It takes all my concentration to lift my head in the vain hope that I may see their faces. Then I see them. Tears come to my eyes and a tingling sensation creeps up my spine. In that moment I am pain free and my pace lifts. I am going to finish.

'Running has helped me battle depression. It has allowed me to grow in confidence. I have made new friends and been to places I would never have seen otherwise.'

The train is full of people in running gear with London Marathon bags. We exchange smiles and nods. It feels as though everyone in London is a runner. I pray silently asking God to get me through this. I’m nervous and excited in equal measure.

I’ve managed to raise £3000 for youth clubs in Northamptonshire. But that money will only become available if I finish. That’s a pressure but also my motivation. I’m running this for me but I’m also running it for them.

The tarmac has turned red and I am looking at Buckingham Palace. Rounding the bend, I see the finish line. My body floods with adrenaline and I sprint towards the large electronic clock that stretches across The Mall. It reads 5:19:02 as I pass beneath it.

Running for life

I break down in tears. The emotions spill out and a steward wraps me in a foil blanket. I have finished the London Marathon. A woman hangs a medal around my neck and I thank God I made it.

Six years later I am still running. I have finished over 225 5km parkruns, completed 15 half marathons and 10 marathons. Next year I will be running the Paris Marathon to raise money for MAF.

Running has helped me battle depression. It has allowed me to grow in confidence. I have made new friends and been to places I would never have seen otherwise.

Most importantly it gives me time to think and pray. The hours I spend outside in nature with my thoughts provide a time of reflection and meditation, of prayer, and an opportunity to listen to what God is saying. It has taught me about God and myself and it has helped me to make a difference by raising money for those in need.

If you choose to run a marathon, or even tackle a 5k or 10k we'll be behind you every step of the way!

Sign me up!   Where's the starting line?