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A brief history of Alton Sports & fast running with Toby Lambert

You might have seen on our social media that when it comes to running we like to walk the walk as well as talk the talk! We’re made up from a team of keen runners which makes us super-passionate about running and everything we do… and there’s no one more passionate than, Toby Lambert, Alton Sports Director and 2:18 marathon runner! (Top photo credit – Daily Echo)

When did you start running and why?

I enjoyed just keeping fit and generally the more cardio vascular the better. I used to do any CV I could find for as many hours as possible! Row, bike, run and even stairmaster in the gym.

What was your first race?

The 1999 New York City Marathon! My first ever race was a marathon!

What’s the race your most proud of and why?

Mumbai Marathon running for Great Britain in 35/ 40 degree heat. It was a global competition and one person from each country went from around the world to represent their country in all the big city marathons. I was first in the European and Oceana competition in 2.21 and ran 70 minutes 30 for both halves, it was a perfect day.

Give us a rough breakdown of your running PBs?

5 miles – 23:40
10k – 29:30
Half Marathon – 64 min

Marathon – 2:18

You’re obviously a top runner – how do you keep the buzz going?

It’s like brushing my teeth and breathing air – I’ve got to do it, it’s part of life. If I don’t run each day, I’m not alive I’m not breathing.

Tell us all about your trail adventures?

I used to absolutely despise trail – I hated running off-road! I hated anything where I couldn’t use my long stride efficiently. I hated sinking into mud and going nowhere fast but now I love it! I nip into our local woods whenever I get a chance, I love finding the climbs you can hardly walk up let alone run and looking for tricky downhill tree rooted technical descents to master! There’s nothing like it .

I’ve now started to seek out off-road adventure races like the Maverick Races we co-sponsor with some of the great brands we carry in our stores.

Was the transition from road to trail tough?

It was different! I did my first ultra this year which was just under 60km, so just shy of 40 miles in the Lake District. There are hills so steep you need to grip with your finger nails to climb and descents so slippy, you need a sledge! This is all whilst navigating what appears to be a rock climbing film set from the film Cliffhanger or Mission Impossible! Survival is first priority, then trying to run when it’s possible is priority number 2!

It was first time out and I was very cautious for the first 4 hrs out there then put the hammer down with about 20km to go and ploughed through the field! I’ve got the bug and can’t wait to find another.

Tell us about the history of Alton Sports – when did it first open?

At the end of 1999, the shop was transformed from what had been a traditional sports shop to Alton Sports – the running and footwear specialist. As a passionate keep fit enthusiast, I just wanted to provide a place where people could get fitted and actually find proper footwear and equipment for their sports.

I started running about the same time and naturally we just increased our range of running footwear and gear alongside traditional sports footwear. The shop was here for roughy 30 years before 1999 as a traditional sports shop selling everything from fishing line to pellets for rifles and professional catapults! Now here we are with over 50 years in the business and 20 years with myself.

Photo Credit – Flickr User

How does Alton Sports differ from all the other running stores / chains?

All of us at Alton Sports are passionate about sport, keeping fit and being active. We just live it and love it. We aren’t all pros and we aren’t all about fast times or finishing positions (although some of us are!)

Because of this we care about putting everyone in the right footwear and equipment for their sport whether it’s a walk, run, jog, volley, kick , shuttle, swim and more! On top of which we carry probably the most extensive selection of equipment and footwear of anyone in the U.K. We have 5 stores in 5 locations and it means we have different assortments for the different sports and running terrains which are more popular in certain areas.

We are lucky because we have all these shops we can offer all our customers a great choice of location which means an AS Store is never too far away. We buy so much from our suppliers, we are able to offer the best possible experiences and choice and special offer bundles to all our customers giving fantastic free gifts and experiences that give unbeatable value!

Tell us about some of your favourite events / races to go to?

I’ve always loved London and Brighton Marathon! Just buzzing all weekend – it’s like marathon fever!

Myself, my wife Georgie and our dog Benson (Benson has his own lifestyle shop above our Farnham store selling all the cool lifestyle trainers we all wear when we’re not running) love to travel to some of the off-road races we sponsor and try out all the latest off-road gear and wet weather clothing.

Any go to running shoes for road / trail?

I’m living in my Salomon and  inov-8 shoes lately for all my off roading! On the road, recently I’m using a few different ON models and also having some great runs in the latest Brooks shoes with knit uppers like the Bedlam!

Photo credit – QECP parkrun

If someone is reading this and is thinking about getting into running for the first time – what would you say to them?

Just enjoy it – forget the watch or distances – just get out there and even if you spend most time walking do that and build it from there.

Hit us up with some pro tips for all runners!

Running well is more in the mindset than many people think! If you believe you can …..then you can!

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Running a Marathon…. at Midnight!

Earlier this year, I ran my first marathon – the Brighton Marathon. You can read the race report right here. As I lay on Brighton Beach knackered and unable to dress myself, I chatted with my new friend, Dan Stent (Dan’s Tent is a far better name) about running another marathon. Dan had also just finished the race and was also knackered. You know you like running too much when you talk about doing another marathon right after running a marathon!

A week later, the beach-chat turned into Facebook convo and we had both entered Second Wind Running’s Midnight Marathon event. We had entered not to run a better time than Brighton (not a chance with that amount of climb – 1264.5m to be exact) but because the idea of running late at night was very exciting and something we’d not done before. The race started at 9 p.m, so unless you’re going to smash out a sub-3 mara, then you’ll be running through the midnight mark. A challenge!

So, how do you train for a hilly midnight marathon on the South Downs Way? Run at midnight a few times? Full on marathon training? Big hill sessions? Nah – I just treated it as an exciting long run with no specific training for it.  The furthest distance I’d got up to was a slow 17 miles at the Love Trails Festival a couple of weeks previously and I’d never raced with a head torch before. At least I could rely on my marathon training from earlier in the year, right? 😉

Saturday, July 28th rolled around and I decided that the perfect warm up for a marathon would be playing cricket all day in a field in Portsmouth. Make that playing cricket badly. After a day of chasing round red leather (not very vegan, sorry all) around a park, I dashed off early and went and got ready for the mara. Getting ready involved eating as much as possible a few hours before and having a massive coffee. A short drive to the start at Queen Elizabeth Country Park ensued and the pre-race nerves / anxiety (nothing to do with the massive coffee) had kicked in. I tested my Silva Headlamp umpteen times and it still worked after every nervous fiddle. Numbers were picked up and attached to vests – as with all Second Wind Running events, the race organisation was top notch.

I met up with Dan’s Tent, a quick hug and a catch up and we made our way to the start line along with 250 other runners & walkers. Some of the walkers had set off an hour or two earlier! We set off not sure what pace to run at, so we settled for something around the 7 minute mile mark, all in the knowledge that every hilly mile wouldn’t be at that pace! Dan and I had met a few times before and we have a lot in common… running, poncy beers, being handsome and we both love a band called The Wildhearts. All those topics came up as ran through the first 10 miles with not much a problem.. I think miles 8/9/10 were reasonably undulating and then we had a nice downhill run towards the half marathon mark at Cocking!

The support out on the course was awesome… it was great to bump into friends from local clubs like Liss Runners and Denmead Striders who were very vocal in their support of all the runners. That’s the best thing about running isn’t it? The amazing community around it! A lot less people take the piss when it comes to running, when compared to team sports. It’s all about supporting the individual challenge. After the downhill glide into Cocking, we had to turn back (it’s an out & back course) and this meant an uphill slog up to the 15 mile mark. It was hard to live in the moment and really try and take in the beautiful scenery, a sea of lights (head torches akin to alien invaders) coming towards you at certain points was pretty mental, as well as trying to get the race done and run well.

Here’s Si from our team who only entered two days before – the nutter!

My new Salomon hydration backpack was doing its job well and I was convinced I was running out of water at every stop (much to Dan’s mirth)…. I had a few Shot Bloks and a gel to keep me going but it was fun picking up actual food at the stations – a highlight being Watermelon, but running whilst trying to eat a banana proved impossible. Dan and I were still chatting, maybe not as much as at the start but I would not have liked to run this race without his support. It made the event so much more special by running it with someone and having that camaraderie all the way around.

My legs were getting heavier as the 20 mile mark rolled by and it’s the classic case of telling yourself that it’s just a couple of parkruns until the finish and you’re done. The miles rolled by ever so slowly and we were both walking up the hills.. Dan keeping the pace and the motivation going. We came to the last mile which was downhill and rocked back into the start, crossing the finish line holding hands and coming home in joint 10th around the 3 hours and 56 min mark. Check the results.

What a fun adventure! If you’re looking for a different race and challenge for next Summer, then this is the race for you. It’s not even a race for me… it was a load of ace people staying up late and going for a jog on the South Downs Way and creating memories that will last for ever! Kudos to Simon from Alton Sports who came home in just over 4 hours after completing his first marathon… he only entered 2 days before, haha!

Post race – my legs didn’t feel too heavy as I sat at the finish line waiting for Roza to finish. I stretched, had two loads of vegan soup and ate several bananas. I was even able to run normally on the Monday… unlike post-Brighton where a stiff waddle happened for the rest of the week. To conclude. Enter this run and cherish every moment, it’s a special one. Oh, and run it with a mate. Ta!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Strava here.

Check out all of Second Wind Running’s Events here.

Alton Sports have a website and Strava, too!

Jhon Cosgrove 🙂

PS: I am aware I do the same pose in every running photo!