May 14, 2024

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.

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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Trail Running 101: Gear up & get going with Expert Advice

So you’re ready to switch up your usual road runs and are ready to tackle some new terrain. Before you take to the trails we’ve compiled a guide with everything you need to know to equip yourself in preparation for your first trail running event. We’ve spoken with Adventure guide & mountain leader David Rogers to answer 6 of the most common queries when making the transition from the road.

So you’re ready to switch up your usual road runs and are ready to tackle some new terrain. Before you take to the trails we’ve compiled a guide with everything you need to know to equip yourself in preparation for your first trail running event. We’ve spoken with Adventure guide & mountain leader David Rogers to answer 6 of the most common queries when making the transition from the road. 

What kit do I need?

You’ll want to be able to carry water and have enough room for a few of your favourite running snacks and some spare layers. For trail events water and aid stations tend to be further apart compared to road events with each outpost typically 10-15km apart.

There is a wide variety of kit out there, and many find a running vest with two 500ml soft flasks that sit just on or below the chest, to be useful. 

In terms of other equipment you may want to carry some spare layers and a waterproof layer as weather can be unpredictable and you’ll be moving slower at times on a trail compared to on the road! Of course, don’t forget to check out the recommended and mandatory items listed for any race events you may be taking part of.

What shoes will I need?

The shoes you’ll need depends on the terrain you’ll be running on. For many trail events surfaces can vary greatly and there are also often sections of road. Therefore, shoe choice is always going to be a compromise.

Events like Maverick provide a really good trail rating system, route maps and information about the terrain you will tackle. For some trails, rated 1 or 2, old road shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty are totally fine. However, you’ll be more at home with some grippy shoes. Luckily, Terrex is also available at Maverick events for you  to try out some shoes before you part with the cash! 

Do I always have to run?

The worst kept secret in trail running is that most people either walk, power hike or run slower up the hills. This is more than acceptable. That way, you save energy for the flatter sections and down hills!

What about food?

Longer distance trail events, where you can be running for over 5 hours and covering up to 60km, become an eating challenge as well as a running one. In a nutshell, factor in trying some different foods when you are training. If you stick to gels, that’s no problem and for your first event you should aim to do something similar. 

Many first time trail runners spend too much time in the outposts, which include all sorts of snacks, cakes and goodies as well as Precision Hydration gels, chews and Tenzing energy drink. Try to have a plan of how you plan to tackle the aid stations. For example, I tend to get my water bottles filled first (one either water only and the other with an electrolyte powder), then grab a few snacks and then a few more. I then walk out of the aid station still eating.

Of course, it will all depend on how far you are going. For many of the shorter routes Maverick offers, there’s no need to run with much. However, for the routes over 20km it’s well worth giving nutrition and hydration some serious thought!

What about navigation?

This is another reason to choose Maverick as your first trail event! The trails are very clearly marked and marshaled with clear signage. Also, the GPX routes are available on the website and are compatible with most running watches. Here, some homework is needed pre-event. Most events will have a map and a GPX file. It’s worth getting familiar with how the navigation features work on your watch or phone. Apps like the Ordnance Survey mapping app are great. You could also enroll in a navigation workshop aimed at runners. It’s important not to rely on trail markings, in the hills these often blow away or you may miss seeing one when you’re caught up admiring the view, so investment in navigation before a race is essential.

Does my training need to be different?

Trail runners, especially those who run ultra marathon distances, tend to focus on effort and time rather than pace and distance. Having said this, the main recommendation would be to add in some hills to your training. Take a look at the route information. For example, the Original Cotswolds event in July has 528m or ascent over 23km. This means that there is around 30m per km. So, if you’re long run is going to be a 15km look to get in around 450m of ascent, even if that means going up and down the same hill a few times.

If you plan on signing up for a trail running event-Maverick events are the perfect starting place for exploring the wonderful world of trail running. With a variety of race distances always on offer and good vibes in the village on the trails, you’re in good hands! Your first trail adventure is all about learning, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in!  Most of all, remember to enjoy your first trail event. You’ll learn a lot and no doubt will be back for more!

David Rogers is a Maverick Run Project hub leader and qualified Mountain Leader. If you want to take your trail running to the next level, check out Mountain & Trail Adventures mtntrailadv.co.uk or on insta @daviderogerst

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

This Mental Health Awareness week, we’ve partnered with Brooks to explore and celebrate the profound link between running communities and better mental health.

This Mental Health Awareness week, we’ve partnered with Brooks to explore and celebrate the profound link between running communities and better mental health. Enter: a special Brooks x Let’s Do This edition of our Run Club. Teaming up with mental health experts and advocates from the running community, we covered areas ranging from depression to grief, and how harnessing the power of running with people can boost your wellbeing and help you live a life well lived. 

We were joined by Jess (@RunTalkRun), Thomas (@Mental_Health_Runner) Shane (@Stepbysteppers) and Lloyd (@lloydkempson), who guided us through their journeys and provided some amazing takeaways if you struggle with your mental health.

Finding comfort in a community

Joining a supportive community can break feelings of isolation and boost your mental health. Jess states that “the RunTalkRun community provides an accepting and understanding space, and can teach you that your identity is not confined to your mental health struggles”. On days when you’re feeling at your lowest, fellow runners provide the encouragement and support needed to put one step in front of the other. The community fosters a sense of self-respect and belonging – both of which are crucial factors in the healing process. Group runs allow people to openly discuss their experiences, especially around subjects such as grief; an area that still sometimes has a stigma attached to it. Groups such as Stepbysteppers are building a community that not only addresses common feelings of isolation around grief, but also builds an environment where people can learn to discuss grief openly, without the fear of being judged. 

The importance of run clubs in encouraging mental health acceptance - and improvement

When Shane’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, running became his refuge. “Running provided a mental escape and a way to connect with my father through shared moments of clarity and peace [with other run club members]” says Shane. Amidst the grief, running continues to be a tonic for Shane, providing the necessary headspace to help navigate the complexities of loss and remembrance.

By encouraging connection with like-minded people, running communities can make those sometimes-tricky conversations about loss, grief and mental health, a lot easier. Plus, having a network of understanding fellow runners helps you to keep going through the tough times. Thomas explains how he benefits from the sense of accountability provided by his running crew. Though he knows that running has a positive impact on his mindset, he still sometimes struggles with motivation on the hard days. His community encourage him to lace-up and get running - even if it's only for a gentle run.

Run clubs: bridging the gap between poor mental health and accessing professional services

Communities such as RunTalkRun and Stepbysteppers aim to provide a crucial bridge for those who need access to mental health support. By organising weekly support groups, they offer a safe space for individuals to share their struggles and connect with others facing similar challenges. Thomas, a Brooks Running Collective member and RunTalkRun leader in Lincolnshire, says “these initiatives not only help reduce stigma, but also provide crucial signposting to further support services”. 

Jess, Thomas and Shane's experiences with finding support through their communities in times of turbulence has paved the way for further positive change. Now, they lead supportive running groups in their local areas. Plus, by sharing their journeys with a global audience through workshops and publications, they aim to improve access to mental health services by collaborating with healthcare professionals and policymakers. They're taking huge strides towards a world where no one will ever have to face mental health challenges alone.

Helpful resources

Want to improve your own mental health through running? You can connect with RunTalkRun and Stepbysteppers, and check out Brooks’ Let’s Run There page for inspiration, advice, and events to get you connected with other runners. Plus, whether you’re in pursuit of a headspace, a feeling or a finish line, you can always count on Brooks to have the tech-packed gear to take you there.

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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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