Ask Us Anything - Edition 001

From gear recommendations, to running hacks or event recommendations, we’ll answer all your event-related questions.

Here is what our community have been asking this month.

p.s. please click here if you want to submit your own question.

Question | 1

What’s a good running backpack for commuting? i.e. can carry a laptop, looks relatively smart, enough space for clothes / valuables etc. Sam, [Manchester]

Answer | 1

The North Face Borealis backpack is great as it has so many different pockets to store (and easily find!) all your possessions. It has a padded laptop section plus enough space to put a change of clothes, shower supplies and x2 Tupperwares. There are also two hefty straps across your waist and shoulders to ensure it doesn't bounce around while you're running. I use it every day!

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner | triathlete-extraordinaire

Question | 2

Do running socks actually make a difference? Luke, [Derby]

Answer | 2

Running socks are made of specialist fabric that wicks sweat away, preventing blisters from forming while running. They are designed to be seamless, which eliminates any uncomfortable rubbing or chafing. Avoid any sock that is 100% cotton as these hold moisture from sweat & water which can cause discomfort plus some rubbing & chafing which will instantly ruin your run.

It's all really up to the individual on this one. Some people can get away with just a plain padded sports sock from your local sports shop. However if you're prone to blisters on your arch or Achilles, then running socks may be a great option.

From Rob, Let's Do This team member and epic ultra marathon runner

Question | 3

What are your best day cycling routes from London?, Dom [London]

Answer | 3

Great question! Here are some of my favourites: 

Bike there, get the train back

London to Whitstable - (120km)

London to Cambridge - (93km)

London to Brighton - (86km)

London loops

London to Windsor loop (79miles) - make sure you stop off at the Cinnamon Cafe for the BEST cinnamon buns.

The Surrey Hills and Box Hill are a classic - though warning these are very hilly so not recommended for beginners.

Richmond Park is great for beginners to get your bike legs as there are far fewer cars (deers and bikes rule the road here). And there are plenty of coffee shops in and around the park to fuel up on some post-ride baked goods and caffeine.

For those who want a challenge...

You can cycle the 325km loop of the M25

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner / triathlete-extraordinaire

Question | 4

Can you share some tips for when you’re training for an event but struggling on the motivation front. What can I do to make starting easier? Sara, [Essex]

Answer | 4

Here are some tips that our team swear by to help with you wake up feeling a bit lacklustre:

1) Lay out your kit the night before so it's right there ready for you when you wake up.

2) Get your curtains open and light in ASAP - this will really help wake you up.

3) End your run / cycle at a cafe or somewhere nice as a training session treat.

4) Get a running buddy / join a run club - it's far harder to get out of a plan you've committed to with someone else than yourself!

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner | triathlete-extraordinaire

Question | 5

What are the best ultramarathons for beginners? Something more than a marathon but not +120k at this stage! Katie [Nottingham]

Answer | 5

For me, ultramarathons have always been a positive experience, especially on trails or in the mountains. If you're interested in trying an ultra marathon, I recommend starting with a 50k trail race. Trail ultras simplify running by providing varied terrain where personal bests and splits are less important. Instead, you'll have the opportunity to travel through stunning scenery, connect with nature, and challenge yourself. Walking is also an important part of the process since few people can run an entire ultramarathon on the trails. Don't worry about needing to run up hills; that's something left to the pros. Here are some great races to consider for your first ultra marathon:

  • Any of the The Maverick Race X Series would be a fantastic introduction to trail and ultramarathons. They offer events within some really beautiful locations within the UK from the Jurassic coast to the Lake District and everything in between. Maverick events are always well-supported and even offer shoe rentals if you don't have any trail shoes.
  • Race to the King, organised by Threshold Sports, is an excellent choice for those looking to participate in their first ultramarathon. Set in the rolling hills of the South Downs, this race offers a challenging course and a fantastic atmosphere. Ultra marathons can be likened to eating contests, with aid stations traditionally stocked with a wide selection of food options, meaning you won't have to carry much yourself.

The terrain for these races is typically challenging, but not too difficult for anyone to attempt. Similarly, the elevation profile can be challenging, but it is not insurmountable and can be trained for and prepared for in any area of the UK.

From Rob, Let's Do This team member and epic ultramarathon runner

Question | 6

Can you recommend a good road bike? Nothing crazy expensive but a good entry-mid level bike that I can adapt as I get more into the sport, Charlotte [Cheshire]

Answer | 6

I bought an entry level road bike at the end of last year, and so I have some experience here. You definitely don't want to invest too much money too early, but getting a very cheap bike is not a good idea either. I'd aim for something within the £800-1000 range, as this gets you a bike that is pretty good out of the box, but also has lots of room for upgrades.

Things to look for:

  • Endurance vs Racing geometry: endurance geometry is great if you're just getting into cycling, as it is more comfortable. Racing geometry is faster, but not as comfortable. Geometry of a bike can't be changed, so be sure of your choice when you buy it.
  • Width of the tyres: entry level road bikes usually support a wide range of tyres for flexibility. A good place to start would be a thicker tyre that's comfortable to ride for beginner, something between the 28-32c range. Tyres can be changed easily, and are possibly the best value-for-money upgrade you can make to your bike.
  • Groupset: manufacturers typically ship entry level groupsets at this price point, so Shimano Claris or Sora are commonly found on such bikes. They are cheap, reliable, and get the job done. You will definitely feel the difference in performance and smoothness as you move up to higher quality groupsets in the future, though. They can be upgraded, but it's not as easy as changing tyres.
  • Brakes: some bikes come with conventional brake pads, while others have disc brakes. Disc brakes have more stopping power, but require more maintenance over time.
  • Frame material: Most entry level road bikes are made of aluminium, not carbon fibre. While aluminium is heavier, it is much easier to maintain.

I personally went with the Trek Domane AL 2 Disc, but there's many other options out there.

  • Always ride with a helmet and lights. If you don't have them already, buy them with your bike. Use the cycle to work scheme if available.
  • Clipless pedals are a great upgrade.
  • The best upgrade you can make to your bike is yourself: more time in the saddle makes for a faster rider. 🚴

From, Kshitij, Let's Do This team member and road cycling enthusiast

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Finding Strength in Stride: The Power of Running Communities for Mental Wellbeing

Running has a profound impact on mental health, but the journey can be even more powerful when shared with a supportive community. For Mental Health Awareness week we wanted to connect with different run communities that are actively working to create a safe space for discussion, sharing and offering support while connecting over a shared love for movement. We hosted a special edition of our run club with a panel discussion featuring our friends Jess from Run Talk Run, Thomas Dunning aka @Mental_Health_Runner and Shane from Step by Steppers - who all found solace and strength in running and the communities that opened up to them when they started their running journies.

Running has a profound impact on mental health, but the journey can be even more powerful when shared with a supportive community. For Mental Health Awareness week we wanted to connect with different run communities that are actively working to create a safe space for discussion, sharing and offering support while connecting over a shared love for movement. We hosted a special edition of our run club with a panel discussion featuring our friends Jess from Run Talk Run, Thomas Dunning aka @Mental_Health_Runner  and Shane from Step by Steppers - who all found solace and strength in running and the communities that opened up to them when they started their running journies. Although each person and organization has a different relationship to mental health and a unique running journey, we all share the same goal of running and harnessing the power of community to live a life well lived. We wanted to share the key takeaways from our panel for anyone who was unable to attend to learn more about impact that running has made for each panel member, the importance of community, and how each group is actively working to improve the lives of runners. 

Q: How has running and the running community impacted your life?

Jess:

Before Run Talk Run, I found it hard to make running a consistent anchor in my life. I knew that it helped me to feel happier, healthier and more connected to myself, but it was a big effort to get myself running outside when I had depression convincing me not to! The running community has provided me with deep friendships, a support network and a sense of accountability to keep running, even if that's just the most gentle run.

Thomas:

Running became a lifeline for me during a particularly dark period. Initially, the act of running felt insurmountable, but the post-run feeling was undeniably transformative. It offered a glimmer of hope and a pathway to recovery. The experience helped me shed weight, both physically and emotionally, ultimately leading me to compete in the London Marathon.

Shane:

When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, running became my refuge. It provided a mental escape and a way to connect with my father through shared moments of clarity and peace. Despite the grief, running continues to be a soothing balm, helping me navigate the complexities of loss and remembrance.

Q: What role has Community played in each of your journeys?

Jess :

The community I found through Run Talk Run was a revelation. It broke the isolation I felt in London and taught me that my identity was not confined to my mental health struggles. The acceptance and understanding I received were pivotal in my personal growth and in the development of Run Talk Run.

Thomas:

The community support was vital during my recovery. On days I felt lowest, fellow runners provided the encouragement needed to keep moving forward. Their support was instrumental in fostering a sense of self-respect and acceptance, crucial factors in my healing process.

Shane:

Creating the Step by Steppers community became a personal mission to address the isolation of grief. The group provides a supportive space where people can openly discuss their experiences with loss, reducing the stigma around grief and fostering a collective healing process.

What are you hoping to do to help others who struggle with their mental health?

Jess:

Run Talk Run aims to bridge the significant gap in accessing mental health support. By organizing weekly support groups, we offer a safe space for individuals to share their struggles and connect with others facing similar challenges. This initiative not only helps reduce stigma but also provides crucial signposting to further support services.

Thomas:

Through my experiences, I recognized the lack of personal stories and relatable resources in mental health. I now lead a running group in Lincoln and share my journey globally through workshops and publications. My aim is to enhance mental health services by collaborating with healthcare professionals and policymakers, ensuring that others do not face the same challenges alone.

Shane:

Step By Steppers focuses on helping those dealing with grief to find solace through running and community. Our events encourage open discussions about loss, promoting a healthier approach to grief management. By raising awareness and pointing individuals towards useful resources, we strive to make a significant impact on mental well-being.

The Takeaway: Running Together, Feeling Better

Running communities provide a powerful boost to mental well-being. Whether battling depression, suicidal thoughts, or grief, these communities offer a multifaceted form of support – acceptance, encouragement, a sense of belonging, and even a bridge to professional help. So lace up your shoes, find your community, and take a step towards a healthier mind and body.

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From running to work, to running marathons with Rey

Today, we’re turning the spotlight to Rey – a Let’s Do This community member whose sporting adventure started with running to pick up groceries at the weekend. After representing some of his favourite sports brands, Rey’s profile gathered momentum, which led to international travel and exciting brand ambassador opportunities. We caught up with him to hear more about his running journey so far.

Today, we’re turning the spotlight to Rey – a Let’s Do This community member whose sporting adventure started with running to pick up groceries at the weekend. After representing some of his favourite sports brands, Rey’s profile gathered momentum, which led to international travel and exciting brand ambassador opportunities. We caught up with him to hear more about his running journey so far.

When did you go from being an individual runner to becoming more involved within the running space?

It was accidental, to be honest. I applied to become an ASICS FrontRunner and that didn’t happen the first year. I later started working with Shokz. When I applied to be an ASICS FrontRunner again the next year, I was successful and started working with them. From here, I began working with a variety of nutrition brands. The more my profile grew, the more opportunities I had for international travel and connecting with people and brands at expos – and so my brand ambassador journey expanded. 

Your favourite event so far?

The Nice-Cannes marathon. It's warm and sunny there in November and it was amazing to run from Nice to Cannes on the French Riviera – 80% of the marathon takes place along the Mediterranean. Think palm trees, a fresh breeze and a beautiful route.

How did you first get into running?

I started running just to get to work, then did it over the weekends as a way to pick up groceries! A colleague mentioned that I should run a race, which I thought was crazy… why would I pay to run? Fast forward to January 2013 when I did my first event and I absolutely loved it. My first and second events were 10ks and I haven't stopped since then. I’ve now done around 120 events. Running has transformed my life. 

What’s your favourite thing about doing an event?

It’s a bit of everything, really: the community, the energy, the crowd. What I love most about running is that we’re all going in the same direction to get to the same goal, which creates a sense of energy and unity. You can’t beat the feeling of community, ambiance, and the crowd support.

Any tips when it comes to training motivation? 

Knowing that I've got a race to do and I want to enjoy it – rather than endure it – is what gets me out for training. I love to get those training runs done. To stay motivated, I mix them up, look at my medals from previous races, and remind myself that I’ve done this before so I can do it again. Plus, a running buddy is motivational for me. I like running with friends or in the community. 

Your favourite running route?

My favourite running route in London is probably Hyde Park. I like that I can do a nice, comfortable lap and then run home along the canal. There’s loads of different routes around there that help to mix things up. 

What does the BeSmartGetFit brand stand for?

It’s a call to action: be smart by getting fit and making smart decisions. Set ‘SMART’ goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound), and get fit by getting active. It fits with my “ healthy mind, healthy body” philosophy. There’s more to fitness than physical appearance; for me, it’s about overall health. 

What’s your best advice for anyone starting out in running?

My best advice is to begin with shorter runs. A 5k or joining communities like Parkrun are great entry points. Once you’re comfortable, you can challenge yourself by booking a race. It doesn’t matter whether that's a 5k or 10k – just set your training plan and work towards it. Local running clubs can help with technique, speed, and goal-setting. 

What do you take on long runs?

I take gels to fuel my long runs. Maple Ignite is one of my favourites – it’s got maple syrup and Himalayan salt in. Protein Rebel gels also work for me. As a vegan, I look for simple gels that have a small list of ingredients. I always bring my phone in case I need to call anyone. Other than that, not much. I like to keep it simple and light.

As a vegan, do you find it more difficult to fuel your running?

I like cooking, so I know what to eat to ensure I have enough energy. It can be a hindrance when abroad, though; sometimes there aren’t many options for vegans. London isn’t bad for this, though. 

Any routines for before and after your training? 

Before training, I figure out which trainers and gear are right for the day. Being in the UK, it depends on the weather. Then I create a playlist to keep me pumped. After training, my routine depends on the distance and intensity of the run. I always stretch and use the muscle gun. If it’s a long run, I’ll have a Radox bath to soothe my muscles. 

Any pre or post-race rituals?

My pre-race ritual starts with my mantra: “I’ve done it before, I can do it again”. Affirming that I’ve earned the right to be there and that I can do what I've set out to do helps to beat the nerves. I try not to get caught up in what's going on around me and focus on centering myself with meditation, instead. After the race, I like to practise gratitude by celebrating the accomplishment. Plus, I take as many pictures as possible to remember the day. Afterwards, I like to go for a great meal of local cuisine. In fact, partway through a race, I start thinking about what I’ll treat myself to and that helps with motivation. 

Any upcoming events in your race calendar that you’re particularly looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to the Boston Marathon and then the London Marathon the following week. After that, I’ve got a half marathon planned in France, where there’s an urban trail. That’ll be interesting, given the elevation there. Later in the year, I’m looking forward to the Nice-Cannes marathon, followed by another favourite: the Barbados marathon in December. I love to travel for races.

If money were no object what’s your dream race? 

Tokyo. The culture out there is amazing and I'd love to experience the food scene. 

From representing brands to those post-race rituals, we enjoyed hearing about Rey’s running adventures. We’re particularly inspired by his tip for making it through those tricker miles: treat yourself to an amazing meal of local cuisine afterwards and pre-plan what you’ll eat when you’re beginning to flag. Love it.

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Why We Run

The London Marathon is a legendary event, a test of physical and mental strength that draws runners from across the globe. But for many, it's more than just a race.  It's a platform to make a difference. More than 50,000 runners hit the pavement last Sunday all with different backgrounds and motivations. We wanted to learn more about why members of our community have decided to run the marathon for charity. What we discovered is that each runner carries a unique story, a reason that propels them forward, mile after mile.

From rock bottom to running for Rethink: Steve's journey to mental wellness

Running a marathon is a monumental feat, both physically and mentally. But for many runners, the reasons behind lacing up their shoes goes far deeper than just athletic achievement. Steve signed up for the London Marathon to raise money for Rethink Mental Illness. Steve's story is one of resilience, community, and the transformative power of running.

Finding an Outlet: The Mental Benefits of Running

Steve's struggles with mental health began in 2020, fueled by a combination of work stress, home life challenges, and the isolating effects of the pandemic. Feeling overwhelmed and unsupported, he turned to running as a way to clear his head and process his emotions. This simple act of putting one foot in front of the other became a meaningful tool for managing his mental well-being.

The Power of Community: Finding Support on the Track

While running provided a much-needed mental escape, Steve still felt isolated in his struggles. A chance encounter at a train station in 2022, however, proved to be a turning point. Striking up a conversation with a fellow runner, Steve found himself invited to join a running group called Track&Core. Here, he discovered the power of community. "This group of people not only ran together but provided a safe space to talk about whatever we need" Steve shares. 

Running for Rethink: Giving Back and Raising Awareness

Steve's experience with mental health struggles and the transformative power of community has inspired him to give back. While his London Marathon place wasn’t a charity spot, he chose to raise money for Rethink Mental Illness. "Not everyone will get that chance encounter I had," Steve acknowledges, "and will need the support that Rethink offers." Steve's story is a testament to the multifaceted benefits of running. It's a source of mental clarity, a gateway to a supportive community, and a platform for giving back.

Sarah Parker: Running for Resilience and the Fight Against Cancer

For Sarah running this marathon was about more than just athletic achievement; it was a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and giving back to a cause she deeply cared about.

Running for a Cause Close to Her Heart

Cancer has deeply impacted Sarah's life. For both her mother and a close friend their cancer diagnosis came as a shock. This experience motivated Sarah to run for the Cancer Treatment and Research Trust, a cause that resonates strongly with her. 

More Than Just a Race

The London Marathon is more than just a race for Sarah, running the marathon is a way to show solidarity with her loved ones battling cancer. The determination to cross that finish line is fueled by a powerful combination of personal achievement and the fight for a cause she deeply believes in.

From Rekindled Passion to Running for a Cause: Rebecca's London Marathon Journey

This past weekend Rebecca Bigginton achieved her lifelong dream of conquering the London Marathon with a renewed passion for running and a desire to give back. 

Rediscovering the Joy of Running

Rebecca's love for running began in her youth, but life took precedence for many years.  However, in 2022, completing a half marathon in Tonbridge reignited her passion for the sport. 

A Dream Rekindled and a Promise Fulfilled

The London Marathon had always been a dream for Rebecca. After the unexpected loss of her mother in 2022 Rebecca decided to run the London Marathon in her honor. 

Running for Scope and Her Children

For Rebecca running the marathon for Scope felt like the natural choice as both of her children have disabilities.  Scope works tirelessly to support families facing similar challenges.  Running for Scope allowed Rebecca to combine her love for running with a cause that deeply resonates with her as a parent.

Community Support Fuels Determination

Rebecca's journey hasn't been without its hurdles.  Balancing training with single parenthood proved challenging, and at one point, reaching her fundraising target seemed daunting. However, the unwavering support from her local community through a social group proved to be a real turning point.  Within a short period, the community helped her reach her fundraising goal, a testament to the power of collective spirit.

Finding Strength in Challenges

The road to the marathon hasn't been smooth sailing.  Balancing training with childcare, battling discouragement, and enduring harsh weather conditions all tested Rebecca's resolve.  However, her unwavering determination and the support she received fueled her to keep pushing forward.  

Running for Remembrance and Hope: Joe and Caroline's London Marathon Journey

Joe and Caroline Jordan took on the London Marathon, a challenge fueled by love, loss, and a desire to give back. 

Giving Back to SANDS

The decision to run for SANDS, a charity that supports families after the loss of a baby, holds deep significance. When the couple were pregnant with their first daughter Sienna they received the devastating news that at 38 weeks pregnant their baby had passed. While going through the darkest time of their life, SANDS provided invaluable support to Joe and Caroline and they aim to give back the same support to other families facing similar tragedies.

Finding Solace in Nature

The loss of their daughter Sienna in 2014 left an indelible mark on Caroline and Joe.  Caroline, in particular, found solace in running after their loss.  Experiencing nature and the physical benefits of exercise became a crucial part of her healing process.  

Shared Journey, Shared Purpose

The London Marathon was more than just a race for Joe and Caroline.  Running together allowed them to honour Sienna's memory on the 10th anniversary of her passing. They crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, a powerful symbol of their enduring love and shared journey.

From New Runner to Marathon Double: Gregory's Journey of Achievement and Giving Back

For Gregory Wilshaw the London marathon was his second marathon in just two weeks, a remarkable feat for someone who couldn't even run 2km just a few months ago. 

From Beginner to Marathon Finisher

Gregory's running journey began with a personal challenge: to conquer a marathon in honor of his friend, Paul Jackson.  Starting from scratch, he's trained diligently, transforming himself from a “non-runner” to a marathon finisher within a few months.  

Motivation Fueled by Purpose

The desire to honour his friend Paul, who received exceptional care at Severn Hospice during his final weeks, is a driving force for Gregory.  Running these marathons allows him to give back to hospices, organisations that provide vital end-of-life support to terminally ill patients and their families.  

A Journey of Determination and Giving Back

Gregory's story is more than just a marathon adventure.  It's a testament to the power of personal challenge and the importance of supporting meaningful causes. 

The finish line that awaits is a testament to the sheer grit and determination of these extraordinary individuals. But the true victory lies in the journeys they've undertaken. From finding solace after loss to pushing physical limits, these runners inspire us all. They remind us that the London Marathon is a celebration of the human spirit, where every stride is a step towards a better version of ourselves.

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