Did you enter this competition? I did. Did you expect to get any further? I didn’t. So when I got a call last week to say I’d been selected as one of the 50 runners to attend Asics 26.2 Bootcamp I nearly fell off my chair! Especially as I’d entered twice before and got nowhere. For those not familiar with Asics Target 26.2, it’s a competition in Runner’s World magazine with a prize that money just can’t buy – a VIP trip to the Paris Marathon with elite-style treatment along the way including top-level coaching, advice on physio, nutrition and psychology, lots of fab Asics kit and much more. The week between that phone call and Bootcamp Day seemed like the longest ever. I was filled with nervous excitement, not really knowing what to expect. What would the other runners in my group (sub 4) be like? Would they all be fitter and faster than me? All I knew was that there would be running on a track. A track! I hadn’t run on a track since I was about twelve – and that was a very long time ago!
I arrived at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, home of the famous Birchfield Harriers, to join the queue of runners waiting to register and was somewhat relieved that many of them looked as ‘normal’ as me and weren’t in fact all lithe, cheetah-like beings! We were all issued with a number and a special bootcamp Asics running top – a great souvenir. As number 26 I was momentarily tempted to tag .2 onto the end with a marker pen, but thought better of it!
Bootcamp began with the screening of a video showing the journey of this year’s 26.2 team, which was quite emotional and only served to make us all want the top prize even more than we already did! You can view the video here if you want to be inspired. We were also told that there had been a record 3,500 entries to the competition this year, and that we should feel proud just to have got this far.
We then split into our time category groups for the rest of the day. Everyone in our group seemed lovely and friendly, and in fact one of the best things about the day was that we could all talk about running as much as we liked without boring anyone! After gait analysis we had a session on strength work, stretching and injury prevention with top sports physio Sarah Connors, which was really useful and tested our balance quite a bit! Unfortunately our group’s track session was immediately after lunch, so we couldn’t really eat much. I usually like to leave a couple of hours between eating and running, so just nibbled on a sandwich, hoping they would still be there afterwards!
Meeting coaches Steve Smythe and Sam Murphy in the flesh after reading their pearls of wisdom in Runners World for years was great. And running on the track was brilliant – it felt much bouncier than Tarmac! After a warm-up the main part of our session was a 5K time trial, run as an interval session. Being an old bird, speed is not really my forte, so I was pleased to get a PB, as Steve predicted most of us would. Sadly I don’t have a record of it as we were running without watches, but it’s given me a new target to aim for at Parkrun. And luckily we were still able to snaffle a few leftover sarnies at the end!
The final part of the day was a Q&A session with elite Asics-sponsored ultra runner Holly Rush. Not only is Holly an amazing athlete, but she apparently loves pie and beer – top girl! It was a rare opportunity to put any questions we liked to a proper athlete in a friendly and informal setting. Holly was lovely and happy to discuss anything at all, so topics ranged from pork pie to poo and everything in between! After an amazing day it was then time to collect our fantastic goody bags and leave.
The next stage of the competition will see five runners from each time category put to the public vote later this week – eek! Although the final decision is apparently not based entirely on voting numbers. I’m not sure that any of us really know what the judges are looking for, we’ll just have to wait and hope! But whatever happens I’m sure we all feel grateful to have been involved in bootcamp. From a personal point of view I’d love to complete a sub 4 marathon mainly because it would be a Good For Age time for me, so I’d really feel I’d achieved something. I think with a bit of expert help I could make it! And Paris would be such a beautiful place to do it, as I have such happy memories of working there years ago. Thank you Runners World and Asics, bootcamp was a brilliant experience. I just wish we could all go to Paris!