As if running 26.2 miles wasn't challenging enough, 40-year-old Paul Bennett from Winchester has ambitious plans to tackle the London Marathon 2017 in brogues.
A stiff leather dress shoe featuring decorative perforations, brogues are usually favoured by snappily dressed gentlemen as opposed to long distance runners.
With almost 60 marathons and ultras under his belt Paul is no stranger to endurance running, but adding brogues into the mix is set to be the challenge of a lifetime. However, like all good challenges Bennett’s comes with a back story.
‘I’m a shoemaker by trade and actually make the shoes I’m running in,’ explains Paul. ‘A colleague of mine Mark Jeffrey is also running the marathon. His father had a shoe factory in Northampton and made military boots for the First and Second World War for servicemen in the air force, the navy and the army.’
A meal with friends led to his ambitious marathon challenge. ‘We got the original shoe patterns and made a selection and after a chance meeting, decided to run for the charity The Patten Makers Charity who make orthopaedic footwear for ex-military servicemen, so I find myself out training in brogues now!
A 2:48 marathon runner, despite his running pedigree Paul has found adjusting to the training a challenge in itself. ‘I did 1.8 miles first off and it went OK. The brogues have got no heel and fortunately I’m a forefoot runner. I think if you were a rear foot runner it would be a bit more of a problem. But then the 10K really got me, the fronts of my toes were pretty hammered!’
Paul currently runs in brogues once a week. ‘I’m trying to up the mileage to 10 miles this week. Then I plan to run the Winchester 10K, then probably about 15 miles in them and then I’ll have to wait and see on the day.’
‘It’s hard because I’m obviously trying to train myself for the marathon normally, but also trying to get my head around the fact that I’m doing it in the shoes,’ he adds. ‘It’s the sound that’s actually really annoying. With trainers it’s more forgiving – the best runner is the silent one. But I’m not the quietest runner now, you can hear me from miles away!’
With a sub 3:30 marathon in his sights, Paul’s main concern will be managing the pain. ‘Once I get used to the fact my feet will be in pain, it’s going to be a question of when rather than if.’
He has plans in place to combat blisters. ‘I’m going to have to tape my little toes. I’ve been out training and they are almost instantly painful so I’ll have to get used to them!’
But he is not concerned about permanently damaging his feet. ‘Having done quite a few longer ultras where I’ve been on my feet for 40 hours, the fact that I’m going to be doing this in shoes for a maximum of four hours, long term damage should be limited.’
Paul’s friends and family have been supportive of his ambitious plans. ‘In the industry I am a cobbler so it ties in with what they know of me and what I’m doing,’ he says.
‘My family think it’s a bit silly but they can understand why I want to do it and obviously with the cause – I’m off to Hedley Court to meet the servicemen and women that we’ll be raising money for. It’s a great cause and very apt for what we do as a career.’
He's just hoping for good weather. ‘If I get rain in my shoes then it’s game over!’
Paul Bennett is raising money for The Patten Makers Charity, who fund orthopedic footwear for servicemen and women at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre. To donate click here or follow his journey on Twitter @Shoerundiary