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I ran 12 marathons in 12 months. Here’s what I learnt

If the long January days are taking their toll and you’re in need of a push to keep up your training goals or are looking to make some, you’re in the right place. We chatted to CALM legend Emma Cooper, who completed her 12 Marathons In 12 Months challenge last December. If anyone knows a thing or two about determination and motivation, it’s her – taking on 312 miles in almost as many days is no mean feat. We caught up with her to find out the highs, the lows, and, of course, some expert advice on all things running. 

Emma lost her older brother Jamie in 2005, and has been supporting CALM ever since. From volunteering at events, to running her first 10K, half marathon and marathon, she’s raised over £8,000. In 2018, Emma decided to take things to the next level. 

“It’s been an incredible journey for me personally. Five years ago I wouldn’t even run for the bus. Taking the training all the way through my first race, The Asics 10K to running the Royal Parks Half and then the London Marathon in aid of CALM and in memory of my brother has had a profound effect on me.

“The London Marathon was such a special experience, but I knew I wanted to do more for CALM.  After my brother died there was very little that I had to remember him by. There was no Facebook or smart phones, and any photos I had of him were put into an album. So to have this challenge wrapped in his memory, it’s been my way of keeping his memory alive.”

The idea of running 12 marathons is one thing, doing them is very different. Emma learnt a whole heap about herself during the challenge, and underwent her fair share of tribulations. 

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“It’s been a steep learning curve for me about what my body can actually physically achieve and the mental strength I have. The toughest part was when I had to decide not to take on the Bath Two Tunnels marathon. I had been in hospital the week before and I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared to take on a marathon. I know it was the right decision to make but at the time I felt like I had failed.”

“There were so many tough moments throughout the year, but all seem to pale in the face of all the wonderful things that happened.”

Doing normal life while undertaking such a physical challenge was no doubt difficult, but Emma is glad she stuck with it and completed the challenge. 

“There’s been so many times I’ve wanted to stop; a cramp, a blister, pain with so far still to run, but being able to pull yourself to the finish is an amazing feeling. It’s been such an amazing journey. ”

Sound hard to believe? Emma is adamant there’s a hundreds of positives to take away from your run – from the community support to the next level CALM Cheer Squad – running CALM is about far more than fundraising:

“There’s such an outpouring of humanity during the races. Everyone is there cheering you on, willing you towards the finish line, calling your name. I’ve met so many people who are on their own running journeys, raising money for charity or in memory of a loved one. I’ve felt part of a really amazing community. There were so many times I had a tap on the shoulder to say what a great cause I am running for is, the occasional supportive comment saying ‘Jamie would be so proud’. 

“It’s been humbling and quite genuinely life changing. I don’t think there was a single marathon where I wasn’t in tears at some point. Just the outpouring of support and love by family, friends, strangers, fellow runners  and the crowds has been incredible.” 

If you too want to cry at the finish line of a race, or, you know, bask in the glory of the CALM Cheer Squad, Emma has some advice:

“Whether you’re thinking of taking on a 5K,  an ultra marathon, or anything in between, don’t underestimate the distance and don’t underestimate what you can achieve. Be kind to yourself. If you have a training plan then stick to it as best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day and miss a session or two. Focus on the finish line, not your finish time. Most importantly though, enjoy the experience! “

If you’re taking on a challenge, you can join our Running Collective here. Inspired? Take a look at CALM’s events page to sign up to a run, walk, or cycle – there’s something for everyone. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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