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Val's marathon effort

VSO/Becky Mursell

When keen runner and VSO volunteer Val Desborough secured a place in the 2018 London Marathon, she saw an opportunity to combine her two worlds.

Running in Rwanda can earn you a few funny looks, but that didn’t stop exercise addict Val Desborough while on placement in Nyamagabe district back in 2013-16.

Val Desborough ran the London Marathon for VSO

Val successfully completed the London Marathon in aid of VSO in 2018

“At weekends I just took myself off and ran for miles. One morning I just didn’t stop and found I had run into the rainforest – and I did that on a cup of tea!”

After her placement, she stayed involved with VSO by becoming an active member of her local supporter group, helping to put on quarterly fundraising and social events.

Val remained as dedicated to her running as ever. And, when she successfully secured a ballot place to run her 16th marathon in London 2018, she wanted to do it for VSO.

Seeing the difference

“I just think if you’re lucky enough to get a ballot place like I did, you can still raise money for charity. And choosing VSO, it was the obvious charity because I’m involved with it still, even after having returned two years later.

“I’ve seen first-hand how it can make a difference. One tutor I worked with in Rwanda said to me, ‘I’ve always wanted to have my own school.’ She started off renting three rooms. When I left, there were 25 children.

A Rwandan landscape VSO/Peter Caton

Val would do her training runs in the lush hills of Rwanda.

“And when I returned this year, they’d bought a plot of land and bricks to build classrooms and there were 125 children there!

"We’re not talking about rich people, but people who obviously value their children’s education. It’s great to see.”

I just think if you’re lucky enough to get a ballot place like I did, you can still raise money for charity.

Training in Rwanda

Val decided to train for the marathon in the familiar hills and forests of Rwanda, where she has returned each year since her placement finished to visit friends and marvel at the progress the teachers she worked with are making.

This time she took on the Nyungwe Forest Run – running the 14 miles through the wildlife-filled rainforest with some friends she met in Rwanda.

The London Marathon

Val Desborough running the London Marathon for VSO VSO/Becky Mursell

Val Desborough at mile 25 in the 2018 London Marathon

Once back in the UK, Val and her daughters, Eleanor and Olivia, tackled the London Marathon together.

The trio raised the funds undertook what would turn out to be the hottest London Marathon on record.

“This year was the hardest one I’ve done because of the weather; it was just so hot.

"I saw the VSO cheerers just after going over Tower Bridge. There were more by the embankment, but by that point I was zoning out!

"My daughters and I fundraised between us and I think we raised around £800.

"If lots of people raise that amount, VSO would have a lot more money to do its work. If we hadn’t done it, VSO would be £800 shorter.

"When you believe in something, you don’t have any problem approaching people for money. I’m confident I’ll get another ballot place so if I could do it again for VSO, I would."

Val Desborough ran the 2018 London Marathon for VSO VSO/Becky Mursell

Val had her own marathon place through the ballot, but decided to fundraise for VSO anyway, raising £800 in total.

Running the London Marathon for us is just one of the ways you can support VSO, and it’s incredibly rewarding. We support you in your fundraising from sign up to finish line and beyond.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Take the challenge and sign up to run the London Marathon 2020 now.

Find out more