Running to Support Others

As Bex and I sat on our respective sofas, bingeing on the latest Netflix boxset, Lou Serpell was training for her first Marathon….and to our eternal gratitude, decided to raise money for Sibling Link.

Lou set herself this inordinate challenge (that training for and running a marathon is) and decided was the way to raise awareness for those left behind following a death by suicide.

Having attended our Bereaved By Suicide peer support group over the last  couple of years, she was determined  to raise money for a cause that is close to her heart.  Her father took his own life when Lou was very young (age 2), and says an article by Aisling Bea in the Guardian, is a reflection of her own experience. In it she expresses her sense of loss and anger, and her difficulties in talking about it.  She says;

“I had always found it so hard to talk about. I think I had been afraid that if I ever did, my soul would fall out of my mouth and I would never get it back in again.“

On went the trainers and the running began…. On 10th April this year, Lou joined thousands of runners in the Brighton Marathon in an effort to raising money for Sibling Link.

Her fundraising page has now closed, but you can still donate by visiting our home page and hitting the donate button.

We caught up with Lou after the event to find out how she got on pre and post run.

Firstly, thank you for raising so much for Sibling Link – you’ve made the world of difference to us and the support groups we run. 

Why did you choose to run a marathon as opposed to another, more gentle way of raising money?

I have been really enjoying running for about 5 years and I am a very leisurely runner, enjoying 10K distances but I did the Brighton half marathon in 2020 when the conditions were awful and said never again. Then I did the Brighton Marathon 10K in September 2021 after all the lockdowns and I was so swept up in the atmosphere, I just decided to sign up.

I spent a lot of time thinking about a very personal and specific charity I wanted to focus on and decided on Sibling Link because I feel very strongly about its importance for supporting those who have been bereaved and helping people who are supporting their siblings. I have been very lucky to have the support of this organisation and I have seen what it can do for people.

Was this your first marathon?

Yes! And very possibly my last!

How did you go about training? 🏃🏻‍♀🏋🏻‍♀

I had been running about two or three times a week with my friend Wendy and sometimes four times with another friend, Emily and generally doing nice 5 and 10 k runs. Sometimes a little further. I have also been doing gym work for a while. But once I had signed up for the marathon, I realised this was serious! So, I joined RunBrighton who organise a run every Sunday around 830 in different places around Brighton and Hove. It starts in November with 1h and every week adds 10 mins to the time so you end up doing 3h10 or so. It is a really friendly and supportive environment and I realised I really enjoyed going even though I had to get up at 6.30 on a Sunday!

I also joined a running holiday to the Algarve which was also organised via RunBrighton and that was just a fantastic experience.

Were you/ are you a regular runner?🏃🏻‍♀🏃🏻‍♀

I have been running for around five years and during lockdown I carried out even on my own. Once we were allowed to run with others, I ran with Wendy and we do some very nice runs that often involve coffee and lovely scenery and can end with brunch or cake!

What were your most challenging training days/ was there one particular day that stands out?🥴

When we did the RunBrighton 2h50 run I really had a dip. I lost some confidence and I was really concerned I couldn’t do it. It was awful. But somehow I carried on and that was all thanks to the really lovely people I run with.

How long was your longest training run? 

RunBrighton do training in time rather than distance which is very good for a slow runner like me. It would take too long to run 20 miles for example, so we have to believe we can finish a marathon even if we have only managed just over half! Turns out they were right – I did finish it!

How did you prepare physically in the run up to marathon day – talk us through your diet and physical prep!🍪🍩🍿🍫🍭

I think I was a bit haphazard! I talked to lots people and got as much advice as possible but I just had to drink plenty of water and eat quite carb rich food for the week before. Mostly I spend that week being terrified about what was to come so I had to force myself to eat.

Tell us about the day – the challenges, the highs, anything/anyone what kept you going?☔️❄️

The weather was just perfect. Beautiful blue sky, a gentle breeze and a little bit chilly. Just right for running. The most challenging thing was just keeping going. I had music for quite a bit of it, but in the second half I just didn’t need it because I had so much support from friends and family who ran along with me. It was amazing. My face hurt from grinning so much. It was amazing to be so well supported.

They say Mile 21 is the toughest part mentally, was this the case for you?  Did any part of you seize up?

I didn’t have any serious pain, just found it hard to keep going because I was just SO tired. Emily ran around the section around the power station with me and I tried to pretend we were just on one of our nice normal runs. She had to keep talking because I don’t think I was making any sense by then. It feels like your power of forming coherent sentences stops working around mile 19!

How do you unwind immediately after – any post-marathon tips?☀️

At the end of the marathon, all my family were there along with friends and I don’t really remember much. My daughter phoned me from abroad which was lovely and when I got home had a good soak, a nice dinner and put on my PJs!  I think there isn’t a huge amount that can be done to stop the delayed onset muscle soreness which is the inevitable difficulty in walking up and down stairs. But it wasn’t that bad and everything else was just fine. I was sore for around three days but I was able to run again by Friday.

By raising money for Sibling Link, you are helping us to continue giving people bereaved by suicide access to each other for peer support.

How did you feel meeting others who have also been bereaved by suicide when you first came to a sibling link meeting?

Initially I was really anxious as it is something I have never really been able to discuss with anyone. It has been a really huge part of me that I haven’t shared and I think it has had a  significant effect on my mental health. Sometime ago I had some counselling which helped and then Sibling link was just such a warm, safe environment to be able to talk and listen.

It is such a specific experience that it is very hard to discuss with anyone who doesn’t know about it. I have been so moved and affected by others stories and I think this group has provided very important mutual support.

Do you think it has changed the way you have processed your loss or your feelings surrounding it?

I definitely think it has. It was the first time I was able to talk to others who had had an experience in anyway similar and although each persons’ experience is very individual, I feel that this group have a real understanding of the type of loss.  My bereavement was a very long time ago, so long I don’t remember it well and I think hearing others talk about their experiences as adults has really helped me understand my own feelings of loss that I wasn’t able to process having been too young.

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