Don’t Give Up

JANUARY 2019: Louise Bartha is currently enjoying her third training season with RunBrighton, this time in preparation for London Marathon 2019.

She originally won a ballot place for London 2018 but, unfortunately, a diagnosis of skin cancer prevented her from getting stuck into the necessary training over the preceding winter, hence deferring to this spring.

Louise is now on her way back to fitness and has just signed up for our warm-weather training camp in the Algarve, mid-March.

Louise, how are you now?

I am good thank you. I have not quite got a clean bill of health at the moment, as I am undergoing yet more tests, but I am really enjoying the RunBrighton winter training this year.

Well, it’s great to have you training with us, Louise, and hopefully you’ll get the all-clear, very soon.

Perhaps you could begin by telling us a bit about yourself / your family / what you do for a living?

My husband and I moved to the area from London 13 years ago, and we live in Hove with our two boys. I work as an Appeals Manager for Rockinghorse children’s charity in Brighton, which fundraises for the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and other local paediatric services.

Rockinghorse is really lucky with the support it receives, including people running marathons for the charity.

I live on the Brighton Marathon route, in St Leonard’s Road, so we always have a big charity cheering point for runners.

How did you first get into running? Has sport and exercise always played an important part in your life?

I really loved sport at school, particularly netball and athletics. I was fairly good at sprinting but avoided long distance running as much as possible. I then half-heartedly picked up running a few years ago, without ever committing to training for a race.

My relationship with running really took off after my first operation to remove a malignant melanoma (a very serious form of skin cancer) in 2016, and I signed up that spring for Brighton Marathon the following year.

How did you originally find out about RunBrighton and what made you decide to join us?

A friend is a member of Brighton & Hove Women’s Running Club, so recommended RunBrighton to me. I had already signed up to the Brighton Marathon and felt I needed help with my training – and confidence! The distance can seem very daunting at first, so I liked the idea of running in a group of people who are facing the same challenge.

How did you get on in the marathon?

Well, I must admit, it was not quite the experience I was hoping for. It was ridiculously hot on the day and the race organisers ran out of water very early on in the course. In the later stages of the race there were quite a few collapsed runners, which was very unnerving. I also got my fuelling wrong and felt so hungry at mile 10, I thought my legs were going to give up all together! But, I kept going (thanks to a stop off at my house to eat chocolate brownies and a banana) and finished in 5 hours 13 mins.

What have you enjoyed about RunBrighton and how do you think it helped you most when it came to taking on that first marathon?

As a slower runner, I love the fact that the group is inclusive of all abilities and everyone is friendly and supportive.  The ambassadors are brilliant and the weekly training plans help to stop any doubts about whether I am doing the right mileage, types of runs and rest days.  I know I would struggle to complete the long runs on my own, especially through the winter months, so running with others is great.  Every week, your confidence grows as you go further, and it’s always great to discover new running routes – even the hilly ones!

It must have been quite devastating to have been hit with health issues. How did you cope with that and what were you able to do to try and maintain some of the fitness you’d gained?

To be told that I had malignant melanoma was quite a shock. I initially had surgery, including a skin graft, to remove the cancer from the back of my hand in February 2016.  Once I was given the all clear, I no longer took my health for granted and I took up running to be fighting fit and ready, should anything further come back.

I had yet another mole removed, this time from my leg, last winter and just as I was training with RunBrighton again. This time it was for the London Marathon and I went from being so excited to have got a place, to being unable to run for 8 weeks.  I knew I would never regain the mileage – or fitness- to complete the race so I had to defer. I spent the next few months cycling and walking, and I then joined RunBrighton’s summer course to train for the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October.

And here I am training once again for London. I had yet another skin cancer removed at Christmas, but thankfully my running has not been massively impacted as it was on my scalp.

Hopefully, the further tests come back clear and I will be on the start line in April!

What are your objectives for London Marathon? Will you be aiming for a particular finish time or will it be more a case of taking part to enjoy the experience?

After running Brighton Marathon, I really want to see what I can achieve in better conditions, although London can still be a hot on the day. I am determined to complete the 26.2 miles in under 5 hours, but I will also make the most of the atmosphere, as I know I am very lucky to have bagged a ballot place. And, I am planning on meeting friends and family afterwards for a big celebration.

And, before that, we have our Algarve trip, which I’m delighted you’re coming on. What prompted you to sign up for that?

I am so pleased and excited to be joining the Algarve trip this year. Like everyone, I often find it tricky to fit the training around a job, young family and life in general. I mentioned to my husband how inspiring it would be to have a dedicated week where you could simply focus on your running and seek advice from incredibly experienced coaches. He offered to help pay for the trip as a Christmas and birthday present, and my close family also chipped in. I am determined to get involved with every positive thing that comes my way, and the Algarve trip feels like a special part of my ‘London Marathon year’.

From what you’ve learned, what would be your key tips for anyone training for their first half or full marathon, or indeed for anyone getting back to training after a long period of time out?

I think my main tip would be, try not to be intimidated by the distance. Trust the plan and the training and know that your fitness and endurance is building with every passing week.  Not every run will feel good, or even okay, but keep going and every mile you do is literally a step closer to the end goal. Accept that some runs will feel really tough, but don’t give up.

Tell your friends and family about your training and soak up the support. My husband is great at motivating me, and my work colleagues are amazing at making sure I stick to my plan of running home from the office at least once a week.

And be prepared for the nerves on race day. I had an upset stomach from the butterflies and so did not eat a proper breakfast. I paid for that mistake by hitting ‘the wall’ at mile 10. Make sure you hydrate properly. You will feel absolutely epic when you cross the finish line, the sense of achievement is awesome and before you know it, you will be signing up to do it all over again!

Louise, it’s great having you in the RunBrighton group. I wish you well with your forthcoming test results and with the remainder of your winter training, and I’m chuffed you’re joining us in the Algarve. I’m sure you’ll have a great time in London. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you very soon for another Sunday run.

By Mike Bannister