Sophie Warren is a legal practitioner and the granddaughter of one of The Haven’s co-founders Colin Brown. This Sunday, she will be taking on the London Marathon to raise funds for The Haven. As she prepares to take on this challenge, we had a chat with her and she shared fond memories of her grandfather, how she’s preparing for the marathon and her hopes for the end of violence against women and girls.
How did all of this begin? What made you decide to take on this marathon?
In 2019 I ran 10 half marathons for Breast Cancer Now and when this challenge was completed, I was eager to do another running challenge. I saw The Haven advertising their marathon place and I had always wanted to run the London Marathon. My granddad had also sadly passed away a few months before and so I wanted to use my love of running and challenging myself to raise money for a charity that was close to my Grandad’s heart.
What inspired you to do this on behalf of The Haven?
My Grandad always spoke so passionately about The Haven and the work and support carried out by the charity and I thought it would be a lovely idea to run the marathon with my Grandad’s legacy behind me. I actually ran my first half marathon for The Haven at secondary school after volunteering in one of the refuges. The money I raised went directly towards improving the crèches in the refuges and so I knew that the money raised from running the marathon would be used directly to benefit users of the charity. In my legal career, I have also worked with clients who have been victims of domestic violence and so I was aware of how vital charities like The Haven are for providing support.
We lost your grandad Colin Brown in 2019 and he was one of the cofounders of The Haven. Can you share some fond memories of him?
My Grandad loved going out for dinner or breakfast and we would often go to a local café and my Grandad would always have poached eggs on toast! Or we could be found going for Sunday dinner at a local restaurant. I always remember staying with my Nan and Grandad when my parents were on holiday and my Grandad would always drive me to school instead of me having to get the coach! Even though my Grandad was well into his 80’s, he was an avid user of Facebook and had the latest iPhones; a bit like a teenager!
Did he ever share with you stories about why and how The Haven was started? If so, are there any you’d like to share?
He did! My Grandad used to work in the probation service in Wolverhampton in the 1960s and he noticed that there wasn’t any provision for women fleeing domestic violence. The law and rights for women at that time were very different from today and domestic violence wasn’t even considered a crime at the time. He saw a need to set up an initiative to help these women. My Grandad and Honour Pringle then set up the first refuge in Wolverhampton (The Haven) which started with one hostel and the charity has subsequently grown in so many ways; supporting so many women throughout its journey.
When you think of a better world for women and children, what does it look like for you?
For me, a better world for women and children would be one of equality and security. There would be equal opportunities in the employment sphere that meant that women would not have to worry about choosing between career progression and having a family. A better world would be one in which women and children would feel safe walking the streets at night; the recent tragic events involving Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa have made many young women fear even walking to a friends house and have highlighted a need for male alliance in making women feel safer. Women and children would feel safe leaving vulnerable situations and not have to worry about the repercussions or being judged by a public body for the actions they have taken.
What are some of the things you need to consider when deciding to run a huge marathon event like this?
I think a key consideration is how you are going to carry out the challenge ie making sure you create a running program and making sure your lifestyle can accommodate the running program. Making sure you have the right equipment is also essential ie having the right running trainers, sports clothes and any accessories to make the training program as smooth as possible. If you are doing an event for a charity, think about how you are going to spread the word about the challenge. I created a social media page that documents balancing my running program with my legal career and so I feel people are more engaged and relate to my challenge.
What keeps you motivated as you train for it? Do you have a playlist? If so, what are you listening to and are there any challenges that you’ve had to overcome during the training process?
I keep motivated by the thought of constantly challenging myself and achieving the best version of myself. I enjoy the thought of achieving small successful milestones. I usually listen to a disco playlist on Spotify (the tunes always keep me upbeat and smiling) but I do have a couple of songs that are my go-to when I am going through really tough parts of the run. I’ve definitely had many challenges to overcome in the training process; pushing aside the marathon being cancelled twice! For the last year, I had a really busy job in the legal profession and I was working long hours. It was really difficult sometimes to find the motivation and energy to follow my training plan but I had to make myself do it. COVID also impacted hosting charity events; for example, I had a vinyl night planned in March 2020 which was cancelled due to COVID and I think after that, a lot of people started to get bored of online events. I recently suffered an ankle injury which also impacted my training program and I wasn’t able to do my longest run. I had to rest for a couple of weeks but also find an alternative method of sport to keep up my fitness; this was difficult as I am not very good at resting!
As you know, the lockdown period kept so many of us indoors. Do you have any tips for people who are finding it difficult to get active again?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! I think the worst thing is to force yourself to get active again as you won’t enjoy it as much. Start off steady again for example going on a 30-minute walk at lunch or walking to the shop instead of driving. If you don’t want to do something on your own, see if there is a local team sport you can get involved with; I find that you are more likely to be motivated when others are encouraging you. If you are nervous about going to a gym or leisure center, there are lots of online classes or programs you can do at home which may help you ease back into it!
What are some of the things that go through your mind when you are running long distances?
I must think about so many things during a long run; from what I’m having for dinner that evening to where I see myself in 10 years time! I start off mostly thinking about how out of breath I am and how long I have left to run, but after I settle into a pace I normally start thinking about the running route and the scenery around me. Sometimes if I am busy at work, I think about the week ahead and the work I have to do but mostly I just try to let my mind think of what it wants!
Do you have a personal best that you are trying to beat?
I would love to do the marathon in around 4 hours and not walk, but with my recent ankle injury I just want to finish the race and take in the scenery and the crowds along the way!