This weekend three-time Olympic silver medallist and London 2012 champion Katherine Grainger switched from elite rower, to road runner, taking on the challenge of the London Marathon on behalf of London 2012 legacy charity – International Inspiration (IN).
Having completed the course in an impressive time of 3:55:08, we met Katherine at the finish line and - in between the sweat, tears elation – spent some time discussing her reasons for running for IN and what the future holds.
Congratulations on running the 2014 London Marathon, how do you feel?
I feel elated! I have that adrenaline surge you get when doing anything like that. It was an incredible experience, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I knew the first half would be incredible - with the crowds and feeling good, feeling fresh – but everybody I’d spoken to had said the second half would get worse and worse, but, in all honesty, I pretty much enjoyed the whole thing.
I feel very satisfied and do you know what’s so lovely? The causes that so many thousands of people are supporting and the complete strangers calling out your name that make the world of difference, there are so many bits that you’re struggling a little bit, you’re getting tired or fatigued in different ways but then a complete stranger shouts your name and it gives you this lift and that’s on top of all the messages of support. It’s like being back at the Olympics, there are so many people who have your back and support you, and it’s another thing to be proud of.
Why did you want to run the London Marathon for IN?
I think anybody who grows up in this country is aware of the London Marathon, I‘ve watched it on TV and even come down to join the crowds cheering others on and you just feel it, you know it’s just this incredible event. It attracts those who are genuinely the best in the world over this distance right down to the fun-runners and those doing it for charities to raise so much money for so many worthwhile causes. I never knew if I’d be one of those people who’d get to take part, but then I sort of agreed to it without really – and seriously - considering the weighty undertaking that I’d just agreed to.
By doing it yourself, you gain even more respect for those who’ve completed it. I’m obviously on the board for IN and it’s very close to my heart, you realise that by going through one day of pain I can raise a lot of money and do an incredible amount of good for a lot of people around the world and that my one day of pain is little in comparison to what people around the world can suffer so it’s very much a small price to pay to hopefully bring a lot of goodness to people who need it.
You’ve no doubt experienced so many amazing moments in career, how did it feel to start the London Marathon?
For both Anna and me, we didn’t really see that one coming. Running the Marathon is one thing, especially your first one, but then being asked to start the whole thing, it’s one of those honours you don’t plan for and I think it took us both by huge surprise because neither of us are runners and to be asked – more so when you look at the people involved – is a huge honour. Running it is great but starting it, well, you have to pinch yourself.
How does the crowd and atmosphere of the iconic London Marathon compare to the London 2012 Games?
It’s very reminiscent of London 2012, when we experienced it in a boat it was over a shorter time and more intense but this was genuinely a solid four hours of people shouting your name, clapping, cheering and shouting your name. They were very similar, but yet so hard to compare as they’re totally different beasts. What it reminds you of is that, as an entire country, when we get behind something and support something, that we do it like no other. It gives you that really warm feeling inside, hundreds of thousands of people turn out to cheer on complete strangers and every single runner will say it makes the world of difference and gives them a lift when they need it and pushes you on to achieve the times that people achieve.
How did you find switching from rowing to running? Was it a shock to the system?
[Laughs] It wasn’t a complete shock to the system, but it’s a very, very different physical feeling. We used to do a lot of long physical endurance training, but, we’re in a boat and our weight is supported by the water, whereas this is hard miles, ‘pounding the pavement’ impact which is exactly why my legs are feeling rather shaky and weak and will ache tomorrow! But, I think, a big thing that you have to in rowing is mental toughness and that had a massive role here when you go through dark points! You trust that you can go through that and come out the other side and you can dig very deep to come up with the goods when you have to. I didn’t doubt I’d make the end of the Marathon, just wasn’t fully sure what speed or shape it would be in!
Are you considering a career switch ahead of Rio 2016?!
I can say that quite easily, NO! [Laughs] I don’t think this is my new event, I don’t think I challenged any of the elite women with my time, which I’m pleased with, but I’d probably need to go about an 1:45 quicker – which is mind blowing - and can’t see myself making that up in two years! It reminds you just how good the best are. Anna [Watkins] and I were running together, and we had this realisation at about two hours and we thought “Oh, Mo and Co. would’ve finished by now” and we still had miles upon miles to go! That’s when you realise that the speed they can consistently run is just simply astonishing. So no, I don’t think I’m threatening any Marathon records!
Finally, what would you like to say to all your supporters and those that have backed you?
Its two fold, firstly, it means so much to me personally having seen the messages on the Just Giving page and the people that have donated money, time and energy to supporting me – it just means so much to me, I really can’t say enough about how it touches me. All these people spur me on, when the going gets tough in the racing and the training they help you through. It makes it all worthwhile when you know you’ve got that love and support. It’s incredible.
On the other hand, the money they’ve donated really makes a difference and is going to places where it is crucially needed and wouldn’t get there otherwise and - whether it’s your pocket money or from your weekly wages – it’s vital that people know it’s worth it and it’s gone to an incredible cause. Their emotional support means everything to me but they’re financial support means everything to people around the world who will now have better opportunities because of it.
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