Con­tin­u­ing our se­ries on celebri­ties in the Lon­don Marathon. This week: Nick Bar­ratt

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Wellbeing -

Star of BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and au­thor of Week­end’s “Fam­ily De­tec­tive” col­umn, Nick Bar­ratt is not ev­ery­one’s idea of a nat­u­ral-born ath­lete. Steeped in re­search and his­tory, he is some­one you might ex­pect to find an­chored to a desk or in some dark ar­chive rather than on a run­ning track. But ap­pear­ances de­ceive and this lithe aca­demic is likely to pro­duce an im­pres­sive foot­note when he starts the Lon­don Marathon.

Do you have a his­tory of run­ning?

At school I was en­cour­aged to take up run­ning but pre­ferred soc­cer. Nowa­days I man­age the club I still play for, Hamp­ton Corinthi­ans. I ran my first marathon in 2005. I was do­ing very well un­til about 16 miles in — I was on for about 3hr 20min — when my calf mus­cle, an old foot­ball in­jury, tore. I walked the last 10 miles, which was dis­ap­point­ing. That’s my sob story. This is my sec­ond marathon.

Are there past gen­er­a­tions of Bar­ratt run­ners?

My fa­ther was very much into ama­teur ath­let­ics when he was younger, but no one stands out in my fam­ily his­tory. I’m the first Run­ning Bar­ratt.

Why en­ter this race?

Sheer bloody-mind­ed­ness. A lot of peo­ple said you’ve done it once, stop. But it’s nice to sup­port Child­Line, which is very de­serv­ing. And I think you need to set your­self a per­sonal chal­lenge each year. I want to know if I can still do it. I want to run a proper time and not get in­jured two thirds of the way around.

So how long will it take you?

I’ve got a bet on with my busi­ness man­ager. If I fin­ish in un­der four hours, she’ll stop smok­ing. I’m sav­ing her life by do­ing this.

It’s not very book­ish, is it?

You should meet some of the me­dieval his­to­ri­ans I know. We’re a younger gen­er­a­tion who aren’t tra­di­tional tweed jack­ets with leather patches, horn­rimmed glasses and wild grey hair. There are many good young aca­demics com­ing through the ranks, though it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in my field of per­sonal her­itage where you do tend to get an older de­mo­graphic — I’m 36. But we even used to have a me­dieval foot­ball team.

Do you find it hard to train?

It’s hard to find the time, but when I’m out there it’s great. I tend to run ev­ery two days at the mo­ment: a cou­ple of eight­mil­ers and a longer run to­wards the end of the week. I did have an in­jury worry just be­fore Christ­mas. I stupidly played foot­ball and within five min­utes cracked a metatarsal, the in­jury of choice among foot­ballers. A bit of a set­back.

Do you lis­ten to mu­sic when you run?

No. I find it dis­tract­ing. You get into the run­ning zone far more eas­ily if there’s noth­ing to in­ter­rupt your thoughts.

What should new run­ners tell them­selves?

Don’t overdo it. Don’t set off too fast. Don’t over-train in the weeks be­fore the race. Prac­tise run­ning with reg­u­lar wa­ter­breaks. And don’t un­der­es­ti­mate how painful it’s go­ing to be.

How’s your body hold­ing up?

Eight miles is fine. But 13, 16,19… as I grad­u­ally push it up, it gets quite tough. You get the usual in­juries — chaf­ing and all that. It’s not ap­peal­ing to de­scribe be­cause it does en­tail a cer­tain amount of wear and tear on the body.

Jog­ger’s nip­ple?

I won’t say where the chaf­ing hurts the most. But that’s an­other tip when you run: don’t ever turn down the Vase­line. You’re do­ing your­self no favours.

What would you like the crowd to shout at you?

Prefer­ably not “Who do you think you are?”, given that’s what peo­ple say all the time. But I don’t mind, so long as it’s not abu­sive. Train­ing is a lonely ex­pe­ri­ence and the crowd can give you a great lift to­wards the end.

Does the Lon­don Marathon do any­thing for the

na­tional spirit?

It does enor­mous good. Be­ing part of some­thing na­tional gives the run­ners some­thing to aim for and the crowd some­thing to sup­port. Ev­ery­one seems to ben­e­fit from it. It’s amaz­ing.

Ni­cholas Roe

Nick Bar­ratt is run­ning in sup­port of the char­ity Child­Line. See www.just­giv­ Nick­Bar­rat­tMarathon, www.nick­bar­ or www.child­ For more in­for­ma­tion on this month’s Flora Lon­don Marathon, which takes place on April 22, see www.lon­don­ Nick’s ge­neal­ogy col­umn is on page 16.

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