Friday, 30 November 2012

Students Run Philly Style

Hello from Florida, where I’ve been spending Thanksgiving and generally taking it easy after last Sunday’s Philadelphia Marathon. The race was a fantastic success. My friends, Mary and Laurie, ran great races and I crossed the line with Mary in 4 hours 28 minutes. A fantastic effort for her first ever marathon. Perhaps most encouragingly, Mary had plenty left in the tank for miles 23 – 26.

With Mary, moments before the start. The Students Run kids are in the royal blue tops.

Regular readers will remember that Philadelphia has had a recurring role in fivemarathons history. From helping Mary to step up to half marathon distance after her run in the Broad Street 10 Miler in spring 2009 (see, including a (hopefully useful) list of the 11 things I wished I’d known when I was getting started, to visiting Philly on the way back from the Vancouver Marathon in May 2010 ( and, featuring a titanic struggle with a Philly cheesesteak sandwich at the Phillies game and a recreation of the Rocky training montage on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see
Mary with Katie, another Students Run mentor, and the Students Run kids before the race

After arriving in Philadelphia on Friday, I went straight to the pre-race pasta party organised by Students Run Philly Style (see Students Run is a group organised to support, mentor and encourage Philadelphia schoolkids to train for, and run, the Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon. In their own words, “Students Run Philly Style transforms students’ lives through running and mentorship. We pair volunteer Running Leaders with teams of students to inspire them to push themselves further than they ever imagined. Their goal: the completion of a full or a half marathon. The courage and effort required, the unfailing support of a caring mentor and the thrill of its ultimate achievement results in a student who knows anything is possible.”  
Behind every great man.... is a woman rolling her eyes.
Jay loads the carb gel belts on the steps of the Museum of Art

Mary’s role as a teacher, coupled with her own hard work towards the Philadelphia Marathon, makes her a perfect mentor within the group. Through Mary’s Facebook page, I’ve watched the various Students Run training sessions go by, and the distances increase, in the lead up to the race. Having friends to run with can make a big difference in keeping to your training plan. I know that Mel and Ron were a big encouragement to each other in their preparations for the Liverpool Marathon last year ( While I’ve been able to dispense some (hopefully sage) advice from the other side of the Atlantic, I’ve no doubt that being able to train with Laurie and the Students Run kids has made all the difference in Mary’s preparation.
Practising our victory pose, the night before the race

At the pasta party, I was struck by the enthusiasm and positivity shown by the kids. I couldn’t help but wonder whether you’d get a similarly positive response if you offered kids from Liverpool, Manchester or Leeds the opportunity to spend at least six months working hard, training towards a marathon. That’s precisely why it’s so impressive and reflects so positively on the kids and the mentors who encourage them.

Mary and Katie, with a sub 4.30 marathon each

Since the Vancouver Marathon, my running has revolved around helping first time marathon runners to achieve their goals, not least the Liverpool Marathon with Mel and Ron, and the Philadelphia Marathon with Mary and Laurie. Helping somebody towards a defining achievement is a real thrill. Mary said the Philadelphia Marathon was one of her best ever experiences, which makes it so worthwhile. I can imagine that the Students Run mentors get an even bigger buzz from seeing the students cross the finish line.

Implementing our victory pose, just after the race

My own marathon running is about to step up a gear towards a couple of (hopefully quick) marathons in 2013, starting with Vienna in April (see In fact, if Vienna is quick enough, my proposed autumn marathon may never happen! I hope you’ll continue to tune in as preparations progress. First steps are more speed work and a healthier diet. The last two weeks following Philly have seemed like an extended episode of Man v. Food (and I’ve loved every minute).

Run strong!

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004