Easy miles are the secret to success says London Marathon winner Mike Gratton.
To be fair when the customer you’re serving has a paparazzi-like photographer and a notebook scribbling journalist in tow, you’d too would raise an intrigued eyebrow. “Why are they with you,” our barista asks, directing the question towards Mike Gratton, clearly the centre of attention.
He laughs and explains that he once won the London Marathon and we were on hand to ask a few pre-marathon questions and photograph him running, something he loves more than ever 37 years after his 2:09:43 victory.
“Amazing,” the barista enthuses. “That is amazing,” she repeats, still stunned by his time, “my father ran London and he did ok, but you’d beat him by more than an hour!”
Yes, it is a fast time, but Mike’s is a story we can all learn from. To all of us, such an incredible performance is out of this world, but by his own admission he wasn’t the swiftest runner, more a club runner who simply loved getting out and putting some miles in. Progression was the name of the game for Mike and it’s something we all can take heart from. And even today most of his running is on the rolling footpaths around his home. Even though he’s in his 60s now, he is as dedicated as he has ever been. Building an aerobic base is how Mike describes his love of all things running. “Today there’s far too much emphasis on high-intensity work. Mileage – just getting out and going for a run – is the key to success,” he explains.
These days Mike, the founder of the travel company 209events.com is a coach and has discovered mileage is a method that has stood the test of time. Backing off the really tough stuff and putting in relaxed miles off-road, preferably without a watch is the way forward. “I never used to time or measure anything,” he says. “I had a Sekonda watch that could tell the time, but that was about it. No stopwatch and certainly no GPS.” It’s more about exploring, not fretting about pace – all the time slowly building your strength.
That strength is still very much in place and although by his own admission he’s out of shape now, occasionally his name appears in race results – the odd 5km inside 19minutes, a half marathon well inside 90 minutes. Even as a 60-plus runner, simply loving running is still paying off.
Photo by Mark Shearman