When the official 2020 London Marathon was postponed due to COVID, I completed a solo 26.2 mile out-and-back course along the coast from Littlehampton to Shoreham. I then ran another route around the Worthing area with my brother on the rescheduled date later in the same year. Feba's place in the real event was carried forward, so could October 2022 finally be the time?

To sponsor Bob's London Marathon efforts, please click here

Whilst not exactly 'false starts', those two long runs I did in 2020 were clearly not what was originally intended. There is something special about taking part in a larger event: quite aside from the unique opportunity to run on closed roads around London, the atmosphere and sense of occasion make a real difference. Many people try repeatedly to secure a place for the London Marathon in the general ballot - the majority being left disappointed, so I was keen not to give up the spot Feba had secured through the separate charity scheme. So, that meant that I had to keep up with my regular runs to ensure a baseline level of fitness before the more structured training plan began in earnest at the end of May.

My weekly distances dipped in November and December but I started 2022 with a clear focus. Things got off to a good start and I clocked up 134km (83 miles) in January, including a half marathon. I had set myself a goal of running at least one half marathon distance run each month and a target of 1,000 miles over the year, so was pleased to have got things underway.

In February, my first work trip of the year took me to Dubai. An evening run in the Jumeirah Beach district took me along a well-signed dedicated waterfront running track, heading towards the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. It is undeniably quite a spectacular sight, but to be honest I'm not drawn by the glitzy urban environment and conspicuous consumption. It's always good to run in different conditions though: even at sunset, the temperature was 24° Celsius - markedly warmer than at home.

Burj Al Arab hotel, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai

By contrast, things in Finland in March were decidedly chilly. I was visiting to attend the AGM of an international Christian media research group, of which Feba was a founding member. We were staying in a fairly remote retreat centre and the sunrise over a nearby lake was spectacular. I had taken my trail shoes, but the icy conditions proved too much and - despite taking reasonable care - I had a rather painful and undignified fall! I made my way gingerly back for breakfast with a bit of a graze and a few aches, but thankfully no serious damage was done.

Sunrise, Helsinki

Feba is part of the FEBC International Association - comprised of about 30 member offices, some of which are 'resource fields' (such as Feba UK) and others are 'ministry fields' (such as Feba India). In addition to my local UK responsibilities, I serve on the body elected to lead and coordinate the work, known as the Executive Committee (or 'ExComm'). We had maintained regular Zoom contact during COVID but had not all met in person since 2019. It was therefore a eagerly-anticipated and long-overdue gathering in Istanbul in April, when we coupled an ExComm meeting with a leadership development event for colleagues from across the Association. I had an early start on the Saturday morning to get out for a half marathon along the banks of the Bosphorous before breakfast.

Bridge over the Bosphorous, Istanbul

In May, I had a trip to southern Africa for meetings in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with a transit stop in South Africa too. Feba's partner Radio Wimbe serves the coastal town of Pemba in northern Mozambique - an area that has received a sizeable number of refugees fleeing Al-Shabab in recent months. The local population is comprised of three distinct language groups, and Radio Wimbe's produces programmes in all of them. Running in the early morning before meetings meant that I avoided the worst of the heat and humidity, and also meant that saw the local fishermen hauling their nets. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was reminded of the way in which Jesus engaged with fishermen in the gospels: meeting people 'where they were at' and sharing the good news in a relevant and accessible way was very much a hallmark of Jesus' ministry, and our partners today seek to do the same - with content that is contextually appropriate and culturally relevant, in listeners' heart languages.

Fishermen in Pemba, northern Mozambique

There is a keen running community in South Africa and parkrun is well established. I found an event at a park that we used to visit with our young sons when living there some years ago, and joined several hundred runners on the 5km course before extending my run to follow a trail to the nearby botanical gardens. In a city so plagued by crime - both actual, and also (sometimes exaggeratedly) by reputation - it was really encouraging to see how things appear to have shifted in recent years: local contacts confirmed that the use of public outdoor spaces and trails seem to have increased since the start of COVID. Anything that has potential to foster a greater sense of healthy community in Jo'burg is surely good news.

Delta parkrun, Johannesburg

Unfortunately, I came home from my Africa trip with COVID - testing positive just a few days after landing back in the UK. I was fairly wiped out initially and it took over a week to test clear, so a week of training was lost. I was very thankful that the effects were not longer-lasting, and I was therefore able to get back out pretty quickly. It did mean, however, that I missed my goal of completing a half marathon in May and my total distance dipped for a few weeks: over the whole month, I managed 63km compared to 124km in April... and 149km in June.

Some annual leave in June provided opportunity to venture to Devon with family. We stayed on a small campsite near the market town of Crediton and enjoyed a generally very restful few days away. I love being able to explore new places when I can, and running is a superb way to do that. I think that our nationwide network of public footpaths is a great treasure that we can so easily take for granted, but one of my bugbears is that they are sometimes so poorly maintained that they become impassable - especially in running shorts; regrettably, that was my experience when I attempted a route that I had plotted specially for our time away. It was frustrating and disappointing, but thankfully a passing local runner was able to provide some alternative recommendations. 

An uninviting overgrown footpath, near Crediton

The structured training plan I am following spans 18 weeks leading up to the marathon date, which is 2nd October. I have therefore been aiming to complete the three midweek runs and a longer weekend run - all as specified by the plan - since the end of May. The distances increase gradually, which in theory allows the body to adjust but also means that July and August are quite intense; the longest single training run of 32km (20 miles) should then be on 10th September, before tapering off in readiness for the day itself. I'm generally pleased with the way things are going and have clocked up almost 700km (435 miles)so far this year, but there are still many more training miles to complete before I am ready to tackle the marathon.

I'll try to keep this page updated with further news from my training over the summer. It does become a bit more of a juggling act - trying to fit the longer runs around work and family commitments, and avoiding the heat of the day - but I'm committed to giving this my best shot. I'm conscious I'm not getting any younger...!

The whole reason I signed up for the London Marathon was to raise funds for Feba. I was quite staggered by people's generosity back in 2020 and the total raised was considerably in excess of the notional target I had set myself. If you're reading this and were one of my sponsors a couple of years ago, then please let me say another "Thank you!". I can assure you that it does make a big difference to know that: a) I'm doing all this for a cause I care about; and b) people are supporting me. If you would like to make a contribution, then the dedicated giving page can be found by simply clicking here. Thank you.

Let's see what July brings!

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To read more blog posts about his preparations, please click here

Banner image: South Downs