IN THE pouring rain and blowing wind on Sunday, Jen Watkins from Abergavenny ran the virtual London Marathon alone.

Ms Watkins had spent months training to take part in her first-ever London Marathon in April - but the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

She was one of 45,000 runners across the UK and around the world to take part in the event from a more isolated location, and raised more than £3,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust – in memory of a friend – in the process.

Cheered on by daughter Billie, the 30-year-old set off from the family’s Wernddu Golf Club on the outskirts of Abergavenny on Sunday morning.

She ran 17 miles to Cross Ash and back on country roads, followed by another 9.2 miles around Abergavenny and back to the golf club, where she was clapped home by friends, relatives, and even a few golfers.

Contending with huge and unending hills, she said the marathon would probably have been easier in London.

South Wales Argus:

Jen Watkins was cheered home by friends, relatives and golfers

“There is very little elevation in London, but here, you can’t really avoid the hills which makes extra challenges,” she said.

“Running in a big crowd with all those people around me would have been a fantastic achievement.


“Instead I ran up and down hills with the thought that one day I would actually get to run the London Marathon.

“I usually do the second half of a long run better, but this was hard all the way round. The rain was constant and coming back from Cross Ash the wind was straight into my face.”

Ms Watkins, who runs the golf club with the help of sisters Sarah and Frankie, says her training took a hit due to the strains caused to the business by lockdown.

South Wales Argus:

Jen Watkins on the home straight

“When lockdown started, the business virtually stopped overnight,” she said. “No campers, no golfers - yet like every other business, the bills kept coming in.

“Then we saw restrictions ease and we started looking forward to getting back to normal. We made a big investment in building a new kitchen, which opened at about the same time as Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen went back into lockdown.

“It’s a severe blow as a large percentage of our members are from those areas.

South Wales Argus:

The day job

“Marathon training has been an escape from reality.

“I was really excited about running in London and earlier in April I ran a personal best of 20 miles in less than three hours.

“Then came lockdown and the big race I had been training so hard for was postponed. That was a real disappointment, I was absolutely gutted.

“With the impact on our business too I really lost my mojo and found it difficult to maintain the momentum of training.”

Ms Watkins has been promised a place in any of the next three London marathons.