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As if 26.2 miles in sweltering heat wasn’t challenge enough Julie Fowler had to dodge 40,000 runners as she guided son Aaron to his 1st marathon

In November 2016, my son Aaron asked me to be his guide runner for the London Marathon. I completed the London Marathon (my one and only) 2011 in 5hour 11minutes and had always said to Aaron if he wanted to do it I would be happy to run as his guide. Aaron is visually impaired and has an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. This causes tunnel vision and night blindness.

We started training for the 2017 London Marathon, however a few weeks in to our training in January 2017 Aaron noticed he was getting a pain in his heart.

After going to the doctors and seeing a cardiologist we found out he had Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome. This meant he had to pull out of the London Marathon and have an ablation to resolve the problem. After successful surgery in May and getting the all clear in August, Aaron was able to return to running.

Aaron had deferred his place from 2017 to 2018 which meant I would be running the marathon a couple of weeks after my 50th birthday. We started training in January 2018, doing our short runs in the week at Everyone Active gym at Frogmore on the dreadmill and doing our long runs outside on a Saturday morning. We used a guide running band which we would both hold on to while running.

It took me a while to get use to guide running and I would occasionally forget to tell Aaron when there was a curb or when there were low branches ahead. Aaron is taller than me and this meant he would often be hitting his head on branches! Fortunately for me, Aaron has a great sense of humour!

I think as revenge, when I was struggling during a run, Aaron would call me the running granny, now I have a grandson. That made me think, I’ll prove what this granny can do!

Our training went well with neither of us suffering any injuries and guide running became much easier. Running with Aaron pushed me to run faster than I had in the past and we were aiming and on target to complete the marathon in four and a half hours.

On Marathon Morning, Alison Jones had kindly offered to pick us up and take us to the SJ coach pick up point and being a very experienced marathon runner she was calm and positive about the day, just what I needed.

Julie and Aaron start vlm

We arrived at the start area on race day feeling prepared, however like everyone else we weren’t prepared for the hot weather! The atmosphere at the red start was buzzing and it wasn’t long before we were heading to our pen ready for the start.

A few miles in we realised that due to the heat, our time would not be as quick as we were hoping for. The two biggest challenges on race day were the heat and also guiding Aaron through a very busy course, we had only completed one half marathon previously due to Fleet being cancelled so I had little experience of guiding in the masses.

At times we were having to zigzag through the field and sometimes shout “Two runners coming through”, with us narrowly missing some runners who didn’t hear as they had their headphones in. Due to the zig zagging there were times when it felt like Aaron was guiding me as well as me guiding him.

Our family came to support us on the day and gave us something to look out for as we went round the course, stopping for hugs and words of encouragement which really helped to spur us on. The crowd were amazing all the way round, calling out our names as we ran past and the encouragement from the other runners gave us a real boost too.

Julie and Aaron vlm

We crossed the line after 5 hours and 27 minutes and were greeted with hugs and smiles from the lovely Monica Banerjee Burbidge & Mhairi Hutchison from SJ who gave us our medals. It was a huge sense of relief to get to the finish and I was extremely proud to have had the honour of running the London Marathon with my son (apologies girls for the tears).
Aaron really enjoyed the experience and he managed to raise over £3,000 for Guide Dogs.

Would we do it again – hell yes!

Thank you to all the SJs who helped us and wished us luck an to all who volunteered on the day, you really do make it special!




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