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London Marathon 2023: who are you running with?

With the annual London marathon taking place this Sunday 23rd April, we caught up with keen runner Jimmy, a friend of Sportily, to share his thoughts:

"I love running! I love it on a level that occasionally borders on obsessive. But I wasn’t always this way.

I used to be that friend we all have who publicly declares they like running, but if they're being honest, haven’t been for a run in the last 12 months. 

So what changed?

Well, firstly, I decided to challenge my wife! Both Sarah (that’s my wife) and I are reasonably competitive, so when she suggested we run a half marathon together, I jumped at the chance. We signed up for the Hackney half marathon and began to train together. We did the same runs and ran the same routes, but when it came to race day, Sarah proudly announced that she was going to move further forward in the start pens as I “would slow her down”!

This got my competitiveness riled up, and I went out to prove her wrong. I finished in a highly respectable 1h59m, but before I bask in the glory of my new PB, I discovered that Sarah had finished a whole 15 mins ahead of me! In a moment of self-preservation, I acknowledged her accomplishment, quickly adding that while she’d done a half marathon, she couldn’t do a full marathon (I’d done one marathon, it had been a disaster, but I felt like I still had the upper ground!).

She called my bluff, and the next thing I knew, we were booked in to run the Berlin marathon.

Again we trained together (minus about ten days where I had some reasonably severe man flu), but just like groundhog day, when it came to completing the marathon, I crossed the line in 4h31m, this time to discover that she finished a full hour ahead of me!

This led to an endless rotation of marathons, slowly chipping away at my time until, 15 marathons later, I finally beat her time.

Along the way, I joined a local running club and started participating in local Parkruns. If you haven’t come across Parkrun, they are a glowing example of what a true community can look like. Every Saturday, at 9 am, millions gather in parks worldwide to run, jog or walk 5k. Some are pro athletes (my local Parkrun often hosts Lucy Charles, the current women’s no. 2 world Ironman champion); most are not.

While some fly by in subhuman times, there will always be people who walk, take the dog or hop around on crutches (okay, I’ve only seen this once, but It makes the point!). The events are open to everyone, young and old, male and female, fast and slow, celebrities (my claim to fame is narrowly beating Ronnie O’Sullivan) and mere mortals like you and me.

But the incredible thing is the community that it creates. People cheer each other on, stay back to encourage slower runners, and pace each other to new personal bests. Some of my good friends are people I’ve met at Parkrun. It’s a community that effortlessly accepts you, encourages you and which you feel inexplicably part of. 

When I reflect on why I run and that fateful half marathon in 2017, I’ve watched something change within me. I used to be driven by the desire to prove myself and to be the best. But what I’ve noticed is that I now run for the community. I run to run with people, to cheer people on. I love to celebrate, offer advice and run physically and metaphorically alongside people."

If you're interested in giving running a go, whether it's because you like the social aspect, or because you're fiercely competitive as Jimmy used to be, why not join us in Kemble for our next Couch to 5k running club! 

We like to start and end at the pub, what more could you want? Join the Sportily Thameshead Facebook group to find out when we're running the next one (pun intended).