Posts Tagged ‘MS Society’

Flora London Marathon 2009: Race Day – part 1

Flexing the guns pre-raceI made it to race day without injury. The previous day, on a very, very easy jog around Blackheath, I’d lashed a couple of footballs back to some kids playing in the park and immediately thought, “Why the hell did I do that?”. I’d avoided injury so far, why risk it the day before the marathon? Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but short of lining the walls of my flat with cotton wool, I’d done everything in my power to make sure my body was at my peak of physical fitness. My vitamin C levels were through the roof, I’d had pasta 3 nights running and the only exercise I’d done the day before (besides the short jog first thing in the morning) was the washing up.

Come race morning I was fired up. I had two slices of toast with jam (I decided to skip the baked beans as the previous day I’d tested a tin of Tesco’s finest with flatulent results) and a banana, topped off with a carbo gel and a lucozade sport I’d bought at the Expo. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous. I’d had a good night’s sleep and felt I’d done all I could to prepare. We got to the red section at 9:15am (fully lubed-up with Bodyglide and two small circles of Compeed over the nipples). The race started at 9:45am so I took some time to take a look around at my surroundings. Not surprisingly the queue for each WC was 30-people deep. The sun was out in force so most had a bottle of water and everyone was smiling.

The gate to get across the road to the red section was closing at 9:30am so I said my goodbyes and made my way across. I was immediately instructed by Ant (or Dec) that the baggage lorries would be closing imminently and it was last call to get your belongings in before the start. I wasn’t prepared at all and bundled all of my stuff into the bag and quickly dropped trou for some last minute Bodyglide action – much to the dismay of an elderly lady runner behind me. At least my arse couldn’t look any better after all the training! I then had to sprint to my allocated lorry before it closed (of course it was at the opposite end of the line) and then dive into the urinal queue before the start of the race (which was now about 60-people deep). Lesson learned – get there earlier next time.

Mam, me and Uncle Ed

I started in zone 6 (out of 9) which meant there were quite a few runners in front of me and by the time the start had commenced the sun was really shining and it had started to get quite hot. This was it. Four months of training had led up to this point and I was keen to get going. We crossed the line 10 minutes after the official race start and started plodding down Shooters Hill Road.

I immediately needed a wee. You have to get a decent amount of fluid down before the start of the race (especially as the sun was out) so this was expected. I’d been told that needing the loo at the start of the marathon was often just a sign of nerves and that I should hold out for a few miles (if only to avoid the large queues at the start). So I kept going and took the whole experience in. The road was so congested with runners that you just couldn’t go at any different pace than that of the crowd. Luckily, the pace was perfect; a gentle jog to ease us in to the first couple of miles. The weather had meant that the crowds were out in force and all of the windows of the houses that lined the road towards Charlton were full of spectators. An elderly gent running to the right of me had a sign that read ‘Hip Hip…’ on one side and ‘Hooray!’ on the other, which he would spin back to front towards the crowd. Brilliant.

The first 5 miles went by in a flash. The red group had now merged with the blue and green (without any booing) and we were making our way into Greenwich to the Cutty Sark. I’d now spotted the blue line on the road, which maps the shortest distance of the course and I was doing my best to stick to it. Impossible. The sheer volume of runners prevents you from doing anything other than what the mass says. Darting in and out of runners at different paces would only use up vital energy and I was keeping a pretty good pace. In fact my first three 5k times were very consistent and I was running at around the 9 or 10 minute mark and feeling great (if a little unsettled by the growing urge to urinate). The Japanese Taiko drums were incredible as we went under the bridge just before Greenwich. I found myself with goosebumps and could have used that feeling of adrenalin much later in the race.

The fansThe crowds really were amazing and the volume of people had now picked up to two or three deep along both sides of the road. Having my name on the front of my vest really helped as the encouragement is 10-times more effective if someone calls your name. As we turned the corner at the Cutty Sark everyone did their best to avoid Matt Baker. I’ve run around this area a lot and I was wondering how they would avoid the steep steps at the back of the ship next to the entrance to the Greenwich walkway. A ramp, genius. I passed the Justgiving team at this point (squashed up against the barrier) and gave them a wave but none of them saw me. Never mind, I was coming up to mile 7 and the first MS Society cheering point (where I knew Sally, friends and family would be). I saw them from a mile off. Sally was balanced precariously on a fence and my Mam and Uncle were both waving fiercely and cheering. Along with the support of the MS Society crowd, this was a fantastic lift.

After spotting a gap in a fence where a group of male runners were urinating, I stopped for a 30-second pit stop. I’d managed to hold out until mile 9 and probably could have gone on longer so it was definitely the nerves and anticipation of the race that had made me want to go so early on. I did feel for the female runners queuing up to use the portaloos though. If I’d have stayed still for any longer than the 30 seconds I did then I’d have probably seized up quite badly.

After the first really big milestone, Tower Bridge and the half way point, I’d managed a time of 2:11:26 (on course for sub 4 and a half hours) and I was feeling pretty good. I was now into my third carbo gel of the day and I’d kept very hydrated. It was hard not to stay hydrated as the volunteers handing out the 750,000 bottles of Vittel throughout the day were absolutely fantastic. Every time I wanted a drink I was handed one. The only gripe I had with the organisation throughout the whole day was at around mile 11 when the crowds were not controlled and had encroached heavily on the road, narrowing the course for the runners. This caused a massive bottle-neck and meant everyone had to slow down to almost a walk.

The second half of the course didn’t go so well. But that’s another story…

(see part 2)

Picking Up My Number:

After the longest week of work ever, Lady Jog A Little and I took Friday afternoon off to travel to the London Marathon Expo to pick up my running number. As a local Londoner I was advised to go before Saturday as the queues become horrendous. Good advice. In 3 minutes I had my race number, race chip, marathon-foto registration and Sally had already begun shopping.

I, very foolishly, dived straight in to pick up my marathon survival pack from the Lucozade Sport stand (we were all given vouchers) and parted with my £8 to receive a ridiculous amount of goodies. Of course it weighed a ton (it all being liquid) and I ended up standing around while Sally tried on everything she saw.

Impossible is writing any higher...

Dotted around the Excel centre were big boards absolutely full of good luck messages for friends, family and loved ones. There was a huge feeling of camaraderie. Everyone there had a common goal, some looking very nervous and others who were taking a chance to stock up on some discounted running goodies from the stands, but all smiling and very eager.

What can you expect if you’re going? Pasta, lots of pasta. At the back of the room there was a Pasta Party in progress. Bring a bit of cash and you can attend and listen to a few presentations on the stage. There are also two opportunities to get a quick sports massage (one from Addidas and one from the students of Middlesex University). I did neither. I’m scared witless of damaging something before Sunday so I declined.

There are also loads of places to pick up marathon gadgets like GPS watches, shoe wallets, mp3 player holders and bum-bags so if you need any last minute accessories then this is the place to be. If you have to, you can also get almost any running trainer available, but obviously for after the marathon as you shouldn’t be trying anything new for race day.

For the charity runners among you there is a Justgiving stand, where you can enter a competition for a donation. The challenge, draw a picture of yourself and your Justgiving page (some examples here). Sally did mine while I had my photo taken with John and Jon from Justgiving. John played my video through his iPhone while Jon tweeted about it!

John and Jon

Sally did art A-level

So what do you get in the London Marathon Expo goodie bags? A can of London Pride (for the night after), a jar of cranberry juice, 2 sugar free sweets, foot cream, a granola bar, deodorant, some massage gel and a LOT of leaflets. Not bad when you couple it with the amount of goodies you can pick up on the day.

However, my advice is, if you have to go on Saturday then try and get round everything as fast as you can. There’s a lot to see and do but not a lot of places to sit down. Like every major shopping venue, the floors are rock hard and it’ll tire you out quickly (the last thing you want before the marathon when you should be resting)…

Pasta Party

This will be my last post before the marathon (tomorrow will be spent on the sofa doing as little as possible). I’d just like to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this blog. I’ve enjoyed every minute of writing it and the tips, advice and encouragement I’ve received has been overwhelming. Please come back after the marathon and I’ll let you know how I got on.

For those that aren’t running, Adidas have a system that allows you to track the people you know as they go round using the timing chips attached to their shoes. Just enter their number in to this website. Mine is 41333.

To all those running on Sunday, if you spot me then please come and say hello. I admire anyone who has the determination to train for as many months as it takes to complete a marathon and I’d love to chat to you. I’ll have Sir Jog A Lot written on the back of my vest and will be in the Red area. If I don’t see you then the best of luck to you


Looking forward to it...I was a bit of a naughty boy this weekend. My Uncle (who normally lives in Canada) was in London and I couldn’t refuse an opportunity to go and have a few beers on Saturday night. As I didn’t have to run far the next day (50 minutes easy pace), I didn’t think it would do me any harm. On Sunday morning I went out and, on an empty stomach and a hangover, ran 10k in 54 minutes. I felt surprisingly sprightly!

Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the best idea to push myself that hard the week before the race and I was feeling decidedly guilty today. I’d never have forgiven myself if I’d have injured myself with one week to go, but it’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in. I’ve spent 15 weeks in training to get to this point and have become used to five runs of a healthy distance a week. To go from that kind of regime to running 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, leaves you feeling a bit useless and it’s very difficult to relax. I don’t know what I’m going to be like after the marathon, but at the moment I can’t sit still! I’m worried I’m going to take all of this energy, run like a 4-year-old at the start of the marathon and burn out after 5 miles.

To take my mind off exercise I’ve come up with a checklist for this week:

Tuesday – (10 minutes at race pace with a warm up/cool down)

  • Buy Compeed
  • Get home and run around the park at Blackheath

Wednesday – (30 mins very easy)

  • Collect remaining sponsorship from office co-workers who haven’t paid yet (Wednesday is pay day)
  • Go to gym and watch The Simpsons while running on treadmill
  • Write blog post

Thursday – (Rest or 25 mins easy)

  • Buy seven new DVDs
  • Go to gym, run and say goodbye to everyone until next year
  • Put running number registration form in my bag so I don’t forget it for Friday and make sure I have my driving license

Friday – (Rest)

  • Print off race course map for family and mark points to meet them (remembering to decide on which side of the road to be on)
  • Go to Marathon Expo to pick up running number and timing chip (using registration form and driving license)
  • Buy ‘Marathon Survival Kit’ from Expo using voucher on page 13 of Marathon News magazine
  • Visit Justgiving* stand, Running Free** stand and Bupa London 10,000*** stand
  • Eat big bowl of pasta
  • Write blog post

Saturday – (15 mins very, very easy jog)

  • Get up early and do run (to tire myself out and fall asleep faster in the evening)
  • Cut toenails
  • Fit timing chip to trainers
  • Fill out the back of my running number and pin it to my vest
  • Plan where to meet family at end of race
  • Watch all seven DVDs back-to-back
  • Eat the biggest bowl of pasta I’ve ever seen
  • Give family MS Society cheering pack (equipped with balloons, inflatable sticks and flags)
  • Sleep

Sunday – (Race day!)

  • Eat baked beans on brown toast and one banana
  • Have two Lucozade Sport pouches (one at 8am and one at 9am)
  • Do 20 push-ups to get the guns looking plumper before donning running vest
  • Walk to start line (sorry guys, I live 30 seconds from it)
  • Get interviewed for MS Society video
  • Say goodbye to friends and family
  • Take empty plastic bottle
  • Hide the fact that you are peeing into empty plastic bottle under orange rain mac
  • Throw bottle to side of road
  • GO!

* To thank them for all of their efforts over the past few months
** Running Free magazine have agreed to do a small piece on me for their post marathon edition
*** I’ll be running the Bupa London 10k a month after the marathon

Sir Jog A Lot is hacked…

Lady Jog A Lot – a guest appearance

Lady Jog A Lot“When I met Sir Jog A Lot two and a half years ago, he wasn’t quite the athlete you’ve come to know and follow. Running for the bus was enough to make him work up a sweat… and with a serious addiction to Lurpak, and B&H being his cigarette of choice, I’m not sure what odds, at that point in time, I would have been offered on James (as he was simply known in those days) attempting the London Marathon… let alone completing it!”

“By the time we’d got together 6 months later the fags had gone (he gave up for Lent just before we got together – yay!)… And since we’ve started living together, I’ve managed to wean him off the Lurpak… Anchor Light these days! (I’m not sure he’s ever going to forgive me for that – ha!)”

“Cut to two years later and James is just 8 days from crossing the finishing line of the London Marathon 2009, and I couldn’t be more impressed by his drive, dedication and creativity.  He’s stuck to his training regime like glue, created a fantastic alter-ego in Sir Jog A Lot that has kept family, friends and strangers interested in his training efforts, and helped him exceed his target for the MS-Society – over £2000!  This is my chance to not only thank everyone that has sponsored James so far, but also thank him for running for a cause that means so much to me and my family.”

“My sister, Katie, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about three years ago.  It’s a deceptive and unpredictable illness, which makes it shamefully easy to forget that someone you love dearly carries this burden… But I look back now at the decisions I made in the months following her diagnosis and I realise that she was, and still is, my inspiration for making every second count.  When someone you love dearly suffers with MS, but manages to still go to work and raise a family, it makes you realise that perhaps getting that promotion or getting on the property ladder doesn’t really matter as much as you thought.”

“Running the London Marathon, however… now that really is something special.   And without being too sentimental, I think Sir Jog A Lot is too!”

“Good luck to everyone taking part on the day.  I’ll be there to cheer you on all the way and hopefully help you through those last 6 miles!”

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More news:

£2000 target reached.

Today my employer put my London Marathon sponsorship total over the £2000 mark (£100 over it actually) and I reached my allocated sponsorship for the MS Society. With 9 days left to go until my first marathon this gives me the opportunity to relax a little and to focus my efforts on getting ready for the big day.

Target reached

I’m well and truly tapering off for the big day and, if I’m honest, I feel a little lazy. This week I’ve only done two runs so far and will being running 25 minutes on Saturday with an easy 10k on Sunday. I feel like I’m slacking as every part of me wants to be getting as much training in as possible before the 26th. I constantly worry that I’m going to undo all my hard work by not exercising enough but getting enough rest before the marathon is crucial.

So, to keep my mind off running, I’ll fill you in on a little more news…


The number of miles I’ve clocked up since I started training. This has been calculated from the 3560 minutes I know I’ve run and estimating an average speed of 10-minute miles. Some people seem to think this is quite low but, considering I’m counting from the beginning of January, it equates to an average of more than 23 miles a week. Basically, bugger off, I’ve done loads.


The number of pennies I’ve raised so far (using Justgiving) for the MS Society. This morning, BBC Breakfast and a Daily Mail columnist (who blatantly took a negative stance just to get her grumpy face on television) made poor old Anne-Marie Huby (MD of Justgiving) justify Justgiving to the public after claims that fundraising websites are a form of emotional blackmail. Considering JG has helped raise over £400,000,000 since the year 2000 and without it’s help I wouldn’t have even come close to raising £2k, I won’t exactly be losing any sleep at night.


The number of hits this blog has had since it’s debut in January. The busiest day was 23rd March after the I won the Justgiving competition and this blog featured in the JG newsletter.


The number of pounds (lbs) I’ve lost in weight. This is after initially gaining 7 lbs so I’ve managed to shed a stone since then. This was achieved by simply cutting out my daily early morning croissant. They’re fatty little blighters. I’m now as streamlined and aerodynamic as I’ll ever be.


The number of Twitter followers I now have. Most are all supreme athletes, fundraisers, bloggers and nutcases but they all have had at least one thing useful to say and it’s been a great way to stay in touch with this wonderful running community across the country.


My estimated marathon time having used the Runner’s World Race Time Predictor. I entered my half-marathon time to come to that conclusion. If I enter the best time I’ve done a 10k in it reckons I can do it under 4 hours. I’ll be watching out for the Runner’s World pace makers on the day.

Dabbling in PR:

After winning the Justgiving video competition, I thought that the story behind it would be of suitable interest to my local media. I’ve been trying to come with an angle other than you might know this guy, he’s running the marathon and this was it.

The first thing I did was to get the news desk email addresses of my local press, the Horncastle News and the Lincolnshire Echo. Easy, I work for a media contacts database for the PR industry, but finding them out really isn’t hard.

The second thing I did was to draft a press release (Justgiving have a sample press release on their hints and tips page). Personally, I’ve never written a press release before but I’ve seen a fair few examples. They MUST start with a catchy subject line so the busy journalist won’t just think SPAM and delete it without even reading it. Ergo…

“Local lad wins London Marathon video competition:”

Key points to include:

  • Who are you?
    James Barnard, an ex Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School pupil, now working in London…
  • Why are you running?
    James (24) is running the Flora London Marathon 2009 in April for his girlfriend’s sister, Katie, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
  • Your story.
    …has won the Justgiving video competition. His entry, which hosts a round-up of blog posts so far at his London Marathon training blog,, wins a £100 donation to the MS Society…
  • Your quotes.
    “I’m very happy to have won the competition and the extra money towards my sponsorship target has really made a difference. I’m just glad that I didn’t make a fool of myself for nothing!”
  • A photo.
    This is a little trickier as journalists get thousands of emails every day, which clog up their inboxes. In my case I gave my contact details if they wanted one but you can just as easily host one on the internet using Flickr or Photobox and provide a link to it. This way they won’t have to download your high-res image in their email.
  • Include your charity URL.
    It’s easy to forget but make sure you enter your sponsorship page in as the readers will have no idea how to sponsor you

I might follow up with another email in a couple of days time if you haven’t heard anything back, chances are that they are too busy to respond. However, usually this means that they’ve seen your press release and deleted it. Don’t feel too disheartened. Journalists are always short of time, always on deadline and will discard most things that aren’t breaking news.

It can’t hurt to try. You might get lucky…

The Horncastle News

The circulation of the Horncastle News is 5,190. Not bad. You could try and get a celebrity tweeter to mention your page and get it in front of half-a-million viewers, but who’s counting?

It Won!

I had some smashing news today. The video entry I created for the Justgiving video competition came first place and won a cracking £100 sponsorship for the MS Society. Many many thanks to the Justgiving crew for voting for it and a huge thank you to everyone who viewed the video and got its hit stats up on Youtube.

For those that haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:

Also, a huge congratulations to Jenny Rice, Ulen Neale and Kaveh Fatemian who were awarded the runner up positions. I’m sure having a video to display on their Justgiving pages has increased awareness to their sponsorship efforts, as it has mine.

Since posting the video 5 days ago, I’ve had a huge £257.22 in sponsorship. It works and even though the competition is over, there’s still a valid reason to get a little bit proactive and gain a little extra money for your charity. All it takes is a digital camera/mobile phone and a copy of Windows Movie Maker! Blair Witch Project, eat your heart out.

The temptation of a video is too much to resist for today’s web 2.0 culture. The video, along with the use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging, has kept those long distance relatives and friends in the loop and has pulled some much needed sponsorship out of the woodwork. Some people who have sponsored me I haven’t spoken to for 10 years or more!

Less than £400 to go with 5 weeks left.

Justgiving blog
MS Society Fan Page
Justgiving London Marathon eNewsletter
MS Society eNewsletter
Horncastle News

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