Tom vs. Ben Fogle in the Royal Parks Half Marathon

23 October 2014
Ben Fogle vs Tom Holt
Tom, our Digital Comms Coordinator, had never run a race before he signed up to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon. But when he found out Ben Fogle would also be running he made it his mission to beat him. He tells us how he got on: 

I began 2014 in a bad way. A particularly indulgent festive period of overeating, over-drinking and under-anything else-ing had rendered me a soft-shelled, bleary-eyed version of myself. I realised something had to be done when I consumed an entire pack of jaffa cakes without noticing. I decided to take up running.

For someone whose fitness level had never really risen above that of a jacket potato, running was initially a very unforgiving pursuit. I put on the closest thing I had to sportswear and haphazardly stumbled along the pavement to the end of my road, stopping at regular intervals, clinging breathlessly to lampposts. I returned home, puffy faced and exhausted at having covered a herculean one-and-a-bit miles.

I pressed on, and things slowly improved. I began to run further. I bought fluorescent orange trainers that looked like they should have been going a lot faster than they were when I wore them. I began to not dislike running. For my birthday I was given a pair of special shorts. Things were getting serious. I signed up to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

Enter Ben Fogle

Training was going well. Then – a bombshell. I found out that Ben Fogle, esteemed adventurer, author and television man, was also going to be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon. The goalposts shifted dramatically – my aim was no longer to finish the race; it was to do it in a better time than Ben Fogle. As far as I was concerned it was Beat Fogle or Bust.

Race day arrived. I got up early and ate lots of porridge. It was a cool morning, overcast – excellent running conditions, but conditions that I knew only too well would also be to the benefit of Fogle. I took the tube to Hyde Park for the start of the race. I could hear Fogle talking through the event PA system, giving advice to other runners. Typical Fogle, I thought, playing mind games, trying to throw me off the scent.

After a short wait, we were off. We passed through Green Park, past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace. It was a beautiful route, a great atmosphere and heartening to see runners in the cheery blue and yellow of the Children with Cancer UK vests.

Spectators called my name, which was stitched to the front of my top. At first I wasn’t sure how to respond. Wave? Smile? Guess their name and shout it back? After a few miles I resolved that a double thumbs up was the most suitable reply. When in doubt, do a double thumbs up.

The finish line

I entered the final mile with heavy legs, but knew that I had to push on to give myself a chance of beating Ben Fogle. I stumbled over the finish line with a time of 1:43:48, but still no idea whether or not I had matched him. I collected my medal and found my girlfriend, whom I had asked to track Fogle using an app on her phone. She told me his time: 1:48:02. ‘You beat Ben Fogle!’, she said. I embraced her and she said something about me being sweaty, but I didn’t really hear - I was in a state of Fogle-beating euphoria.

I returned home and reflected on my victory. Although Ben Fogle had no idea the contest between us had taken place, I was pretty sure he would want a rematch. Would I do it again next year? Absolutely. Bring on Tom vs. Fogle 2015.

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