Continuing our series on celebrities in the London Marathon. This week: Nick Barratt
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.
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
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.
Nick Barratt is running in support of the charity ChildLine. See www.justgiving.com/ NickBarrattMarathon, www.nickbarratt.co.uk or www.childline.org.uk. For more information on this month’s Flora London Marathon, which takes place on April 22, see www.londonmarathon.co.uk. Nick’s genealogy column is on page 16.