I have wanted to run the London Marathon ever since it began in 1981. Then, newly employed as the Marketing Controller for educational titles at Heinemann Educational Books, I found my boss was a keen runner – he would set out every lunchtime from our offices in Bedford Square, and run for the Blackheath Harriers at weekends. Through his club he got a place in the first London Marathon, and I went along to watch. Within five minutes I was hooked. We were standing in the Mall and the immense warmth of the crowd, especially generous to those who looked like they were struggling, was completely infectious. I wrote up the experience of watching ‘the fastest marketing manager in London’ for the Heinemann house magazine – and have planned ever since that one day I would be running instead of watching.
Roll on over thirty years to the 2012 Book Trade Charity party in Stationers’ Hall. Carole Blake, esteemed grande dame among literary agents, challenged the assembled company in her speech to think about running on behalf of the charity in 2013. At the time my family was facing big disruption, with two house moves in a single year, not to mention major reorganisations at work, so I asked if I could carry the opportunity forward and run in 2014. And now that’s just two weeks away.
The prolonged training has certainly been arduous. I committed to do this with a friend, and her husband laid out our training programme: two short runs during the week, and a longer distance each Sunday. I was due to do 18 miles the other day (by accident I managed to do a bit more) and this week it’s 20 – then two weeks of lighter effort before the big day. Our trainer has been advising on diet and recommended clothing – there is seemingly a vast array of enticing garments you can buy to ensure a chafe-free experience, and I am amazed to find how many supporting liquids and gels supermarkets sell. I am fitter than I’ve been for a long time, I think lighter (although we don’t have any scales at home) and there are other benefits too.
In the opening credits of the film Philomena the only advice given by his doctor to newly-ousted journalist Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan) is to do more running – and it’s certainly been my experience that taking more physical activity seems to leave you feeling positive. I have now been out in all weathers, and honestly don’t mind. Whether or not running through hail and strong winds are character building, the warm shower at the end feels such a simple joy.
I’ve also been running without an accompanying sound track – trying to be aware of my surroundings. My MA Publishing colleague, Judith Watts, has been taking a mindfulness course at the university and I have been trying to apply what I have learned from her; attempting to place myself in the moment and concentrate on the physical effort and the weather around me. The time without screens or phones also seems to promote good thinking; ideas seem to separate in my mind and my ‘to do’ list seems more manageable. A metaphor I’m fond of using with to explain the process of effective copywriting to our students is that good ideas are like raisins in a box of muesli; if you want them to rise to the top you have to give the packet a shake. It seems that exercise can do the same for one’s own buried creativity.
All of which chimes well with another challenge. I wrote the first edition of How to Market Books as I approached the due date for my second child. And now marathon preparation is accompanying preparation for the fifth edition. The linking of physical and mental effort seems to work well and on writing days the combination of writing first, then running, then coming home to edit, feels good.
For the next two weeks however, my goal is straightforward. This will be a one-off. Assuming I finish – and that’s no foregone conclusion – there will be no lap of honour next year. With which reassurance, it would be very much appreciated – and really help me keep going – if you would consider sponsorship of ‘TeamBav’, using this link.
The Book Trade Charity was established in 1837 to help those in need within the Book Trade. Over 175 years later they are still helping those in need through grants and housing.
The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on 13 April 2014.