Meet our 2018 team member: Harri Smith

By 28th February 2018 No Comments
Movers & Shakers

Meet our 2018 team member: Harri Smith

We catch up with Harri “The Farah” Smith, who despite vowing to never run again, signed up to hit the road one more time with On The Move in 2018.

What’s your name and what are you doing?

My name is Harri “The Farah” Smith, and despite vowing to never do a long-distance run again, I took part in the Milton Keynes Half Marathon in May 2018, raising money for Meningitis Now. It felt way too far for me to run – but it was for a good cause so I signed up.

I completed the Half Marathon in 2 hours 57 minutes and raised an amazing £1,824 in the process!

Why did you pick Meningitis Now?

Meningitis Now is a charity very close to my heart. A colleague that I’ve worked with for over 8 years, a good friend, devastatingly lost his baby boy to Meningitis in December 2016, so it’s a cause that really means something to me. I can make a difference, if only in a small way – that’s got to be worth coming out of retirement for!

What did this cause mean to you?

When I found out the news of what had happened to my colleague’s family, I was on
maternity leave myself.

I was so sad, and being a new mum to a 4-month old baby boy, I found the news very hard to deal with. I can’t imagine the pain that the family have been through.

I became terrified of my own son’s well-being and went through quite a tough time myself.

In the end I decided to find a way to do something to help other people affected by the same disease. I wanted to find something that was hard to achieve, so I can show how much it means to me – to really show my support, and ultimately to raise some money for an amazing charity.

If the money we raised can help even one family save their loved ones from the effects of Meningitis, then it’ll all have been worth it.

Had you ever undertaken a run of a similar distance to this before?

I ran a half marathon in 2011, but it took my friend and I absolutely ages to complete. I was unprepared for how hard it was – I’d neglected my training and it makes a big difference.

In fact, we had taken so long that another friend actually cycled backwards around the route thinking that we had withdrawn from the race! They found us both all way back at mile 5, and cycled the rest of the distance with us. A bit of support really made the difference.

Unfortunately, we arrived to an empty field with only our Mum’s cheering us over the finish line. It was tough and it took us a while, but we genuinely completed the race, and I’m proud of that.

So how much training did you put in for the big day?

I was really indecisive about taking part in the 2018 Marathon at first – a race of that distance can be quite scary and obviously it takes a lot of commitment to do it properly. But by the new year I had decided to just go for it so I confirmed my place as a runner for On The Move in support of Meningitis Now. I knew I had an opportunity to make a real difference, and I’d regret it if I didn’t.

Needless to say, I took my training a lot more seriously than my previous race! And it went well. Early on I met up with a friend of mine who has served in the army – he helped me create a great training plan for increasing my distance.

I did about 3 runs a week and slowly ran further and faster. I feel so proud of how far I have come! Dare I say it… I actually starting to enjoy swapping the stilettos for trainers.

That sounds tough! Can you tell us about your best and worst training experience?

During my first ever competitive long-distance run, I started out with a few girls from the office who were taking part in something called an “easy 5k”. In my opinion, there is absolutely no such thing as an easy 5k!

My legs ached and my lungs burned. At one point, I was pretty sure that we must be near the finish line… I got a look from my cheery friend, who said “you’re donig great Harri, we’ve nearly done 1k!”. Honestly, this is where I had to just stop and walk. By 2 kilometres, I had nearly burst into tears. It felt like my body was just not cut out for running and I was getting down – I imagined that I had no chance of completing the race. But I pushed on, and after a little pep talk to myself, I got round the 3.3km I had set out to do and felt tired, terrified, accomplished… but proud.

Did you use any tech to help you train now?

I used a Fitbit – it helped me increase my overall exercise level. At first it was tough, and because it makes you very aware of your progress, it can be a little disheartening. But the first day I passed the 20,000 step mark, I really couldn’t believe it – that was something special. Still, on an average Sunday, it grumbled that I’d only managed 1,200 steps. But you have to give your body a chance to rest and recover, achieving a balance is all part of it too.

I also recorded my runs on Strava. It helped me check my distance and speed, and
sometimes I even took selfies of me looking sweaty and tired. I liked that it connected me to my friends’ progress. You could often find me looking at what everyone else was getting up to… I cry when I read “just a quick 7km at lunch today”. Some runners clearly know what they’re doing and have far more experience than me, but Strava at least kept me on the right track.

Do you have a message you’d like to pass on to other runners?

Believe in yourself – your body is capable of more than you realise.
I’m just like everyone else – I don’t take extra special care of myself in the way a professional runner would. But I took it seriously, I did some training, I took steps to improve my performance and after all that, I knew I could achieve something at the MK Marathon. If I could keep myself moving, then you can too.

Most importantly, you should always remember what you are doing it for.
Every time I felt that it was getting too much for me, I think of my little boy. I would run a thousand miles for him. Meningitis is a potentially fatal illness that disproportionately affects young children. It causes such devastation. No family deserves that.

Thanks so much Harri, you’re a real inspiration to us all. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone that donated to my fundraising campaign, and also to anyone who will donate the On The Move campaign in the near future.

A lot of people made a big difference toward my training and fundraising. My Mum and friends that signed up with me (and then pulled out – thanks guys!), and my husband (who laughed when I first told him that I’d signed up to a half marathon) were all so supportive once I got started.

Thanks to everyone that kept me going with their lovely words of encouragement including this gem:

“I’m not being horrible, but I definitely thought you’d have given up by now…”
Well I didn’t – and I have a medal to prove it!

Make the difference for Meningitis Now today

Harri Smith was raising money for the Winter Night Shelter MK. And this year so are another team of runners.

If you’ve been inspired by Harri’s story then help others reach their fundraising goal – and support an amazing charity in the process. Simply click on the link below and pick a runner from the 2019 team to show your support.

Donate Now via JustGiving

All donations go directly to Meningitis Now, and help people whose lives have been affected by meningitis.

Please give generously – together we can make a difference.