Congratulations to Paul Kalinauckas not only for being our first ever official fundraiser but more importantly running over 26.2 miles to cross the finish line at the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Paul after crossing finish line at London marathon

This is something thousands of people train hard for and complete each year but Paul had many reasons for wanting to do it and a fair few obstacles to overcome too.

Paul, 64, from Wellington is married to Helen and is chief executive of a community finance development institution. He also has several voluntary roles within the finance sector and the local community.

We first met Paul at the end of 2018 after he applied for and was successful in gaining Energize’s first London Marathon place. He told us the background to his journey to becoming a runner.

“In my mid 50's, after being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I decided to do something to improve my health. Sporadic attempts at gym and running in adult life fell by the wayside and I gradually bulked up, peaking at 16 stone with a 42-inch waist.

“My journey into increasing my physical activity to reduce weight and improve my health started when I saw Wrekin Road Runners advertise a beginners’ group. The first year was really tough until I saw someone running with his dog at Telford Parkrun and discovered the exhilaration of Canicross.”

Following this discovery, Paul set up Shropshire Canicross, which now has 500 members. And this coupled with regular group high intensity training gym sessions helped Paul get down to 12 stone.

“I feel so much more energised these days and love running with local running clubs or with my dogs - my life has completely changed,” he explained.

But what was driving him to complete one of the hardest physical and mental challenges anyone can undertake – to run 26.2 miles?

“I was fearful of running a marathon as I am not a long distance runner. I am comfortable with 5k and 10k distances but needed a new goal to stretch myself. Running the Virgin Money London Marathon was a super stretch for me but also demonstrated that whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve.

“It is important that we have people in our communities that can show the impact increased physical activity can have on health and well-being. We need role models that can not only share their experiences but inspire other to take action.”

“I must be mad doing this, but felt that running in the London Marathon would help me in my quest to not only raise my level of physical activity but in addition, I have recently committed to a programme to put my Type 2 Diabetes into remission and hope that all the training for the marathon will finally relieve me of this chronic illness.”

Paul’s reasons and commitments were clear back in December but then came the hard slog of over 4 month’s training. His approach was to build a support network to help with every aspect of what was to come over the next few months.

  • Lawley Running Club and Wrekin Road Runners
  • Scott Gormley from Shropshire Physiotherapy
  • Track sessions and marathon advice from Colin Lancaster, Shropshire Fitness
  • Shropshire Canicross
  • Jane Morris, Paul’s marathon training running buddy
  • Donors to his fundraising page
  • Paul’s work colleagues
  • And of course, his wife Helen

The New Year got off to a great start and Paul was on track with his training programme with plans to do The Village Bakery, Wrexham and Ironbridge Half Marathons.

Getting advice from his support crew, Paul trained over Christmas and throughout January achieving all his goals. But in mid-February, on the way to a week’s relaxation and warm weather training in Turkey, Paul fell and injured his knee – an accident which was to see him miss several weeks’ training and cancel his place at the Village Bakery Half Marathon.

But what is so impressive about Paul is that he did not let this get him down. He took medical advice and didn’t rush back too soon, knowing that in the long run this would pay dividends.

One of the insights Paul shared with us when we met up for a post-marathon chat over lunch, was how he stayed mentally strong during these set-backs and during the 26.2 miles.

“I always knew I could do it. The only question was how long it would take – but I didn’t doubt that I would be able to finish. I was lucky enough to attend a lecture hosted by Wolverhampton University on the Psychology of Marathon Running. Featuring England International Hayley Carruthers, the talks concentrated on accepting that the demons will come but having the strategies to deal with them. Hayley had great advice on focusing on what you can control. This guidance really helped me – especially at 13 miles when I was just heading East to Canary Wharf and some of the quicker runners were on their way back and approaching 23 miles!”

By early March Paul was back to training and although he says he still wasn’t 100% fit he successfully completed the Ironbridge Half Marathon on 24th March.

After this Paul continued to train, running with all his training partners, and of course his dogs Sheba and Jasper, and made it to take his place on the start line in London on 28th April.

“I knew I’d be fine on the day and I just wanted to enjoy it all – chatting to different people along the way and taking in all the sites. The best bit was seeing Westminster Bridge and then Pall Mall in the last mile.

“My advice to anyone wanting to do their first marathon would be to build your support network around you and have fun."

"For me that is Canicross, running with my dogs but make sure you find whatever works for you.”