The double Olympic gold medallist is running the London Marathon in April

Twelve years after claiming her Olympic 800m and 1500m titles in Athens, Dame Kelly Holmes is using another Olympic year to embrace a new challenge in the form of the Virgin Money London Marathon.

The British middle-distance running great, who also took 800m bronze at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, is set to make her 26.2-mile debut in the British capital on April 24, but why this year?

“I suppose there are a few reasons. If I was ever going to do a marathon it was always going to be the Virgin Money London Marathon,” she told AW.

“I thought to myself, I feel like I need a challenge, a personal challenge, and this is a huge one for me.

“If I make changes in my own life I tend to see that I do them in big years, Olympic years. So obviously I won my medals in 2004, I started my own charity (the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust) in 2008 and I’ve got to that period in my life where I’m thinking, what do I want to do next?

“It was to get back into the world of running and fitness and wellbeing. I figured while I know I’m fit enough to actually give a good challenge, it’s Olympic year – let’s give it a go.”

With British record PB times of 1:56.21 and 3:57.90 for 800m and 1500m respectively, fans are keen to find out what time the 45-year-old might be targeting for her first marathon, but Holmes, who has run one half-marathon for which she clocked 87:21 last year, says it is too early to tell.

“I literally started preparing for this marathon on the fourth of January when I decided I was actually going to do it and I have no idea,” she says. “I did download a programme just to have some guidance on how to up the distance but that’s it, so I am a complete beginner when it comes to this.

“I’ve been 11 years retired and I haven’t purposely gone into competition because I don’t want to be judged against what I used to be when I was a full-time international athlete,” she adds. “It’s different. I do it now for lots of reasons like other people – to hopefully raise a lot of money for charity, it’s a personal challenge to actually see if I can do it and there’s a health and fitness benefit.”

Holmes has set herself a target of raising £250,000 for five charities through her marathon challenge. See uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/KellysHeros.