Natalie Pinkham: ‘Why I’m running the London Marathon in memory of my mate, Caroline Flack’

Natalie Pinkham is running the 2024 London Marathon for Samaritans  (Samaritans)
Natalie Pinkham is running the 2024 London Marathon for Samaritans (Samaritans)

Natalie Pinkham can envisage her reaction to running a first marathon. Caroline’s reaction. “She would laugh. I can hear her voice now… ‘what you doing, Pinks!’ Whenever I have a low moment, I do think about Caroline and the depths of despair she must have gone through.”

It’s been more than four years since Caroline Flack, a television presenter beloved across the country and best known as the face of ITV’s Love Island in her final years, tragically took her own life at the age of 40. In the years since, Pinkham has spearheaded the organising of an annual summer festival known as Flackstock in her memory and this Sunday, the 46-year-old is running the London Marathon for Samaritans.

A 26.2-mile run which, she admits, will be one of the biggest challenges of her life.

“It’s so outside my comfort zone but the battle of the mind is something that intrigues me,” Pinkham says.

“It was put to me by Samaritans that the marathon represents everything they’re about. When someone is at their lowest point, people rally to support them and carry them through. It makes me emotional thinking about it!

“I’m so moved by that as an idea and the representation of that is the marathon. Everyone I know who’s done a marathon says it’s the crowd which carries you through and that’s what Samaritans is about – being there for others when they need a bit of a lift.”

A presenter on Sky Sports’ coverage of Formula One for over a decade, Pinkham organised Flackstock alongside Leigh Francis (best known for his character Keith Lemon) and Dawn O’Porter two years ago. Set in Berkshire, the likes of Olly Murs, Dermot O’Leary and Pixie Lott have appeared at the first two events and the festival even has a dedicated mindfulness area. It supports four charity partners and in year one, they raised £325,000.

“It’s been a therapy for us all,” Pinkham says of Flackstock. “Caroline had this incredible ability to bring people together. She died just before Covid and we didn’t get the chance to grieve together but that feels like part of the process in organising Flackstock.

‘Positive legacy’: Pinkham (left) with her friend Flack (Samaritans)
‘Positive legacy’: Pinkham (left) with her friend Flack (Samaritans)

“We have a laugh and a cry and we always ask, ‘what would Flacky do?’ so that’s our mantra. The festival is in her memory but it’s about looking forward now. It’s about creating a positive legacy for her and building a safe space to discuss mental health and to explore pathways to recovery.

“It’s all well and good having this big event and prizing people out of their shells to talk about their mental health struggles, but then where do we leave them? Obviously, we don’t have the quick fix but we do know that mental health is at crisis point. We have to do more collectively.”

Samaritans approached Flackstock about the prospect of someone running the marathon last year and Pinkham, though insisting she has “always wanted to do one”, has at times questioned her decision while running around Richmond Park on her own over the winter months.

In fact, before her training and despite being a promising 800m runner as a teenager, she had never run over 5km. Yet overall, she insists she’s found the rigorous training “therapeutic”, indulging in podcasts such as the popular The Rest is Politics.

And whenever she feels low, she thinks of Caroline.

Pinkham alongside Flack’s mum, Christine, at Flackstock (Samaritans)
Pinkham alongside Flack’s mum, Christine, at Flackstock (Samaritans)

“I know everyone struggles with their mental health so this is the perfect test of character in a way,” she says. “Whenever I’m tired, I get really emotional and I do think about Caroline and how awful it must have got for her.

“I went into school to drop the kids off and a reception teacher slid a card into my hands. It was her telling me that she lost a friend to suicide and we’ll never truly understand why but the marathon was a big part of her therapy and processing that grief.

“She’s rooting for me, it was lovely. I ran around Richmond Park crying!”

As for marathon day itself, Pinkham admits she is going into the “total unknown.” She first reveals a soft target of five hours, before immediately letting her competitive nature get the better of her and cutting it down to four and a half hours. Ultimately, though, the goal is to complete the distance – before “passing out after half a shandy at the finish line.”

“Millions have done a marathon before and millions will do it after,” she signs off. “But this is my own personal challenge, in memory of my mate.”

Samaritans is Charity of the Year for the 2024 TCS London Marathon. To get involved and show you believe in tomorrow, visit or to make a donation to Natalie’s fundraising page visit

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.