Run Don’t Run 2014 London Marathon Freebie Guide

If you thought the only reward you got after all those early morning starts, Sunday long runs, visits to physiotherapists/sports masseuses/osteopaths/podiatrists and generally wearing out your shoes was the chance to slog around London with 35000 other people then think again. For this week and probably this week only, a Virgin Money London Marathon race number or finisher’s medal pretty much gives you the keys to the city (well, access to lots of free stuff). Most of these offers were harvested off Twitter so it might be wise to double check terms and conditions beforehand.

Free Travel

Transport for London are offering free travel on the Tube, bus, London Overground, tram and Docklands Light Railway for all runners in the big day, from early morning until 5pm. To qualify, show your race number.

Those coming from further afield are entitled to free travel on any Chiltern Railways services on Sunday, 13 April. To get the free travel runners just have to present their official Marathon tabard or race number to ticket inspectors.

Free Services for Runners

If you need a bit of last minute intervention to get you to the start and finish line, Runners Need are offering free Kinesiology Taping for marathon runners courtesy of @SixPhysio @TheOnlyWayIs_UP on Friday 11th April between 11am and 2pm at their Strype Street store (E1 7LQ) near Liverpool Street station. Holborn and Southwark Street branches are also offering this service (contact stores for details).

Over 70s running the marathon qualify for up to 3 months free membership at the Jubilee Hall gym in Covent Garden. The gym has the latest Life Fitness Engage series treadmills as well as almost 100 other pieces of cardiovascular and strength training equipment to keep runners in the groove.

Free Food

MEAT liquor are offering a free burger to medal holders on race day plus 50% off for official volunteers. MEAT liquor is at 74 Wellbeck Street, London W1G 0BA

Meanwhile Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf are offering a free burger to all London Marathon 2014 medal wearers, valid April 13-15th. They’re also throwing a mini bottle of Prosecco. Supporters eating with you will also get a complimentary bottle of Prosecco when they order a main from the menu.

From 7th April runners with a Marathon number can have a free meal at the Mayfair Pizza Company The offer runs until Friday 12th April and Mayfair Pizza Company is at 4 Lancashire Court, New Bond Street.

For other marathon free food fests, the Daily Telegraph has these and a few other places for the likes of Peruvian style breakfasts, macaroni cheese, grills and post-race cocktails.

Free Sightseeing

The Shard are offering the first 100 medal holders turning up from 13th to 17th April free entry to London’s highest viewing platform. They’re also offering a 20% discount for friends, family, and supporters who accompany a medal holder. Offer details and terms and conditions are here.



Are you a Run-Faffer?


Cap/image from

I lay in bed early this morning, trying to sleep through Mrs Run Don’t Run making heavy weather about whether to go on her usual Sunday morning bike ride or not. It involved a lot of text messages, peaking outside to check on the iciness of the roads, and then, once the decision had been made to get the bike out, a lot of careful weighing up and mind changing about food, drink and the most ideal kit selection. As soon as she returns, I’m planning on immediately heading out on my long run, but you can be fairly certain that it won’t be the smooth handover of a carefully drilled triathlon relay team. For I am a run faffer. To faff is “to muck about, wasting time doing something not necessary.” It’s a real word and a genuine affliction- it must be because it’s in the Urban Dictionary!

The thing is, you might be one too, especially at this time of year. Check out the tell-tale signs:

1. Over-careful route planning – you want a route with no hills, which you’re not bored of, which needs to be familiar enough to avoid getting lost, with no likely puddles to mess up your box fresh new trainers, and it has to end outside your house after exactly 9.5 miles because that’s what your programme says. Cue consulting of maps, cutting bits of thread to measure distances.
Potential Faff-Factor: 60 minutes

2. Deciding the kit you wear has to match, or at the very least, doesn’t clash. This informs the perfect choice of socks. However, you can only find one.
Potential Faff-Factor: 20 minutes

3. Taking extra care over your hydration needs, especially before a 3 mile recovery run. Insisting on filtered water, from the fridge, in your favourite “lucky” bottle which is nowhere to be found, although other vessels are available.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

4. Killing the time waiting for your breakfast to go down by snacking.
Potential Faff-Factor: 180 minutes

5. Easily locating your iPod, but then having a last minute wish for a new playlist (cue switching on of creaky old computer, loading up of massive music library, hand-picking of new tunes, sorting into gradually increasing BPMs with a nice bit of slowing down towards the end for your warm-down)
Potential Faff-Factor: 60 minutes

6. Announcing every run, no matter how trivial, on a range of social media.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

7. Last minute clothing shuffle when the promised “mild conditions” turn out to be permafrost.
Potential Faff-Factor: 15 minutes

8. Watch-fiddling – entering a new work-out, switching from imperial to metric “for a bit of variety” then spending 10 minutes stood outside, losing the benefits of tell-tale sign 9.
Potential Faff-Factor: 20 minutes

9. Doing a thorough warm-up (the most beneficial faff, and naturally the one I’m least guilty of).
Potential Faff-Factor: 15 minutes

10. Reading running blogs about faffing, thinking “Yes, I do some of those, but he’s missed out the most important faff which is…..” then not being able to remember your log on name or password to add it as a comment under said blog.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

So are you a run-faffer? Can you suggest even more ways I can take even longer to get out of the house?

Alternative Running Role Models #6 – Joe Strummer out of The Clash

20131203-231758.jpgWalking up London’s Edgware Road yesterday, I spotted that somebody had decided to name a suitably urban subway after the late, great Joe Strummer, lead singer of 1970s/80s punk icons The Clash. As my daydreaming shifted back to thoughts of what running I might be doing later that day, I suddenly remembered a story I’d otherwise forgotten. In 1982, after poor ticket sales for the band’s Combat Rock Tour, their manager hatched a plot for Joe to suddenly go missing to generate a bit of publicity.

The plan was for him to fly off to America but I guess that as the band were “so bored with the USA”, Joe ignored instructions and hot-footed it to Paris. While hiding out in the French capital, Strummer claimed to have got around to running the “French Marathon” which later turned out to be the one in Paris. Joe’s training for this iconic event? A 16 week Runner’s World “Sub 4:00” plan with lots of cross training and carefully scheduled rest days? No, the Strummer Strategy was:

You really shouldn’t ask me about my training, regime, you know….Okay, you want it, here it is: Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race … But make sure you put a warning in this article, ‘Do not try this at home.’ I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson, but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.

imageSo are these the key elements of the perfect if radical marathon training schedule? Extreme hydration following an extreme taper? The jury’s out because there’s an element of doubt over whether Joe actually completed the 26.2 miles. In pre-internet days I guess you might have been lucky to track down your results in a local newspaper, none of this permanent record on the website business we take for granted today. Unfortunately neither Joe’s stage or real name appear in any official results.

However, presumably buoyed up by his Parisian challenge, there are photos of Joe taking part in the 1983 London Marathon with an actual race number. Although you shouldn’t believe everything you read in newspapers, it seems that Joe was somehow sponsored by The Sun who claim he completed the course in 4 hours and 13 minutes (nice vest by the way).

Anyhow, it goes without saying that Joe Strummer, spokesperson of a generation and alleged marathon-man, we salute you!

For a comprehensive analysis of Joe Strummer’s running career, check out this site.

Things to do which kind of feel like running but aren’t

On Wednesday I went on a club-run which started at home, joined up with about 50 people all dressed in red vests at mile two and then proceeded a further 5.5 miles along the canals of East London to a pub finale. It was great fun but tough going because it was one of those “summer” evenings we have a lot of here, dull and grey but somehow very warm and humid. The route was one I’ve often run there and back along but on Wednesday it proved to be quite a slog just doing half of it. Since then I haven’t managed to get those running shoes on again, partly because I can probably claim to be “tapering” for a 12 mile race I’m signed up for next weekend, but mainly because I’m still feeling a bit knackered.

I’ve started to notice things I do during these down times to con myself that I’m still one hundred per cent “a runner”, but if I’m honest make no contribution to my fitness or progress.

1. Actually wear a finisher’s t-shirt. I have a drawer full of the things and they’re like the may fly of the garment world (look it up). Everyone proudly wears them as they walk away from a race, despite the slightly inappropriate nature of some of the hundreds of sponsors listed on the back, go home, take them off, wash them and put them away, never to be seen again. When I can’t be bothered to go running, I often put on a favourite and wear it as I go out to buy some muffins or beer. I like to think this special clothing miraculously improves my VO2 max.

2. Watch the Athletics on TV. This activity is preferably done lying prostrate on the sofa with a bottle of wine on the go. Coverage tends to go on all afternoon. I find it very motivating to watch the world’s greatest athletes going through their paces and give my brain a bit of a work out, trying to think how their performances could improve mine. The shots of runners preparing for the 100m and 200m have helped me no end in how to behave on the start line, although that little dance and gun-finger I did at the start of the last Parkrun I took part in didn’t seem to go down too well. This race helped set a new personal target:

One day I would like to do a 5k exactly 10 minutes slower than Mo Farah. 23:41:66 will do nicely thanks.

3. Knock up some running fuel. I’m a sucker for a new recipe and running troughs mean I have more time to browse for new things to create in the kitchen. Preferably things which will make me purr like a lovingly treated racing car when I next lace up my running shoes. Last week I spotted this recipe while sitting in a cafe for two hours as my daughter whizzed by at her Saturday morning cycling club. It looked perfect – fresh fruit, a bit of spice for a twist, the all important oats and chia, the latest run-fuelling fad wonder food. I made enough for three or four people and helped myself to a big portion each morning, feeling a bit like those Kenyan runners who start each day with a helping of ugali. The fact that I used my healthy start to fuel two consecutive days of sitting at a desk or slobbing around the house was conveniently overlooked.

Other suggestions:
– Go and buy some new “fantasy” running shoes that, if you’re honest, you’ll never wear (fell running shoes do the trick if you’re a Londoner)
– Blog about a race you did over a year ago or sign up for one you won’t need to start training for for another 6 months
– Any more “fake runner” tips?

Good and bad things come in threes

This week I’ve relished three fantastic running experiences:

  • a longer than planned long slow distance run
  • an interval session where my Garmin stopped bothering to pace me causing me to go faster with every interval and
  • a Friday night toughie where I kept going for 6.5 miles at a decent speed with hill after hill

I think my running mojo is back. In the meantime, to take the edge off all this positivity, let’s go through my top three list of all things I either question, or maybe even hate about running and runners:

1. Bananas – yes, the national fruit of the running nation, the jauntily curved Devil’s fruit. Of course, I know they’re jam packed with carbohydrates, they help hydration and have magnesium, potassium, calcium and protein aplenty. They keep your liver’s glycogen store nicely topped up and help prevent cramping and strengthen bones. So, why do they make me wretch and have such a nasty, pulpy texture? One day, maybe I will receive a blow to the head, forget about my bananaphobia, down a couple of bunches, pull on my running shoes and actually win stuff

2. Triathletes – now hang on, I don’t hate triathletes per se. My much fitter, faster significant other is a triathlete. I’ve been known to swim, cycle and run consecutively (only once, I grant you) and those Brownlee boys astound me with their world domination. No, it’s triathletes who enter running races I’m none too keen on. The ones who turn up for a Parkrun in their lycra all in one tri-suit with some oh-so-witty pun printed on it usually substituting the word “tri” for, hang on, yes, it’s coming to me, hahahaha “try”!!! I barely managed a marathon, so I readily admit that doing one Ironman style, after swimming across a Great Lake and cycling across a continent is one hell of an achievement. Yet, halfway through a half marathon, spotting one of those Ironman tattoos on the back of someone’s calf is such a motivation for me and my petty prejudice. I’m proud to say I’ve run two half marathons faster than a couple of unsuspecting Ironmen, who to this day will not be thankfully unaware of how they spurred me on.

A picture of a boxer, running, from

A picture of a boxer, running, from

3. Boxer Runners – I love those first summer runs, me. The ones which make you finally ditch the tights and wooly hats and whenever possible, run in little more than shorts and a t-shirt. It’s at this time of year that I start to notice the boxer runners. I assume they’re boxers and a run dressed in a load of layers seems to be part of their training regime. Or maybe I just don’t regulate my body temperature very well. I don’t hate them, mainly as if they were to find out, they might choose to whup my ass. I question them. Boxer Runners come out at the height of the heatwave, when even a technical vest feels like a layer too many and the sweat’s pouring out of every pore. Boxer runners cope with the oppressive sunshine by wearing a couple of sweatshirts, a hoody with hood up, nice fleecy jogging bottoms, hi-tops and ideally, a cagoule and waterproof trousers. I suspect their long runs are very long runs, and when the plastic trousers are finally removed, you can hear the sweat gushing onto the floors of the mythical gyms above East End pubs that they probably hang out at. Why do they do it? Is there some kind of science behind this deliberately making running as tortuous as possible?

I could go on, but that’s enough negativity for now. I’ve got a short list of future running “hates” and incredulities on the go so watch this space if you’re not a fan of raised kerbs, trios of pedestrians, motivational quotes or running while holding stuff.

The Art of Extreme Tapering #2

A retrospective “food diary” capturing today’s intake gives me an additional reason to look forward to the impending end of my sabbatical from running (ONE WEEK TO GO!)

Today was a little unusual – I went on a training course where there was – Hallelujah! – an endless supply of pastries, biscuits plus a buffet lunch. Fortunately the novelty of bike commutes continues so some concerted pedalling made its contribution, but I probably needed to do an Ironman to burn off today’s carbo (and junk food) loading orgy.

Eating well, carbo loading and staying hydrated, the extreme approach:

  • Bowl of Nestlé Clusters
  • Cup of tea
  • Chocolate croissant
  • Almond croissant
  • Cup of coffee
  • Chocolate cookie
  • Custard pastry
  • One round on the gratis buffet
  • Another round on the gratis buffet
  • Cup of tea
  • “Tasting menu” (one of each of the puddings from the gratis buffet)
  • Cheeky extra flapjack
  • Cup of tea
  • 2-3 extra biscuits
  • Home made latte
  • Tuna, courgette and tomato risotto
  • 2 glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon