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08 April 2019

What started as a weight loss journey for a Gauteng mom of two culminated in her finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon. And to top it all she ran this spectacular marathon in aid of her niece who suffers from a chromosome disorder. This is the story of how Heather Hair – who never really took to exercise never mind running, completed her first international marathon. 
Wakeup call
It was January 2015 and I had just returned from a family holiday. After seeing the holiday pics I decided I needed a drastic change. I had already started seeing a dietician and I decided to try start running to help with my weight loss. 
A good friend thought it would be great to run together, so one Monday morning we started with a little 2km ‘jog’, but I had to walk most of it and got back home red faced and out of breath. Each day we tried to increase the mileage a little more.  
Eventually I joined a running club (K-Way Jeppe). It took a while to get used to getting up so early in the mornings to join them, but then I realised just how great I felt on the days that I ran, and I was so much more productive. It soon became part of my daily routine and it fit perfectly in with my work. As for my family they would still be sleeping when I left and had just surfaced as I returned from my run.
With consistency and determination, I ran my first half marathon in May 2015. My husband and two girls were so proud and encouraged me to keep it up. I went from strength to strength and signed up for my first full marathon in October 2016.  
Marathon training was tough, and I was tired all the time. I had ups and downs. The long runs were hard and I remember one run in particular where I had to be motivated to run that last hill back to the club by my fellow runners with my lip quivering with every step I took. That day I climbed into my car and cried so hard. I was physically and mentally exhausted. My friend calmed me down and reminded me of how far I have come. I hung onto every word she said and went home, recovered and went back the next week ready for the torture all over again. 
First Marathon
My goal was to finish within the 5-hour mark. Race day came and everything went well until the second half. It was tough and hot. I eventually got to the 32km mark and that wall they speak of came right down in front of me. I stopped dead and started crying. My friend took out a picture of my late dad and said: “Look at your dad smiling. He is looking down on you and is so proud of you, you have to finish this.” And with that statement in mind I picked up my weary legs and started a slow jog again. My feet ached, my legs ached my head ached. Everything was sore but I continued to the end and we finished in 5h08 with my proud family waiting for me at the end.  At that moment it was all worth it! 
I am proud to say from there my running journey continued and I completed my very first Comrades Marathon in June 2017. 

The Road to the London Marathon
I was lucky enough to run the London Marathon for UNIQUE in 2018. UNIQUE is an organisation based in the UK and are a network for families worldwide affected by Chromosome disorders. My sister and brother-in-law are the representatives for UNIQUE here in South Africa. Their daughter and my niece Bailey, who is now 11 years old, was born with additional Chromosome Material on Chromosome 15. This affects her development, speech, fine and gross motor skills and behaviour. She has absent seizure activity, some Autistic Spectrum trait and a low immune system, only some of the obstacles she has to face and for which she requires daily therapy. Despite these obstacles she is a fun loving, bubbly little soul who gets excited and enjoyment seeing those she loves, who love and adore her. 
It was during UNIQUE’s awareness week that I chose to wear a shirt with Bailey’s name on and UNIQUE’s details on to help create awareness for them. My club mates were curious as to who Bailey was. Upon explaining they suggested a challenge to help create awareness and raise funds for the cause. And so, our “TEAM BAILEY” was born. We set out to do a 10/10 challenge which was running 10km every day for 10 days.  
Initially it was very daunting as I had never done a fundraiser before. But I researched a little and it all came together with the help of the Just Giving Fund Raising Page. 
Running 100km’s over 10 days sounds easy on paper but when put to the test it is really tough. On those days where I was struggling, I thought about my niece and her parents and the struggles they face each day and it was these thoughts that kept me going.
Finally the time came for me to leave for London for my very first international marathon. What an incredible experience it was right from registration and collecting our race numbers to the build-up and countdown to race day.
Everything was amazing, from the public’s support to the bands on the streets to the iconic buildings you pass by on the run. And then crossing that finish line and realizing you have just completed your very first international marathon…. goose bumps!  What an incredible feeling and it is certainly one I will never forget and hope to do again one day. 
London Marathon you make anyone want to be a runner!
Lessons Learnt
I am by no means an athlete but through consistency, motivation and the will to never give up I have accomplished what I set out to do so far, and if I can do it anyone of you out there are capable too. When the road ahead seems impossible do not give up. A piece of advice from a wonderful woman I run with: “Break it down into smaller chunks and keep moving forward”.

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