Find out how to take on the TCS London Marathon for charity 
Zaira crosses Tower Bridge during the Vitality 10,000

Fundraising with lived experience

Runners who will be joining you on the Start Line share their fundraising journey and three tips to help you hit your target before Event Day. 

Fundraiser of the Week, Zaira, tells you how to make an impact with your story.


Zaira’s running journey started eight years ago with a new year’s resolution to take on a charity challenge, and April will mark her tenth marathon as she participates in the 2024 TCS London Marathon.

As an expat who feels like she finally found a place to call home in the capital, Zaira had her heart set on the TCS London Marathon. She wanted to complete it for charity, but with so many causes to choose from, she didn’t know which one until 2022.

“I was 38 and finally free from an abusive relationship that had stripped me of my hopes for a family, my home, all my savings, and it had threatened my mental health and compromised my physical health,” Zaira says. “I consider myself lucky because soon after, I came to understand that, on average, two women are killed each week by a current or former partner.” (Domestic Abuse statistic from Refuge)

When Zaira left the house, all she had was her dog and a suitcase. However, through her running club, she had a local network of friends to support her.

“I considered myself a strong, independent woman,” she says. “I struggled with the idea of being a victim. I almost couldn’t admit it to myself. When you are in the thick of it, you are in survival mode.”

Zaira began to wonder about the women who do not have anyone to turn to, and started searching for ways to help others. She discovered Refuge, the largest domestic abuse organisation in the UK. Zaira says: “They provide perspective, reassurance and safety. It’s hard to want to get up every day if you don’t think it is safe to do so.”

Zaira has previously raised money for Cancer Research UK and Mind. Along with her club, Putney Running Club, she also helped international charity Street Child to fundraise £20,000 to build a school in Sierra Leone. However, opening up about being a victim of domestic violence has made the TCS London Marathon a completely different experience. 

“Being vocal about what I’ve been through... there’s something specific to being a victim of domestic violence and I still, today, fear the reaction.” 

Zaira crosses Tower Bridge during the Vitality 10,000

Support Zaira and Refuge

Keep updated on her 2024 TCS London Marathon journey

Zaira shares three tips if you are fundraising with lived experience.

1. Be authentic

If you have lived experience of your cause, you might feel vulnerable opening up about your story. However, raising awareness can help change the narrative around a particular topic and might help others share their own story.

“I am not new to fundraising, but nothing compares to this experience,” says Zaira. “Domestic violence is still taboo. It wasn't until two weeks ago that I felt like I could open up in a work environment and tell them I was running for Refuge because I am a manager at work, and there is a perception of who I am.”

“When I am in an environment where I can be open and honest and share with people what I went through, that connects differently. The next thing I know, there is a donation on my page. I think that was a chat in the pub; I wasn’t expecting anything. People get involved and connect emotionally, it’s their way of contributing.”


2. Let your cause fuel every mile


Your why for running a marathon can help you through even the toughest training run. Zaira says returning to your message helps not only with training, but with your fundraising too.

“Be honest and truthful at every opportunity, and get the message out there,” she says. “It is not OK that one in four women will experience domestic abuse or that two in four women are killed a week by a current or former partner.”

“Donating can’t change what I went through, but donating can hopefully help someone not go through the same.”


If you haven't considered what your why is yet, Pete Cooper - founder of London Marathon Events’ Official Training App, Coopah - talks about how to find yours here.


3. Not all donations are financial


Be aware that everyone can help in their own way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a donation: “Not everyone has the means to donate, but a ‘like’ and a ‘share’ can go a long way,” says Zaira.

A Participant wearing a fancy dress costume celebrates as they run down The Mall

Want more fundraising resources?

Enthuse's Fundraising hub has all the information to make your marathon a success.