Marathon secrets from an ‘Ever Present’

marathon expo 2010Steve Wehrle (68) is one of 12 ‘Ever Presents’ running the London Marathon this year. He is part of a special club of men who have run every single marathon since the first race in 1981. Members of the club can only leave, no one new can join. All the members are men as only 5% of participants were women in 1981 and none have continued past 15 years. The men are now aged between 57 and 82 years, some retired, others teachers, solicitors and Steve a paper manager. None of them are ‘elite athletes’ (although many record impressive times) in the formal sense just people who love to run. All have been through their own versions of hell and high-water with injuries, illness and scheduling just to get to the start line year after year. This will be Steve’s 36th London marathon and his 50th marathon. Steve has raised over £10,000 over the years for charity, including the British Heart Foundation, Dreams Come True, Cancer Research and St Christopher’s. Steve coaches and runs with Orpington Road Runners and Dulwich Runners and I was privileged to catch up with him ahead of London 2016 to find out more.

How did you start running?
At 30 I was a little overweight from beer and not enough exercise, so I started jogging and built up to 5 miles a couple of times a week with a friend. When I suggested the first London Marathon he said ‘You must be mad’.

What was the first race like in 1981?
Lots more room, only 6,000 runners versus the 38,000 today. The loop around the Isle of Dogs was empty of both people and buildings.

What has been your best race?
My dream was to break 3 hours and I finally did in 1991. I discovered afterwards that Seb Coe was a minute ahead of me. If I’d have known I’d have gone even faster.

What has been the toughest race?
In 2010 I had sciatica which triggered a shooting pain up my right leg whenever I ran. I could only jog the first couple of miles and then I slowed to a walk. There was a great atmosphere at the back though with BBQ’s going on the embankment and I ended up ambling along whilst eating a chicken leg!

What is your training formula for the marathon?lanzarote 1997
I normally run 4-5 times a week which looks as follows;
Tuesday – easy 4 miles
Wednesday – 6 miles with Dulwich Runners
Thursday – easy 4 miles
Friday – 6-7 miles with Orpington Road Runners
Sunday longer runs 10-13 miles usually which are increased from Jan – March each week in order to get up to the marathon distance.

How have you kept motivated to get out and train for the marathon over the last 35years?
Once we knew the Ever Presents (officially formed after 1991- the fifteenth London marathon) were a very small group that no one could just join that became the motivation.
At both years 20 and 30, as we got older some of the other Ever Presents said they wouldn’t do any more, but guess what… most were back the following year!

When the going gets tough in a race what do you think to help keep you running?
Some races I switch off and think about other things, but sometimes it is better to concentrate on what you are doing and tick off each mile as you go.

What works best for you in terms of race day eating, refuelling and hydrating?
If it’s a Sunday race like London, carbs, usually pasta on Friday night, then much plainer food on Saturday. My favourite pre-race meal the night before is cod, parsley sauce, mash and spinach. My top tip is don’t over eat the night before!
On race day I’ll have a banana, toast with honey for breakfast. Then a carbohydrate sports drink 20 mins before the race and then water from the stations as I go along. Plus I usually carry at least 3 gels with me on the day to have at 12, 16 and 21miles.

When you look back over your running career, what would you say to a new runner who is just starting out?
Enjoy the freedom of running, it’s like being a child again, putting on a pair of trainers and being able to explore. Once you are reasonably fit explore away from the roads and traffic.