Shropshire Star

Telford soldier set to run London Marathon a fortnight after lead role in Queen's funeral

Just over a week ago, Andrew 'Vern' Stokes took a slow walk down The Mall for one final inspection of the troops involved in Queen Elizabeth II's funeral.

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Vern Stokes will be competing in the London Marathon

And Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes – who was in charge of military and ceremonial aspects of the State Funeral – will have the eyes of many on him again this Sunday as he heads for the finishing line on The Mall, as he takes part in the London Marathon.

GSM Stokes, from Madeley, is taking on the 26.2 mile course in the capital to raise funds for Tickets for Troops, having supported The Severn Hospice last year.

And, despite a lack of training, he says he's determined to complete the challenging course for his charity.

"I should be on the taper now where you drastically reduce the amount of miles you are doing," he said.

Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes and members of the royal family follow the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it was carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall

"But, a couple of weeks ago, my knees were playing up and Sue, my girlfriend, who has become my self-appointed head coach, told me to rest for two weeks.

"So I'd only just started my training back up again when The Queen sadly passed away and so I then had two further weeks of not being able to do any running because it's just been so busy.

"I went for a long run – 15 miles around London – on Sunday and it felt really difficult.

"I felt very sore the next morning so I think Sunday will be a combination of grit, determination and a lot of support from the crowd to get me through those 26.2 miles.

"Hopefully I have done enough training to get around and I just want to enjoy it and have that time running so that, in my own mind, I can gather my thoughts about what has been an incredibly busy period.

"I do enjoy running for that reason – it's an opportunity to think about what's going on in your mind."

Vern in action

GSM Stokes, who now has a home in Coalbrookdale, admits it has been a 'whirlwind' of emotion since Her Majesty died, and only now is he starting to reflect while looking ahead.

"It has been non-stop, even since the funeral, to be honest," he said. "Last week, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday going through lessons learnt and how we can improve events going forward, into the future, especially with regards to the coronation.

"Thursday, I spent the day in the office writing thank you letters to all the people who had supported me so much.

"I was also in the middle of moving flats, so on the Friday, I got keys for our new home and we spent that day cleaning and then, at the weekend, there were a couple of posts on LinkedIn which went viral and I had 47,000 requests and about 8,000 comments.

"I'm still getting through them and responding to them. It feels like a full-time job responding to social media at the moment!"

He added: "On Sunday, I did get to visit the Guards Chapel for a service and that was quite nice. It was the same place where I delivered all of the briefs to everyone in the run-up to the funeral, so there was some time for reflection.

"You don't get a lot of time to reflect much as it's always fast and furious but, of course, the Queen's funeral is something I shall be reminded about wherever I go.

"It will be the proudest moment of my life, having been such a central figure in the delivery of it and I think pride is something I have heard in a lot of comments since the funeral."

Andrew Stokes

"People have talked about how proud they were to be British. The Queen was the engineer of the plans and if we wanted to change anything, they had to go in front of Her Majesty.

"There's no doubt the plans were written to reinforce that and galvanise the country. She was an amazing strategist and I think she got it absolutely right."

To sponsor Vern and help Ticket for Troops, visit