Among the many thousands of runners taking part in the Virgin London Marathon this month will be a group a firefighters giving it their all for a very special cause.
A group of 18 firefighters who attended the Grenfell Tower blaze are training to run the London Marathon in a bid to raise vital funds for groups supporting local people affected by the fire.
Nine of the firefighters are from the Red Watch at North Kensington Fire Station and the other nine are from the Red Watch at Paddington Fire Station. The firefighters were among the first to arrive on the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017. Seventy one people are now known to have died.
Training for the London Marathon
“We’re fitting the training in around our shifts,” firefighter Tom Abell, from the North Kensington watch, explains exclusively to MR.
“We’re doing circuits of Hyde Park as a group once a week and the rest of the time we’re having to do our training individually.
“We’ve managed to run a few 13-milers already as a group. We are trying to ensure we’ve got the stamina we’re going to need.”
Tom is one of only two runners with marathon experience. “I ran London in 2016 and did it in a little over four hours. I was aiming for 3:30 but I was carrying an injury. This time round we’re running as group. We’ve got runners of varying ability and we’re really focused on the fundraising so anything around five hours would be great.”
The Paddington crew are taking part in the marathon in full fire-fighting gear, including breathing apparatus, meaning they will be wearing an extra 30kg of weight. There will be 53 London firefighters running the Marathon; that number includes the 18 running for Grenfell.
“Grenfell Tower is on what is called our Fire Ground, we were the first crews to arrive on the scene of the fire within minutes and were faced with a blaze of unimaginable scale and intensity. We battled to save lives as one of the worst British tragedies of modern times unfolded within our community.
“In the weeks and months since the fire we have grieved and stood in solidarity with the survivors and community of Grenfell. We’ve been working on ways to help with the healing and re-building process. The London Marathon presents an ideal opportunity for us to help do that.
“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target of fundraising £50,000 for Kids on the Green which was set up in the aftermath of the fire to provide free counseling to the children who survived, or were affected by the fire. They also provide free entertainment like discos, art therapy and parties.
It’s a fantastic organisation which has enabled children who have seen and experienced the unthinkable to regain a sense of normality and do what kids do best, such as having fun!
“We’ve had other people redirect their own fundraising towards our cause which has been amazing. A number of people beyond the crews are running to raise funds for us and we even had one guy from the north who walked to Belgium with some friends and gave all the proceeds to our fundraising. We’ve already managed to raise around £23,000.”
Final marathon preparation
For the London Marathon itself ,Tom has been giving guidance to his fellow firefighters running it for the first time. “I’ve taken a few of them to a running shop to get them the correct trainers from the people who look at their gait and assess thing like overpronation.
“Now we’re getting to the business end of the training I’ve been telling them that it’s less about planning your run around the day and more about planning your day around the run. So that means working out what you’re gonna eat the night before and what you’re going to have directly afterwards.”
As an old hand at the marathon lark Tom sticks to a tried and trusted nutritional routine for the big event: “I’ll have a bowl of porridge and a banana before and then we’ll be off to do our best.”
Both crews are also fundraising for the Fire Fighters Charity, which continues to provide physical and psychological support to the firefighters who attended the blaze.