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Journey to the Start Line - Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon By Stuart Macfarlane

  • Very little training and do not run at all in the 5 weeks before running the Otley half marathon.
  • Drink 5 pints of cider the night before at a wedding.
  • Skip breakfast and don't take on any fuel during the race 
  • Stagger over the finishing line, in a bad state, a very, very long time after starting.
  • Vow never to do another race.

I did all of the above in my 3rd and last race. Definitely not the way to have a successful outcome!

Thirty nine years on, I'm about to break that vow, and take part in my 4th race, The Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon on 12th May.

Following a heart attack and triple heart bypass in 2019, a big part of my rehab was walking. I struggled to walk 100 yards on my first walk, but within 2 months, had built this up to 16 miles. I then thought I'd add a little bit of running to my walks, which really helped my breathing and fitness.

After a gap of 20 years, the Leeds Marathon was reinstated last year, and named after Rob Burrow, the ex Leeds and England Rugby League player, who was diagnosed  with MND in 2019. The new route starts at Headingley Stadium, and takes runners out into beautiful, (though very hilly ) countryside, to my home town of Otley, where it turns at 17 miles back towards the stadium for the finish.


The event was a huge success, with over 12,000 runners raising over £4 million for various charities, including over £1 million for the Rob Burrow MND Centre. The crowds lining the route were incredible, and I must admit to feeling rather emotional watching runners come through Otley. I was in awe of the runners, and very proud of the support given by the spectators.

This inspired me to sign up the following day for this year's race. 

As I've never been much of a runner, I knew I'd need to put in a lot of training, so my journey began.

Since starting training last May, I've been motivated to go for several runs a week, even if the weather was inclement, and my body said no, when before I would have stayed on the couch. I've become more aware about what I'm eating and drinking, but everything in moderation, feel much fitter, and have lost a stone in weight.  

I know I'll need to combine running with walking to get round, and my training has matched that. I've slowly increased the distance and the amount of running I've been doing. Training has gone very well and last week I completed my last long run/walk (20miles) before I start tapering down before the race. I find by walking up hills, and some flat, I can control my breathing, don't allow lactic acid to build up. I was able to fully run miles 19 and 20, at just over 9 min per mile. It's a great feeling seeing your distances increasing without your average time per mile changing much, and I'm now confident of completing the course.


I've tried and tested, and feel very comfortable in my new race kit- Brooks Adrenaline GTS running shoes, Balega hidden comfort running socks, (bought from Up & Running, obviously), and Rob Burrow MND Charity running shirt. I've also been using High5 energy gels on runs over 8 miles, which have really helped my energy levels after the 1 1/2 hour mark.


Although I know it'll be hard work, the thought of the support of the amazing crowds and fellow runners, going through my home town, and crossing the finishing line makes me look forward and I'm really excited about the day.

 I'm sure most people reading this will be better runners than me, and younger, but for anyone looking at starting running, I think the best tips I can give, going on my experiences are:


1) Get fitted correctly for running shoes at a specialised running shop.


2) Build up your run distances and speed slowly. 


3) Listen to your body. Only you know how it feels.


4) Don't do anything that I did on my last race!


I'm fundraising to help build The Rob Burrow MND Centre in Leeds. This will be a fantastic facility for the MND community, and will give people living with MND the best quality of life.

 Any donations, big or small, on my just giving page below, will make a difference and will be very much appreciated.


Many thanks 

Stuart Macfarlane 


🏅🏁Stuart finished his marathon in 5hrs and 37 minutes (including 3x 5 min pit stop’s to chat with friends in the crowd).🏁🏅 



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