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Danny Bent is handed a pint of London Pride on completing the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon in 2020

Enjoy your run

How to enjoy your Virgin Money London Marathon experience, with Danny Bent

Danny Bent is an experienced marathoner, award-winning author and journalist and London Pride running ambassador – he was also voted one of the 100 happiest people in the UK, so knows a thing or two about staying positive and making the most of your Virgin Money London Marathon experience. We talk to him about what he enjoys most about running, how his family inspires him to keep going, and the importance of having a treat to look forward to at the end of your 26.2 miles.

When did your London Marathon journey begin?
I first ran the London Marathon almost 20 years ago when I was a feisty 21-year-old just to see what I could do. That was lovely. You never forget your first London Marathon. There’s nothing like the feeling you get coming up The Mall to the Finish Line. It’s a massively emotional, positive thing.

Which London Marathon did you enjoy the most and why?
My most memorable marathon was when I did it with my parents and two sisters in 2003. Running has always been something I share with my family – when I was two I was running up and down the road we used to live on, holding my mum’s hand as my dad was doing hill reps.

My family are my best mates and a massive part of that is going for a run together when we meet up, which we still do now even though my dad is in his seventies and my mum in her sixties. Rather than sitting around the TV in silence, we’re laughing and joking as we compare cuts on our legs where we’ve had to run through brambles or we’ve fallen over.

What made that Marathon Day so enjoyable?
I actually had an absolute nightmare during the run – in fact, my mum ended up beating me by a few minutes, passing me with one mile to go. I made the classic mistake of setting off too fast and by Mile 8 my calves were indented with cramp. At any other time I probably would have pulled out, but how many other family groups like ours were running the marathon that day? Probably none, so I had to make it round as there was no way I could let everyone down.

Despite that it was an experience that will never be beaten, ever – although I am talking to London Pride about us all running together again this year!

How did you get involved with London Pride?
I’d been on a night out with friends and had tagged London Pride in my social media posts because we’d been drinking their beer. The next morning I got a message from them asking if I’d be interested in running the Virgin Money London Marathon as London Pride ambassador. What an amazing opportunity! I have a half-decent social media following so they could see I really love running, but I also really love life and having a beer with my mates.

Running has brought me love, it’s brought me friendship and a sense of community that is epitomised by the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Danny Bent

What do you enjoy most about running?
Running has brought me love, it’s brought me friendship and a sense of community that is epitomised by the Virgin Money London Marathon. The running community has supported me through everything I’ve done. I know how good running is for me – it’s my meditation and the place I go to solve my problems and have quiet moments – why wouldn’t I want to introduce other people to that as a London Pride ambassador? It’s really beautiful to be in a position to give back to the community that I’ve taken so much from.

You were due to run the Virgin Money London Marathon with London Pride in April 2020 – what did you do when it was postponed?
Because I just love running I was still happy to get fighting fit for April regardless. When the original date came round I didn’t want Covid to destroy the day I’d been hoping for completely – so I drew running numbers on some paper and did the 26.2 miles with a friend in the Peak District where I live. We had a few stops where we did fun things like handstands and had a picnic to help make a day of it.

After the Virgin Money London Marathon was postponed all the running community was hoping an official event would still happen in 2020 and, by the time the virtual marathon was announced, excitement was high.

Why do you think that was?
The virtual Virgin Money London Marathon presented people with a great opportunity to do something different. For me it meant I could start my marathon at the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, where London Pride is made, and then head down some of my favourite routes along the Thames Path. It was gorgeous as there were a lot of other runners doing the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon on that day, so I was running past people of all different shapes, sizes and nationalities. It was a really lovely experience.

  • Danny Bent makes his way along the Thames Path as he takes part in the 2020 virtual Virgin Money London Marathon

Danny makes his way along the Thames Path as he takes part in the 2020 virtual Virgin Money London Marathon

How did that experience compare to running the real thing?
It was interesting – obviously you don’t get thousands of people cheering your name, but instead you see people you know. I know a lot of people in London – I organise a fitness community there and had founded The London Relay, which broke the world record for longest continuous running relay and raised £50,000 for charity – so people recognised me in my London Pride vest. I’d be running over a bridge and people would be driving by flashing their lights or stopping to say hello. Those moments became more special because they weren’t happening all the time, so when they did happen, they just gave me so much energy. It was a lovely surprise!

What have you learned over the course of your marathon-running journey?
I’m 41 now, so I tell others who are the same age, or people who are 39 and worried about turning 40, that it doesn’t all end there – it can actually get better! I ran for London Pride in 2019 and broke my personal best as a 40-year-old. Then I did another personal best of 3:04 in 2020.

In fact, you can replace age with anything – when we put our running shorts and trainers on, we’re all equal. People cheer you on in the Virgin Money London Marathon no matter who you are or what you are. What a beautiful example that is to the rest of the world.

Do you have any advice for participants on Marathon Day?
Above all, enjoy it. It’s great to have goals to aim for if you want, but if you’re not an elite athlete and you’re not pushing for two hours, your time doesn’t have much relevance. No one else is judging you. Just make sure you’re smiling at the end.

Of course, I’d have to add how amazing it is to finish your run and have someone hand you a London Pride – because last year’s marathon was virtual that was able to happen. It doesn’t get much better than that for me! So make sure you have a treat waiting for you at the end of your marathon too.

To read more about Danny and his latest adventures visit his website, or follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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