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Q&A with the NFU's London Marathon runners

28 September 2021

Q&A with the NFU's London Marathon runners

With less than five days until the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon, #TeamFarmAfrica are preparing to run 26.2 miles around London’s prestigious landmarks. The NFU’s Vice President and farmer, Tom Bradshaw, Dairy Adviser, Phoebe Russell, and County Adviser for Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Oliver Rubinstein, are all taking part this year, so we asked them a few questions about their training, motivation and that all important treat after the finish line.

Hi Team NFU! What are you most looking forward to about this year’s London Marathon?

Tom: Finishing it! In all seriousness, many people say the crowds are amazing and it will be a great experience.

Phoebe: The atmosphere! I’ve attended the London Marathon as a supporter before and it was such a fantastic day out, so it will be great to be on the other side of the barrier and running! This year will be even more special as this is the first marathon in London post Covid-19.

Oliver: Reaching the finishing line!

Why did you originally decide to start running?

Tom: To raise awareness of rural mental health with #Run100.

Phoebe: I’ve dipped in and out of cross country running since primary school but I’ve always wanted to run the London Marathon, so in 2019 I looked into applying – and here we are!

Oliver: So I can continue to eat as much as I like.

What are you dreading the most about the London Marathon?

Tom: 26.2 miles – it is very daunting, never having run a marathon before!

Phoebe: Foam rolling my calves out in the days following the marathon! In addition to ripping off all of the kinesiology tape that will be holding me together!

Oliver: Mile 25 I think.

Farm Africa: It’s a good thing our cheer point is at mile 25 to give you a boost of encouragement!

Tom Bradshaw, Farmer and NFU Vice President

How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run? 

Tom: I’m very competitive at heart and Strava has been a great motivating tool.

Phoebe: By reminding myself that every challenging experience is only temporary… and the post-marathon recovery will likely be less brutal if I actually get the miles in!

Oliver: Having the goal of training for the marathon has really helped. I’ve also been looking at the work done by Farm Africa and I know I’m running for a good reason. Running has always been part of my routine and I find it relaxing (most of the time).

Phoebe, you took on the virtual London Marathon in aid of Farm Africa last year. What have you learnt from your previous marathon?

Phoebe: Train properly. Fuel properly. Stretch properly. Last year, I completed the marathon along the Peddars Way in Norfolk and it really snuck up on me with a less than ideal number of miles banked before the big day. I naively ran a hilly trail route (who knew that about Norfolk?) with an overfilled backpack full of food and drink on my own. It was quite a challenge with only my thoughts for company (in an attempt to save phone battery!) but still extremely enjoyable and rewarding and I’m proud that I did it.

Phoebe Russell, NFU Dairy Adviser

How are you going to treat yourself after the race is over?

Tom: Steak!

Phoebe: Beer, cheese and milk. Then a Pina Colada.

Oliver: Eating even more than usual…

Have you suffered any injuries or setbacks in your training this year?

Tom: I had three weeks off training after a hockey injury. In hindsight I think it did me the world of good! Beforehand, I was always trying to run as fast as I could and beat my previous time, but now I’m following a training plan and sticking to it.

Phoebe: Yes, I think it’s unavoidable - but committing time to foam rolling, using kinesiology tape, a percussion massage tool, gua sha, ibuprofen gel, thai oil and loads of stretching tends to do the job! Inevitably, something else will hurt more during the run - it’s like a lottery of what niggle comes along next!

Oliver: Fortunately, no injuries for me (touch wood), but I have struggled to find time for some of the longer runs, which has meant a few runs through the countryside by torchlight.

Oliver Rubinsetin, NFU County Adviser for Bedforshire and Huntingdonshire

Why have you chosen to run for Farm Africa?

Tom: Farm Africa is a fantastic charity; it's not a charity that hands out money or food. It helps farmers to build businesses, grow their harvests, increase their incomes and sustain natural resources. Partnering with governments and the private sector to find effective ways to fight poverty, this is a charity that quite literally transforms lives by putting world-class expertise into farmers' hands.

Phoebe: I was inspired by my NFU colleagues who previously tackled the marathon for Farm Africa and since then I have learnt a lot about the amazing work they do. Global food security and sustainability are growing ever more important, so I’m very pleased my fundraising will help such a worthy cause.

Oliver: I’ve always been really impressed by the work Farm Africa does and the emphasis that they place on sustainability. I really support the idea of equipping farmers in eastern Africa with the tools and knowledge they need to build resilient, sustainable businesses.

Do you have a message for your supporters?

Tom: Until I started training for the marathon, I had always thought it was about the day itself.  I still haven’t completed it yet, but I now realise just how many hours go into training and the hundreds of miles that you have to cover in preparation. 

Phoebe: Thank you so much, your turn next!

Oliver: Thank you for all your support. It means a great deal to me.


Sponsor the NFU

If you would like to sponsor Tom, Phoebe and Oliver (who will be celebrating his 30th birthday with the mighty run) for this weekend’s London Marathon, please donate what you can and help Farm Africa grow futures in eastern Africa. Please click here to visit their fundraising page.

Want to join Farm Africa’s cheer squad?

If you would like to don a green Farm Africa t-shirt this Sunday and join us in central London to motivate our runners, please click here for more information.

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