Most marathon routes should just be signposted “hell” and “more hell” on the hills – then at the end you get a T-shirt and a banana.
No amount of flashy neon lightweight shoes, breathable shirts, heart-rate monitors and Chariots of Fire theme music is going to make it any easier.
But a group of five friends is hoping to have at least a spring, in at least their first few steps by running a route which on the map spells out the letters NHS, passing through Dulwich, Camberwell, Peckham, Herne Hill, Nunhead, Brixton and Clapham.
Hopefully, someone has also spelt out to them there are hills – if they are inclined to tackle them.
Three – Tom Fender, Susie Pajares and Steven Penketh – were due to run the London marathon on April 26, before it was postponed amid lockdown.
The idea for running the lockdown marathon, on June 20, came from David Robbins – who painstakingly came up with the route too. The quintet are a chef and four company directors, all from Dulwich and will complete a total of 130 miles.
Tom said: “The reason for running the NHS is obvious. Members of my and Susie’s families were stuck with Covid-19 in late March.
“I also have family members who are working on the front line at the Royal Brompton Hospital.
“We all use Kings College Hospital – the treatment and service you get there is second to none.
“David also knows the head of A&E at Kings.
“The freedom to run every day has become a valued privilege – a moment of escape and exhilaration. Running past our local hospital, we know many others are working hard to save the simple things in life.
“Running is free and easy – all you need are some trainers. It also helps prevent things like mental illness, improves your fitness and immune system.
“The streets have been largely traffic-free in lockdown, making it easier and safer to train. I have been running into London and back and some of the major landmarks have been awesome without people or cars.
“Three of us had trained for London so wanted to take advantage of that.
“The final two members of the team have run marathons before so knew how to get up to a level of fitness.
“So it has been more about keeping our pretty high levels of fitness ticking over. It has not required running seven days a week – that’s where injuries and fatigue come from. Instead, we have been running three or four times a week and doing some strength work at home.
“The feedback from family and friends has been outstanding. We hit our target of £1,000 in under 48 hours and this is now rising nicely above that. People love the fact that the route spells out the NHS – ‘very innovative and creative’ they say.”
“It also takes in lots of neighbourhoods. We would love to give shout-outs to local businesses who need support too – there is an impending recession and we all need to support local independent businesses.
“We are loving the fact that we are getting lots of donations of a tenner – we want the run to connect as many people as possible and whatever they can afford is terrific. In a funny way we actually rather like having a large number of donors, rather than fewer or bigger donors…as this suggests we are connecting with people.
“I can see people who are sponsoring me I haven’t spoken to in 10 years – that’s the power of social media.”
And the hardest part of a marathon is trying to work it into every conversation for a year afterwards.
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