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Sultan’s story: “It was a feeling I couldn’t put into words”

For Sultan, taking on the London Marathon was a huge journey of personal growth – one he’d encourage everyone to undertake.

I’d always wanted to run the London Marathon, and in the end, it was a combination of a couple of things that made me take the plunge.

I was feeling a bit unfulfilled by life at the time but then I joined Changing Faces as a campaigner, and I found a new purpose.

When I noticed that Changing Faces had charity places in the London Marathon, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to realise my dream.

It was amazing to run it for them, because Changing Faces is a charity very close to my heart. Their ethos aligns perfectly with mine.

Growing up with a visible difference, I was desperately looking for an organisation that plays the role that Changing Faces does now. I struggled with self-esteem at school, constantly worrying about what others thought of me. While I didn’t feel different myself, I was made to feel that way by other’s reactions. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I started to accept my difference as something positive. The support that Changing Faces offers and the way that they get people talking about representation and challenging discrimination is exactly what’s needed to enable more people to celebrate themselves for who they are.

Getting the news that I had a place was exciting, and I was so thankful to get it. It was a real full circle moment for me, because I was becoming the role model I needed when I was a kid.

I think I had a level of delusion, thinking that a marathon would be easy. In a way, I didn’t realise what I was getting into. Before December, I had never run more than 5K. On my first run, I ran 6K and I got injured.

It was clear that I had a bit of a mountain to climb. But I ended up falling in love with running. Now I consider myself an avid runner. It’s all about the process. I thought that I was working towards the goal of finishing this marathon, but it was also actually about the person I was becoming.

Prior to signing up for the London Marathon, the furthest Sultan had ran was 5K

The day itself was amazing. One of my favourite moments was running past Changing Faces. Seeing everyone cheer me on was a real boost that filled me up with adrenaline and powered me on. I didn’t know I needed it, but I really did.

On the first time around, I missed my brother and dad. My dad had taken the day off, so he really wanted me to see him when I ran past. My brother was texting me saying, “We saw you, but you didn’t see us.” So, to see my dad the second time around made me really happy.

Towards the 30th kilometre, I was starting to lag a little and facing a runner’s wall (or maybe ten!). All of a sudden, I saw this guy dressed up in a gladiator outfit wearing flip flops go past me. I thought to myself, “How is this guy in flip flops going past me?” It spurred me on and helped me keep going!

In the last kilometre, you turn a corner, and you can see Buckingham Palace. Wow. It was a feeling I couldn’t put into words. It was unreal, like being in a movie.

After the marathon, I couldn’t walk for four or five days! Stairs were the absolute enemy, but it was one of the best days of my life.

Since taking on the London Marathon, Sultan has become an avid runner

If you’re thinking of running the London Marathon or doing something similar, I’d say go for it!

Supporting Changing Faces is a great thing to do because by helping the charity, you’re also supporting the visible difference community too.

I still feel the charity doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and the London Marathon in particular is the perfect event for raising awareness.

Through the training, I always held this huge appreciation for what Changing Faces does and the role that I was playing in making that happen by raising funds for them. That’s a special feeling.

There are also things that I do now that I would never have attempted before. I’ve developed a new level of self-belief as a result of taking on this challenge.

Ella ran the London Marathon for Changing Faces in 2022

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Running the London Marathon is a great way to raise money to support people living with a visible difference.

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