My passion for running is like a Russian doll. Let me explain:
In general, I love running. Within that I am really passionate about endurance running. Moreover my real passion is for road running and within that, my particular predilection is for road marathons. At the very heart of this multi-layered structure, however, lies the London Marathon. The ‘London. The ultimate race as far as I am concerned.
I have run plenty of races: the New York marathon a couple of times. Similarly Berlin’s marathon. Paris once. Copenhagen. Florence. They were all great. But the ‘London… that really is the race for me. That is the one that I want to test myself on time and time again. That is the race I will be pitting myself against come April 2014.
Great marathon deserves a great hub
And so it was that I used to go to the London Marathon Store in Covent Garden. Well, actually near Covent Garden, on the road towards Drury Lane. I loved the clock above the door that counted down to the next London Marathon. I liked the idea that this was somehow a different store. I enjoyed talking to the staff who were knowledgeable and helpful (I once went in looking for a pair of ASICS Tathers after they had been discontinued and the manager ‘found’ a pair in the stock room for me, months after everywhere else I tried had said there were none available). But in reality the ‘London Marathon Store of old’ was just a shop. And then it closed.
New London Marathon Store
So I was intrigued when I heard rumours through the twittersphere that there would be a new London Marathon Store opening. First of all Nick Pearson, MD at Sweatshop, started dropping hints. Then a friend who works at Sweatshop’s Trump Street branch confirmed that the London Marathon Store would be rising like a phoenix from the ashes, this time near to Liverpool Street. The store was opening today and I couldn’t wait to have a look, so I braved the cold and the rain to get down there with my camera, to bring you the first look at the place.
In much the same way that the old London Marathon Store was not quite in the heart of Covent Garden, the new one is near Liverpool Street rather then on Liverpool Street. Come out onto Bishopsgate, opposite the police station, and turn left. The new store in on the ground floor of an office building a few hundred meters along on the right.
Modest on the outside, different on the inside!
As you approach the building it is unassuming, but that somehow seems appropriate. The quiet, almost drab exterior belies a cavern of London Marathon fun inside which starts with the corner entrance, filled with print-outs of London marathon race numbers and a screen showing clips of the race over the years.
Once you step inside the store, there is as much kit as you could hope to see anywhere. One of the downsides of the old London Marathon Store was that the size really limited the range of stock that could be displayed. Not so here. Sweatshop (who seem to be behind the store, but I am a little confused by the relationship here) have got a great range of kit. As you would expect, due to their relationship with the race, adidas are in full effect with more kit than you can shake a stick at – the adiZero range of apparel is really lovely. There is plenty of other choices as well and the gear from Nike, New Balance, Ron Hill and Gore Running all caught my eye.
Then there are shoes for every type of runner and every possible terrain. There is a big glass wall of shelves behind which sit two treadmills for gait analysis (much like at the Trump Street store). On these shelves you will find as comprehensive a range of shoes as any I have seen available in the UK.
The big difference in the London Marathon Store
But I guess that is ‘so much, so what’ – this is a superstore of running for sure, but that doesn’t really differentiate it from other big running stores. That is why you need to lift your eyes from the massed ranks of credit-card battering kit. Then you will see why this should become a destination for London Marathon fans.
- At the end of the shelving racks there are iconic shots of famous London Marathon runners: Eamonn Martin, Steve Jones, Joyce Smith…
- There is a display on one wall showing the course of the marathon and the elevation (bloody flat in case you were wondering!).
- There are ‘road signs’ showing all the streets that the runners will travel along (including my favourite Ha Ha Road, SE18) around the walls.
- There is a wall covered in perspex boxes each one containing the medal from every London marathon since the first one in 1981 (there are still some gaps so if you have an early London marathon medal you could lend the shop, in return for fame at least, let me know and I’ll pass on your details to Sweatshop).
- And perhaps best of all, on the ceiling there is a map of London with the route of the marathon, including the three different starts, mapped out with coloured fluorescent tubes. Be sure to look up when you come in.
Still to come
The London Marathon Store as it currently stands, is well worth a visit in my opinion. Especially if you are going to race the London and want to soak up a bit of history and inspiration.
I am assured that there is also more to come. The basement will become a hub for runners, run by adidas. I was told there will be lockers and showers along with organised runs and other ways to wallow in London Marathon-ness.
In due course there will be official London Marathon merchandise.
And there will be friendly, knowledgeable staff, happy to chat about the best race in the world* whether or not you are after some new kit. Though I think even the most hardened penny-pincher will find temptation there… maybe just a new pair of shorts that will be perfect for that race come April (oh, go on then…) If you go and see what it’s all about, please let me know what you think.
The London Marathon Store can be found at 1 Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate, London E1 6DB open from 9 November 2013. Nearest public transport is Liverpool Street (tube and trains) and Shoreditch High Street (overland).
* I know I am biased, but I do think that the ‘London is the best marathon going. Disagree in the comments section if you have a better suggestion.