3 Feb

Running Fast and Slow

Visionary Peter McHugh started Run-Fast as a sports management agency helping talented Kenyans run outside of Kenya, often for the first time. From that beginning Run-Fast has developed into a multi-dimensional project that now incorporates retail, event management and community involvement …

The Run-Fast story begins in Italy, gains pace in East Africa and culminates back in central London. It’s a story of one veteran running enthusiast’s vision and drive. When Peter McHugh took part in the Carpi Marathon in Northern Italy some years ago, he became friends with a contingent of Kenyan athletes who enquired whether he might be interested in managing them.

Peter is incidentally one of the ‘stars’ of the award-winning short film The Runners – check it out online to get an impression of this colourful character. An invitation to Kenya proved irresistible although Peter was taken aback when at a meeting to vet potential athletes, more than 60 top class runners appeared.  

Peter McHugh surrounded by athletes in KenyaKeen To Run
Thus Run-Fast as a sports management company was launched. The early group of runners who came to Britain included Edwin Kipyego, who claimed the Birmingham, Great Eastern, Reading and Bristol half marathons and Gordon Mugi, winner of the Robin Hood Half Marathon and Poole 10K. The following year 2011 Alice Mogire took first place at Cardiff, Run to the Beat and Porto half marathons as the Run-Fast team lifted prizes across Europe, in Asia and Australia and in North America. In 2014 Run-Fast stars were winners at Barcelona, Warsaw and Edinburgh marathons.

Making British Better
Meanwhile Peter McHugh felt that the Run-Fast project could work for British athletes too and he arranged for London Olympics hopeful Tom Payn to train in Kenya for an extended period. Tom flourished during his sabbatical at Iten, the high altitude town renowned as training centre for runners. Initially he struggled in the testing environment but settled and made excellent progress. He was widely accepted by his Kenyan hosts, who renamed him Kiprop, ‘man who arrived when the rains came’.

Back in Britain Tom ‘Kip’ Payn’s Olympic dream was ended by injury although his marathon PB of 2:17 highlights how close he came. Peter McHugh recognised Tom’s passion for running and was loathed to see him drift away from the sport. He offered him a key role on the Run-Fast management team and Tom accepted.

Cared For By Kip
Tom’s job was to make sure that athletes coming to the UK could look forward to a welcoming and supportive environment. The Run-Fast operation was focused around their office in central London and the nearby Run-Fast house in the Barbican where visiting athletes lodged. Event entries, travel arrangements, training plans and all the logistics around an elite athlete’s life were dealt with by Tom and a small admin team. Check out the full roll call of Run-Fast athletes at run-fast-management.net and you’ll gauge the success of the project.

That roll call now includes a number of emerging British athletes like Paul Martelletti and John Beattie and this reflects the other side of the Run-Fast elite coin which enables promising British runners to prepare and compete with top Kenyans and to benefit from training opportunities in Africa.

The Cathedral Calls
But Peter McHugh’s vision is not limited to those at the top of the pyramid, he believes that running is for all. He’s concerned that modern life is far too sedentary and that we would all benefit from more physical exercise. With that in mind Run-Fast has developed a series of initiatives to broaden the appeal of running.

A flagship project is the Amba Hotels City of London Mile. This is a high profile event which starts outside St Paul’s Cathedral and takes in some of the capital’s top landmarks. The Mile is free but is organised to a high standard and participants receive medals, goody bags and prizes. Run-Fast’s aim is to create an inclusive event in central London which is accessible to all. The morning’s race card includes the main event, the family mile, the women’s mile and the youth mile (11-16 years). 2014’s inaugural running was a huge success and another piece of the Run-Fast jigsaw fell into place.

In a similar vein support for the Greenwich and Lewisham Junior Cross Country League has seen the development of links with schools in south-east London and local track sessions have seen Run-Fast elite athletes mentoring kids from less affluent backgrounds.  

Retail & Therapy
A major development for Run-Fast was the opening of The Running Works in Houndsditch, central London. The Running Works is an ambitious retail project which has seen an extensive space transformed into a hub for all things running. The store is at the heart of activity in Houndsditch where Nikki Rees leads an enthusiastic and experienced team and is creating a front-rank retail operation. A large and flexible main space showcases a great range of shoes, clothing and ancillary products. Flexibility means easy transformation into a lecture/discussion space and Nikki is working on a programme of talks for the second half of 2015.

Additional facilities include rooms for physio and massage plus changing accommodation with showers. Morning, lunch and evening run clubs will soon be operating from the store and are certain to be popular with City types looking for convenient exercise opportunities close to work.

The store is also home to an excellent café - the Secret Frog Coffee Co. Lots of healthy food but one or two post-run treats too. Your correspondent can vouch for the lemon meringue cake!  

What Now For Run-Fast?
The story of Peter McHugh, Edwin Kipyego and his buddies, Tom Payn and Nikki Rees is a fascinating one. A reflection of the way in which running has become a mainstream activity in contemporary Britain; and how there are many dimensions to the sport – elite performance, mass participation, community development, event organisation and business activity included. A fascinating story and one that is still unfolding. Watch this space!

Find out more about the Run-Fast story at their website.