London Marathon 2022: Teneo’s VP of Services, James Hall, raises nearly £4000 for SEED Madagascar

On Sunday 2 October 2022, Teneo’s VP of Service James Hall completed the London Marathon on behalf of SEED Madagascar, raising nearly £4000 for the charity and completing it in an impressive time of just 4 hrs 25 mins.

Madagascar is one of the most impoverished and least developed countries in the world where approximately 1 in 10 children die before the age of 5 from easily preventable diseases.

Teneo’s association with SEED dates back to 2011 when James took a career break to volunteer in Madagascar as part of their conservation programme. Since then, James has continued to raise awareness and funding for the charity on both a personal and professional level.

This includes his instrumental contribution to the many SEED Madagascar charitable initiatives that Teneo has supported, including our latest initiative that will see Teneo fund almost 40% of a £100K project to improve the quality of health and education in the small rural village of Sarisambo, Madagascar,

Hear from James on his race to the finish line:

I took up running about ten years ago in a nod to my approach to middle age and the middle-aged spread that goes with it. It was a chance to get outside and be active, increasing my fitness and becoming a sanctuary for thought and contemplation.

I struggled to get beyond a couple of miles for a long time. But suddenly I could run 3 miles, then 4. Then I managed a 10k and switched my running measurement to kilometers. It feels like you are doing more!

Within a few years, I could do a half marathon, which I thought in my 20s and 30s was utterly unachievable and only for other people. Then came more halves. A couple of 24-hour team running events. And eventually, a charity place in the London Marathon in 2019. In 2021 I completed 3 ultra-marathons (all about 30 miles long, so fairly short, but still ultras!) and another marathon. On a whim I entered the ballot for the 2022 London Marathon, knowing there was little chance of being successful. I was surprised, delighted, and horrified when I got in!

I decided to raise some money for SEED Madagascar via Teneo’s Bonusly scheme, where colleagues can award donations. I was humbled by how generous and encouraging everyone was. It truly inspired me to want to do my best not just for myself but for everyone that was putting their belief in me and all the amazing work that SEED does helping people in southeast Madagascar.

I’m not a particularly fast runner. But once I get training I seem to be able to run quite a long way. I get into a rhythm. Into my own head. My music blasts in my ears. And the miles tick away. It’s a great source of downtime and exercise for me, and I have come to love that “burning legs” feeling after a long run.

Since 2021 I have kept my fitness at half marathon level, knocking out a 13-mile training run at least once a month. In August it was time to ramp it up. I was recovering from face planting in Richmond Park when I tripped over a tree root I didn’t see. Cuts and bruises but also a sore right arm which I put out to protect myself and that absorbed my full weight when I hit the deck.

In Pembrokeshire, West Wales, on a hot August Sunday, I added a mile to my long run. It was beautiful along the coastal paths but slow going given the terrain. Then I face-planted in exactly the same way! After about 5000 miles of running with no major issues, I suddenly injured myself twice in the space of a few weeks. I battled on, ran a slow 14 miles, jumped in the sea, and felt sorry for myself. I also decided to stick to the pavements for the time being. And over the next couple of months, I added a mile to my long run each week.

Generally, I would run from Wimbledon to the River Thames, turn right and run along the beautiful Thames Path. I made it further into central London each time. Battersea, Westminster Bridge, London Eye, Tate Modern, Shard. And finally, in the week of the Queen’s lying in state, I navigated a wiggly and busy route to Buckingham Palace and back. It was 20 miles and took me 3 and a quarter hours.

Training for a marathon is quite an investment of time! I would start after work and finish at 9 or 9.30pm, then shower and collapse into bed. But I was loving it and felt good. Some runs were better than others. Some I felt strong, others less so. I stayed on my feet as well which was a result!

Two weeks before the marathon I had a week in France and did a couple of 10-mile runs with my son along the beaches in Normandy. A great way to start tapering. And the week before was just a quick 5k to keep the legs going.

There was a train strike the day before the marathon, which would have a knock-on effect the following day. So I planned my route carefully with tubes and DLR trains, got up at 6am, and allowed myself plenty of time to get to the start line. When I got to the tube station there were a bunch of people outside looking at their phones and wearing marathon bags. This didn’t look good! The first couple of tubes were canceled, and nobody knew when they would start. Panic set it. But there’s also safety in numbers as about 6 of us clubbed together and figured out a bus route to a different tube line. As it happened, I got to the start in Greenwich Park earlier than I would have done on my original route. And the predicted rain had not materialized either. It was chilly but dry and with no wind. Positive signs!

The wait in the park was tense, and the lines for the toilets got longer and longer. Finally, just after 10am, we were off. I had plenty of space around me to run, the crowds were out, and it was a massive boost to hear “go on James, you’ve got this” from so many strangers. I used to think putting your name on your running shirt and having people shout at you was a daft idea. Oh, how I have changed my mind! For me, the pace I set was blistering, but I kept at it knowing that I would tire at 20 miles whether running fast or slow. So I might as well go for it.

Before I knew it I was just before Tower Bridge and saw my support team for the first time. Banner aloft with the SEED Madagascar logo and my name. That was nearly halfway and I ended up running the fastest half I have done for quite a few years! Before I knew it, I was at 20 miles, over 3 hours in and I knew this is where it would get tough. I had trained myself up to 20 miles and now came the hard bit. My pace slowed and I took a few walk breaks, but I was constantly spurred on by the crowds and the thoughts of seeing my support crew again on the Embankment. And I planned a visit to my favourite street food market for a curry and a pint afterward. That helped me keep going too!

I was still smiling at 25 miles, but my legs were shot. That last mile and a bit up Birdcage Walk, around the Palace, and down the Mall seemed to go on forever. But I got there and came in at 4 hours 25 minutes. I had hoped to get below 4 hours 30, so I was pleased with how I did. I’m not really sure how I felt when I crossed the finish line. Having run this distance a few times before, as long as I stayed injury free I was pretty confident I would make it. But having enjoyed the first 20 miles and the next 6.2 not so much, I was just glad it was all over. I collected my medal and T-shirt. Limped to meet the support crew. Then went for my curry!

The response from my colleagues has been amazing. Many words and messages of encouragement and congratulations. And over £3000 was raised to help improve the lives of children in Madagascar.

Find out more about the charitable initiatives that Teneo supports.

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