Post marathon reflection with Shirley
Shirley Russo is a member of St Wilfrid’s parish, Preston and ran the 2019 London Marathon for Jesuit Missions. We asked her to reflect on her experience.
What inspired you to sign up to run the London Marathon for Jesuit Missions?
The work that Jesuit Missions do for those less fortunate and living in poverty throughout the world. I wanted to give something back…. coming from a Jesuit Parish I wanted to find out more about the work of Jesuit Missions, the work they do overseas and here in the UK. I’d thought about volunteering to run for Jesuit Missions 12 months earlier, but I wasn’t physically or mentally ready. I was so happy to run in memory of Fr Victor Luke.
What is your fondest memory of the whole event, including the training and fundraising?
I have a number and it would be unfair to name just one, this event was a roller-coaster of emotions for me personally, the support I got from friends, new and old and the support from those who donated towards my fundraising and the messages I received after the event. There were key people who supported me during the training and fundraising, and without them I wouldn’t have got through it. The generosity of people reduced me to tears on many occasions. However, it was the following two people that got me through the actual race especially when I was about to give up when I got the injury, Dominic – a grandson of one St Wilfrid’s parishioners who tragically died in 2018 and Fr Victor Luke’s legacy that got me through to the end. I carried a photo of Dominic on my vest and talked to Dominic the whole way through – we never met in life but in spirit we crossed the finishing line together. Fond memories also include the Jesuit Missions Team who were fantastic and make you feel that a superstar – even a super athlete maybe? They arranged the pre-race pasta party and I travelled with some of them to the start line and I even met the two lovely Wombles! What more could I ask for! The Team Spirit was strong, and the camaraderie was very much appreciated. Thanks to Kennie my marathon buddy for waiting for me to rock up eventually at Mount Street for the post-race party and sports massage! Cheers pal!
What did you find the hardest: the training, the fundraising or the race itself?
In this order: Fundraising, training and then the race! I hardly saw my 11 year old daughter during the training as it takes over your life. Running is a dirty word in our house now!
Describe the race day in three words?
Amazing – Emotional – Addictive
Would you run a marathon again?
You bet I would! London though, as it is special. It’s addictive and it is life changing. I have re-entered the ballot for 2020.
You went above and beyond the fundraising target for the marathon, what tips can you give for fundraising?
Try to find something different that attracts attention, for example I dressed up as a Bee! A large amount of my fundraising came after I did the race, whether it was sympathy for my injury I’m not sure but I’m not suggesting you get an injury in order to attract fundraising! If you can get support from within your Parish then this is half the battle and takes some of the pressure off you. People suggested using social media, I tried this, not sure this worked for me, but others swear by it. Try to do things outside the Parish as well, I did a Zumbathon, it also raises awareness of Jesuit Missions.
What advice would you give to anyone considering running the London Marathon for Jesuit Missions next year?
Do it! You’ll regret it if you don’t! It is a special moment in life, a journey that you can talk about for ever and ever! (And I do!) It’s addictive and the atmosphere and friendships formed are priceless! It brought people together in the Parish as a point of conversation. It has changed my life for the better, it has made me stronger and more determined that I can achieve what I want with a little bit of hard work and determination, and the funds I raised will also change the lives of those in South Sudan.
Train well and look after your body and mind, these are going to get you through the pain, the tears, and the early morning training in cold, wet winter weather. Do not underestimate what you are doing, it is not easy but then things worth fighting for aren’t.
Sports massage, stretching and strength and conditioning should be key elements of your training plan and nutrition. A fancy pair of trainers won’t cut it! Join a local running club, you’ll find others running the same marathon who you can get advice from and tips. Get a marathon buddy, this doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who runs with you, although this is a good idea, they can just be someone you can use to let off steam when you get low or your training isn’t going well.
Running has become part of my life now and I am using it as a tourism tool! Be prepared to talk about Jesuit Missions and who there are and remember why you are running the marathon, but most of all soak up the atmosphere and enjoy!
I have done things, met people, visited places that I would never have done before. During the actual race the characters and stories you hear are inspiring, you are not just part of the Jesuit Mission’s Team, you are part of the wider London Marathon Team.
Change your life and run the London Marathon for Jesuit Missions and make a difference in someone else’s life.
Final piece of advice, find something to keep your mind and body busy once the race is over, this was certainly true for me. I have still got post-marathon trauma and blues!