Running a Marathon in every English County

Please can you tell us a little bit more about yourself – your name and where you are from?

I am Linda Robson, aged 47, and I am from Folkestone in Kent.

We hear you are completing a ‘marathon of a challenge’ (excuse the pun). Tell us more about your personal goal of running a marathon in every English county…

I ran my first marathon in 2005, and soon became addicted to the 26.2 mile distance, particularly getting into marathon tourism – basically a city break but instead of doing the open top bus tour you run round to see all the all the sights!

Obviously, in the past couple of years we haven’t been able to travel so I’ve had to do my running closer to home. Since the start of the pandemic I have run 22 marathons, 16 of which were in Kent. I love Kent and it has some great running, but I was longing to travel again and get to see some new places.

One day during pandemic home-school we were doing jigsaw geography. My son (age 8 at the time) was doing a UK map jigsaw and we chatted about various places we had been to. We took out some of the pieces to show just the counties he had visited… and then we put together just the pieces from the counties where I had run a marathon… and there the idea was born! I was going to use the jigsaw to define the counties I needed to complete, but some English counties don’t have marathons so I spent some time looking at different county maps before finally settling on the 1974 map. I was born in 1974 so felt this was a good justification for selecting that particular map.

The 1974 map has 35 counties, of which I have already completed 15 (I went back though historical ones).  I also have a 2010 counties map which has 45 counties of which I have completed 16. When I have completed the 1974 map I will probably the fill in the extras to do the 2010 map, although will be hard to do Cleveland and Tyne and Wear!

Why did you decide to enter the Therme Manchester Marathon? 

I actually entered for the April 2020 Manchester Marathon, then couldn’t do the rescheduled date in the October because I was already booked for Beachy Head. It was originally chosen as a nice city with a good marathon to spend a weekend away with a friend.

A personal question, but what does running mean to you?

Running is an important part of my physical and mental health. I used to run to try and be fast but these days I am more likely to be having a chat and stopping for ice cream or a cup of tea on the way round! I do like the sense of achievement that comes from running, but it is much more about the positive benefits of running with a nice group of people and supporting each other.

What do your friends and family think of you doing this challenge? Have you got anyone coming down to support you on the day? 

My friend Adrian is coming along and will also be running. My family is very supportive but not coming along – when you run a lot of marathons it is actually better if others spend the time doing their own thing!

As for friends, I hope to see some of them out on the course. Part of the reason for doing marathons is to catch up with my running friends.

I work for the Open University so I’m hoping some of my colleagues form the Manchester office might come out to support.

What does your training plan look like? 

Er…. I do have a plan but I keep forgetting to do it!

I do parkrun on Saturdays, often running as a guide for a runner who is visually impaired, occasionally running with my son but he’s 9 now and I can no longer keep up so we usually find him someone faster to run with.

On Sundays I run with a friend and we chat and put the world to rights.

I’ve thrown in a couple of marathons for training – I tend to decide how far I will run and then run walk the rest. So last weekend I was at a lapped event on roughly 5km laps. I ran the first 4 laps at a steady pace to complete half marathon distance sub 2:30 and then ran walked the other half. I’ll probably do another one beginning of March where I will run to about 16-18 miles and then run walk the rest. I prefer to do long runs as part of an event because it can be lonely doing a long training run on your own. And because if I am running 18 miles anyway then it is a bit of a waste not to run the extra bit to make it up to a marathon 😉

What are you most looking forward to on the day? 

I always love the atmosphere of a big city marathon and being supported both by other runners and spectators. I hope that running also inspires other people to get out and give it a go.  I’ve run enough marathons that I know quite a few people on the circuit so always good to have a chat with people for a mile or two, and also to chat to new people. It’s lovely when you get to 16-19 miles and you catch up to someone who is struggling. I’ll walk a little bit with them and have a chat. It’s so nice to see them perk up, smile and get going again. Sometimes people need to be reminded that they can do it – Pain is temporary, pride is forever and all that!

I’m also looking forward to visiting Manchester again. My Grandmother lived in Manchester so I’ll be reminded of some of my childhood visits.