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What does it feel like to Complete the London 2 Brighton Challenge?

So this blog is about an amazing client of mine Joe who is going to tell his own words what he do complete the London 2 Brighton Challenge … not as most people do every year on a bike but with his own two feet! To run 100km is a bloody long way and I personally think it takes a certain type of attitude towards your training and your goal. I think it also helps when you have got a good reason as to “why” you would want to run that far. These factors come together to give you the motivation and determination to achieve this.

Joe had these factors in place. I am going to let him tell you in his own words all about his motivation and also what his personal experience of the race was. As well as what we needed to focus on with his training.

The last little bit of the article is what I, as a Personal Trainer, looked at and how I went about helping him implement his plan.

Joe’s story…

“After several months of training, the London to Brighton challenge event finally came around and a terrible fear that I wasn’t ready kicked in! Had I trained enough? Had I taken on too much? I had entered the run without doing any research 3 months previously, one afternoon while contemplating what I’d been through over the last year.

My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer last summer and battled hard to make it to New Year’s Eve, at which point she lost that fight. I wanted to raise some money for McMillan Cancer Support, but having already run a couple of marathons, doubted whether anyone would be arsed to part with their money unless witnessing me suffer greatly!

During her illness I had used the normal male coping tools of junk food and alcohol much too much and so needed something that would really focus me and give me a springboard to switch my year around and crack on with in a positive fashion: 100k, 64 miles – this was it! Surely!

I had a quick look online into what I would need to do to prepare, however I am not a fan of structured training plans as I work in hospitality, a lifestyle that is anything but structured!

Everything I found seemed to be aimed towards 9-5 workers or extreme sports enthusiasts that don’t seem to do anything else apart from training! I couldn’t be more removed from the bloke who’s secret crush is Bear Grylls!

Certainly my shift patterns, late nights and lack of sleep were major issues during my training. As was my drinking jabbers. I obviously needed to run more, a lot more, but I also needed to work on my weak areas: my flexibility and my diet.

This is where Paul, my Personal Trainer, came in and I really don’t think I could have even thought about starting the run if it wasn’t for his diet advice and keeping my body as loose as possible.

My hips were like an 80 year old, but through our sessions managed to improve them a great deal. We did lots of hops, skips and jumps, twists and turns as well as some resistance work, all of which was very helpful. The kind of training you dream of doing but would never be arsed to on your own.

Paul’s advice about the speed and his positivity ensured I felt like there was a chance I could do it and that was worth its weight in gold.

We set off from Richmond Park at 7am on the Saturday morning and made our way slowly into the Sussex countryside. For me the first part of the run was horrible. My body just didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t get in the zone and the bag I was running with was pissing me off. Obviously I had forgotten that I would even need a bag until my running partner Ben reminded me!

Inside the bag was some gels, a wrap Ben had kindly made, some first aid bits like plasters and a 2 litre camelback filled with water. I also had a bum bag with a electrolyte mix and a spare phone battery and a head torch. This extra weight, although not much really got inside my head and was partly to blame for my bad start. I did however keep moving forward and was rewarded at 27 miles when the slight nausea subsided and weather cooled down slightly.

Suddenly I was up and running. Perhaps it was the joy of already doing a marathon before lunch time! Whatever it was I was determined not to let it slip and with myself and Ben taking turns to lead it actually became enjoyable.

Making sure we ate a mixture of gels, carbs, pasta at the checkpoints and took on a steady flow of water we found ourselves at 50K in good condition.

The rest of the run is somewhat of a blur but the beautiful Sussex countryside and the thought of getting over that finish line keep my mind focused.

Staying focused, concentrating on the job at hand, keeping your mind present and positive is vitally important.

Remember that you are there out of choice, perhaps for a very good cause, you have people supporting you or whatever the personal motivation might be: focus!

I spoke to my mum in my mind several times during the run! Something I’d never done before and maybe won’t again. That was enough for me! It was the reason I was there.

We both crossed the line 14hrs later in Brighton racecourse.

If I was to offer any tips I would say, don’t try to imagine how you are going to run the whole way! I couldn’t have imagined doing it. I still can’t! Take each mile or kilometre as it comes and break the run up in your mind as you go round. Keep moving forward no matter what.

Pick days that week when you are going to run. Stick to them as best you can but don’t get upset if you can’t make one. Just move the day and try your best. I did one or 2 long runs a week but focused more on time out on the road rather than distance.

Run with someone if you can. I think it would have been a different story had I not had Ben to chase down for long periods. He was also a lot more organised than me before the run, perhaps I would have shown up without a bag! Use an app like the Nike running GPS of something similar to track your miles. I could see Ben had gone out and done more than me that week and it helped to get me up and out off the sofa and away from Game of Thrones.

Buy a good bag. Train with it on as much as you can. Become friends with it. Learn to love it!

Try to be steady with whatever you are eating. Little nibbles and sips the whole way through so your body can use it quickly. Don’t just rely on the gels. Eat real food. The gels can get a bit sickly after a bit so mix them with fruits and hard carbs. Obviously try to eat well leading up to the event and don’t go out on the lash of possible!

Go slow. Cut your pace right back. Add a couple of minutes into your miles. Save the energy. There’s no shame in it. We were gutted at first as people streamed past us but we re took them 30 miles later much to our enjoyment!

Walk the hills. There is no point killing yourself to get up hills faster. March up them instead and use the time to refuel and rehydrate.”


There is a lot of great advice there from Joe and seriously it has been an absolute pleasure for me to see him finish this and in such style. What he has neglected to mention is that even though this was his first ever ultra marathon, both he and his running partner finished in the top 15% To be fair just the finishing is pretty impressive let alone so well.

As Joe’s Trainer, I can also say he has underplayed his shift situation with the late nights and lifestyle. He has also been in the process of building a brand new business from scratch, which for any of you already trading know is exceptionally time draining.

Like Joe said a generic structured plan would not have worked for him so the first this we agreed was that there was to be no “guilt” around missing a session. If he missed a gym session we simply re-booked. If he missed a run, he did it the next day.
Joe had no injuries through training which is pretty amazing as he increased the volume of training very quickly in my mind. However, I really did hammer home the importance of specific exercises and the strength training which massively reduce the possibility of overuse injuries.

In the gym, we looked at all the motions of all the joints involved in his running. As running is a whole body exercise we created “movements” through all joints from the ankles up.

I did not want to “change” Joe’s own running style as he could already do a marathon so obviously already knew how to run.
Joe improved his eating massively, we did through using photo food diary and just changing a couple of things per month. Changing a couple of things is much more realistic and easier to stick to.

All in all, I have been really impressed with Joe’s mental as well as physical strength over this last year and especially this last 4 months gearing up for the run.

I was once asked what gets me up in the morning and I immediately answered: “my clients”. Joe is definitely one of those clients that makes getting up at 5:15am worth it!

Some advice

Here’s a summary of what both Joe and I have covered:

  • Fit your training in around your life, not the other way around
  • Train like you’re in the event: if you need a bag, train with a bag
  • Motivation can come in many forms, find something that means something to you
  • Break the race down into chunks in your head
  • Find someone else to run with and set up a little friendly competition
  • Track your progress
  • Remember your pacing will be different
  • If you miss a session of any sort, accept it and get straight back on it
  • Train specifically for running, seriously a bench press is not going to be helpful!!!

I really hope that the personal experience of someone who has actually been through a race like this is useful. This I can honestly say that if you have already finished a marathon is something that may well be of interest to you and with a bit of thought and planning is well within your grasp.

Not every one of my clients wants to Complete the London 2 Brighton Challenge!!!

I would like to finish on this, Joe was already a pretty fit guy and used to the gym. This blog was for anyone who may consider doing something more than what they are currently.

Personal Training is specific to each and everyone. Not all of my clients are anywhere near Joe’s fitness nor are their goals similar to his.

I wanted to try and get across that whatever “you” are training for make it specific to you and do not worry about what other people’s training looks like.

“Personal Training is not just for those already exercising”