Jonathan Pearce and Sophie Raworth share their marathon inspirations

Both broadcasters reveal the deeply personal stories behind their bid to run the marathon

Jonathan Pearce, BBC football commentator


“This will be my fourth London Marathon and it gets harder every year. What spurs me on is knowing that I’m running for a great cause. The Lily Foundation was founded in memory of my niece, Lily Merritt, who died when she was just eight months old from a rare and incurable heart disease.

“I’ll never forget Lily’s dad, Dave, carrying this tiny little coffin into the funeral. It’s something you don’t ever want to see. So if my running can help raise money to find a cure and prevent other people from having to go through that, it’s the least I can do.

“I covered the London Marathon for 15 years and never really engaged with it, but once you run it, it really is an emotional and humbling experience. You see runners with photos of the loved ones they’ve lost on their back, so I spend most of the marathon in tears.

“I’m backed by many football managers and players. Alan Hansen always sponsors me and ribs me about how many weeks it’s going to take me to finish, and Joe Cole is another who has always been really generous. My best time is five hours, 50 minutes, but I’ve got a crumbling pelvic condition so even if I waddle round in a day, that will be something.

“I’m a grumpy devil when I run because I hate it. But I run with Lily’s dad, Dave, and his smiling face keeps me going. I always struggle at Surrey Quays, about ten miles in, because that’s where the crowds start thinning out.

“But I’ve developed a tradition when we pass a certain pub on the Isle of Dogs. On my first marathon I sat down next to this guy and pinched a few slurps of his beer. That gave me a bit of a rush and got me going again, so now I do it every year. Watch out for your beer if you’re sat outside.”

Sophie Raworth, BBC newsreader

“Running the London Marathon is like childbirth – after last year’s agonies I thought, ‘Never again.’ But when the St John Ambulance volunteers asked me to run for them, it was the least I could do after how well they’d looked after me.

“Last year I collapsed with heat exhaustion after 23 miles. It was very hot and I hadn’t drunk enough water. For 20 minutes I was unconscious and when I came round I thought I was dying.

“It was the most frightening experience of my life, but the St John Ambulance staff got my temperature down from 106°F by covering me in ice packs and pouring water over me. For two hours they looked after me, providing lots of reassurance and sugared tea.

“They wanted to put me on the bus, but I wasn’t having that so I jogged to the finish, where I met my family, who’d been worried sick. As the hours passed they’d had no idea what had happened to me.

“I’ve trained hard again, but this year I’ll take on more water. I’ll be wearing a heart monitor, so if my heart rate rises rapidly, I’ll know to slow down. And if it’s really hot, I’ll wear a hat.

“I’m aiming to finish in four hours, and I’ll look out for the team who cared for me so brilliantly at the 24-mile station. Only this year, I hope to give them a wave and a shout, rather than arrive on a stretcher!”

This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 17 April 2012.


Coverage of The London Marathon begins today at 8:30am on BBC1 and on BBC Radio 5 Live