The Virgin London Marathon Camp has been running successfully at St Mary’s for a number of years. The programme it embraces enables young athletes to participate in group training sessions and Q&A sessions with international athletes, as well as receiving expert advice on topics such as nutrition, injury prevention and athlete lifestyle.

Two of the Club’s leading young Junior female athletes – Elizabeth Greenwood and Grace Handley were recently invited to attend the London Mini-Marathon Training Camp at St Mary’s College. The residential camp was attended by ninety athletes, between the ages of fourteen to seventeen, who were selected from their performances either at the London Mini Marathon, English Schools Cross-Country and National Cross-Country Championships.

The Club asked both girls if they would share with us their experiences and below are their thoughts.

Grace on the Barrier and Liz in the next line waiting to go

Grace on the Barrier and Liz in the next line waiting to go

Liz’s Memories

After arriving at St Mary’s College in Twickenham, slightly later than the other runners due to my holiday, I was excited to meet some of the other athletes. Everybody was really friendly and I made lots of new friends who I will see at upcoming races.

On my first morning I went on a steady 40mins run around Bushy Park followed by a drills session on the track. This was great as we were taught what we should be doing before a session in order to be fully warmed up and ready to run. After this was a psychology workshop and circuits. We had two special guests at night who were Ross Murray and Collis Birmingham who are both world class runners. These athletes told us about their careers and we were able to ask questions.

There were lots of options for meals however there was a seven point system where we weren’t allowed to go over seven points for our meal or else we had to pay. Each main course, for example pasta would be three points and any sides like vegetables and chips would be an extra point. Desserts were two points and drinks were one point. This was hard to stick to for some of us as we had big appetites, especially after lots of running.

On my second day we woke up at 7:30 in time for breakfast ready for a track session at 10:00. We warmed up using the drills we had learnt the previous day. The session was tough but really enjoyable and the coaches were very encouraging. Mick Woods ran the session and Steph Twell helped out along with others. After lunch was an anti-doping talk followed by running injury audit and a strength and conditioning class. We were told how to avoid common injuries in athletes our age which was very useful. In the evening we all watched the Diamond League from Stockholm.

Friday morning was another steady 40mins run followed by a steeplechase workshop. This was great fun especially when everybody jumped in the water at the end to cool off. Next was a nutrition workshop. We were split into small groups to make some recipes chosen by the nutritionist that were especially good for runners. This was really good however my group made fruit nuggets which didn’t look appetising at all and didn’t taste too good either. Some of the food other groups cooked was quite nice though as we were able to try them all at the end. At night we had a quiz in which all of the girls did terrible. Also we had a visit from Andrew Osagie who reached the Olympic 800m final and was 5th in the world champs a few weeks ago in Moscow.

On the last day we had a tempo session in Bushy Park led by Mick Woods before packing up and getting ready to go home. We had lunch, said goodbye to everyone and then got ready to make the four hour journey back home. Overall I really enjoyed the camp and think that I learnt a lot from it and gained more confidence. I hope that I will get the chance to go again in the future and meet some of the people again. It was very tiring but great fun!

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Grace’s memories

I was selected to attend the London marathon camp on 20th of August to the 25th-joining 89 other athletes. I was picked along with 14 other junior girls from the wide range of 100s from our age group. The camp lasted five long,hard,tiring days to leaving my body close to exhaustion when I returned home.

Day 1:
Once the junior girls and I got to know each other we all felt like we had known each other for years as we got on so well. Being around the likes of athletes like Lucy Jones-national champion-was a bit daunting at first,however it was a good thing to be around athletes like Lucy as I learned so much of her and what her training life style was like compared to mine. The first training session was that afternoon and by the time we had warmed up in the 26 degree heat I was already hot and tired, although with the adrenalin still pumping through me i started and finished the session well, keeping up with top athletes who I never thought I could keep up with.

Day 2:
With a 40 minute run at 9am a lie in was not a question on the first morning-as I got up at 7:15am to eat before 8am. Once the run was over there was no chance of a cold shower as we were straight onto the track learning new hurdle exercises and drills for two and a half hours! When I was finally able to shower and have lunch there was no time for rest as we were straight into more learning with a physiology and psychology talk-taking up 6 pages of notes to take home! As soon as we were finished we rushed for a drink and then to the sports hall for a circuit class which lasted a long hard hour. After the session it was straight to a cold shower and a well deserved piece of cake with dinner!

Day 3:
With a training session at 10am on the track we were up early once again to have breakfast before we trained. With the rain gently falling from the sky we started out the session already soaking wet, however with it being 23 degrees we never felt the cold. Even though track isn’t my favourite terrain I performed  well-already showing my progression from the training the day before. Once dry and fed we all walked to our classes with my group attending two more talks one about anti-doping and one about injury-both being very interesting and had sections I can relate to my athletic life-style. Once the notes making was over and my brain was fit to burst with all this new information 29 other athletes and I attended a running robustness class, which helped enlighten us about the many ways to prevent injury, that take up only 10minutes of our day!

Day 4:
With an intention to run at 9am everyone was up early again ready for another exciting day however with the group so big the younger groups did a later session at 10am giving us an hour after breakfast to have a power nap in our rooms before we went out for our run. 10 minutes after our run we were straight into a steeplechase workshop-as we learnt to hurdle and jump onto the steeplechase and into the water. I really enjoyed this part of the camp as I’ve always wanted to try steeplechase but I’ve been to scared because of my small height. Once we were finished we showered, had lunch and attended:a lifestyle talk by Jessica Judd’s coach,a training method/major championship talk and a nutrition cooking class! With all this packed into one afternoon we were all shattered by 10 and all returned to bed.

Day 5:
With the end of the camp that afternoon everyone was up early to pack before the last training session at 10am. The rain was pouring down all night, leaving the ground soaking wet so once we arrived at Bushy Park the terrain was very muddy. However being one not to complain at mud I pushed myself to the absolute max through the tempo session-getting everything I could out of it. Running back to the camp from the park my two other friends and I jogged at the back in pain from pushing ourselves so much! After a gruelling 20minutes of running we made it back to shower and got ready to leave.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of meeting 3 famous Olympic athletes, shattering training sessions and educational talks and I hope I can keep up my standards to be selected again next year.