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Alton Sports Ambassadors – Dave’s Amazing April!

April landed with an injury filled bump, however after a test run on my own I declared myself fit to continue training for the greatest race on earth – the London Marathon! My first long run of April was with Coach Lambert (Alton Sports’ boss – Toby Lambert) and he took me for a half marathon around the location of the Four Marks store. It’s out in the farmland of Hampshire, this means it’s very hilly and rural – we completed this run in 2 hours and 2 minutes and I was very tired, however Coach Lambert looked fresh and ready to start running.

The weekend brought a text message asking me to do some speed work, this meant a 7 mile run with a fast 5K in the middle. The weekend also included my final distance run of the training cycle, I did a 20 mile run on the Sunday, this was not about speed but time on my feet and seeing how I coped with that kind of distance, I completed the distance in 3 hours 43 minutes, this was slower than my marathon pace but I needed to do the distance to remind my body of what was coming soon. So that’s a midweek half marathon and over a marathon run in a weekend – I am an athlete after all.

The following weekend bought my final race before the marathon, the Salisbury 10 mile race. Amazingly after following instructions from Coach Lambert not to look at my watch and just run on feeling alone. I managed to complete this race in 83 minutes, this is another personal best for me and I knocked 3 minutes off my best time. My average pace was 8 minutes and 20 seconds per mile, when I think about it I can’t help wondering if that was me! The week following was a simple recovery run of five miles and then a 6 mile run two days later, both were way quicker than I could imagine I could have done a year ago.

With Easter upon us I was tasked with a further parkrun Sandwich. The run to and from Parkrun was steady and I was to run hard for parkrun, I did this without question and got another parkrun PB of 24:28! This coaching stuff was really starting to pay off. My training was starting to wind down and the big day was getting closer, I had two training runs left that week, this was a simple 5 mile run and a fast and hard 4 mile run two days later. My training was over but I was not a Jedi yet.

I still had the Expo to contend with and the marathon itself. The Expo or Running show as they called it was amazing, not only was I going there to pick up my number but I was also working for Alton Sports on the stand for a day. After collecting my number & taking some souvenir photos I reported to the Alton Sports stand in my Alton Sports Uniform (a really cool ON t-shirt) ready to help the general public with their purchases.

I was put on the Nutrition stand, my job was to help my fellow runners with gels. I was working on the SIS & High 5 stand, I did this for the whole day, my goal was to help as many people as I could get the right gel strategy for the race, I know if you get that wrong it can have an impact on your whole race, I was quite passionate with dishing out advice and I hope I educated as many people as possible I also got interviewed by LBC Radio that was really exciting. I was almost sad when Coach Lambert came up to me and said I needed to go home and rest, talking about running is nearly as good as running itself. As I left London that evening I realised that the next time I would be doing this was Marathon day, I could not believe how quick the time had gone.

Fun fact for my first marathon in 2016 (the BMO Vancouver Marathon) I did 398 miles in that training cycle, this training cycle I also clocked up 398 miles !! How did that happen? I do believe the planets are starting to align and something good was going to happen. Marathon day is here! How can you rest the night before a marathon? I still don’t know the answer. My day started at 5:00 AM I dragged myself into the spare bedroom where I had laid out my gear. I got dressed as quietly as I could and made my breakfast, 2 slices of jam on toast, I am not a big eater on race day and this is the most I could possible manage. I needed to be on the 06:30 AM train so I left the house in good time and amazingly the carpark at the train station was empty! 

We waited patiently for the clock to tick over to 10:48, I was actually shivering I was really getting quite cold, then we heard the air horn and the race had started, 4 months of hard training and now was the time to prove my metal to not only Coach Lambert and Alton Sports but myself. The support for this event was off the charts, from mile 1 – 26 the support and cheering was incredible and very loud, I had my inspiring music on but I did not hear one beat due to the noise of the crowd. As per my training I did not look at my watch and just ran on feeling and what I was comfortable with, I did my first 5K in 26:21 and the 10K in 54:19, I was not lighting up the tarmac but I was consistent. I did the halfway (13.1 miles) in 2:00.16 I still felt good and although I was taking in the sites I was very focused on getting the job done, I have to give credit to the crowd because they really helped during the low points of the race.

I have to confess it was not all plain sailing, I stuck to my gel strategy, I found one Maurten every other 5 miles and then a caffeine SIS Gel every other 5 miles worked for me to give me both energy and a boost when I started to lag, the plan worked up until mile 15 when I accidentally picked up a Lucozade Sport instead of water, I didn’t realise until I started drinking it, this did not sit too well in my stomach, however I slowed down and just let my body settle down. I was getting very pleased with myself because I had got to the 30K mark at 3:00:20 I was totally in control, so I thought, I then hit a bit of a wall I cannot explain it I just started to hurt and the more I pushed the more my hips, shoulders and legs hurt.

I did start to run-walk a bit…. A lot in fact, I let myself recover and then I tried again to get back up to speed, at this point the version of  Coach Lambert that lives in my head had turned into a drill sergeant & I was totally shouting at myself, my final 5K took me 38 minutes, this was not my most proudest moment but that was all forgotten once I crossed the line. I don’t really remember much about getting my medal and retrieving my bag . You will note I look a bit pale, I just needed a sit down and something to eat, I did feel better about 20 minutes later. By the time I had found the train home I was back to normal and was looking like a normal person, however I had acquired a London Marathon medal.

I have many people to thank for this journey, I did not do this alone, all the people who have helped me along the way were with me for the whole 26 miles & will not be forgotten

My thanks go to :

My Long suffering wife Claire who has watched me suffer and push myself.

My children for not making too much fun of the old man!

My Parents and the rest of my family for supporting me.

Nurse May for her medical advice 

The Management team at Urbis-Schreder for letting me take so many extended lunch breaks to do the lunchtime runs.

The Alton Sports team of Ambassadors for their ongoing support

The Alton Sports management team for help with equipment and general advice.

And finally to Coach Lambert for getting me through this and showing me what a 45 year old Hobbit can actually achieve & it is to him I dedicate this blog

Marathon times:

1st May 2016 BMO Vancouver Marathon 4:45.43

23rd April 2017 ABP Southampton Marathon 4:37.31

7th May 2017 Mississauga Marathon 4:31.05

7th January 2018 Walt Disney world Marathon 4:49.00

28th April Virgin Money London Marathon 4:28.03

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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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