01 February 2016

Blog by Petra Velzeboer, London Youth Marathon Runner for 2016

In a spur of the moment decision, I signed up to run the London marathon 2016 in support of an excellent charity called London Youth. This is often how I make decisions, my gut instinct says it will be a great idea, I say yes and then I figure out how I’m actually going to tackle it later! I find the combination of making the initial decision along with telling people gives me the motivation I need to make myself take the next steps to get where I want to go.

I also visualise the end result. I believe this is what gets me through the tough times! When I studied for my MSc at night, while working full-time and raising 2 children, I visualised wearing the cap and gown, having an audience watching as I crossed the stage to receive my degree. Me, the person who had no education as a child and felt like the stupid one most of my life, would hear the noise of applause. I would be dressed professionally and feel all the relief of 2 years of study (and a life time leading up to it) as I received my scroll of achievement, the symbol of having arrived to a state of intelligence.

It may sound silly but there were plenty of times when I cried and felt like I would never be able to get there. The exhaustion while doing a dissertation that tackled the hardest part of my cult upbringing and post-natal depression meant it was not only an intellectual exercise but an emotional journey, an attempt to understand my past and make some sense of the ‘normal’ world.

If I couldn’t visualise the end result I wouldn’t have had a reason to motivate myself to wake up at 4am to get 2 hours of studying in before my kids woke up. I look back and while people on a normal trajectory of study and work may see this as something small, the hundreds of people who encounter tragedy, mental health issues or difficulty in achieving an education will understand the full commitment and appreciation that getting an education brings you. In my world education brings power and choice, 2 of the things I had little of while growing up.

So while I started this blog thinking about the marathon I’ve signed up to and wanting to muse on how I’m going to run 26.2 miles when I can currently only run 3, this process has showed me the answer has been inside me all along. If I could get through adjusting to life outside of a cult, if I could adjust to parenting after horrific post-natal depression and if I could get a Masters education in the middle of all of this, how hard could learning to run 26.2 miles be? I can visualise the end result: the ticker tape finish line, the crowds of people supporting the cause, the buzz of being among athletes, the outfit I’ll wear (obviously) which will make me look amazing (it’s all in the detail trust me!) and my red-faced sigh of achievement at the end – then I can do this!

I’m also running for a dear friend who passed away this year through complications exacerbated by alcoholism. I’m also a recovering alcoholic with 6 years sobriety (that was also happening through all of the above), I’m running because I have a chance, one that I choose every day to have, to make a difference to myself first so that I can make a difference to others.

London Youth is a fantastic charity that supports young people all across London and gives them the opportunities that I didn’t have as a kid, it gives them youth centres, mentors and support through education outside of school, the education they may take for granted amidst the chaos of living but one they’ll appreciate fully when they re-group throughout their marathon of life. Please support this cause and give someone the gift of motivation to change their life.


Thank you.

What can you visualise today that will give you a sense of achievement?