The London Marathon. The Great North Run. The Great Manchester Run. Maybe you’ve seen these events on the TV, heard about them through a friend or even been down to watch and support. But what is it that makes them so special? We asked one of the best marathon runners in Britain, Phil Sesemann, why mass participation events are so exciting.
Phil Sesemann finished 10th at the London Marathon in 2022, was the 2nd Brit home and earned himself a shiny new PB of 2:12.10. We asked Phil for his thoughts on the 2022 TCS London Marathon:
“I know it’s really cliché to say it, but the atmosphere around London was just amazing. I was really fortunate that quite a few people knew my name and my friends and family were there supporting as well. That was really special, especially as the intensity isn’t always that high for the first half of a marathon so you’re able to look around and absorb what’s happening. I think we’re really fortunate as British runners to be able to target an event like that and have it right on our doorstep.”
Phil certainly enjoyed his London Marathon experience, which was made sweeter by a great finishing time and position. But his build up to the London Marathon certainly wasn’t as smooth as he’d hoped:
“It was seven weeks after I’d raced in Munich and I’d caught Covid during that time so I was really unsure as to whether I was going to be fit for it and able to put in a good performance. I’d managed to do some big weeks at altitude and thought I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it as much as possible.”
The bigger picture
There’s no doubt that the London Marathon is special for anyone that takes part. But it’s not just London that brings out the crowds and the great atmosphere. Phil spoke of other mass participation events in the UK and what makes them so special:
“People always get behind them which is really exciting. I love the mix at these events as everyone has done different training but, on the day, they’re all there for the same thing – to enjoy themselves and do their best on that day. It’s also pretty cool to be running round big and iconic cities on closed roads and to feel part of something bigger than just yourself.”
It is clear that mass participation events have a special place in Phil’s heart. Phil explained that while elite performance is very important and a critical part of our sport, as too are the grassroots. Those taking part in their first training session, those gearing up to run their first race and even those who take part just to make up the numbers or to score a single point for their club or group; they all form part of a big jigsaw puzzle that helps make athletics and running the sport it is today.
Looking to the future
Having made the GB team for the European Championships and running a marathon PB, there’s a lot to be positive about as Phil looks towards the next few months. Moving forwards, Phil has a few specific goals he is working towards:
“I really want to get as close to 28 flat as possible in the 10k. I would also like to try and run sub 2:10 in the next marathon. The plan is to use shorter races as hard training sessions to get ready for 10ks and then build up the running as quickly as possible. It would be great to improve my aerobic threshold to get five-minute miles feeling much more comfortable. Hopefully I will be able to enter the next marathon block as fit as possible.”
Phil explained that his training looks a little different at the moment as he is preparing for shorter races as opposed to a marathon. He is incorporating a bit more steady running than usual and the volume in the sessions are slightly lower.
“Essentially I’m at the track on a Tuesday, doing some kind of tempo on a Thursday and then something continuous on the Saturday. Then on a Sunday, I do the classic Sunday long run. I like to try and get moving a little bit on this run. Then on the other days I’ll just do easy running and on Monday and Wednesday incorporate some gym work into the week as well.”
As an elite athlete, Phil puts in multiple sessions and runs a week. We asked Phil what his favourite session was, the one he looks forward to just a little bit more than the others:
“I quite like 1km reps on the track. I find that session quite easy to motivate myself for and to break up into chunks. I also really like 20 x 400m which isn’t really a marathon session but it’s one that I’ve utilised since I’ve been doing shorter distances. I think this session is a really fun one to do with a group and it tests you both physically and mentally. You never feel that good for the first few reps, but you’ve just got to keep on grinding and ticking them off and before you know it you’ve only got a couple left.”
Finding a balance
Phil’s job as an elite athlete for adidas is well known on the running circuit. Perhaps what is less talked about is Phil’s other role as a doctor. We asked Phil how he balances the two:
“I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve only ever previously worked part time so I could balance my training and competitions with my medical career. I’m now at a period in my medical career where I can have an indefinite amount of time for my training and pick up the odd locum shift when needed. I also make sure to keep on top of my yearly appraisals but at the moment the balance is very much towards the running side of things and I feel very lucky to be able to do that.”
Phil makes sure to give both his careers an even priority. Running has always been his passion and he feels fortunate to be able to dedicate so much time to it each week.
The ultimate training partners
Those who follow Phil on social media will have undoubtedly seen pictures of his dogs running next to him. Named after two running legends, Haile Gebrselassie and Eliud Kipchoge, the two dogs certainly help Phil with his weekly training. We asked Phil who makes the better training partner:
“That’s a difficult one. They’re both really different. So, Haile is almost a year and a half now and she’s so enthusiastic for being outside and running. You’ll never have to worry about her slowing down or stopping but she can be a little more chaotic. Whereas Kipchoge is around 4 years old and she’s a lot steadier. She’ll just stick next to me as I’m running. She knows the routes now too so she’ll stop about 20m before the turnaround points and wait for you to come back. So they’re both very different but great to run with.”
Has Phil’s story inspired you to take part in athletics and running? Whether you are thinking about running with your dogs, getting involved with a club or a RunTogether group or taking part in your first mass participation race, there are plenty of ways to be involved with our great sport.
Taking that first step to get involved with athletics and running can be easy, but staying part of the sport can be really quite tough. As Phil says, training with other people and having your friends and family to encourage and support you can make all the difference.
If Phil’s story has made you consider taking part in a mass participation event, why not check out what’s coming up over the next year? There are plenty of races to get involved with both on and off the road.