Field Notes: Run for the hills

Fundraising Administrator Clare Pemberton reports on this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon and our five fantastic runners

Ldn marathon 19 jo winson medal lr detail

Last Sunday saw Eliud Kipchoge break the record for the fastest ever time in the Virgin Money London Marathon, which this year also passed the incredible milestone of raising £1 billion for charitable causes. The John Muir Trust has benefitted from a small fraction of this mighty sum because, for the past decade or more, we have secured a handful of valuable charity places each year. However, the Trust’s connection with the London Marathon goes back further in that we share a founder.

Olympic gold medallist and pace setter for Roger Bannister’s ground-breaking four-minute-mile, Chris Brasher (1928 – 2003) was also a keen mountaineer. His love of Scotland’s wild places led him to play an instrumental role in the creation of the John Muir Trust and the acquisition of our first property - Li and Coire Dhorrcail in Knoydart. Although I suspected that our 2019 runners - Jo, Heidi, Lisa, Trevor and Angie - would have Chris' support in spirit, I went to London to lend my support  and share their experience.

First stop on Saturday was the race ‘expo’ at the ExCel convention centre, where runners must pick up their all-important race number and timing chip. It hosts a huge array of exhibitors selling everything from sunglasses and shoelaces to the latest GPS watches and tech-filled trainers. Meanwhile on the stages, speakers provide motivational lectures on how to mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. Thanks to the pep talks and the almost palpable nervous excitement of those around me, even I felt ready to run a marathon by the time I left.

Marathon meet up

I headed on to a meet-up organised by two of the runners taking part in the marathon on behalf of the Trust. Angie and Trevor Spencer live in Pennsylvania USA, where they run a coaching business and produce the Marathon Training Academy Podcast – regularly downloaded by over 30,000 listeners across the world.

Lon Marathon 19 - Clare with MTA podcasters

Through the podcast, Angie and Trevor (pictured above with Clare) have been raising awareness and fundraising for the Trust, providing a John Muir ‘quote of the week’ and encouraging listeners to donate to help us plant trees on the slopes of Schiehallion, where last year the Trust invited Angie for a visit to see the work we are doing.

As I expected, the ‘MTA’ community is an incredibly welcoming one, and it was great to meet and talk to some of those who had donated to the Trust in support of their running gurus, Angie and Trevor. Over a traditional afternoon tea, a fantastically international group of podcast devotees chatted race strategies, training tips and tales of marathon experiences good and bad. I wished Trevor and Angie and the runners good luck and promised to cheer them on.

Cheering the participants

On Sunday the conditions were close to ideal: overcast with a light breeze, very little rain and the odd patch of sunshine breaking through. Arriving early at my chosen cheering point on Victoria Embankment (between mile 24 and 25 of the course) the only other people there were staff and volunteers from other charities. It wasn’t long before the barriers began filling with spectators.

Once the likes of Sir Mo had flown past, I soon realised the unlikelihood of picking out John Muir Trust runners from the throngs passing by. I cheered and clapped for hours with my eyes peeled but, as one of our participants said of trying to spot me as she ran past: "even if you were on fire I may have missed you".

Happily, all the Trust’s runners made it across the finish line, with tired but beaming smiles to attest to their achievement. Picking my way through the dense crowds at Horse Guards Parade to catch my train back to Edinburgh, it struck me what an incredible legacy Chris Brasher has left behind as founder of both the London Marathon and the John Muir Trust. Were he still alive, he would surely be cheering extra hard for Jo, Heidi, Lisa, Angie and Trevor who have raised thousands by taking on the London Marathon in their John Muir Trust running vests.

After the public ballot for the 2020 Virgin London Marathon closes at 5pm Friday 3 May, the John Muir Trust is taking applications for our Golden Bond charity places. Find out more information about the marathon, or if you’re interested in taking on your own fundraising activity for the John Muir Trust      

Lon Marathon 19 - Heidi with medal

London Marathon runners Jo (top of the page) and Heidi (above) with their medals