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My RAF family's three continents running challenge

Alexandra Goldstraw and a friendRAF wife Alexandra Goldstraw will be embarking on an exciting challenge this month along with her sister Jessica and brother Chris in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund. Their challenge will see each of them competing in running events across the world.

In this guest blog, Alexandra tells us more about her family's 'Three Continents Challenge'.

The challenge began as a solo effort to raise money for two charities very close to my heart. First, the RAF Benevolent Fund as I wanted to pay tribute to my wonderful husband, Officer Darren (or Golly as he is known to most) as well as my late father, a veteran of the RAF, my sister Jessica, brothers-in-law Kyle and Jerry, grandfather Jack, and countless friends who are currently serving or who have served in the RAF.

Second, the Multiple Systems Atrophy Trust, the UK's only support and information service about a rare, progressive and incurable neurological disease from which my father lost his seven-year battle on 28 May 2014.

Dad knew I was intending to run the Marine Corps Marathon in aid of these charities and was delighted as the RAF Benevolent Fund supported him in his time of need. But after his death, my solo challenge seemed somewhat insignificant compared to what he and so many others faced.

So as a tribute to him I invited my siblings to take on a joint challenge and the 'Three Continents Challenge' was born!

My siblings and I are separated by 14,200 miles with Jessica based in New South Wales, Australia, me in Washington D.C. and my brother Chris in Surrey, England. Jessica will kick off our challenge in Newcastle, New South Wales on 19 October. Chris will be running the Great South Run 5k in Portsmouth on 25 October and I will complete the challenge by running the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday 26 October in Washington D.C.

Training for the challenge

I only took up running when I moved to the States just shy of two years ago. When I started, I couldn't run to the end of my street without stopping but since then I have fallen completely in love with the sport and have completed several races from 5ks and 10ks to 20ks and half marathons.

This will be my second marathon, having completed my first in March. I even captained a 12-person relay team and together we completed a 200-mile race in September, incorporating it into my training (and having a lot of fun along the way).

Amidst all this, I had some down time in the spring and then started my training back in July. I actually preferred training during the winter even with the snow and ice as the heat and humidity has been much harder for me to deal with. Much of my training had to begin at 4.30am to give me the chance to run some miles before the sun rose and made it unbearably hot.

I usually run four to five times a week with one speed workout, one tempo run (a slightly faster pace than I plan to run the Marine Corps Marathon) and then a long slower run at the weekend to build my endurance.

I also try to fit in at least one strength training workout a week and two cross training workouts which might be swimming, cycling or rowing or a combination, to stave off injuries and keep my whole body healthy. It's a big time commitment but the truth is, I love it and I want to do my family proud by giving it my all.

Jessica's race

Alexandra Goldstraw, sister Jessica and brother ChrisJessica, an RAF veteran herself, has run on and off for several years and I know she has completed at least a couple of 10ks. So when I asked her if she would join me in the challenge, she didn't hesitate.

Now based in Australia, she has two small children at home, a new full-time job which regularly takes her away from home and a husband who, whilst preparing for a half Ironman event, recently fell off his bike in training causing a terrible fracture to his hip.

Needless to say, fitting in her own training to get to a 15k goal race (her longest distance to date), has been somewhat challenging and that is without considering an ongoing knee issue she's been battling. It has been a long road, but somehow, she has done it. Race day is drawing ever closer and I know she will get there and all her hard work will pay off. I'm so proud of her!

Chris's race

Chris was a real sportsman in his youth but has never taken on running until now. Not one to resist a challenge, he told me that he'd wanted to start running for years so when I asked him if he wanted a good reason to start – that was it; he was in!

He's been heading out several times a week with his dog running along next to him for company, and sometimes with his daughter cycling her bike next to him too, cheering: "Go faster Daddy, faster!"

'm so incredibly proud of him for taking on this challenge in such a bold and public way.

It hasn't been easy for any of us for various reasons and we've all had obstacles to overcome, including our own lack of motivation at times but we hope that together – no matter how much we raise – our collective effort pays tribute to our father, family, friends and the countless others who need the support of these two very deserving charities.

Alexandra Goldstraw

You can sponsor Alexandra, Jessica and Chris on their Virgin Money Giving page.

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