15 March 2024

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Gail’s marathon story

White woman with wavy brown hair smiling in a blue shirt.

Multiple motivations will keep physio Gail running

A compelling mix of personal and professional reasons driving physiotherapist Gail Preston to complete her third marathon

Marathon runners usually have at least one strong reason for pushing themselves through the pain barrier. For St Christopher’s physiotherapist Gail Preston there are numerous motivations for running the London Marathon.

Where to start?

Well, Gail was born and brought up in Beckenham and has been aware of the hospice for pretty much her whole life.

She’s worked as a physio at St Christopher’s, in the in-patient unit, the community and now with outpatients for almost 13 years – a job she says she absolutely loves.

Then there’s the deeply personal motivation. After a youth spent actively avoiding running but being incredibly active – playing water polo at county level and rowing at university – Gail was determined to get fit again after having her first two children.

“I took on my first marathon in London in April 2016. That was after I’d had a miscarriage in the previous October. It was my therapy.

“Then later in 2016 I lost another baby and decided I had to do it again. I would go out for two hours running and once I’d written the shopping list in my head, worked out what presents I was buying the kids, there were no more mundane things to think about and it became really mindful. No one was asking anything of me, other than myself.

“As parents, wives, daughters and employees, there’s always someone who needs a bit of you. While I love giving a bit of myself to be alongside people on their journey it’s also exhausting. I’m doing this for myself, for the sense of achievement and of course to raise money for St Christopher’s. I find it really cathartic.”

So, after a seven-year gap – necessitated by the arrival of her now five-year-old son – Gail is out tramping the trails, tracks and roads as she trains for the rigours of the 26-mile course on Sunday 21 April.

For a woman who’s also completed three triathlons and has plans for two more this summer, Gail isn’t fazed by the prospect of the London race. She just wants make sure she has all aspects of the preparation covered this time.

“This year I’m doing it because I want to and I want to enjoy it. I’m determined to get the refuelling right this time so I can soak up the last few miles, finish tired but strong and good about myself.”

A broken toe and a chest infection haven’t provided with Gail with the perfect build-up, but having started training in October, she reckons she’ll be ready for the big day and able to soak up the atmosphere she remembers so well from her two previous runs.

“It’s the cheering, everybody willing you to do your best and total unconditional support. I mean where else do you ever have so many strangers who genuinely want the best for you. It is such an uplifting atmosphere, especially after you’ve been through so much blood, sweat and tears to be there.”

Gail’s husband, three children (who think she’s mad doing it!) and many friends will be there to support her.

That leads us to another important personal motivation. Gail’s father recently started being supported by St Christopher’s and she’s really hoping he’ll be well enough for her mother to leave him and come and watch and for her parents to host the post-marathon party.

Wearing her professional hat, Gail hopes that running for St Christopher’s will also help to dispel some pre-conceptions and raise awareness about what the hospice really does.

“I want to get it out there that it’s not just about the very end of life but about living and all the staff and volunteers are here to support you live well until you die –it is about putting life into days and not days into life.”

This isn’t the first time Gail’s raised money for St Christopher’s. She and her mother are veterans of wreathmaking, firewalking and both Fun and Moonlight walks. If you’d like to support Gail in her bid to raise at least £1,000 for St Christopher’s click here.

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