WRAD’s Sliding Doors coordinator Angela Alexander never enjoyed running as a child or teenager but as she approached her 50th birthday she started to fantasise about running a marathon.
In 2019 she turned that fantasy into a reality, but now she’s taken her running commitment to the next level.
Ms Alexander has just completed a 1744km virtual marathon, taking her from Lands End at the bottom of the United Kingdom to northernmost point John O’Groats. She started the run on June 20 and finished on September 8, averaging about 20km a day.
Now she has set her sights on an even bigger target – The Route 66 Virtual Fitness Challenge which will take her 3669km along the iconic road from Chicago to Los Angeles.
“Running a marathon appealed as a romantic fantasy but seemed too far to realistically contemplate,” she said. “However, sometime in 2017, it started to solidify into a goal –to complete a marathon at age 50.”
Ms Alexander said she was inspired to show she could run a marathon on a vegan diet and her plan often reflected the key tools of WRAD’s Sliding Doors non-residential rehabilitation program.
“I had to battle negative self-talk which threatened to sabotage my progress; that it was too hard and I was too old,” she said.
“I used the same strategies we teach in Sliding Doors – self-reflection, persistent planning around goal setting, commitment to small steps, being aware of feelings and what is behind them, and focusing on positive thoughts and facts and keeping the overall goal in view.”
Ms Alexander completed a half marathon in August 2019 and earlier this year completed her first full 42.2km marathon in four hours and 39 minutes,
“I was nervous on the day of the race; I had sustained a tendon injury doing sprints on the treadmill the week before but with acupuncture it seemed to have settled.”
She achieved her goal of finishing in under five hours and said the medal was “a tangible symbol of achieving a goal which had seemed impossible”.
Her latest virtual challenge wasn’t without problems. “Having shingles provided an unwelcome and tough extra challenge during the 12 weeks- and fatigue was a real thing about 7 or 8 weeks but I kept going.”
Ms Alexander used a mix of treadmills and open-air running, carrying a mask to wear if she came close to people.
She also focused on her diet, which is vegan and predominantly raw. “I completed one of the Happy Pear vegan cooking courses and gained a lot of knowledge and inspiration from vegan recipe blogs online and top-level vegan athletes like elite ultra-marathoner Rich Roll who also offers plant-based recipe programs.”
Ms Alexander says she feels fantastic and is keen for her next tests, a marathon in October and the Route 66 challenge.
“I’m grateful to be enjoying this level of strength and fitness in my fifties,” she said. “I became vegan for ethical reasons and in return have been gifted with excellent health and a new lease of life.”