Leah ran for a charity that supports London's homeless Tanya King with permission for Varsity

The London Marathon took place for the 44th time last Sunday on the 21st of April. One of the World Marathon Majors, alongside Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York, the route takes you around some of London’s most iconic landmarks: Cutty Sark, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben before crossing the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace. Just over 53,000 people completed the London Marathon this year, one of which was Leah Mundy, a first year MML student. As someone who grew up in London myself, I remember feeling like the Marathon was an inaccessible event. So, I met Leah on a brief but sunny afternoon, to find out about her own experience – and perhaps to be convinced to sign up myself.

“I remember feeling like the London Marathon was an inaccessible event”

“I hadn’t actually run any further than 7k before signing up”. So why did Leah decide to run the London Marathon? It had “been a massive bucket list item. It was during assembly in Year Seven, I remember them congratulating those who had completed the marathon and I said I want that to be me. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to run it.” Despite unsuccessfully entering the ballot three times, she claimed a place to run with The Connection – a charity that supports homeless people in London: “I think it’s really important to support the smaller charities”. She touchingly describes how emotional it was to see people fundraising for, or in memory of loved ones, something that motivated her to keep running.

Reliving the run, Leah recalls the moment when she doubted whether she could finish. “I got to mile 17, which is the furthest I had actually run before […] with still nine miles to go, it hurt so much. So, a lot of it is a mental battle.” Determined, she reminded herself, “everyone else’s legs are aching just as much as mine, so I just need to do what they’re doing and carry on running”. Astounded by her struggle, I wondered how she pulled through. “My mum and dad were at miles 14 and 21, which was great because seeing them, I thought okay, I can do this.” Leah beamed as she spoke of the people that came to support her: the pain was clearly worth it as “in the final pictures, I have the cheesiest grin on my face.”

“Everyone else’s legs are aching just as much as mine, so I just need to do what they’re doing and carry on running”

Of course, training in addition to a Cambridge workload is no easy feat. “I was doing 10k runs through Michaelmas term and then marathon training started in January which was really difficult.” Despite these difficulties, “Cambridge is so nice to run around, especially the Botanical Gardens.” Her favourite route was to start at Catz, and then run round Queens’ backs and re-join the high street at Magdalene. Leah also spoke about how the support of the college community kept her motivated, even convincing her college husband to join her on training runs. “So many people from college have donated, which has been really lovely of them […] People have given whatever they can and that’s all come together to make a really good amount for charity.” She describes that, during Lent Term, there was a point where she would have dropped out if not for the charity, claiming that she told herself: “Well, I’ve got to do it now, I wasn’t just doing it for myself. People were supporting me and had donated.”


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Already tempted to sign up again, Leah tells me that “running really does just boost the mood”. Often running can seem an intimidating endeavour, but she was quick to emphasise that removing the pressure and not comparing yourself to others is key to enjoying a run “for what it is”. “You just can’t fathom how fast the elite marathon runners run. I had a really late start time, so I started when the women were about five minutes from the finish line.” Achieving an incredible 4:57:23 time, she says adamantly, “I will go again because I want to get under 4h30, but I really enjoyed it as it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages, and I raised money!”

For those who have been tempted to ballot for next year, Leah’s biggest tip is to “do it!” and “find your why”. “I think you can sign up which is really cool, but then you won’t have the motivation later.” This is why she recommends running for a charity. By the time we ended our conversation Leah had convinced me to go on my own run, as she concluded: “running is so underestimated, all you need is a pair of trainers!”