Our inspirational colleague Laura Burton is in training for the London Marathon – just 18 months after she decided to take up jogging.

Laura gave up smoking four years ago and then vowed to lose a bit of weight and get fitter in January last year. She joined Weight Watchers, and used the Couch to 5k plan to start running. It went so well that she joined a running club. Laura gradually increased the distance she was covering, completing half marathons in Henley, Southend and Maldon, before entering next April's London Marathon.

She said: "I was overweight and wanted to do something about it. I've never run a marathon before, but I'm up to half marathon now and am stepping things up. I'm loving the journey I'm on. I was over three stone heavier at the start of last year and I feel so much healthier now. I can't remember the last time I had a cold, whereas before I started getting fit they were a common occurence."

Laura says her colleagues at our South Woodham Ferrers store, where she's an admin colleague, have been a great support. She's set a fundraising target of £1,850 for Phab Kids – you can sponsor her on Justgiving.com – and instead of asking colleagues, friends and family for money she's been coming up with lots of creative fundraising ideas.

She said: "Instead of just asking people to sponsor me I'm doing things to give something back – like making bags of sweets which I'm selling, and sewing shopping bags to sell to my friends and family.

"My colleagues are amazing. Everyone's been so supportive, both at work and at home. My fiancé Jon is the reason I took up running. He started running in January, so we would go together. Then he got a new job and I started going on my own and it took off from there."

Laura says the idea of competing in the marathon came to her when she was watching this year's race on television.

She said: "I watched the London Marathon on telly and the crowd's support and atmosphere and buzz looked amazing. I was mesmerised and knew I had to do it.

"I have these ideas from time to time and I just have to see them through."

Laura, who's mum to 13-year-old Kaylen, is on a tough training schedule – she will go for a run on Christmas Day and is out running four or five times a week.

She said: "I'll be 45 when I run the marathon. I know it's all about the training. Finishing it in six hours would be nice and five and a half would be wonderful."

Store manager Neil Roots, pictured here with Laura, says everyone at the store is inspired by Laura's commitment and achievements.

He said: "Laura's incredible! To go from being someone who doesn't run at all to competing in one of the world's most famous marathons in the space of a couple of years is amazing.

"We're all really proud of her and know she'll smash it."