A marathon diary - the countdown begins!


Posted on April 21st, 2016 by Rachel Jackson

Week 16 – Rachel Jackson’s London Marathon Diary – Where’s my six pack?


Ok, so when I started the training for the marathon I had this lovely rose tinted idea that by Marathon day I would have a washboard stomach, thighs of steel and feel like a finely tuned athlete.

Who was I kidding!

My wobbly bits still wobble and I certainly don’t consider myself an athlete. (Exactly how much training do you need to do to have firm thighs?)

I certainly have run far more miles in the last 16 weeks than my body is used to. My legs have struggled since the start of March and it has become normal to have parts of my body hurt. Many mornings I have hobbled up the path on the school run, looking like someone who has just run a marathon rather than someone who is training for one. I am not a natural athlete, and I don’t like exercise, like many people I try to make an effort to do some as it is something we know we should do.

Am I nervous? Am I scared? Totally! I know it’s going to be so hard and that it’s really going to hurt and although I’m prepared for that, I don’t know how early on in the race it’s going to hurt and how many miles I’m going to have to run in pain.

My 8 year old son has been so encouraging and positive during my training, and so proud of me. He has been looking at my training plan and knows exactly how many miles I have to run and on what day, and how long that run should take. He’s made me breakfast in bed with his sister prior to my long runs, and even rubs my aching feet. Yet all of a sudden even he is nervous for me about Sunday.

In an effort to calm my nerves I’ve been trying to develop a “Positive Mental Attitude” (not as easy as it sounds given I am naturally a glass half empty person) One method is visualisation, so on this week’s gentle 3 mile run I visualised crossing the line and seeing my family, particularly my two children. Well it’s a good job it was sunny and I had my sun glasses on. I spent 3 miles welled up and fighting back the tears. We joked at work today that as I’m getting all a bit emotional about it, maybe I need a good long cry before Sunday to get it out of my system so that I don’t spend the full 26.2 miles in tears.

When the pain kicks in and it gets tough I need to focus on the charities I am raising money for, and why they those charities matter to me, to think about everyone who has encouraged me, supported me, sponsored me and believed in me.

I need to trust the training plan. I followed it as closely as I’ve been able too, so I need to believe in it and I need believe in myself.


You can make a donation to Rachel’s causes here

Week 13. Rachel Jackson’s marathon diary. Taper Time.

Less than 2 weeks to go and now I’m into “Taper Time”, Whooo Hooo.

The longest run I now have to face before the big day is 8.5 miles with the idea of Tapering being that my body can get over the training and be rested and ready for the big day.

But I also need to make sure I am mentally prepared for the marathon. Many people have said to me the biggest challenge on completing a marathon is the mental one, that when I hit the wall and my body wants to stop, it is my mind that will keep me putting one foot in front of the other.


I have read the running mantras people use, there are many but I like and can relate to the following:

• I believe in myself, I believe in my run
• I don’t stop when I’m tired – I stop when I’m done
• I believe.
• Just do it.
• I can do this, I will do this
• I may not be the strongest, I may not be the fastest, but I’m trying my hardest.

There are also the mind games they play to pass the time and the miles such as finding 10 people wearing red shorts or 5 people with a black cap on. Apparently Paula Radcliffe counts – I did try this recently and found it much harder than I expected to count to a 100 whilst remembering to run.

Visualising yourself crossing the finishing line is meant to be a good thing to do, and I have been doing this. In my mind it’s a nice warm day, I’m still smiling at the end and I run over the finish line (rather than crawl) where my two children are waiting for me.

I do realise I have a long, and it will be a slow walk to collect my bag, before I can meet up with my family but in my mind I picture them being literally just the other side of the finish line.

Other people have told me that you just get so tired you can’t think about anything at all, that a points I won’t be able to do the simple maths to work out how far I have left to run.

I guess until the big day I just won’t know how it’s going to go, whether I’ll even remember any mantras or how many running rhino’s I’ve seen.

But if anyone has any tips or secret miracles on how to keep my head focused – and how to make it not listen to my body – please please please let me know.


You can make a donation to Rachel’s causes here

Week 12 –  Rachel Jackson’s marathon diary. Now the training is getting really tough…

I find myself thinking more and more about the reasons why I am doing this and why I support the charities I do.
So I’m thinking lots about my Father-in-law and my Dad.
I know Ronnie, my Father-in-law would have been so proud of me if he was still here. He would think it’s a crazy thing for me to do but he would have been so proud. He’d certainly want to share a celebratory drink or two with me afterwards. I’m not sure Limoncello is the best recovery drink but I’m planning on having one of his favourite tipples when I get home.
Thinking about my Dad is a bit of an odd one though. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. An awful disease and to see anyone suffer from it is heart wrenching.
When I see him I’ll mention I’m training for the Marathon and more often than not he’ll ask me how far that is and if am I raising any sponsorship money. It’s doesn’t seem to register with him why Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of the charities I am raising money for.


We tend to have the same conversation about running on loop so how much of it he remembers I’m not sure.
I’m sure they’ll put the marathon on the tv for him in the care home, but whether he’ll remember I running it and want to watch it I really don’t know.

The training has been hard, I’m so tired physically and mentally and I know finishing the marathon will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The little girl inside of me wants her Dad to be proud of her and not knowing if he will be is difficult.
I’ll take my medal to show him (because I am going to finish – I am going to get that medal) and hope he does get to feel proud of me at that point, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment.

You can make a donation to Rachel’s causes here

Blog week 11 of Rachel Jackson’s marathon diary – Eddie Izzard – wow,  just WOW!!!.

This week my long run was 15 miles – the furthest I have ever run in my life. I preferred to think of it as three 5 miles runs all in one go as the thought of running 15 miles made me feel a little sick.
The first five miles was fine, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was easy but it was comfortable. The next five was ok, hard work but ok.
The last five miles was awful. It was slow and painful. After the 12 mile point every step was an effort. Everything from the waist down hurt, I was tired, cold and hungry. It fact we called it a day at 14.8 miles as I was completely and utterly shattered.
I did make sure I stretched really well when I got in but my legs still seized up and I was hobbling on the school run for the next day or two.
Lots of things went through my mind during those last five miles – how on earth was I going to be able to do 26.2 miles if 15 hurt this much, should I have brought one more gel with me, my water bottle was empty so wouldn’t it be great if someone I knew drove past and dropped off a fresh bottle of water, if I closed my eyes could I nap as I was running, and Eddie Izzard.
The day I ran my 15 miles (oh ok my 14.8) Eddie was completing his 27 marathons in 27 days to raise money for Sports Relief and in honour of Nelson Mandela.
27 marathons in 27 days. And two of those marathons were completed on the 27th day. He suffered dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunstroke – but he did it. I have no idea how, but he did.

He is an absolute utter legend.

Blog week 10 of Rachel Jackson’s marathon diary -As I was still getting pain in my left leg I took a precautionary trip to the physiotherapist.

After looking me over and checking my trainers were still doing their job the very nice physio pummelled the muscle, strapped up my leg and advised to change my next run to cross training and delay the long run of 15.5 miles for a couple of days if I could. The muscle was just very tight and very tired.




Apparently long warm baths aren’t ideal after a long run and I should instead opt for a cool shower (before anyone suggests it there is no way I could get in an Ice bath) I need to stretch more and massage the muscles if they feel tight.

I had been concerned I would need to take a week off of running, and at this point in the training that would set me back massively. I have two really long runs left to do and mentally I know they will be so important for me to complete. So having to just play around with the training plan for a couple of days, hop on the treadmill for a couple of the short runs rather than pound on the pavement and improve my post run regime actually felt like good news.

I had been a bit down the previous week, partly as the pain in my leg had been worrying me, partly because I was just so tired, that I run so slowly and partly because it is hard to fit in the training. So I’ve given myself a bit of a talking to.

I’m training for a marathon! What did I expect! It is going to be tough, my body is going to hurt, I am going to be tired. It is going to be difficult to fit everything thing in. “Life” still happens, the children still get ill and things are going to come up that need your attention and focus. I am doing really well. I’m getting out there, I’m doing the training. I’m even making healthy snacks with Protein Powder, dates and sunflower seeds – I for one never expected that to happen.

And as for pace, I’m just not fast and that’s just the way it is. I want to complete the Marathon to raise awareness and funds for TheGivingMachine, The British Heart Foundation and Alzheimers Research UK and whether I finish in 4 hours (which I won’t) or 7 hours the end result for them will be the same.  It’s crossing that Finish line that counts.

Week 9 of Rachel Jackson’s marathon diary. Back at the start of this training plan I was looking forward to being able to run 2 miles without needing to have a walk!

Although I do still need a little walk periodically I feel I have already come so far. A 6.5 mile run now doesn’t fill me with fear, it’s now just a 6.5 mile run. It still includes some walking but nowhere near as much as it did and it is now an ok distance for me. But, rather than being chuffed and pleased with myself I end up critical of how long it took and being cross that I’m not very quick. I guess it’s human nature to question your abilities and that whatever you are currently capable of you want to do better, you compare yourself to others and often feel you aren’t doing well enough.

This weeks long run was a long one, … 13.1 miles. I wasn’t so much scared of the run but more of how tired I knew I would feel afterwards. It was pouring with rain when we set off, the first mile felt hard as always (does the first mile ever get any easier?), the rain stopped and I got into my stride. The first few miles were ok and it wasn’t until after 4 miles that I started to ask myself if we were nearly there yet and working out in my head how far we had left and how much longer it would take. By 8 miles my legs were tired and hurting but I was telling myself there was only 5 and a bit miles left to go. By 10 miles I had had enough, but we were still 3 miles from home so I had no choice but to carry on (I am sure this was part of George’s thinking when he planned our route).

We got back to mine with the distance showing 13.05 miles rather than 13.10 but I didn’t have the motivation or energy to run up and down my road until it got to 13.10 so decided 13.05 miles was close enough.

I was so pleased it was done, and that it was out of the way. I tried not to think about the fact I need to be able to run twice that distance in April and focus on the fact I had run a half marathon – as a training run!  I was shattered and in pain, George calmly reassured me it was unlikely I had actually broken my leg but more likely my legs were just tired and to get the foam roller out…..

My body hurt for the next two days and I tried to get my head to remain focused on the positive of having completed the 13 miles but it kept wandering off to think about my pace, how long I took, how slow I am, how much everything hurt. But we are all our own worst critic, so as well as doing the running I’ll have to work on keeping the negative voice quiet and keep reminding myself I am doing ok, and that the time it takes is just that, the time it takes. It’s doing it that counts.

Week 8 – OK, so why didn’t I keep things simple and just raise sponsorship for one charity?

Well, as I got a place in the ballot I got to pick who I would raise money for so I decided to raise for TheGivingMachine Charity. Not only a great place to work, (I’m not just saying that as the boss will read this, it really it) but they are a great charity which allows you to raise free cash for the charities of your choice just by shopping on line, and it doesn’t cost you a penny.

But with Richard, our Founder and CEO it’s all about giving. Giving as much money as we can to as many causes as we can. So he suggested I split the donations between TheGivingMachine and the causes I personally support on TheGivingMachine, so the charities that are close to my heart also get to benefit directly.

My chosen causes on TheGivingMachine are The British Heart Foundation as my Father-in-law, Ronnie died suddenly from heart disease leaving a massive void in our lives. And I also support Alzheimer’s Research UK as my own Dad, Ron is currently suffering from this awful disease. (It seems fitting that my Step-Dad is helping me with my training and doing all he can to make sure I get round in one piece).

My Father in-law – Ronnie

We then thought about trying to ensure even more charities could benefit and that the person donating got a choice in which charities their money went to, so we decided to have two options.

My Dad - Ron
My Dad – Ron

Option one, simply donate and your sponsorship will be split between TheGivingMachine, The British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Option two, you can choose to donate and then email me at rachel@thegivingmachine confirming the email address registered to your Giver account at TheGivingMachine and 50% of your donation will go to the causes you support.

If you aren’t already signed up as a Giver, it’s quick and easy to do. We don’t pass your details on to anyone else and once you are registered you simply click through to your selected retailer via our site and shop as normal.  https://www.thegivingmachine.co.uk/giver/join/

There are over 200,000 charities and causes listed on TheGivingMachine, but if the cause you wish to support isn’t listed simply get them to join up. It’s doesn’t cost them anything! https://www.thegivingmachine.co.uk/beneficiary-portal/join/


Week 7  – Are we nearly there yet? In a word, No!  But I am a mere 16 miles away from being half way through the training plan.

I’m finding it hard, really hard! I knew it would be, but I thought it would just be the running that would be hard. But it can also be hard to find the time for all the running and finding the time for the Cross Training and stretching you also need to fit it, the fact I have very little energy left for the washing, ironing and all the boring jobs that still need to be done.

And the fact you seem to become obsessed by reading up on Marathon Training. What to eat during the training, what to eat during the marathon (the gels make me sick, so what am I going to use to re-fuel on the day…), what stretches I should be doing, am I using my foam roller too much/not enough, should I listen to music during the marathon (oh no, that means I need to put together a really really long playlist, and will my phone battery last the distance). The list could be endless.

My long run this week was 11 miles. Yes, 11 miles. That sounds like a long way to me and it certainly felt it, especially as George threw a few hills into the run for good measure!

If I’m honest I couldn’t sleep the night before as I was worried about the run, and then that made me worry about the marathon. If 11 miles is making me loose sleep how am I going to be the night before the marathon! What if I am awake half the night and tired before I start…

After the 11 miles I was shattered. Absolutely and totally shattered. I managed to run a bath but no way could I have managed a further 15.2 miles. So how am I going to run the full 26.2 miles?

Well I guess by sticking to the training plan and doing the miles is states and trusting that on the day it will be fine. And on the day it will be, won’t it?

Week 6

Despite trying to avoid people who are suffering from colds and bugs, I managed to get a cold, a rotten head cold that made me feel awful.  Not in bed all with flu kind of awful but awful enough not be able to face running for a good few days.

Runners apparently say if it’s not on your chest you are still ok to run but as even the school run felt like a half marathon I didn’t run for several days. Then you start to have the panic running through your mind, how will it affect me if I miss a couple of runs, will I still be able to keep up with the plan, should I try to make up the runs I’ve missed, does missing two training runs mean I will have totally ruined the entire plan…….

To be honest, I was going to miss two runs so whatever the impact of that I would just have to deal with it, but I had read the run you don’t want to miss is your long run so as long as I managed to fit that in it shouldn’t be too bad and over the 16 week duration of the training plan I am sure most people are unwell for at least a couple of days so hopefully the plan kind of predicts that and works that in.

By the Friday I was feeling much better so knew I could get out and do the 6.5 miles on Saturday. I was so grateful that the long run this week was a relatively short one of 6.5miles and not the horrendous 18.5 one I have looming in a few weeks.



Saturday was cold and wet but I had to get out. I really didn’t fancy running for over an hour on my own in the rain but my GivingMachine colleague Laura offered to come and keep me company. Now that’s what you call team spirit!

Laura is one of those proper runners who doesn’t mind the rain……(and she’s really quick!) Luckily it didn’t rain the whole run but it was pretty nippy. It did feel much harder, I wasn’t sure if that was because I have missed some runs, where I was still not feeling 100% or if it was just where it was so cold. I was certainly shattered and aching when I finished.

But running with a friend and chatting as we ran round certainly passed the miles much more pleasantly! Thank you Laura.

Week 5

So, let’s talk about George who I mentioned in an earlier blog. He may have picked up his free bus pass a few years back but he refuses to hang up his trainers and still extremely (almost annoyingly) fit.
He only tends to accompany me on my long runs and he doesn’t normally put on his trainers for anything less than 5 miles, unless it involves some “hill training”. And often when meeting me for a long run – of say 8.5 miles, he runs the 3 miles from his house to mine, runs my 8.5 miles with me and my pace and then runs a further 3 miles home!
He’ll ask the night before how far I want to run and turn up with our run mapped out in his head. I don’t have to worry about trying to sort out a route for the correct distance, I just follow his instructions of “left here, right there” so we arrive back at my door having run exactly the right distance – which is much better than having to run up and down my road a few times like I often have to when running solo.

He’ll also take into account the wind, to try to make sure it is behind us on the last part of our run. He’s full of really useful advice on running (he’s a bit old school and still tends to run marathons just on water but manages to not laugh when I start taking my energy tablets after 4 miles and have a protein shake when I get back from a run of 5 miles or more).

He is also very good at listening to me moan, that have we seriously only done 4 miles, that I’m tired, that I’m cold…
George didn’t get a place in the London Marathon this year but he has said he will get the early bus up with me, hold my hand and generally try to stop me from freaking out, until I have to head into the starting area.
George is the main reason I started running. A few years ago when my little boy, Charlie was around 3, we went to see George finish a local 10K race, after which there was a one mile fun run for the children which Charlie wanted to do. So, as he was too young to do it on his own George and I went with him. Charlie had had enough about a third of the way in so George picked him up and jogged with him the rest of the way. I tried to keep up with them, but although George had already run a 10k race and was carrying a toddler I couldn’t and had to get him to walk so I could keep up.

I decided I really should take a look at my level of fitness and do something to improve it – so I started running. Not far and not fast, but once a week I went running with a friend called Sue. We gradually saw our running improve, so we signed up for a local 5k Race for Life which we completed together and then a 10k Race which we trained hard for and also ran together.
Last year George married my Mum, and Mum asked me to make the “Father of the Bride speech” in place of my Grandad who unfortunately is no longer with us. During my speech I commented that it is traditional for the Father of the Bride to say marriage should be seen more as gaining a son rather than losing a daughter, but that in my case I was gaining my very own personal running trainer who I was hoping would train me up to complete a marathon. I made the comment largely in jest, I guess it’s true what they say, be careful what you wish for.
But if you are training for your first marathon you should definitely have a George.

Week 4

OK, at the end of Week 3 I was a bit tired and despondent, but thankfully this week has felt easier and with less mileage it has given my legs and joints chance to recover and left me feeling more positive.

Ticking off the runs on my plan I can see Four weeks are now DONE.  Four out of the 16 weeks, so that’s a quarter of the plan done. Only 12 weeks left and the last two weeks are tapering weeks (that apparently means you don’t have to run very far to make sure you’re not completed shattered on the big day). So with only 10 proper running weeks left to complete, I am starting to feel I am getting there and that it is achievable. And all of a sudden 4.5 miles has become a short run. How did that happen!

People had warned me training for a marathon would have a large impact on my daily life, and not just because of the amount of time I would need to spend running, but everything that goes along with it including the impact it would have on my food choices.

Most of my fruit consumption is via red fermented grapes and I would much prefer a large package of crisps to a proper meal but I have realised I can’t train for a marathon on that alone and that trips to the kitchen cupboard at 4am to grab a Snickers is probably not the best way forward so I am started to try to improve my diet. (And before you suggest I should cut out the wine, I have cut it down but refuse to cut it out totally as it contains valuable antioxidants very beneficial for my muscles after running)

Out for dinner with friends recently I ordered the Superfood Salad for starter – not because thought it sounded like it would taste good but purely because of the name and I thought it would be good fuel for my long run the following day. I followed this with steak for my main course to ensure I got some protein and skipped pudding but ordered Green Tea for the antioxidants and nutrients.  It’s highly unlikely I’m ever going to become a super healthy eater (she says whilst eating Trail Mix at her desk) but I’m trying to make better choices which can only be a good thing.

Brendan Foster, one of Britain’s all-time, greatest athletes trained during the 1970’s and he says back then their mantra for nutrition was largely “Tea, toast and shandy” so if it was good enough for him then it’s good enough for me.


Week 3.  Have I mentioned I hate the cold?

As in, really hate the cold. I am the first one to pack away the flip flops and get out the woolly hats for the school run. And this week has been freezing!

They say the hardest bit of running is actually getting out of the door and this week they are totally right! The thought of going out into the freezing cold to run around for an hour made me want to cry – literally.

But I put on my layers, gloves and warm (but silly hat) and headed out. Someone suggested I apply heat lotion to certain areas before running, and I did, and I have to say that it totally helped (thanks Tanya!) Once out on the road, the cold wasn’t as bad as I feared, yes I was cold but it was ok and I got my runs done and ticked them off.

My long  run this week was 8.5 miles which for me is a LONG run. I was nervous before I set out as 8.5 miles is a long way, ok, nowhere near as far as the 26.2 miles I’ve got to build up to but still a long way.  But I wasn’t running alone and I knew George who was running with me would keep me going and get me round. (more about George in a later blog…) and we did it, and it was actually ok.

But afterwards I was tired, painfully tired.  And the next day everything hurt, my ankles, knees, back and even my elbows. I smothered myself in heat lotion and crawled into bed. I felt like a little old lady and I was glad week 3 was over. My body is already struggling with the miles I am running, how is it going to stand up to the next 13 weeks?

Fortunately, Week 4 has less mileage to cover, only two 4.5 mile runs and one 3 mile jog. Hopefully that will allow my body to recover to get over week 3!

Week 2! Our lovely Rachel, who looks after customer relations for TheGivingMachine is living the dream (and the pain!) of a marathon runner.   Join her journey as she starts on her 16 week training plan  to the big day in April – Go for it Rachel!



Week 2

Ok, so week 1 was completed without too much pain. And with just one 6.5 mile run to complete this week, week 2 is going ok.

The plan I am using is an asics one, and you can either have it as an app on your phone or on your desktop at the following site:


I was concerned by the pressure of having to follow a strict regime, committing to it and going running when it states I should, for how far it says I should – whether I fancy a run or not. However, I’ve realised it has a couple of unexpected benefits.

Firstly, there is the obvious benefit of knowing how far you should be running rather than just picking a random number out of the hat and giving it a go. You are following a plan designed by someone, somewhere you really understands marathon running and training. It is designed to get you over the finish line on race day. So whatever mileage the plan states, you know you should be able to do it, (if you are following the plan correctly and not skipping runs!).

Secondly, it’s basically just one big long “To Do” List. Now everyone who knows me knows I love a list. So that is exactly how I am treating the plan, a 16 week To Do List. I’ve printed it out, hung it up and it is so amazingly, wonderfully, satisfying to tick off each run once it is completed and see that you are getting there. I’m nearly an eighth of the way through training already!

Thirdly, the removal of the choice of when you should run can be a real plus. There is always something else more important you can be doing with you time other than running, I so often don’t find time to run because of this. That pile of ironing, the weekly food shop, that half empty bottle of red that is calling to you to be finished. If it’s on the plan, you just have to find the time and energy to do it, tired busy or otherwise.  And this week I have certainly found that has helped.

Roll on week 3!

Week 1

As I start my 16 week London Marathon training plan I find my head full of questions.

Why did I think this would be a good idea?

Why did I pick a Marathon that involves training in the winter? (I hate winter, and the cold, and the rain).  Should I have indulged a little less over the Christmas break?  Will I be able to do it? Why does it seem to be raining all of this week?

I’m not what anyone would call a serious runner who is out treading the pavements several times a week come rain or shine, but more a casual runner who managed to drags themselves occasionally, cursing the rain and the cold winds and wishing they found running easy.

I didn’t even really mean to enter.

My husband wanted to run the marathon, so when I entered him into the ballot I found the London Marathon music “The Trap” circling round and round in my mind. The inspirational images of all the runners passing the famous landmarks and across the finishing line were popping into my head.  I thought how amazing it would be to actually do it, actually run the London Marathon and decided to enter as well (never actually thinking I would get a place).

Having been fortunate to get a place in the ballot I do not need to raise sponsorship money. So instead I am asking those that want to support me to simply register with TheGivingMachine and see how easy it is to raise money for the charities and causes they care about for free just by shopping online.

I am sure there will be blood, sweat and tears over the coming weeks but I’ve got my training plan, I’ve got my trainers – let’s do it!




I envy you. Here's something of interest Rachel, maybe? I have a place this year too (deferred from last year), but I am suffering with injury and unable to find the right level of training discipline. You should be reassured that, regardless of performance, you will totally love it and enjoy every minute of it! here is my last London Marathon story :) http://www.craigmckenzie.co.uk/fundraising/london-marathon-2014-race-report/

Author: Craig | On: 2016-02-26 15:21:19

Enjoy reading this and will enjoy reading about the actual event in which Rachel will be bursting with pride at what she's achieved and the feeling of euphoria when she's crossed that finishing line! Best of luck with the training!

Author: Deb | On: 2016-01-28 17:25:57

Congrats! Regards Mark from Piaggi ( http://piaggi.co.uk/store/ )

Author: Mark Piaggi | On: 2016-01-15 10:21:02

We'll be routing for you, Rachel! You go girl!

Author: Kirsty Rogers | On: 2016-01-12 13:48:04

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