26 miles? Running a marathon all in a day’s work for Simon

September 26 2013

MOST of us find getting through the working day akin to enduring a long-distance race.

MOST of us find getting through the working day akin to enduring a long-distance race.

So we can only look on in amazement at the achievement of head teacher Simon Botten, who one day last month ran a full marathon before starting his day’s work in charge of Blackhorse Primary School in Emersons Green.

He left his home in Bristol at 4am to complete the 26-24 miles in three hours and 37 minutes.

Since then, Mr Botten has competed in the Bristol Half Marathon as further preparation for his attempt on Sunday October 6 to complete the 50k Royal Parks Ultra Marathon, which starts in Hyde Park and takes in five of London’s eight Royal Parks.


Mr Botten is raising money for the disability charity Scope. Donations can be made at www.virginmoneygiving.com/simonbotten

As reported in Downend Voice, Mr Botten encourages children, staff and parents at Blackhorse to take part in sport and to have active lifestyles.

Many of them took part in Challenge 31 – to participate in 31 activities of at least 15 minutes each during the summer holidays – which culminated in a one-mile fun run at the school.

Downend Voice reporter Linda Tanner attempted the challenge too – with mixed results. Here is her report:

SIMON Botten runs a marathon before school while I, as the cliche goes, could not run for a bus. (Not that I’d need to, as the bus stop is outside my gate).

In my defence, I have had a long lay-off due to surgery following an illness. That is where any similarity between me and a Premiership footballer ends. In the absence of physios and fitness coaches to aid my recovery, I decide to use Mr Botten’s challenge to get me off my office chair. and into action.

Day 1: I start with a swim. Ten lengths of Longwell Green pool and a spectacular view of fork lightning over the Cotswold Edge. At Yate Leisure Centre, my induction to the gym is underwhelming - a group tour of various machines. Am told I must make another appointment to be given an individual programme.

Day 2: A brisk 30-minute walk, interrupted by a chat with some old friends. It’s the tail end of the heatwave so I work up a sweat and visit sister’s house for a drink (and no biscuit - feel fitter already!).

Day 3: Lunch out is followed by a walk across Bristol in high heels - that uses some muscles I’d forgotten I had.

Day 4: Have to attend an assessment centre for a job. They didn’t have such things when I was a young work seeker, thank goodness. It’s still very hot so I think I’ll have another swim. But have forgotten kit. Rush home to get it, return to leisure centre to find there is a ‘pool party’ involving many excited children with inflatables. Did all that 20 years ago and have no wish to revisit. Oh well, let’s try the gym. Treadmill is much less horrible than I’d feared and I even run for three minutes. But the bike is tough. Buy myself a raspberry rehydration drink (another thing that did not exist in my youth). It matches my dress - and my face.

Day 5: Finally get personalised exercise programme, which is actually less tough than my tryout yesterday. Yate gym is cooler than Longwell Green, but has a less interesting outlook from the windows. At LG, if you gaze beyond McDonalds and Next, there are hills, and when I am fit I will walk them. Cool off with a swim. The changing rooms have been revamped since I was last there (probably 10 years ago) and the floor is very slippery but the lanes are nice and empty.

Day 6: Usual 30-minute walk route is undertaken at speed so I get home before yet another downpour.

Day 7: For those of us who have not spent much time in gyms, there are a lot of challenges before we even step on the machines. First, mastering the lockers - the other day I gave a bewildered fellow novice £1 for her door, which made me feel very virtuous. Then you need your card to get through the doors, and you have to remember it as you go from exercise to exercise. Finally there is the ‘wellness key’ that tells the machines your programme. Upping the speed of walking and pedalling is a doddle once you’ve mastered the technology.

Day 8: Cutting the grass proves tougher than I remembered. My back hurts and I have a rest until I am interrupted by neighbour’s children urging me to play tennis in the garden. Five-year-old, who already has a better eye for the ball than I, inquires: “Are you 45?” “No, 55,” I reply. “That’s very old,” he observes.

Day 9: Swimming again. Manage 16 lengths non stop but am absurdly tired later. I am obviously not as much over my ops as I like to think I am. But perhaps in 22 days I will be …

Day 40 I am fitter, though I probably did not quite manage 31 activities over the hols. My efforts were derailed first by a family party and then a tummy bug. And, as we all know, it’s much easier to get out of the habit of daily exercise than to get into it.

However, I stepped up the walking, built up the swims to 20 lengths, got my boots on for some (short) hikes, started back to Pilates, which I love, and got back out on my bike for the first time since my surgery.

There were a few more frustrations along the way – since when did you have to pay 20p to dry your hair at the leisure centre?And who was that grey-haired, puce-faced woman in the mirror?

But overall it was well worth the effort, so thank you, Challenge 31, for inspiring me into action.