South west London has off-road running spots and running clubs in abundance, so it’s no surprise that plenty of SW runners are gearing up to take on the London Marathon 2018. But did you know that one particular south Londoner actually founded the London Marathon?
One running club in particular has strong links to the marathon; the Ranelagh Harriers, based in Richmond, was the club of Chris Brasher, the Olympic athlete who conceived the idea for the London Marathon. ‘London was the start of the real marathon boom in this country and we’re proud to be part of that,’ membership secretary Chris Owens tells me.
Not content with just that legacy, former members were instrumental in helping to start parkrun, which Owens feels really reflects that the club is for runners at all levels.
London was the start of the real marathon boom in this country and we’re proud to be part of that
‘It’s gone from a sport for elites – for people wanting to win gold medals or set world records or win county championships – to something that everyone can do, with the dogs or with the pram,’ says Owen.
He’s enthusiastic about the benefits of running, especially when you’ve got surroundings like Richmond Park, Bushy Park and the Thames Path. Owens says that the club has around 10 to 15 people training for London or another spring marathon at the moment, including one member who has run in every London Marathon since it began.
‘I think popular races like the London Marathon, and all the other big marathons around the UK and the world, have helped change that perception that it was for very young, very specialised, very highly trained people. It still takes a lot of work to get around a marathon, but you don’t have to be super human to do that.’
One south west Londoner who is facing the challenge is Chelsey Hickman from Wandsworth. The 25-year-old is running for the Stroke Association, who was a guiding light for her family after her father suffered a stroke in 2015.
‘Throughout heart surgery, brain surgery and the ever changing after effects of stroke, my dad has remained my hero, my knight in shining armour and now more than ever, my biggest inspiration,’ she tells me. ‘That’s why, on Sunday 22 April 2018, there’s no place I’d rather be than running the London Marathon as a member of Team Stroke.’
I enjoy running around south west London, and as my runs have increased in length, I’ve been discovering places I never knew existed
Living close to Spencer Park, Hickman has loved training in the area. ‘I enjoy running around south west London, and as my runs have increased in length, I’ve been discovering places I never knew existed,’ she says.
‘There are lots of green spaces, to break up the amount of time I spend running on the road, and the fitness activities taking place on each of the commons makes me feel as though I’m not alone.’
See justgiving.com to sponsor Chelsey Hickman in this year’s London Marathon
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