This year the organisers of the Great North Run are attempting to break a world record by having a runner representing all 193 of the United Nations in the race.
Our very own Che Odlum-De Vivenot will be representing St. Lucia!
I went from zero experience of running to joining my local running club and training to represent Saint Lucia in the Great North Run's international run on 11 September 2016.
Inspired by the euphoria and celebration of sport in the London 2012 Olympic Games, my husband James, son Dominic, daughter Mia and I, made a pact to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle. A throw-away comment from the safety of the sofa led to James taking the first step and joining the wonderful and inclusive local running club, the Ealing Eagles. I soon followed his example and joined the beginners' running group where I completed my first ever 5k.
As a family, we began running and volunteering at Ealing Eagles events and the local parkrun. Since joining the Ealing Eagles in August 2014, I managed to run my first half marathon which was the award-winning Ealing Half Marathon in September 2015. A few months later in January 2016, I joined a group of eagles who ran the Marrakesh half marathon.
Of all the many benefits of starting our family running journey, the Great North Run is the jewel in the crown. My husband James had registered for the Great North Run and the children were running the junior race, so initially, I was relegated to cheer squad duty. It was James who saw the publicity for the international run and encouraged me to represent Saint Lucia. I was born in Saint Lucia and first came to the UK in 1990. I was delighted to learn that I met the criteria and that my application was accepted.
This year, the Great North Run is planning to break a world record by inviting a representative from each of the 193 UN recognised nations in the world, to participate in the event. It would be the first event in the world to have a representative from every single country taking part.
I am completely overwhelmed at the happy turn of events, that led from my humble wish to get our family more active, to being an international runner in the Great North Run and representing the country where I was born. For me, the chance to participate in the Great North Run is the culmination of two challenging years of pushing myself to keep running. It is proof of the enduring legacy ofthe London 2012 Olympians which continues to inspire ordinary families. It is also a testament to range of opportunities to get active, given by local running events such as parkrun and the Ealing Half Marathon. Finally, I have only continued to run over the last two years because of the encouragement of the Ealing Eagles running community and the guidance of dedicated volunteers such as Coach Mark Yabsley who has helped me to move from running 10k to half marathons.
When I step out onto the road on 11 September, I will be wearing custom-made leggings with the St. Lucian flag colours. It means a great deal to me to have an opportunity to experience a moment of being a VIP international runner in one of the best mass participation running events in the world, representing St. Lucia and the Ealing Eagles running club.
Another Ealing runner, Marija Risteska Jones, found out via her husband (Eagle Paul Jones) that Macedonia was not yet represented and so applied and was accepted to run as well. Marija says:
I found out that Macedonia was one of the countries not yet represented at the Great North Run through the Ealing Eagles, and was delighted to put my name forward and be accepted. Despite being only two weeks before my first planned half marathon (Ealing Half Marathon) I couldn't resist the opportunity to represent my country.
Having arrived in UK in 2004 and always lived in Ealing, I started running last year, and am look forward to completing the Great North Run.
We would like to wish Che, Marija and all the other Eagles running the Great North Run on Sunday lots of luck and a wonderful day!