I wasn't going to go. I did Paris and Frankfurt marathons in 2017, both with big expos, so the only advantage of this show seemed to be language. However, I saw the programme of speakers on the main stage and decided to make a weekend of it; treating it more as a conference than a trade show. I'd heard many of the speakers interviewed on Marathon Talk over recent years and the opportunity to hear from so many of them in-person, was one not to be missed!

I planned to just plonk myself down on a seat for the entire weekend, so was a bit alarmed when I got there later than planned and it was standing room only for the opening talk. However, as the day progressed seats were vacated and were politely filled after much "after you"/"no after you" such as you'd never see on a budget airline (or in the queue for the 3D gait analysis apparently). This meant that I could have a seat most of the time; although I realised much of the politeness is that runners don't like being sat still for long, so standing up for some talks was preferable.

The talks were crammed in and credit goes to the speakers as none of them overran by more than a few minutes, keeping things largely on schedule. Given more space in future years, it would be nice to have more stages with different themes and time for speakers to expand on their subject, but then you risk having two popular speakers on at the same time and upset people. However, it would have allowed for more advice talks. Apart from a couple of talks, most were really people's stories. They were deeply inspiring stories nonetheless, and mental health popped up as a regular theme. So, although Jenny Meadows' talk was advertised as about injury prevention, when all I recall her mentioning was a fancy foam roller on the stand opposite, it didn't really matter as her story nicely spliced with those of Kelly Holmes and Jo Pavey either side.

The expo part of the show was surprisingly good. I got some advice about how to wear the Aftershokz headphones I got for Christmas, I bought some gloves that would work with my phone and met the team behind my insurance policy who were also able to sort out a slight technical issue I had with my account. Many people seemed to be hoping for more sale items of shoes and clothing, but this was a show at the NEC not a bargin basement sale, so I think the types of goods and services were right for the occassion, just needing some more big names to add a bit of glitz.

There were lots of other things going on that I didn't use, such as "meet the expert" sessions, nutrition advice, 3D gait analysis and sports massage. Some of these seemed quite hard to get into, especially the 3D gait analysis which had been pushed a bit too much in the promotional emails considering the capacity they had to take people.

If you are thinking of going in 2019, I would recommend it. Go for the day (Sunday was quieter in 2018) if you are not interested in the speakers, or make a weekend of it if the speaker list wows you. I stayed in a hotel on the NEC complex, which happened to be where all the speakers were staying too. Fortunately for them, I resisted the temptation to interrupt their breakfast as I'm sure they needed a bit of "me time" before the day started. They may not be so lucky next year!

About Matt

Not known for sport at school, I took up running in my mid-forties. Very soon I caught the running bug and progressed from the Couch to 5K programme, via parkrun, various 10k races and the Great North Run to running marathons and beyond in the UK and overseas. Now in my fifties, I still run fast enough to impress my friends and family, but not fast enough to think I've missed a vocation as an Olympian!

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