My Journey to the Half Marathon by Emily Brown

4 October

by Emily Brown


One of our content creators – Emily – recently ran the Bristol Half Marathon to help raise awareness about mental health through raising money for us. These are her thoughts after finishing.


109 runs, 407.1miles, 2 days 18 hours 13 minutes and 28 seconds.

The total amount of runs, miles and time put in to training for the half marathon.

In January 2018 I signed up to run the Bristol half marathon. I had never run further than 10k before and at just over 5ft, I wouldn’t say I had a natural runner’s physique!

I knew 13.1 miles was going to be a big challenge for me, but with my clear goal of raising money and awareness for mental health behind me, I knew my passion and determination would drive me to complete this.

So my plan was:

  • Bristol 10k in May (with dreams of smashing my PB from last year)
  • Increase my mileage from June to September
  • A cheeky 10k at the 401 Festival of Running in August to keep motivated
  • September complete the half marathon in under two hours

Saturday 3rd February 2018 was my first training run. I created a plan to organise my sessions averaging around four sessions a week focusing on interval training for the first four months to build my speed up.

Training was going great, I was really enjoying it, I could feel myself getting fitter and sessions becoming easier. My biggest challenge was the 5:45am alarm and the beast from the east! (Though trust me, I’d take the snow over the scorching highs of this summer any day!)

I could see why people love pavement pounding!

The morning of the 10k came and I was ready. It was blimmin’ hot but I had done my training and I was excited to give it my all. I got to the start line and with that, I ran.

I hit 6km in under half an hour and I felt like I was going to pass out. But I powered on and reached my goal. Coming in at 50minutes 50seconds I’d hit just over two and a half minutes off last year’s time. I was pleased, but I didn’t enjoy that race one bit – maybe my worst run to date? Over the next two weeks my feet paid the price, I was unable to run due to some very ugly blisters.

Once my feet had recovered my training adapted to suit my next focus, slowing my pace to increase my distance. My weekly mileage increased to around 20 miles a week as my runs started to become longer. But this training was short lived.

The first weekend of July I fell over.

(Completely sober I may add) I was walking home from the bus! At the time I was more embarrassed than anything. It bloody hurt and looked unsightly, but I thought little of it until my next run. I would’ve never guessed I would be spending the next six weeks with my knee strapped up having intense physio with five weeks out of my running programme.

I was devastated. How could something so trivial cause so much damage?

I’ve fallen over a hundred times before, why this time? Why me?

The next few weeks were a rollercoaster of emotions. I had to come to terms with losing sight of my goal of a sub-two-hour half and accept my ability was now different. I attended regular physio sessions where I was advised to stop running and rest. This killed me. I had worked so hard and already raised so much money. I felt like I was letting everybody down. There was no way I was not completing the half marathon, even if I had to walk parts of it.

After two weeks of rest I started experimenting with what my knee would allow me to do. I found running and spinning were ‘no-go’s’, but the cross trainer was actually manageable. So off I went, completing my training plan of sessions of up to 11 miles, facing a white wall watching Coronation Street, on a cross-trainer. Using a cross trainer varies quite a bit to running in all weathers on uneven surfaces around Bristol. But still it was something. And it kept me focused.

With five weeks to go until the half, I was back on the treadmill. Slower paced, strapped up and completing distance in intervals; but I was back running.

Over the next few weeks I worked on my fitness and managed to get back up to 11 miles at a sub-two-hour pace. I was over the moon. Although there was progress still to make, this was telling me I could do it.

As race day approached, I felt physically sick.

I was terrified, why on earth had I signed myself up for this? I hadn’t run outside for three months and had only been back running for just over one. The morning came and the conditions were awful. I’d been worrying about a sweltering half, it was freezing cold and pelting with rain. I was dreading it and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

As soon as I got across that start line and I started running I can honestly say that I had the best run I have ever had. In some miraculous way it all came together.

I paced myself, I drank water, I enjoyed the run. 

I was about 100m from the finish line, I could hear my family cheering me on along with a sea of unknown spectators. I crossed the finish line and I had done it. I had ran 13.1 miles and it felt fantastic. I came to a halt as I joined a queue of ‘fresh through the finish line’ runners to collect our medals and t-shirts. I started to notice my body was painful, my calves were tight and achy already. I wanted to cry. But in this sea of people I didn’t recognise anyone, so I made my way to find some space. 

As I caught sight of my family, I burst into tears.

All that I had been working towards, the reason I was running the half, my uncle, all my hard work, early mornings, injuries, blog posts, had come to a head.

The challenge was complete and I was in a daze. I felt tired and sick but was ecstatic I had run 13.1 miles. I was amazed I had raised so much money and awareness and I was overwhelmed by the support I received.

It was incredible.

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me in this journey. To those who have put up with my lack of sleep, moaning, tears, injuries, you name it, I’ve had it. Those who were there on the day and at the finish line, who have shared my story and donated to Freedom of Mind.

Thank you.

These past eight months have been very challenging, both mentally and physically. I have had so many fantastic conversations around the topic of mental health which may never have been approached otherwise. I’m super proud to have raised more than double my target £500 and smash my personal goal of a sub two hour half coming in at 1 hour 50 minutes 16 seconds. Making it all worth it.

We all have a mental health.

With her fundraiser closing on Friday, Emily has currently raised a total of £1,129.00 to help destigmatize mental health. There is still time to donate to her. Just follow this link.


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