Hear from Professor Greta Westwood, Chief Executive Officer of the Florence Nightingale Foundation after her fantastic fundraising efforts running the 2021 London Marathon.

Two weeks after the 2021 London Marathon I thought I would offer some reflections.

In 2019 Virgin Money Giving kindly donated to FNF, 2 free places for the London Marathon 2020. The Foundation put a call out through social media requesting both places could be won by those who pledged the highest sponsorship funding. Myself and CNO England, Ruth May, each pledged £5,000. Alas the 2020 marathon was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but despite its cancellation, I ran the 26.2 miles distance, in the 2.6 Challenge. Not in a race, I ran 38 times up and down my village street in Hampshire. I raised over £5,000 for the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

The 2021 London Marathon was scheduled to take place on 3rd October 2021, unfortunately Ruth was unable to run so once again a call went out for the runner who could pledge to raise the highest amount of sponsorship funding. This time it was FNF Treasurer, Simon Reiter. We pledged to raise £10,000 between us, enough for a 2022/23 Leadership Scholarship for a nurse or midwife.

We both started our 16 week training programme in June 2021. I followed by downloaded piece of paper religiously! As the weeks progressed so did the weekend long run distances. My trainers went everywhere with me. Weekends away, our summer holiday, always anxious I was in easy reach of some great training runs. My longest runs were supported by my husband, Roger, cycling the distance with the water and gel supplies!

On 5th September I run a training half marathon, Southampton Half, and surprised myself by winning the Female 60+ category! I guess there were not many older crazy women running, but nonetheless this gave me the confidence to aim to run the London Marathon for a Good For Age time (4hrs 30mins).

The morning of the marathon I woke to find I had smashed my fundraising target. This was my motivation to run my best. It knew it would be tough, 26.2 miles is a long way, but for such a worthy cause every moment would be worth it. I would run every mile for every nurse and midwife who had given so much, and for those who had given the ultimate sacrifice during the pandemic.

The start line was in Blackheath. It was early and cold! Roger had to leave me there unaccompanied due to COVID restrictions. I found Simon in amongst the crowds of runners. Strangely this was the first time we had met, all our meetings in the last 10 months had been remote. It was great to see his friendly face albeit only for a few minutes as he was called to the start line. We were programmed into waves of starters.

So the race started and I couldn’t  believe how alive I felt. 450 miles and 60 hours of training was going to be put to the test. Mile 13, mile 18, mile 22 run without event. Mile 22 I felt a cramp like twinge in my right calf. I took  more fluids and another gel. Mile 24 the twinges were now accompanied by pain. I stopped to stretch my leg and walked a little. Mile 25 the pain was accompanied by my howls of agony, so nearly there and determined to finish. I turned the corner into Bird Cage Walk with 800m to go and my leg completely cramped up. St Johns Ambulance crew tuned up with a wheelchair, I was in agony but the sight of the wheelchair magicked my leg better! After at least 10 minutes, of stretching and massage I eventually was able to weight bear, the crowds applauded me, I thanked the crew, waved to all and I ran as fast as I could across the finish line. Total time 4hrs 25, a Good for Age time!

Dame Yvonne Moores, FNF Chair and Carolina, FNF Scholarship Academy Assistant and Roger were there to celebrate with us. What a feeling, between Simon and I we have raised over £9,000, with a tiny bit more we can now fund a 2022/23 Leadership Scholarship. That is amazing! We want to thank all our supporters who have donated funds to help us raise our target. We are indebted to you all.

Crazy me has entered for next year and I will do the whole thing again! I am delighted, through social media, so many have agreed to run for FNF if lucky to win a place in the national ballot. Just incredible support , thank you. For those who did not see the message please If you win a ballot place please run for the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

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