Wimbledon Clinics

Wimbledon Clinics

Interview with Tom Bedford

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What inspired you to start running?

I started running when I was at school. I got into cross-country and other sports, and soon found it to be a good outlet for my energy.

 

Were you competing from an early age?

Yes, I competed in athletics and on the track with steeplechase. That was my main driver, I used to enjoy the success I had with it.

 

What’s the most rewarding thing about running?

It’s tough because the things that reward you are the things that you have to work at; that’s the main game. It could be completing a distance that you’ve never achieved before, or it could be improving your time. It’s rewarding when you’ve trained for weeks and you start to see the effects of your hard work.

 

Are you training at the moment for a specific run?

At the moment I’m just running for fitness, so I tend to run between three and five miles at a time. As I’m not training for a specific event, there’s less focus on time and distance – however getting out there and clearing your head really helps when you’re feeling stressed.

 

What advice would you give to other people who are preparing for races?

Get into a routine. Rather than being sporadic or thinking “I’ve got a bit of free time here and there”, decide which days in the week you can train, and then stick to them.

If you don’t make training a priority and it’s not part of your schedule, life will take over. Before you know it, you’ll be down the pub for a beer, telling yourself, “I’ll do that training session tomorrow”. Remember, a minimum of three times per week is an absolute minimum for any running event. And try to introduce variety in your sessions – don’t just stick to your local run around the park, try splitting it up into slightly longer runs at a slower pace, plus some shorter bursts of running at a faster pace. This will help you to test yourself, and is a great way of tracking your progress.

 

For beginner runners, would you recommend getting involved in clubs?

It’s hard when you’re starting out because at that stage you’re the worst you’re ever going to be – so it can be very difficult for you to do this in a social capacity. I would suggest a park run on a Saturday, as it’s non-competitive. The chances are that you’ll find the level of running to be quite relaxed (so you can take faith in knowing that you’re not going to be the last person around the course). Alternatively, if you have a few friends who are of a similar running ability, take them along with you. There’s nothing better than running, whilst simply nattering with some pals and letting go of life’s frustrations!

 

Any kit you wouldn’t be without?

Trainers are the most important. They’re also the most cost effective item you will purchase because, even if you stop running after a while, you can still use them for walking or for other sports. If you’re ever going to spend decent money on running equipment, those are it. Now that summer has arrived, normal cotton t-shirts will start to get soaked – so dry-tech running tops are useful.

 

Top tips for preventing injuries whilst running?

Listen to your body and respond to running niggles. Your body will tell you very early when certain injuries come up – however this is where the stubbornness of runners comes into play. People will say, “I’m sure it will sort itself out”. I coach some elite juniors over 800 metres and the message that I’m always repeating to them is to always be ahead of injury and never behind. You can do that extra run with that niggle, but once it turns into something else it can become a big problem. My best advice is to stay ahead of it and listen to your body.

 

What inspired you to set up Richmond RUNFEST?

We set up Richmond RUNFEST (previously known as Richmond Running Festival) four years ago as an Olympic legacy event that celebrated London 2012, but also the amazing features of the borough of Richmond. It’s the only race that includes Kew Gardens, which is where the race kicks off. Today, there’s a 10K run, a half-marathon and also a full-length marathon, which takes a beautiful route through Hampton Court Palace. We’re very fortunate to have the Palace involved  – we’ve got quite a few races on this year and they collectively require 26.2 miles of volunteers, marshals and traffic control. So it all requires a lot of good planning! The race finishes back in Richmond with a free music festival featuring some great local bands.

 

Anything for kids?

We also have the kids Nike mile races in the afternoon, which makes it a great event for not just for runners, but also for the spectators and families. We have 2016 Olympians coming down on the day helping out and so far we’ve always had good weather – so it really is a good event to celebrate the sport.

 

What does it take to set up a running festival?

Lots of sleepless nights – and having to jump into the unknown. There is a lot of pressure because you’re constantly pushing different obstacles to the finish line in September: sometimes things need to be pushed back, sometimes things work out extremely well. We were always clear from the start what we wanted to achieve, and that we wanted to create something that would be received as well locally as it was by the wider community. It’s about taking risks, but also making sure that you stick to the standards that you want to uphold.

 

What would you like to achieve this year?

We’re really pleased that we’re expanding the kids’ races. That was one of our main things. We give out 1000 free entries to local schools and the children get a t-shirt and proper adult medal to take away at the end. We celebrate that more than anything else. Our main aim going forward is to get more and more kids into sport in the right way. We believe that running should be a celebration of our physical ability, as well as an enjoyable, valuable skill that can impact beneficially on children’s lives.

 

What do the parents think?

There are kids who have taken part in the event for three years in a row, and when we’ve spoken to their mothers, they’ve said that they’ve kept and framed all of the medals. There is a real sense of pride and achievement for them. It also helps them to realise that perhaps you can do something if you put your mind to it, which is a great lesson for youngsters in life.

 

How important is the charity aspect of RUNFEST?

Extremely so. Last year the event raised £350,000 for charity, which is a huge jump from the first year when we raised £50,000. Our projection this year is £500,000. We work with not only national charities but also smaller local charities, which we also help to educate – so they understand the importance of getting fundraisers on board. The event works with over 50 charities in the UK and we donate 10% of our event takings directly to charities and community projects. So on top of the event fundraising, we’re probably one of the few events that gives back directly with grants and everything else.

 

What sets you guys apart from other running events?

From an adult runner’s point of view; the course, the medal and the t-shirt. We pride ourselves on having some of the best medals and t-shirts in the game. But generally I do believe that as an overall event it’s probably up there in terms of doing really good things as a community event. We’re also very reasonably priced in comparison to other events – you get a bigger bang for your buck when you run with us!

 

What has been you proudest moment in the past four years?

The event is so big, so it’s difficult to pick just one. To have Jo Pavey (who has just been selected for the next Olympic games) take part and win our race was a very proud moment. But sometimes it’s the small things, like some of the letters that we receive from parents who have said, “I would have paid £20 for our kids to come today but you’ve been giving this out for free,” or, “My child sleeps in his race top with his race number medal hung up on his wall”. So yes, that’s probably one of the highlights.

 

Do you have any plans to set up events in other locations?

We do. We have had opportunities, but with the Richmond RUNFEST being such a massive event now, it does takes up a lot of time. We are looking for something else, but it has to be right. If it’s just a financial opportunity, then we’re not that interested, but if there’s a special location, where we can make a great impact, then watch this space…