RunBrighton Mike

APRIL 2022: Over the last eight years, I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing a wide spectrum of interesting personalities, each with some connection to the running scene in Brighton & Hove – all logged in the Stories & Interviews section of the RunBrighton website. There have been beginners, Olympians, coaches, club captains, race directors, those who’ve transformed their lives through running after drug/alcohol addiction, and numerous stories of running to support a charity. Interviewees have included men, women and children (accompanied by parents), in many cases affiliated to one of the multitude of the city’s fabulous athletic clubs. There have been ultra runners and middle-distance runners and everything in between. And whilst some have now retired from top-level running, others have only recently begun their journey.

I have now completed 99 consecutive monthly articles, dating back to January 2014, and the intention has been to stop at 100.

Having deliberated over who should be the subject of the 100th, I have succumbed to some persuasion from a number of runners that it should be about me.


When did I take up running and have I always been active?

Growing up, I always enjoyed being active. Sports in which I represented my school included football, basketball, athletics (triple jump was my best event)… and my number one sport was table tennis. I participated in the odd cross-country race on a Saturday morning; I seem to remember coming last on one occasion, although I took some solace in the fact that quite a few runners didn’t complete the course, so hopefully that meant I wasn’t the slowest! I don’t think I ever showed much promise as a runner, back then. I remember my best time for 1500m, as a teenager, was a mediocre 5:47. (Now, 40 years older, I can run a fair bit faster than that.)

Having witnessed the marathon in my home town of Wolverhampton, in the mid-1980s, there were a few odd occasions when I had random thoughts of running a marathon myself, got up to around six miles in training then gave up.

It was only when I moved to Brighton at the age of 30, and joined Brighton & Hove AC, that I became somewhat addicted to running. Sam Lambourne (The Jog Shop) found me a place for the 1997 London Marathon. Little did I know then that this would be the start of a long-term obsession to try and break 3hrs (as documented in my book, Running for the B-Team).

What’s my own experience of marathon running?

I had numerous attempts to crack the 3hr barrier, over a period of 16 years. Actually much better suited to shorter distances, I should probably have given up marathon running after the first one. But once I’d set myself the target, I wouldn’t let it go. I experimented with all sorts of factors relating to training and racing and got it wrong, time and time again, so I feel I’m pretty well qualified to advise how not to do it. I narrowly missed my target time on several occasions. Eventually, though, I seemed to discover the right formula and I ran the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon in 2:55. It’s all in the book!

Was breaking 3hrs the highlight of my running?

Absolutely. I’d spent a third of my life working at it. And the weekend was made extra special, having some great friends out there supporting me. Just before entering the stadium for the final 250m, Kev Rojas, Chris Mallinson, and Allison & David Benton were there, spurring me on. I was in tears, overcome with emotion. I’ve never experienced anything like it, before or since. What an incredible buzz, which I still feel now, every time I reflect on it. The rest of the day continued in celebratory mood, as David Kemp smashed his 3:30 target, and Kev won the Half Marathon in the afternoon.

Have I continued to run marathons?

After I finally achieved my marathon goal time, I’ve taken the view that it would be most unlikely that the buzz I got that day could ever be matched. Even if I were to discover additional ways to improve, such that I would break, say, 2hrs50, I just know it wouldn’t come close to the feeling I got when I broke 3hrs.

Who knows?! Maybe I’ll run another, but I have no intention at this stage.

And, as mentioned earlier, I’m better suited to shorter distances. I was long-term injured after Amsterdam – I’d raced so hard, I crossed the finish line with a 9mm tear in my calf muscle.

I’ve subsequently focused on races at the opposite end of the distance spectrum, including 800m and 1500m indoors. In fact, I went on to win a silver medal in the Southern Counties Masters 1500m.

How did my involvement with RunBrighton begin, and how has it developed?

RunBrighton was originally the training arm of Brighton Marathon, owned by Grounded Events. It was formed shortly after the inaugural 2010 event.

Back then, I was a financial adviser… until 2013, when I jacked in my 20-year career. I left my career with a view to having a portfolio of part-time roles. I knew very little about RunBrighton, and the only fixed thing I had lined up, when I quit my job, was a course to teach English as a foreign language.

I did heaps of voluntary work for Grounded Events, and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Sarah Appelhans, who’d been managing RunBrighton, was about to move abroad to get married, and I was offered her job. Initially, RunBrighton just involved four months of winter training and was then dormant for eight months of the year. Its strapline ‘Everything Running in Brighton’ frustrated me, as its only function was to prepare for Brighton Marathon.

I could see huge scope to expand RunBrighton and, after managing it from January 2014, for 18 months, and with Grounded Events having no interest in retaining it, I bought it from them… for £1.

Supported by an awesome squad of ambassadors, all with plenty of experience of distance running, and volunteering their time for free regularly on Sunday mornings, RunBrighton, and its community, has grown quite considerably.

I initially asked around, and it seemed there was an appetite to run a summer season, so now we have both summer and winter training. Summer is normally structured to build up to half-marathon distance.

And I secured sponsorship from Brooks, who have been very generous in providing shoes and kit for our ambassadors, regularly since 2015.

Almost immediately having purchased RunBrighton, I met with Kate Hiscock, Martin Harrigan and David Hill, of Brighton Half Marathon, and they were keen to appoint us as their official training partner. This made absolute sense, as our training for the April Brighton Marathon meant we were naturally ready for the Brighton Half in February. And each year, I organise their pace team.

We’ve subsequently added in a 6-week Introduction to Running course, in the spring and autumn. In fact, the spring 2022 course begins in two weeks’ time, 24th April. The runs are led by the fabulous Ruth Maughan, one of our ambassadors. And it includes Get Strong for Running sessions with Matt Bartsch of Riptide Health & Fitness.

One of my plans, when I started with RunBrighton was to look into setting up a warm-weather training camp. Actually, this was made easy, as I was introduced to Mike Gratton (London Marathon 1983 winner), who had a fantastic camp in place each March in the Algarve, via his events company, 2:09 Events. There was no need for me to set up anything new – we’ve been taking a group to the 2:09 camp each year since 2015. And I’m chuffed to now be part of the current coaching team out there, alongside Mara Yamauchi (Britain’s all time third fastest female marathoner) and Jenny Spink (Manchester Marathon course record holder).

In 2017, I was approached by the local Dark Star brewery, asking if I would organise a running event for them. I put together a 7k fun run, ‘Dark Star 7’, which we subsequently did annually, although the impact of the pandemic has unfortunately meant it has been on hold the last couple of years. It’s a marvellous event, held on a Saturday, starting and finishing at the brewery, culminating with an afternoon of barbecue and live music, and prizes are awarded for best fancy dress.

And apart from all that, as a qualified Coach in Running Fitness through UK Athletics, I enjoy doing one-to-one sessions, with a particular interest in running posture & technique. (I previously spent three years as assistant coach to Allison Benton, whose group includes some very talented, local runners, many of whom have represented England or GB, from middle distance through to ultra events.)

What motivates me and what are my current goals?

I think that after I achieved my marathon goal, my motivation has largely been diverted to enjoying seeing my RunBrighton runners achieve. I particularly feel very proud to know that what we offer often results in lives being changed, in some way, for the better. For many, it’s incredibly rewarding for them to complete their first 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon. And for others, it’s brilliant to be getting PBs in races.

Right now, I don’t have any specific race targets, myself. Owing to a full-on work contract involving very long hours, for the last four months of 2021, which also ended with me contracting Covid, I had my longest ever spell of no running, such that by January I had become incredibly unfit. I just had to turn this around, so have been training quite hard since. My first parkrun back, in Hove Park, 5th February, I ran 22:48. I’ve since been thoroughly enjoying gradually getting that time down, having done five more, to date: 20:45, 20:07, 19:45, 19:39, 19:29. The latter has given me an age grading of 79.56%, so I’m now keen to exceed 80%.

I should add that all my running, so far, has been done in regular running shoes. I’ve yet to try a pair of the super fast, springy, racing shoes that have gained much popularity, and contention, over the last couple of years. I’m told these would take some 30 seconds off my 5k time. And more like 5 minutes off my marathon time. Gosh, how that would have impacted my 16-year quest for a sub-3. I’ve no regrets though; had I achieved that earlier, there wouldn’t be a book!

What non-running stuff do I enjoy?

I’ve always had heaps of interests and love taking on new projects. I’ve done a lot of travelling and am currently writing a book about my round-the-world trip, 1991-1993. And during the pandemic, I set up Good English Matters. I love my music, write songs and have recorded an album… and I regularly go to gigs in Brighton. I’m a keen photographer. I wouldn’t say I enjoy gardening, but I do enjoy landscape design; last year, I dug up my sloping garden, by hand, then levelled and completely relandscaped it. And I love doting on my three little nieces; they’re up in the Midlands, so I don’t get to see them too often, but we Facetime regularly, and I’m looking forward to spending Easter with them.


I hope the above has been of some interest, and I would like to thank all the numerous people who have allowed me to interview them over the last eight years.

By Mike Bannister