Our sports coach ran the London Marathon for the PTA

'We raised £7,600 with a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon'

When our sports coach, Mr Barker, agreed to run the Virgin Money London Marathon 2021 for the PTA, we couldn’t imagine a big race going ahead. We hadn’t been out of lockdown for long, and the idea of thousands of runners and streets lined with supporters seemed a world away. But on 3 October 2021, he completed the 26.2 miles and raised £7,600 for the school.

We’d had a runner in the 2016 marathon as part of its Silver Charity Bond Scheme, which meant we would be allocated a place in 2021 too. But since then, our PTA committee has changed, and contact details hadn’t been updated, so we were unaware of this opportunity.

The information only reached us on the day of the application deadline, so we had to act fast. There’s a cost involved in applying, so I quickly checked with fellow trustees and emailed the head. Everyone was confident we’d find someone to participate and that the money was a wise investment.

Finding a runner

In March, we held a meeting where we decided to ask a staff member to run the race – someone the school would rally round. Mr Barker told us that running a marathon had always been on his bucket list. He was a brilliant choice; not only does he represent sport in our school, but he teaches every class, so all the parents and children know him.

Mr Barker registered for the race, and we set up a sponsorship page on the Virgin Money Giving platform. We’re currently raising money for a new ICT suite and library, so we included examples of what specific donations might buy to make it easier for supporters to visualise the benefits. We set a cautious fundraising target of £2,000.

Spreading the word

By May, we were busy getting the message out. Our school business manager ran some interviews I’d done with Mr Barker in her weekly school newsletter. As well as training news, we discovered his desire to discuss team selection with England football manager Gareth Southgate, and that he loves running to the song Show Me Love! Training began at once, and Mr Barker ran the Vitality London 10,000 in July and the Vitality Big Half in August. Watching these races go ahead gave us confidence that the marathon would happen in October.

As the race date approached, we pushed information out through the class reps and emails. Mr Barker also discussed the marathon with the children in their PE lessons. Sponsorship money started coming in, and Mr Barker also got friends and family to sponsor him. By September, we had already exceeded our fundraising target.

Over the finish line

On the day itself, there was lots of activity on the class WhatsApp groups, and we were delighted when we spotted Mr Barker in his Wood End running vest on television.

Mr Barker gave us a big thumbs up when he finished. ‘The hardest part was getting to Tower Bridge and knowing I was only halfway,’ he says, ‘but I knew I had to finish for our children. The best part was running over the finish line with everyone cheering and supporting.’

Laura Devlin, secretary, Wood End School PTA, Harpenden (510 pupils)