Paris Olympics inspires Berenice to run marathon in honour of all women

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For most people, completing your first marathon delivers the adulation of huge crowds and a medal at the finish. But for Berenice Consavela of Hastings, a busy single mother of two autistic children, working full-time as a graphic designer for a custom sports equipment manufacturer, there was only the sense of personal triumph.

Unable to commit to time away from her family or job, she ran the distance as a virtual marathon. She did so not only as a personal challenge, but as a way of honouring all women – while marking this summer’s Olympics in Paris, the city where she was born.

“With my turning 40 this year, and 2024 marking the 40th anniversary of women being allowed to run marathons at the Olympics, I thought this year of all years would be the perfect time to run the distance,” said Berenice.

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First, though, she had to train for it. Having joined Hastings Runners in 2019, she had become accustomed to the support of the membership. “I am forever grateful to Paul Hope for suggesting I join the club. It has changed my life without a doubt. I carry all of my Hastings Runners friends in my mind whenever runs get tough. It makes a big difference.”

Berenice Consavela of Hastings RunnersBerenice Consavela of Hastings Runners
Berenice Consavela of Hastings Runners

Berenice knew that combining family, work and a challenge as tough as a first marathon, meant she would need proper guidance. She approached Hastings Runners’ best-qualified coach, Simon Linklater, and signed up for a Training Plan with his PB Runner group known affectionately, due to Simon’s love of gear in that colour, as “Team Orange”.

Says Simon: “One key element to marathon training is time. You need to have that availability to put in the miles and support your running with key strength and conditioning. So when Berenice, one of the friends with the least amount of free time I know, approached me and said she wanted to run a marathon to celebrate her 40th year, I was a little sceptical.

“But her willingness to run to work and back every day gave that opportunity to build her aerobic base. On top of that, committing to a few additional sessions combined with a progressively longer run each weekend, made her goal seem a possibility.”

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Berenice signed up and never looked back. She says: “The training journey was great fun thanks to Simon. To me, it’s an absolute joy to be running – every single time.”

Berenice Consavela (fifth from right) pauses her virtual marathon to join with Team Orange membersBerenice Consavela (fifth from right) pauses her virtual marathon to join with Team Orange members
Berenice Consavela (fifth from right) pauses her virtual marathon to join with Team Orange members

Such enthusiasm was key, confirms Simon: “Berenice took to the challenge with real determination and would run at all hours of the day to fit in her training. Doing so with real zest for her running. Her Instagram is full of wonderful photos tracking her journey and despite several obstacles along the way I was always confident that no-one or nothing was going to prevent Berenice from completing her 26.2 miles.”

French by birth, she naturally converts the distance to 42.2k – but in the end ran an extra 300m and completed 42.5k. That she did so on the hottest day of the year made the achievement all the greater. Beginning her virtual marathon in Ore, she ran downhill to the historic Priscilla MacBean lifeboat on London Road to join with a group of Team Orange runners on their own Sunday two-hour long run to Galley Hill and back. While they all did a cooldown back alongside Priscilla, Berenice set off to seafront once again – this time, shadowed where possible by her father in a car, heading for Eastbourne to complete the distance.

“I did have had to stop a few times along the way to check in with my dad on three occasions. I also got stuck waiting for the level crossing gate at Pevensey to lift! And I had a bit of an adventure trying to reach Sovereign Harbour… I ended up giving up on that and running back the other way towards Pevensey on the pebbles for two miles. So my marathon took a tiny bit longer than I had expected…

“I am really happy I did it – regardless of pace, heat, illness and it not being an actual event. It is good to do something that feels so much bigger than you and surprise yourself in the process.”

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