London Marathon 2021: running for love, friendship and hospice care
In October 2021 Julie will once again be taking on the world-famous marathon after successfully applying for one of Saint Francis Hospice's Gold Bond places and she still feels the rush of anticipation for the challenge ahead.
"The London Marathon is the original marathon and it's the only marathon for me," said Julie, 55 from Brentwood.
"I ran the Brighton Marathon but I would never run another marathon again as I don't think it could compare to the buzz I feel when I run through the streets of London with thousands of runners from all over the UK and around the world and the crowds cheering everyone on."
And Julie has some valuable advice for anyone who dreams of taking part in the iconic race.
"Running 26.2 miles may seem like a very daunting prospect but anyone can do it - you can break it down so it feels more achievable and there are so many training plans out there to help you prepare," said Julie.
"The biggest challenge is actually in your head. You've got to tell yourself you can do it. If you have a personal reason for running, that will help so much with your motivation but if not, you have to set yourself a goal."
Julie's motivation is very personal. When Julie's mum Monica Donegan was struggling to cope with pancreatic cancer, Saint Francis Hospice helped her to manage her symptoms and medication so she could live as comfortably as she could and the charity also gave great comfort and support to her family.
"We've lost so much because of the pandemic but we must never lose the hospice," said Julie.
"None of us know when we are going to need it. The hospice has touched my life and I have also known so many people over the past 20 years who have needed the care, kindness and compassion the hospice gives patients and families.
"There is no better place than Saint Francis Hospice for people who are at the end of their life. It provides outstanding care and that's so important as you can't ever get that time back."
Julie has been a member of Brentwood Running Club for 17 years and running is an important part of her life - not just for fitness but for her happiness and wellbeing.
"First and foremost, running for me is the friendships I have formed at the club," said Julie.
"I know we are friends for life whether we are running or not.
"Secondly, running is an escape for me. It gives you that time for yourself when you can really think over things. When times are stressful, sad or painful, it is a way of getting away from everyone and everything. It really helps you put things into perspective."
No one could have predicted how our lives would change in 2020 but Julie has some impressive achievements to look back on.
Julie had been a set to run in the 40th race in the event's history. But when the country went into lockdown in March and the London Marathon was postponed, Julie didn't want all her training to go to waste. So, she decided to do the distance on a treadmill on her drive way.
"It was a very last minute decision to do this but it turned out to be a highlight of the year," said Julie.
"I received so much support, it was amazing. For the last mile, there were 60 people cheering me on."
Julie didn't stop there. She was determined to get her London Marathon 2020 medal and run the virtual marathon which was rescheduled to October.
Despite the atrocious weather on the day, Julie completed the challenge - once again with the incredible support of friends who joined her along the way.
"I have lived in Brentwood all my life and I decided to do laps of a 3-mile route to cover the distance," said Julie.
"I have a lot of running friends who came out to join me and I was so lucky because I never had to run on my own.
"And every time I ran past Wilsons Corner, cars hooted and there were crowds of people cheering and waving me on. It was so lovely and it really spurred me on."
Feeling inspired? The London Marathon will shortly be announcing the results of its ballot. If you are lucky enough to receive a place in this thrilling event, please raise funds for your local hospice.