29 October 2018

How did you spend your summer? For the first time in many years, I spent mine racing around parks, towpaths and city streets, my registration for the Bristol Half Marathon (13.2 miles/22 kilometres) hanging over my head and the big date set for 23 September – one day after my birthday.

I'd never considered myself a runner or particularly into fitness, so this challenge was a big one for me. After a little preparation, I finally began the gruelling 12-week training regime in early July, at the tail-end of 2018’s remarkable heatwave.

Dugald running

Week 1

Warming up at first with gentle runs, and having settled for my faithful, 14-year old running shoes in favour of some newer ones I’d bought in a fit of enthusiasm, I braved the heat and set out. During the long summer evenings I crossed dry, brown nature reserves and parks around Wiltshire, picking places that I could explore as well as rack up the miles.

Week 4

With my partner following me on her bicycle shouting encouragement, I switched from my initial beginner’s regime to the harder BUPA one, and then started to really feel the burn. Five miles, then seven, then eight, I ran to build up my endurance and my race fitness, heading toward the magical training target of 12 miles – a number which would have been unthinkable for me just a few weeks ago. A running app and some Bluetooth headphones also provided motivation for when I ran alone, and to this day I still enjoy listening to the Spotify playlists I set up then.

Dugald training

Week 7

I also created a Just Giving page around this time (it’s free and easy to do, no matter how web literate you are) and started to hound my friends and family to donate. This not only started to bring in funds for the Trust’s important work – which were paid in monthly, but also gave me a very important bit of motivation: my training was now public, and I had a group of people who would hold me to account if I backed out or didn’t give it my all.

I even had people willing to double their donation if I beat my target time – needless to say as a first-timer I didn’t really have one, so I made one up based on the times I was achieving on my training runs. In the event I estimated pretty well, as on the day I beat my ambitious target time (2 hours and 45 minutes) by just 23 seconds!

Week 12 - Race Day has arrived

On the day of the race, the atmosphere was charged and felt like a festival despite the appearance of rain, as many thousands of runners and their friends and well-wishers converged on Bristol city centre - just as they would in dozens of other half marathons up and down the country.

On the race-course there were bands, stalls and lines of cheering supporters, so that you always felt carried along by a wave of enthusiasm – a different proposition to the relative solitude of training alone. Of course there are support groups you can join when you’re training, but sadly I was never that organised.

I’ll never forget the pain in my legs around mile 11, or the feeling of jubilation when I crossed the line and collected my medal, the culmination of months of early starts, showers at work and kindly support from colleagues at the Trust, which made it all worth it.

Dugald at the finish


I’ve tried to keep up my fitness since 23 September, and unbelievably I am even considering running it again next year. However I can now honestly say that, even for a non-athlete like me, there’s so much to gain from doing a challenge event – whether it’s fitness, outdoor time and a new perspective on where you live and work, not to mention the valuable funds you can raise for your favourite charity.

Sound like fun? Why not get involved

If you’re interested in raising funds for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in this way, you can set up a fundraising page through our website, use another platform like Just Giving or get in touch with us for more advice.