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Health: No hiding place at the marathon masterclass for real runners.

Successful athletes are lithe, composed and confident - so a flat-footed, knock-kneed novice was always going to stand out in a crowd of accomplished runners.

Two weeks ago, more than 200 people - in their final weeks of training before the ING New York Marathon - met at the Hawker YMCA in Richmond, Surrey, for a "marathon master class" in fitness, nutrition and performance.

Despite donning some serious running kit - Aasics Kayano trainers, this season's "must have" shoe - there was no hiding my fear.

What had I been thinking? Did I honestly believe that after months of training and a handful of 10k and half-marathons I'd be able to fool the real runners?

After hearing about how the marathon course winds its way around New York's five boroughs, and where the tough spots were, it was time for a training run around Richmond Park.

Split into four paced groups - seven, eight, nine and ten-minute-plus mile - I opted towards the nine-minute group. Well nobody wants to admit they are the slowest, do they?

For a second perhaps I believed my own positive thoughts, but just three miles into the nine mile run I began to fall to the back.

However, some credibility was regained when group leader Mike Gratton, director of 2:09 Events which is taking 1,020 runners to New York, admitted we had been running a bit too fast.

It appears the first few miles hadbeen run at a sub-eight minute mile pace before I developed an agonising stitch which forced me to slow down. Afterwards, Mike explained: "You were doing very well until you got stitch at about three miles.

"However the 9min group got off to a very fast start, we were actually running at about 7 minutes 50 seconds pace, so you were going much quicker than you would in the marathon."

But my speedy start had also highlighted a problem with my gait, in particular my knees.

"I noticed you are slightly knock-kneed, so you should buy some inserts for your trainers.

"This can affect your Achille's tendon. It may not be causing any injuries at the moment but it could in the future, so it's best to guard against that factor between now and New York."

Mike, who became the second British man to win the London Marathon in 1983, assured me the vast majority of people at the training day were charity runners, rather than serious athletes.

"About 60 per cent of the people we are taking to New York are also first time marathon runners, most of whom are running for British charities.

"And a marathon is hard. It's not just about the race, it's about the preparation, commitment and perseverance Emma Brady is running the ING New York Marathon on November 6, to raise at least pounds 3,000 for Cancer Research UK. To donate go to www.justgiving.com/emmarunsnyc
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 24, 2005
Words:478
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