Published 22/02/2019

One of Team Lepra's runners, Paul Jordan, has been hard at work training for the London Marathon. Read about his motivations and thoughts on the journey so far below!

I’ve had the privilege to run the London Marathon four times for various charities and 2019 marks my fifth. It’s an honour to be doing it for Lepra this year.

Fundraising is an incredibly rewarding endeavour, and one that is not without its challenges of course. I’ve been blown away by the generosity of so many people who have supported these good causes over the years.

My partner Stuart Miles has a longstanding relationship with Lepra from his time presenting Blue Peter. The charity appeal that he led raised millions and resulted in the creation of the Blue Peter Health and Research Centre in Hyderabad, India. Stuart recently returned to the Centre and was very moved by the experience. When he returned we discussed how we could help support Lepra, which was when the idea of the marathon came up.

I have to admit that I didn’t know very much about leprosy before I started working with Lepra. It’s been really eye-opening and an important education. I was particularly struck by the work that the charity does regarding discrimination. As is often the case with medical conditions, the discrimination and prejudice people face is sometimes as bad as the disease itself.

Lepra is working to change this and it really is a privilege to play a very small part in that. I’ve got several fundraising events lined up including quizzes and bake sales but, of course, I’ll also be asking friends and family to dig deep for a good cause too.

Training for London is now well underway and I’m following a schedule which includes one long run each week, eventually building up to 22 miles. Training for marathons is hard work – both physically and mentally – but it is the fundraising aspect of it, knowing there are people out there willing me on, which always gets me through.

This year is slightly different in that I’m back living and working in London. Previously when training I was based in Cardiff and Amsterdam. I was able to get out and run around the city and through the parks without much hassle. In London it’s more of a challenge – for several reasons.

The sheer bustle of the city means that it’s difficult to find a stretch where you can just run without inhaling vehicle fumes or having to stop at traffic lights. There are some stunning parks in London but if you’re doing a long run they can soon become too familiar and quickly become boring. For me the biggest challenge has been other people. So many Londoners walk the streets glued to their smartphones, rarely looking up. Let’s just say I’ve got a lot better at working on my reflexes – even if I have had to jump off the pavement and into the road at times!

Training this year has been made more difficult as I’ve been experiencing what every runner dreads – injury! Plantar fasciitis to be exact. It is basically a sharp stabbing pain in the heel. When I run it goes away but I pay for it after when hobbling around! I invested in new trainers, support socks and after nearly two weeks of rest it’s much better. Very relieved!

Despite my moans, there are some definite upsides to training in London. I’m lucky to live near Hampstead Heath which has been brilliant for training. Not only is it a lovely place to be, away from the noise of the city, it also has so many different trails meaning that you never really have to do repetitive and boring loops. It’s not always easy, it’s pretty hilly, but when it comes to training, this is perfect. I have really felt a difference to my running since I’ve incorporated hill sprints. Running to the top of Parliament Hill with breath-taking views of the city is a highlight in particular.

I’ve also started running to work in the mornings which means that I get my miles in, have a work out. Added bonuses including managing to avoid the crush on the tube and save on the fare!

I’m getting more creative with my long runs. Previously it used to be a case of just getting the miles in and getting it over with. Now I plan out where I’m going to go, thinking of what I’d like to see en route and have loved getting to know the different parts of the city.

Last weekend I ran from home in the north of the city, down to Regent’s Park and then back up to Hampstead Heath. Before I knew it I had completed 13 miles. It was really enjoyable and was great to have the mixture of road and park running, and also felt like I was actually travelling to different parts of the capital.

This coming weekend I’m aiming to go down to Green Park, take in the sights of Buckingham Palace before looping back up via Primrose Hill and then home. When you live here you can take so much for granted. Without sounding corny, running in the city and taking in the surroundings allows you to appreciate the city in ways you don’t normally do.

There’s also something very nice knowing that I’m training in the same city that I’ll be racing in when April comes. If ever I’m struggling during training I think of those crowds that line the entire route of the London Marathon. When it comes to marathons there is simply nothing like London. Nothing even comes close.

I didn't realise how much I would miss my training when I was on my self-imposed rest. Whilst training can be long and even lonely, I always feel so much better afterwards both physically and mentally (pedestrians aside!) From now on the mileage will increase each week and fingers crossed so too will my speed. Let’s just hope that my foot holds out!

When I do cross that finish line I’ll be thinking of all the support I’ve been given, but in particular, I’ll be thinking of the work done by Lepra and the people who benefit from it. That one is for them.

Do you want to support Paul? Visit his fundraising page here:

Support Paul