How I went from couch to 5k to a marathon in one year

By Maria Graham

I didn’t plan to run a marathon. It wasn’t something that had ever appealed to me. It sounded like hard work, and maybe even boring to be running all that time. When I signed up for the couch to 5k course with Budleigh Runners I just wanted to feel a bit fitter, and perhaps join my brother Steve for the 5k trail runs he often leads on a Sunday morning. But as my ultra marathon runner friend once said to me, things can escalate quickly.

My whole adult life I’ve done some kind of regular exercise. Martial arts, roller derby, various fitness classes. I worked as a personal trainer for a while, but always felt a bit of a fraud because I couldn’t run. I tried a number of times, but I was clearly doing something wrong because it was not at all successful, and definitely not enjoyable. At one point I thought I might have asthma.

Since starting Ruby Fury, I’ve met A LOT of runners. So many of my customers told me their inspiring stories and many of them didn’t believe they could run until they did couch to 5k. It got me thinking about trying again.

Couch to 5k was an eye opener for me. It felt too easy for the first few weeks, but then became challenging quite quickly. I soon learned the importance of pace, patience and consistency. The support and encouragement from the run leaders gave me confidence and I began to believe I might be able to eventually run 5k without stopping.

I completed the course, and continued to run regularly with Budleigh Runners. By then I was enjoying the runs and not dreading them, and I always felt amazing afterwards. The hills on those Sunday trails were hard at first but they really helped build my stamina and improve my speed. I went on to do a 5k to 10k course with the club, and my first race, a 10k trail run!

couch to 5k budleigh runners group

My couch to 5k graduation with Budleigh Runners

At the finish line of the Sir Walter Raleigh half marathon

10k probably would’ve been my limit. I was very happy with what I’d already achieved and I felt good with my new training routine. But Steve had other plans for me. He and a few others were doing a half marathon a few months later and asked me to join them.

The Sir Walter Raleigh half marathon is not an easy route, and in January it was cold, wet and VERY muddy. But they all stuck with me and got me through it. It was an incredible feeling crossing the finish line together.

Again, I thought I’d reached my limit. But I was loving the trail running and exploring new places with all these new running friends. Then someone suggested a marathon…..

The first one I entered I had to pull out of due to being ill. It surprised me how disappointed I was to miss it, so I was keen to find another. Budleigh Runners had arranged an informal marathon along the coast path from Lyme Regis to Budleigh Salterton and, with the date being almost exactly a year from finishing couch to 5k, I just knew I had to do it!

It was bloody hard work, and I probably hadn’t trained enough beforehand. But the views were stunning and it’s a day I’ll never forget. The more challenging these things are, the more satisfaction you get from completing them. I still can’t quite believe I’ve done a marathon!

Lyme Regis to Budleigh Salterton marathon

So what next? In September I’m off to Sweden for an epic adventure. I’ll be running 75k over 3 days along the coast towards Norway. The Icebug Xperience is something my half Swedish friend has wanted to do for a while and I’m excited to be invited to join her.

Of course, it’s not just about the events, although they do help to stay motivated. Running has changed my life in so many ways. I’m happier, healthier and I sleep better. I have more friends and I certainly get out more!

If you’d like some expert advice on how to start or get back to running, take a look at this blog by Running Coach Hannah Warne.