From 15st to 26 miles: Glenda’s Inspirational London Marathon story!

Glenda McGinty with her London Marathon medal and (right) before embarking on fitness journey.Glenda McGinty with her London Marathon medal and (right) before embarking on fitness journey.
Glenda McGinty with her London Marathon medal and (right) before embarking on fitness journey.
A Strabane based bus driver who went from being unable to run for more than 30 seconds to completing this year’s London Marathon is hoping her story will inspire others to take the first step in their fitness journey.

Glenda McGinty weighed 15 stone when she signed up for Derry City and Strabane District Council’s All Inclusive Leisure Membership last November with the aim of building her strength and fitness to take on the course around the English capital in aid of the Alzheimers Society. She’s now in the shape of her life having lost seven stone and has since completed last month’s Strabane Lifford Half Marathon.

Originally from Donegal Town and now living in the outskirts of Derry, Glenda has exciting plans to complete a number of further challenges this year including the Waterside Half Marathon, the Belfast Marathon and a climb of Killamanjaro in September. The Alzheimers Society is a cause close to her heart after her grandmother and best friend Janie battled with the condition before her passing in 2005.

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“Back in April 2023 I weighed 15 stone and was so unhappy with myself, depressed and miserable,” she explained, “It was then I discovered I'd got a place in the London Marathon which has always been on my bucket list.

Glenda McGinty completes the recent Strabane Lifford Half Marathon. (Photo: North West Newspix)Glenda McGinty completes the recent Strabane Lifford Half Marathon. (Photo: North West Newspix)
Glenda McGinty completes the recent Strabane Lifford Half Marathon. (Photo: North West Newspix)

“The Alzheimers Society has always been close to my heart and once I'd got a place it was time to get my head down, lose the weight and get my fitness to make my granny proud.”

Under the watchful eye of Council’s Participation and Retention Officer, Anthony McGonagle, Glenda was able to safely lose weight and build her stamina to take on the gruelling 26.2 mile challenge.

“I joined the Riversdale Leisure Centre in November of last year and was immediately on the Council’s Leisure app booking classes,” she recalls. “My first ever class was Anthony's Spin. It was tough but I really enjoyed it. He explained everything from what position and height my bike should be at to the rpm and gears. He really put me at ease as I was so nervous that first day and the class went well.

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“I went on to take part in his bars and bells on a Monday and core and conditioning on a Wednesday. They are more strength training focused which I absolutely love, he really pushes you to get the best out of you and that gets you stronger.

“My main goal with the classes was to get more power in my legs for the marathon - my goal was always focused on those miles. I knew I needed to do more classes to get my fitness up more and do a lot more strength and conditioning, so Anthony's classes were perfect.”

While completing the marathon was the main focus of Glenda’s training, she has experienced a wide range of improvements to other aspects of her life as a result.

“Getting fitter has made so many positive changes to my life,” she admitted. “I sleep better and I feel so much happier in myself, I was so depressed and down when I was 15 stone. I’m now able to go for a run when I can’t make it to my classes due to work commitments. I absolutely love training now and I eat more healthily and think before I eat to compliment it.

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“Before it was always mindless eating and eating out of boredom or comfort because I had a bad day.”

With registrations now open for the Waterside Half Marathon on September 1st, which includes a three person team relay option for those not ready to do the full distance, Glenda urged people to consider taking on the challenge of a long distance race, regardless of their current fitness level.

”At first I couldn't run more than 30 seconds without getting breathless and having to stop and walk,” she revealed. “It was tough and so many times I doubted myself and wanted to give up. But I didn't, I kept going and eventually I could run one mile, then three miles, then 10 and next thing I knew I was up to 26 miles and ready for the London Marathon.

“It’s all about believing in yourself, showing up and never giving up. We are capable of so much more than we will ever know.

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“For anyone starting out on their fitness journey, I'd say be consistent, that’s definitely the key. Believe me there were so many days I wanted to give up and miss class or not go a run but I went and felt amazing afterwards. Make small changes and those small changes make all the difference – you've got this”.

Glenda says she loved every second of her experience running around the centre of London but the final 500m at Buckingham Palace proved particularly emotional.

“It was the most amazing experience and one I will never ever forget. It was such a privilege to be there and wear my Alzheimers Society t-shirt with pride. The atmosphere and crowds were something else. From the minute you started right to the finish line the crowds were cheering your name, total strangers wanting you to succeed, it was brilliant, I loved every second.

“But the feeling when you pass Big Ben then Buckingham Palace knowing you’re at the finish line was unbelievable. I cried for the last 500m, I'd made myself and my granny proud. It was a moment I'd never forget after only being able to run for 30 seconds to being able to finish a marathon.”

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An All Inclusive Council Membership offers full access to leisure centres at the Foyle Arena, Riversdale Leisure Centre, Derg Valley Leisure Centre, Templemore Sports Complex, Melvin Sports Complex, City Baths and Brooke Park Leisure Centre. Members have access to over 100 classes and one to one training with coaches across all the leisure sites including the climbing wall at the Foyle Arena.

A special promotion for the summer months allows members to sign up for the normal fee of £35 per month for June and July and get a month free in August.

“I'd absolutely recommend the Council gyms and their coaches.” Glenda added. “I use both Riversdale and the Foyle Arena and I love the flexibility of the all-inclusive package. I've been to loads of classes in both gyms and love them all.

“My favourite is Anthony's step up on a Monday, it's a class for everyone and such an amazing bunch of people, it’s a great workout with cardio, core and weights.”

For full details of Council’s Leisure Services, including timetables and how to sign up visit derrystrabane.com/leisure.

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