RSC Executive Director and Running Wardrobe team member Catherine Mallyon tells us about her training ahead of this Sunday's Stratford Half-Marathon.

On a glorious Easter Saturday, I rounded off my training for the Rotary Shakespeare Half Marathon with a parkrun. With only a few more 'easy' runs before the big day, it’s time to get fully refreshed and rested for the 9am start on Sunday – when there will be just the 13.1 miles to go.

This parkrun was great – sunny but not too hot and I ran my fastest five kilometres for nearly three years. To be clear, you won’t mistake me for Laura Muir, Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe or Mary Keitany - I ‘run’ at far less than half their pace and running for anything further than 5k generally means a combination of running and walking. My parkrun time was 29 minutes and 34 seconds (important to break the half hour barrier) and I was second in my category (the marvellously-titled Veteran Women 55-59, albeit just the eight of us). I am sure that’s all thanks to the half-marathon training.

Supporting Stitch In Time

It was probably over a year ago that Rebecca Preston, Development Director, and I started thinking seriously about doing something with colleagues to support the Stitch In Time campaign, raising funds for the important work to restore and redevelop our Costume Workshop. I had joked about a team entering the Shakespeare Half-Marathon and Marathon, especially with it being on the Shakespeare Birthday Weekend, and the idea took hold. To test our resolve Rebecca and I tried a couple of runs in New York’s Central Park when we were there in November. I remember running in the sun on the first weekend and then later in the week following an unexpected six inches of snow that had brought the city to near standstill. We wrapped up warm and consoled ourselves that this must be good preparation. To our delight Elliot Fishman, Secretary and Treasurer of RSC America, agreed to join the team and represent all our friends across the pond.

A woman in running gear poses by two costumed mannequins and Stitch In Time banners.
Catherine Mallyon.
Photo by Sam Allard © RSC Browse and license our images

Back in Stratford ten brilliant colleagues were able to join the team, including Steve Rebbeck, our Technical Director who leads the in-house team overseeing the Costume Workshop construction works, and our unofficial coach and multi-ultra-runner Becky Loftus. Becky sent us all an indicative training schedule and I have pretty much stuck to that for the sixteen weeks of the programme. By the end of the half-marathon I will have run 500 kilometres this year. I can’t quite believe it. Though my knees can.

Staying motivated

Most of my training runs have been in Stratford and Oxfordshire though I have also been treated to runs in snow on the flat Northumberland coast and in sun, rain and wind on the hilly coast of South Devon. Becky’s schedule has us increasing the length of our long run each week. The advantage of this is that I know that I should be able to get around the half-marathon course; the disadvantage is that I also know it is likely to hurt. The final kilometres of some of the longer runs have seen me very much run-walk (I found literally twenty seconds of each kept me going) and on one unpleasantly memorable occasion, turning the corner into needles of horizontal rain and wind that gave me a definite sense of physically and mentally unravelling.

Support from enthusiastic colleagues has kept us going and we will be spurred on by the specially designed and personalised T-shirts we will wear on the day, thanks to the wonderfully creative Visual Communications and Costume teams.

Catherine's sparkly nameplate for the back of her shirt.

Reaching the finishing line

It is brilliant that we over-shot our first fundraising target and are now very close to our new aim of £13,100 – to match the 13.1 miles of the half. I am so impressed by those who are running the full marathon; that is an effort and achievement beyond my comprehension. And by those who have fitted in training and preparations around incredibly busy family lives. Enormous thanks to everyone who has helped and supported us in every possible way.

So now the final week starts. In addition to the easy runs, I’ll get my knees taped (multi-coloured go-faster stripes), aim for lots of sleep, and get my hair cut – surely those will all help me be speedier and stronger? The night before the race, Team Running Wardrobe will share a carb-loading meal in Stratford and look forward to enjoying the run. What remains in my mind from all the training are those joyful sunny runs, often with friends and colleagues - I am sure that is what Sunday will feel like.

You can donate to the our Running Wardrobe team and the Stitch In Time campaign on their JustGiving page.