You can read the first 14 weeks of Jonathan’s marathon training journey via links further down – and support his chosen charity DEBRA, at this page.

I’ve written a lot about myself in the last three months – not typical of me, really.

Therefore for my final blog, three days out from the marathon, it’s my sincere pleasure to shine a spotlight on other people to find out how they are feeling ahead of the big day – or how they felt when they ran a previous edition.

Sunday will be the seventh time on the start line for Nikki Chamberlain, an executive health & wellness coach.

“I’m just as excited as ever! The only years I’ve missed since my first are one due to injury and one due to the pandemic – although I did it as a virtual that year!” she tells me. “This will be marathon number 24 for me, and my second one this year [after Seville] – but London is by far my favourite race.

Nikki Chamberlain

“It really is a very special experience. And I say that as someone who has run all six World Marathon Majors!

“Being on the start line at London really is an honour and a privilege. The buzz of the expo, collecting my race number, getting my kit ready & then the nervous excitement of the journey across London on race day morning and the start line – and that’s all before we’ve even got going!

“Most of all, I’m looking forward to the best experience in any marathon anywhere in the world: rounding the corner to Tower Bridge, hearing the wall of noise from the cheering crowds ahead of you which just gets louder and louder the closer you get… and when you eventually cross the bridge, the air around you almost bounces with the noise! 

Tower Bridge, London Marathon

Tower Bridge, London Marathon

“It’s just before the halfway point, you’ve already come a long way and there’s still a long way to go – but that support just lifts you up and carries you through. It gives me goosebumps every time! The support along the whole of the route will be great, it always is, and the incredible camaraderie and achievements of the thousands of runners made it a wonderful day.”

Nikki advises: “Run the mile you are in. Don’t think of the 26, or even 2x13s. One mile at a time – tick it off then run the next one!

“Enjoy it! Run with your head up, look around you, take in everything that’s going on, soak in the atmosphere and use that for extra energy. And smile – even if it feels hard – because there’s evidence to show that by smiling you reduce your perception of effort and things feel easier.

“And before you run, think about why you are doing this, why it matters to you. And then save it – if things start to feel really tough, remind yourself of your ‘why’ and hang on to that until the finish!”

Massive challenge

Nina Sawetz

Nina Sawetz, founder and MD of Future Publicity, has seen preparations for her first marathon hampered by injury but is excited about the experience. “I’m so slow I think even my charity will have packed up and gone home by the time I get round!” she tells me.

“I’ve had a few recurring injuries during the six months of training so the marathon will be a massive challenge, having never run more than 16 miles (snap!) – but I’m excited to try.

“I have my playlists ready, and have even made an emergency ‘Wall’ playlist for those last 10 miles (mostly consisting of the Rocky soundtrack).”

Nina is running for Maggie’s cancer charity, which provides care and support for those living with cancer or facing a terminal diagnosis.

“The charity has been especially important to my family so I’m very proud to be representing them,” she says.

Binge runner

Simon Moss, Element Communications

Simon Moss, director at Element Communications, is also running London. Describing himself as “something of a binge runner”, he says he doesn’t necessarily enjoy it, but likes taking on challenges. 

“The Element team took on the Three Peaks Challenge last summer and raised more than £11,000 for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Having run a few half-marathons, the London Marathon was an itch I just needed to scratch,” he says.

“I was lucky enough to get a space in this year’s marathon through Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, which provides hospice care for adult patients and their families living with cancer or other advanced terminal illnesses in the Surrey and North Hampshire area, where I live. This has been an extremely humbling experience, as the charity cared for my late, great friend Holly prior to her passing a decade ago. It is a huge source of inspiration to be able to support the hospice in this way.

“This wasn’t something that I went into lightly. Prior to lockdown I joined the amazing crew at Destination RUN Coaching and their weekly running sessions, so engaged Andy and Brian to set a plan that would see me safely to the start line.”

London Marathon Week 12: Disaster strikes with the old David Dunn injury

Six years my junior, aged 36, Simon displayed greater wisdom than I ahead of the race. “It was interesting to read how you had to put the brakes on training due to a football injury. I continued to play six-a-side football each and every week until getting my place in the marathon – knowing full well the aches, pains and potential injuries that come about playing against people half your age, I decided to stop this weekly humiliation in order to devote myself to running!

“Because I have been training for the last five months or so, I would say I am feeling in decent shape going into race day, although it has been a gradual build-up of endurance over many weeks. I am hoping that the adrenaline, other participants and crowd will see me through the tough later miles. 

“I’ve done a few 10k runs in central London before and know how important even the occasional piece of music blaring out over a speaker can be.”

He adds: “First and foremost, I want to complete the marathon safely – but had set a target of under four hours. If all goes according to plan, this should be comfortable, but miles 20-26 remain a mystery, so it could all go wrong! I’m hoping someone along those later miles will be playing the Rocky soundtrack.”

My own original four-hour target seems foolhardy, given that my foot isn’t fully healed. I’ve decided to start without the ankle support and instead apply Kinesiology Therapeutic tape around the joint to support the ligaments without limiting motion.


Marcus Gaskell

KT Tape was recommended to me by Marcus Gaskell, senior program manager, subsea programmes at Vodafone Business, who completed London in 2005. “My main memory was the amazing support of the people along the entire route – it will definitely keep you going when the going gets tough,” he says.

After moving on to triathlons, Marcus graduated up the distances until he completed his first Ironman distance event in 2019 in 10 hrs 30 mins. He has also raced World and European Championships for his GB age group at long distance and middle distance triathlons.

On the marathon, he advises: “Break it down into milestones and tick them off mentally – 5k, 10k, half, 15 miles, 20 miles, last 10k. Use the crowd to help you get round and feed off their energy.

“If you can manage up to 20 miles in training, you can get through the last six miles on adrenaline!”

As my 16-mile record before injury was in the hills, I’m therefore now adding four on.

If you can spare anything, support DEBRA by sponsoring Jonathan’s run here

“Make sure you fuel and recover well in the lead up to the race – get enough sleep and eat and drink healthily and the night before. Fuel and hydrate well during the race. Also post-race to aid recovery.”

As I type, it’s 22:47 on Thursday night, the dog will need walking before bed and I’m up at 6am… I guess I’ll sleep tomorrow…

Are there any commonalities between endurance sports and business, I ask Marcus?

“Yes – setting your goal first is key, then making a plan to achieve the goal. Drive, determination and focus are definite commonalities: there will be times when you wonder why you are doing it so remind yourself why – whatever the reason.”

Triathlon dare

Jason Taylor, commercial director at ZigZag Global, ran in 2021 to complete his London Classics of Marathon, Ride 100 and the Serpentine Swim. “I have friends taking part so I will be there to support on the day!” he says.

ZigZag Global

Jason started triathlon “late in life” in 2012 after a dare at work. “I had only just started getting into running and the furthest I had run was 10k. I couldn’t swim and I didn’t own a bike. I took some swimming lessons in the months leading up to the sprint event and was surprised at how tiring it was. I just couldn’t get the breathing right! 

“It was bloody hard work: the swim was a mix of front crawl and breaststroke, getting changed into bike gear whilst wet was weird and when I finished the bike and tried to start the run I couldn’t feel my legs!

“When I finished the 5k run, I was elated – and within a week I had booked another event! I think I did five sprint triathlons that year.”

Having caught the bug, he bought more kit and would move up to Olympic distance. “I also did one half ironman in Weymouth in 2014 and recall saying: ‘I am never doing one of those again!’ Well, I joined the local triathlon club in 2015 because I fancied completing a full Ironman.”

“I chose Switzerland as I was only ever going to do one, so I might as well do one in a fantastic setting. I was knocked off my bike eight weeks out from the event with a broken wrist and my bike written off, so there was no swimming until the event – but I completed it. It was also freakishly hot – up to 35 degrees! 25% of the field dropped out due to the heat.

“Fast forward to now, and I’ve completed three full Ironman events, multiple half-ironman, marathons, half-marathons, duathlons, aquathlons, sportives and anything ‘testing’ like Mountain Mayhem (a 24-hour mountain bike event). I’m now captain of Hillingdon Triathletes – and love it!”

On London, he advises: “Try to sleep as well as you can. It helps to get into the rhythm of sleeping and waking at the same time you plan on waking on race day.”

I’m trying my best…

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Halfway there (livin’ on a prayer)

“When you start the race, you will definitely be going faster than you planned on. Keep looking at your watch and I strongly suggest trying not to ‘bank’ time. A lot of people I know think they’ll make up a bit of time as they are feeling fresh, but you’ll pay later. If you have a plan, stick to it.

“I also say to anyone doing a marathon for the first time: when you hit mile 20, you are halfway there. People look at me funny, but if you are seriously racing the marathon, you’ll know what I mean when you get there. Just be ready for it.”


“I’d also suggest having a mantra that is personal to you. It will get tough, really tough at some points, and everything in your being will be telling you to stop. You have to learn to embrace that feeling. My mantra is ‘embrace the suck’. I stole it from a well-known ironman triathlete and it just works for me: I know it’s going to suck, so just get on with it.”

His highlight was also Tower Bridge. “I got my phone out and filmed it! The atmosphere was electric. I got quite emotional. I also saw my supporters just as I finished crossing the bridge. The support is amazing all the way round, but Tower Bridge is simply awesome.”

Sadly my wife and kids won’t be there to cheer me on, as our family car is in the garage with a ‘computer says no’ error. I’m taking the train down on Friday afternoon, heading to the TCS London Marathon Running Show then staying with family in Surrey until the race.

I may also follow Jason’s post-race recovery advice. “I’m a little different than most – I do enjoy a good old McDonald’s! The stodge is just what I need.”

You can track Nikki, Nina, Simon and myself using the official TCS 2023 London Marathon App – available for download now – if you promise not to judge.

Jonathan Symcox London Marathon wide

Week 1: How hard can the London Marathon be?

Week 2: Running in the snow (& Peaky Blinders)

Week 3: Beer helps you to recover!

Week 4: Top of the pods… & Muhammad Ali

Week 5 & 6: From Saudi Arabia to Shawforth

Week 7: The Yorkshire terrier

Week 8: A chat with the Chorlton Runners

Week 9: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Week 10: Are we nearly there yet?

Week 11: The boy with butterfly skin

Week 12: Disaster strikes with the old David Dunn injury

Week 13 & 14: Back in the saddle