Interview : Christopher Allen – Running for a cause

I met Christopher this year at the London Marathon, which he was running for the first time and raising money for Spinal Research. I caught up with him last week to ask about his new found love for running, raising money for charity and what’s next on his list of of races.

I met Christopher this year at the London Marathon, which he was running for the first time and raising money for Spinal Research. I caught up with him last week to ask about his new found love for running, raising money for charity and what’s next on his list of of races.


How has your recovery been after running the London marathon, are you feeling in tip top condition again?

I thought my recovery was going to be a lot slower than it actually was. You hear a lot of stories about people not being able to walk properly for days, toenails falling off and taking weeks to get back to running. I gave myself just under a week to relax and recuperate and then the Saturday after the marathon I did my local Parkrun. I think that helped as it eased me back into it, not giving myself the excuse to get lazy!

You were running for charity this year, how was that experience for you compared with just ruining “of your own back”?

I hadn’t run for years before I started training for London Marathon and signed up with Spinal Research fairly early on. The support I’ve had is fantastic, especially as a lot of the team there are also runners. Over the last 9 months I’ve ended up with a bunch of people I’d call friends rather than just some faceless organisation. I’ve met up with some at other races leading up to the marathon, chat regularly on social media and support each other in preparation for our next races.

 

I’ve quit smoking as well as a result of my running, that push to replace a negative habit with a positive one.

 

With regards to your fundraising before race day, a lot of runners struggle to hit their targets. You managed to raise quite a lot for your chosen charity, what advice would you give to help fundraisers who are struggling?

I was really worried at first, and to start it was pretty slow going, I’d never done large scale fundraising before so the target was a bit daunting.

1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – the charity were really supportive, they had loads of great ideas and more than happy to give suggestions and help out.

2) Don’t panic – a lot of donations come in just before the event. It’s like people are testing your commitment, but also because people are just forgetful (see point 4!).

3) Plan ahead – if you want to do an event, be it a bake sale, raffle, quiz night or whatever, make sure you give yourself (and people that you want to take part) plenty of time to plan.

4) You can rely on other people – your friends are going to want you to succeed. Social media is your friend. If someone makes a donation, thank them publicly with a link to your donation page, this way a lot more people will see it and your friend is more likely to share the post.

Looking back at when you first started running, what was it that made you decide to make the plunge into the addictive sport and when did you realise you were “addicted”?

It’s a bit of a funny story, but one morning I decided to go for a walk down the Thames path, every time I got to a station I’d decide to go on to the next until I eventually got to Putney and got the train back. A couple of days later I decided to see how quickly I could walk it and got the train there and walked home. Half jokingly I said to my brother on the phone “I wonder if I could walk a marathon” knowing that I’ve previously done 16+ mile hikes, to which my brother said “Sure, but could you run one?” so I went onto the London Marathon website to see what charities had places. I’d previously recovered from a spinal fracture which is how I ended up raising funds for Spinal Research as it was that which caused me to take the plunge into running. This was the end of August 2016.

There were two points. I think the first was around the time of my first race (Wimbledon 10k, October 2016) that I realised I was addicted to running, I’d been running for a couple of months and seeing the positive benefits, but that was the first proper adrenalin rush from running. The addiction moment (or at least the realisation) came a little later when I found myself doing 11 miles to work in January (my normal route being 7.8) I took a detour as I just wanted to keep running, keep pushing myself. I think that was my longest run to that point and that’s also what gave me the personal encouragement to do the full 26.2!

Have you seen your physical and/or mental health improve over the time you have been running?

Massively, my posture is better, lower blood pressure, I’ve dropped over a stone in weight (despite still eating mostly what I want to, when I want to). I’ve quit smoking as well as a result of my running, that push to replace a negative habit with a positive one. Mentally it’s great, a run first thing in the morning or late at night is just what I need to process the previous day and relax. It’s also a great way to blow off steam after a period of stress, focusing on your breathing and pace, filling your mind with that rather than any negative thoughts.

 

The hardest part is lacing up your trainers, once you’ve done that then it’s just running.

 

Do you have any words of encouragement for people who have just started running and/or just signed up for their first race?

It sounds patronising, but don’t give up! There are times when you feel like you can’t run, that you don’t have the energy or will to get out there and run however many miles. The hardest part is lacing up your trainers, once you’ve done that then it’s just running. The other thing, and especially for new runners, there’s always going to be someone faster than you, don’t become disheartened by this. It doesn’t matter how fast you run as long as you’re enjoying it, go at your pace and realise that every run you do, no matter how fast/slow/tough/easy, is an achievement.

For me personally, the biggest thing I have gotten out of running is getting to me so many amazing and inspirational people. What has been the biggest thing that you have gained from running?

I think the same for me in some ways. I really enjoy the runs I do with friends, but I also tend to be a solo runner and actually sometimes prefer my training runs to organised events. The biggest thing overall is running itself. Discovering something that is fun, can equally be relaxing and exciting, makes me healthier and happier and that I look forward to doing.

I’m guessing that the running and charity work will not stop here for you, what is next on your list and do you have anything “big” that you’re eying up for her future?

I’ve already told Spinal Research that I’m going to continue supporting them, whether it’s through fundraising or just awareness. As a charity, they’re personal to me and that makes a big difference.

I’ve got a couple of bits lined up: The Big Half next March (the day before my birthday, so a bit of a weird present to myself), Parallel London in September with the guys from Spinal Research which as an event for people of all abilities as a push/walk/run I think is a fantastic idea and really exciting. The next one is that I signed up for my first trail marathon (Shere 42k) at the beginning of July, I’ve been sticking to my marathon training plan since London so I know I can do the distance, it’s just the 1100+ metres of climb across the course that will be the biggest challenge!

I think next summer has to be my first ultra and my first international race, but I haven’t got anything booked in for them yet!