Louise Minchin on running the Virtual Marathon
PUBLISHED: 11:20 12 October 2020
BBC presenter Louise Minchin and her friend Judge Rob Rinder run the Virgin London Marathon in the Cheshire countryside
This month I truly tested a friendship. Not wanting to let down the charity I had agreed to run the London Marathon for, (in my case Age UK), in the early hours of a blustery Sunday morning, I set off along with 45,000 other runners all over the world, to complete 26.2 miles on a course of my choice.
Never one to make it easy, I chose part of the Sandstone Trail, which follows a stunning pre-historic ridge dissecting the Cheshire plains from Frodsham to Whitchurch. The path wanders through dark forests, past steep escarpments with breathtaking views of the Welsh mountains on one side, and the Peak District on the other. It is stunning but challenging, with steep steps, slippery descents, nettles and brambles that tear at your legs, and deep muddy puddles. It is not for the faint-hearted.
The brilliant thing about the Virtual Marathon was that I was allowed to run it with friends, but who would, and also, could run that distance with me? There were two contenders: my steadfast running friend Laura, and Judge Rob Rinder. Rob and I are forever bonded by an epic marathon we did together in the Namibian Desert in 48C, to raise money for Sport Relief.
Both of them were planning to come, but Laura’s plans were scuppered when she went into local lockdown with three days to go. I was gutted; I knew without someone with me it was going to be an incredibly tough challenge, and all my hopes rested on Rob.
When I saw him get off the train in Chester I nearly cried. What an absolute star. I should have known he wouldn’t let me down.
We arrived at the War Memorial on Frodsham Hill in the dramatic inky-blue light before dawn. After a quick interview on BBC Breakfast, I pressed go on the London Marathon app, which would track our progress and we were off. Heavy rain meant it was treacherous underfoot, so we were never going to be fast, but the miles flew by as we chatted, laughed and scrambled our way south. Rob was utterly brilliant, encouraging me every step of the way and chivvying me along cheerfully but firmly when I was finding it hard.
After a joyous seven hours and 17 minutes and a last 200-metre sprint I collapsed in a heap of pain, but feeling incredibly blessed to have a friendship forged in the baking hot desert and cemented in the Cheshire countryside.