Why did you first start running?
I started running because I’d lost contact with my own body. It felt as though it didn’t belong to me. It was the same model as the one I used to drive around in my teens, only not very well looked after! Some ignorant youth had taken it on a joyride.
When I reached my 30s, I was confronted with the cold reality that I couldn’t run 10 metres without feeling mypulse pounding, and I had to make a choice. So, on a crisp April day in 2008, while trying to cure a hangover with a full English breakfast, a friend of mine suggested we should set ourselves a challenge. Still a little drunk, we toyed with the idea of a parachute jump. I quickly removed this option from the table. As fortune would have it, the London Marathon was on television. Maybe we should run a marathon? While the idea hung in the air we both thought the idea through to its conclusion…possible death!
Clearly, though, we had no idea how difficult it was to get a place in the London Marathon. After a little research on the computer, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to settle for a more manageable event. Moments later, my friend, Paul Lines and I had signed up for the Great South Run in Portsmouth. That was the day I became a runner. Not a good runner, but a runner with intent.
You’re a secondary school teacher – what have your students made of your Big Marathon Challenge?
Last year, we had our own ‘marathon challenge’ at my school, where I challenged all the kids in my year group (year eight) to run 26.2 miles in 26.2 days. They all went off and got sponsorship for various charities, and the headmaster said to me, “Do you want to do the yearbook assemblies?” So every week I did an assembly with a different yearbook, and I put my foot in it because I was telling them about my journey to becoming a runner, etc, and then I told them my big goal of trying to beat four hours. Being secondary school kids, they obviously absolutely ribbed me for being slow, and the more I went, “Well actually, four hours is quite a good marathon time!” the more grief I got. So I’ve got to get sub-4 now, because if I don’t I won’t be able to go back to school.
Were your students’ expectations your main motivation for signing up?
That definitely played a part, but it’s also the fact that I’m going to get expert guidance, every step of the way. Sometimes, you need someone just to give you a poke and a prod and to tell you what to do. When I go out for a Sunday run now, I just say to my wife, Laura, “Ben told me to.” We’ve just got to hope Ben and my wife never meet each other, and everyone will get out of this unscathed!