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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!

Check out everything we do for runners on altonsports.co.uk

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Running through the woods with inov-8!

Over the Summer months, we’ve put on a Trail Trial Time (TTT) series at our Alton Store. It involved a 3k time trial in the Alton woods, along with some shoe try ons, giveaways and of course – a BBQ!

The last event took place with our friends at inov-8 coming along to help us get a grip! The weather was set to fair as a bunch of awesome local runners of all ages and abilities descended on our Alton Store. We love meeting new people from the running community, and there was a bunch of new (and familiar) faces who’d come along for an evening of running fun.

Sam and Tim from inov-8 had kindly brought along some Trailroc and Parkclaw shoes to try on as well as bunch of sexy hats to go in our goody bags for all runners. Everyone set about trying some new shoes on to test out in the woodlands. It’s fun trying on new shoes, right? It’s the best way to find a new pair that you’ll love.

Once kitted out, we jogged the kilometre warm up to the woods where Sam was waiting with the super-snazzy inov-8 van! Our marshals got into place and before you knew it, everyone was off on their time trail. It’s not a serious race… people could go at whatever speed they wanted and I had the pleasure of running along with my dog on the lead (sadly no shoes for him to try on).

After a couple of laps. everyone congregated back at the van base and we talked about the run and the shoes. Sam was very happy to field questions about the inov-8 shoes and everyone had lots to ask him! Which is always nice, as it’s good to learn about the things you’re running in.

A gentle warm-down back to the shop and we hung about for drinks, BBQ food and the obligatory AS goody bag. A massive thanks to inov-8 for coming down and helping make it a special event for our local running community.. and thank you to all the runners who came down and made it a special event for us. We appreciate it!

We’ll be running a lot more events like this over the Winter months, so make sure you follow us on Social Media to stay in touch.

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Shop inov-8 on our site.