London Marathon: 'Getting injured is par for the course - but now I feel strong for the first time in my life'

Physio Tim Roberts puts Bryony through her paces
Physio Tim Roberts puts Bryony through her paces Credit: Andrew Crowley

Lying on a bed with my legs resting on the shoulders of a tall, handsome man, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this the reason I decided to do the London Marathon? Sure, getting injured isn’t much fun, but I’m learning that it’s all par for the course when it comes to training to run 26.2 miles (the key bit, I am told, being the .2, though I am pretty sure for that for me the key bit will be the entire thing).

The last time I wrote, I had been put on antibiotics for bronchitis and told I had done something to my right abductor, which meant not training for two weeks. Then I found myself in the Harley Street offices of the Centre for Health and Human Performance, a sort of super-physio haven which looks after Olympic athletes, as well as providing the support for all those crazy Comic Relief challenges (think Eddie Izzard doing 27 marathons in 27 days, and Jo Brand walking from one side of the UK to the other), and it struck me that if they couldn’t sort me out, nobody could.

Marathon training clearly has its perks Credit: Andrew Crowley

Hence my feet pressing down on the shoulders of a young man I have only just met. Tim Roberts is a 6 ft 5 Australian with twinkly eyes and a charming bedside manner. He is strength testing me, to see just how weak I am and whether or not I am in a physical state to run. I have butterflies in my stomach as he does his assessment: not because I really, really fancy him, but because I really, really want to get out on the streets again. 

I am desperate to run. At night, I dream about pounding the pavements around the South Bank. The other morning, I was getting dressed in my bedroom when I heard the familiar sound of trainers slapping the floor, of someone jogging to the common, and it felt like they were taunting me.

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“I think you have a problem,” my husband said, when I told him in great detail about the route I had planned for my next long run, and how I could keep my strength up through thrice weekly Pilates classes. “You have become addicted to exercise.” But I didn’t have time to respond: I was too busy packing my gym kit for a session on the cross trainer.

It’s true... I have become addicted to exercise. Like smoking, it took me a while on account of how disgusting I first found it, but now I’ve got past that stage I am well and truly hooked. I am now over two stone lighter than when I started this journey, and so much brighter - but most importantly, I feel strong for the first time in my life. I can feel muscles at the back of my thighs and in my arms. I am never out of breath. I think I look good, even if some less gentlemanly readers have felt the need to get in touch to tell me that I look like an elephant. So I need Tim to pass me. I need him to glue me back together.

After the assessment, I sit nervously at his desk and await the verdict. I swear I can hear my heart pumping. “Right,” he says. The clock ticks on the wall. My breath seems to get shallow. “You are good to go.” I actually let out a little shriek of delight.

Tim Roberts gives Bryony the green light to continue training Credit:  Andrew Crowley


Two weeks later I am standing on the start line of the Fitbit Semi de Paris, a half marathon in the French capital that I have signed up to do with a friend. I hadn’t thought about the temptation that would be everywhere in the form of wine and cheese, but after the strength training I have done with Tim - gnarly side planks, excruciating calf raises while sitting against a wall, actual bridges, which I haven’t been able to do since I was a 12 -  I am not willing to throw it away over a piece of Camembert and a glass of the hotel’s finest Merlot.

Instead, we go to the Musee D’Orsay, stock up on protein in the form of delicious steak tartare, and go to bed at 8.30pm. When we wake up in the morning, it is blowing a gale and lashing with rain. Just like almost every other one of the 40,000 people doing this half, we start the race sporting bin bags over our kit.

No Merlot or Camembert was going to stand in the way of my success

By mile six, I feel like I am flying. At 10, I have a headache because it is so cold. I put my hood up to try and stave off the biting wind, and in the process empty what feels like a bucketful of water over myself. At 11 miles, the maximum amount I have ever run in my life, I start to think I can’t do it. I walk for a bit. Then I pull myself together and sprint to the finish line, a slow but steady half in my back pocket and a feeling of smugness all around. By the end of the day I have clocked up an impressive 44,000 steps on my Fitbit. 

Sure, the half took me two hours and 43 minutes. But who would have thought, five months ago, that I would manage to run 13 miles? 

Paris is done. London beckons.

Now I just need to double that. In six weeks. Gulp. Bryonygordon