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  • Take photos of yourself to look back on!

  • Seek out new routes and embrace running in all types of weather.

  • Set your self little goals, whether that’s a new PB or something like getting up to 10 parkruns.

  • Share your achievements! You just might inspire someone else!

Gail Seal

Written by Simon Linklater

Posted on the 8th July 2019

For most of us life is never going to be a continuous journey of happiness and smiles. Life throws up challenges, obstacles that we never expected or could never prepare for. There will be times, even spanning years where we can feel down and disappointed in ourselves.

But ultimately we as individuals can make choices. Choices which determine our future and the direction our lives take. These choices can determine our happiness, one way or another. In 2017 Gail made her choices. Decisions that would transform her own health and confidence, but also the future of her 2 boys.

Times were tough. Gail had experienced a traumatic miscarriage. She had a full time job, a toddler and a young baby at home to care for. She felt exhausted and sought comfort in food. Before long she was 2 stone overweight and one day looked in the mirror and hated what she saw. Gail knew she needed to make a change.

Having hated sport at school and the pressure that comes with team games, Gail took up running. The first stage of her inspiring story was to complete the Couch to 5K challenge. Gail remembers every run being tough, something to be battled through and endured, but this feeling wouldn’t last.

She gained the confidence to complete her 1st park run in February 2017, in a time of 35 minutes and 22 seconds. She was quickly hooked and it wasn’t before long her times began to improve. In fact during the Spring Gail had PB’s in 7 consecutive parkruns at Walthamstow.

The fact parkrun is so inclusive, welcoming runners of all speeds and abilities with no pressure on performance had a massive influence on Gail.

Gail started to set new challenges and completed her first 10K in a time of 1 hour 16 minutes. She began to make new friends on social media, picking up tips, sharing her own worries and even getting support from quicker runners. Gail was able to take this advice on board and in 2018 set herself some running goals.

  1. Complete a total of 50 parkruns
  2. Run a sub-30 minute parkrun at Walthamstow
  3. Run a sub-60 minute 10km
  4. Beat Mo Farah in the London Marathon

Ok so one of those isn’t true, but I won’t reveal which one just yet.

Little did she know her biggest challenge was about to be set. Whilst working as a Volunteer for the London Marathon in 2018, she entered a prize draw which had 1 spot available to the lucky winner. Guess who the winner was? It was actually her friend Jo.

Of course it wasn’t. I don’t even know if Gail has a friend called Jo. It was her name drawn from the hat and all of a sudden a new challenge of running a Marathon was laid down in front of her. The self doubt was instant. “I’m not even a proper runner” she thought to herself “I’ve never run further than 10K, there is no way I’ll be able to do a Marathon”.

But having come so far and having already made so many good choices, Gail certainly wasn’t going to back down. She knew the training would be tough with her busy schedule. As a Full Time Research Scientist with days stretching from 7am to 6.30pm, finding time to train whilst looking after her two young boys would be a big obstacle.

This is when Gail did what every runner should do, she came up with a plan, a training plan. With every other Monday off work, Gail allocated these days for her long runs. A certain finishing time wasn’t her main goal and she knew anything under 6 hours would make her happy (Spoiler Alert: beating Mo Farah was the made up goal). She began to increase her long run, from 13km to 16km to 19km.

She would head to the nearby Lee Valley Canal, a beautiful waterway that stretches for miles in either direction. Often Gail would get up early in the morning and she felt a real connection with the world all of a sudden. You need to experience it to appreciate it. Trust me.

In November Gail entered her first Half Marathon in Hertfordshire. The hills were a real challenge, something she wasn’t used to and towards the end of the race she had to walk a few times. She completed it in 2 hours 28 minutes, for a first ever half marathon it’s a valiant effort.

By now Gail was more determined than ever. The Winter had rolled in and as we runners know, the weather is not always kind (and the award for understatement of the year goes too…..). But with the London Marathon fixed firmly in her mind, nothing was stopping Gail.

The dark, the cold, the windchill, the rain, even the poxy snow. Gail would run in all conditions. In fact she used it as an excuse to go shopping and add to her running wardrobe. Some new hats, gloves and long sleeved tops were added to her collection and this gave her an added incentive to get out there and keep training.

7 weeks before the big day and Gail lined up alongside 13,000 other running enthusiasts to complete the Vitality Big Half. It was ideal preparation as much of the course is the same as London Marathon. The winds though were brutal, gusts of up to 50 MPH. It was like running into a brick wall at times (don’t try that at home folks, that is not a training tip). Running over Tower Bridge was an iconic moment though and she completed the course in 2 hours 19 minutes, another PB. #GoGail

As her training progressed so did the long runs. 30k along the canal, out and back, not allowing for any shortcuts. That was 6 weeks prior to the big day. Gail’s hard work was paying off in other aspects. Combined with healthy eating she was starting to lose weight. Her friends would comment that she was shrinking and she was the happiest she had been with her reflection in over 4 years. She smashed her parkrun PB by nearly a minute at Hackney and was “absolutely delighted”. A week later she ran her quickest ever time at her home course of Walthamstow too. 2 of her goals for 2019 already achieved. Watch out Mo.

The weeks ticked by and the big day soon arrived. Gail met the 5 hour pacer called Martin at the London Marathon Exhibition and decided she would follow him for as long as possible. During the race a little group formed around Martin and they chatted away getting to know each other. It was ideal for keeping her pace under control. At 14 miles Gail slipped back and the mental battle started to being. Every part of her body began to hurt, but the support and noise from the crowd was incredible. She remembers cries of “You can do this Gail” at the 25 mile mark and feeling overwhelmed.

Running over Tower Bridge and just looking around at other runners smiling was a moment Gail will never forget. She completed the London Marathon in 5 hours 25 minutes. “I can’t believe I did it” was the first thought that cropped into her mind. In the space of just 2 years she had gone from finding running 5k a real challenge to tackling the ultimate test. An amazing achievement.

Gail had gained so much joy for reaching these new milestones. She is so proud of herself. “I feel myself again and have my own sense of identity,” she told me. Since London she has beaten her Half Marathon PB at Hackney. She ran every day (at least 5K) during the month of June. She has introduced her 2 boys Oscar and Matty to parkrun and started a new Boxing class on Friday lunchtimes (be afraid people, don’t mess with Gail). Her next goal is the Berlin Marathon and she hopes to complete it around the 5 hour mark. She already has a 4 month training plan in place.

Gail continues to share her experiences and inspire fellow runners on twitter (@GailSeal). It’s been a long journey, tough at times, certainly emotional. But it all stemmed from making those good choices back in 2017.

You too can make those choices, any day, any week, any year.

Be Like Gail

#BeARunnur

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