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Last week, I had the total pleasure of witnessing over 30 000 people try to run the Virgin London Marathon. What amazed me the most was the variety of body sizes that were competing. There were tall and skinny, short and round and everything else in between. This really got me thinking about what stops anyone from being able to complete this sort of event. My first reaction was – nothing, anyone can run the race but then I started to think back over the past 8 years of teaching Physical Education and all of the excuses that I have had to listen to as to why students could not take part in a lesson. These ranged from acceptable reasons like they had a broken foot to the more silly ones such as they had a cold last week and mum did not want them going outside. I then started to think about all the chat I had from the students during the lessons about why they couldn’t complete a basic run this varied from having tight hamstrings (from a 12yo) to having Asthma. Now as an asthma suffer myself I am finding it harder and harder to accept some of the conclusions that some health care professionals are making about the health of some of the young people that I teach. One student was overweight and did not take part in any physical activity, after complaining to his doctor that he got out of breath when he exercised he was prescribed a blue inhaler! But I am not a doctor and therefore can make no judgements…….but what I have noticed is that even the unhealthiest child, even the biggest child will complete any physical challenge if they have one thing, determination. If they want to do it, if they need to do it then they can and after seeing some of the runners at the 5 mile marker during the marathon they were definitely going to need it, and by the bucket load!

So that got me back to my original question; can anyone complete the marathon? If you conjure up a picture of a marathon runner in your mind they are nearly always skinny, but funny enough I cant remember seeing too many skinny runners (perhaps they were at the front!). I remember reading a book years ago ‘Survival of the fittest’ by Dr Mike Stroud. In it he went into great detail about how human beings are designed to run and to be on the move and how our bodies have not changed much since the times of living in caves and chasing our meat across the fields. In the book he also explains why fad diets do not work. He explains that back in the cave days our bodies would store extra calories consumed in the summer months ready for the winter when food was more scarce. He goes on to imply that when we diet our body recognizes this as a period when food is scarce so that when the diet breaks (and it normally does) any extra calories consumed are stored just in case we starve ourselves again. This explains quite nicely why the majority of people that use diets to lose weight actually end up putting weight on and why the diet industry in this country alone is worth Millions of pounds each year.

So, physically, virtually every human has the potential to run the marathon they just need three key things, a healthy and balanced diet, a good exercise regime and determination. If you have those 3 things what’s stopping you from running in the next marathon? The only thing stopping me? Luck in the ballot! Hope to see you all on the starting line next April in Blackheath and do not forget your determination.

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