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The dark side of the London Marathon

A slow runner is still a runner - treat them with respect!

As a Personal Trainer and Running Coach to the Backpackers Running Crew, the biggest challenge I must overcome when helping people get fit is behavioural change. What do I mean by that?

It’s helping someone to understand that making a lifestyle change, could add years to their life.

It’s helping someone to change their mindset about entering a gym for the first time and getting them to understand that they belong there just as much as anyone else.

It’s helping someone to understand that couch to 5k is possible, when they have never run before, or that yes, that they can tackle a marathon, a triathlon, or London to Paris on a bike – they just have to have a bit of belief, and a training plan.

So Virgin London Marathon why oh why did you let down the runners who have probably struggled the most to make it to marathon day.

Backpackers is a London based running crew founded to show that road warriors at the back of the pack are just as worthy and worth celebrating just as much as those at the front.

One of the Backpacker family, Liz Ayres was lucky enough to be asked to be a pacer for the London Marathon at 7 hours 30 minutes – with the sole aim of providing support to those runners who were championing the back of the pack.

Who knows what their stories were, and the reasons behind them committing to the London Marathon? They could have been raising money in memory of a loved one, they could have trained hard and picked up and injury and found themselves running at a slower pace, they could be ticking off a box on a bucket list, or they simply might just be a more casually based runner.

It actually doesn’t matter what their story was – Liz’s pacing group they had paid their entrance fee, turned up on the day and were ready to take part in the 39th London Marathon… only to find that water stations were closed when then reached them, cleaning lorries were chugging at their heels, in some instance spraying them with cleaning fluid, and later as the miles went by they were driven off the road by cleaning lorries, and laughed at for being slow.

I can not tell you how angry this makes me. There is the obvious question of why have a 7 hour 30 minute pacer (the cut off time for the London Marathon is 8 hours) and then have crews start the cleaning process before they have even had the chance to get going. The other obvious question to me, is Why would you want to make people feel like they don’t matter, that their efforts don’t count just because they aren’t Mo Farah!

These people matter! They matter because they are human beings, because you don’t know what it took for them to even make it to the start line, and because being a slower paced runner still means you are a runner. They deserve respect.

When the London Marathon first started in 1981, 6747 runners were accepted for the race. Back in 1981 there was not a gym on every corner of the street, you didn’t bump into lycra clad people out running every day and people walked around in proper shoes rather than trainers. London Marathon the fitness world has changed over the last 39 years and it is time you woke up to this fact. More than 40000 runners were accepted to run in the marathon this year, more than ever – that must tell you something. The world loves running, and as the front runners have got faster and world records have fallen, more people have been inspired to don a pair of running shoes, get outside and put one foot in front of the other and move!

Let the challenging times that Liz and her pacer group on Sunday be the last time that slower runners are treated this way. Let the slower paced runner be respected, lets embrace them, lets create races that applaud their efforts by giving them the same race experience as everyone else and lets get serious about this about this for a moment too, as running has many benefits for both the mind and the body. It can improve heart health, lift your mood, prevent high blood pressure, build stronger bones, and as we have found at Backpackers, create a sense of community and support.

What those slower runners experienced out on the London marathon course has only strengthened my resolve to support them more. To be a voice for them, to help them become stronger runners – notice I didn’t say quicker, I said stronger. Ensuring that they can run races, and stay injury free, running at their pace and not to societies agenda for everything hard and fast.

This is a two part blog you can read Leeane Adu's blog by clicking here she is Captain of Backpackers.

You can run with Backpackers every Thursday evening at 6.45pm, we meet at the ASICS store on 249-251 Regent Street, W1B 2EP. There is a bag drop and changing facilities. You can find us on instgram, or search Backpackers Running on Facebook

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