Man on a mission

In the build–up to the Marathon of Marathons on 31 Oct, we talk to some of those taking part. Here, Bjorn Tremmerie, a principal at the European Investment Fund, reveals his injury setback, talks of his determination to achieve a top-quartile finish – and reaches for a tulip bulb analogy

Is this your first marathon?
It’s my sixth marathon. The first was the New York Marathon in 1998 when I lived over there. I didn’t get an entry but a friend got one and gave it to me as he hadn’t trained for it – not that I was properly prepared but I fancied the challenge – so I ran under his name. I do have a video to prove it was me! I got married in 2004 and my wife’s family are avid marathon runners. They talked me into doing the Jungfrau Marathon in 2005 in the Swiss Alps. Over the course of the run, you climb some 2,000 metres. I did another Alps marathon in 2006. Because these marathons were so difficult my best time up to this point was 4½ hours, even though I had done a lot of training. I wanted to know what all that training effort could be worth in a normal, flat marathon. Therefore, in 2007 I ran the Istanbul Marathon, which I completed in 3 hrs 23 minutes, and then in 2008 I did Cologne, which was my best time of 3 hrs 18 minutes.

So why elect to run the Marathon of Marathons?
At the European Investment Fund we know Campbell Lutyens and, when they got in touch, we decided to make an effort as a firm. The fact that it was for such a good cause made it all the better. Also, the race is quite a unique event celebrating the 2,500th anniversary of the marathon, i.e. the most beautiful of all races. This helped me pick up again with my pace of one marathon per year. Last year, my wife had our second baby and unfortunately my marathon training schedule was not compatible with the new family situation, so my marathon career had to skip a year. I need family support to do a marathon as I know it involves training five or six days a week. The good cause and the historic character of the race meant that my wife gave me that support and we’re planning a nice weekend with some time spent in Athens. The children are staying in Belgium!

How is your training going?
I normally have a 12-week schedule, which has been my normal preparation for four of the five marathons I’ve done. New York was different because I didn’t know how to go about training then. I have a four-week build-up period, four weeks of intense training and then a four-week taper-down. I do 60 to 100 km a week over five or six days. I need to do a 12-week blast because I don’t do a lot of running outside marathons, although I do play squash and soccer in winter. This time, I started a little bit earlier than usual because I wanted to do a time of 3 hrs 15 minutes – so I started in mid-June. I did 50 to 60 km for five weeks without much preparation before, and was training through a heat-wave. Then I started feeling a lot of pressure in my legs. I went to the doctor to see what was wrong and he told me I had compartment syndrome [a dangerous build-up of pressure within the muscles]. So I stopped training for three weeks. All the good work of the previous four or five weeks was lost. Luckily, thanks to compulsory rest and powerful medication, I’ve been back training again since the third week of August and my fitness level is gradually improving with some 350km in the legs.          

So what time are you aiming for now?
To run it and not walk is my first goal following my injury over the summer. My target is to get below four hours, ideally 3½ hours, but I’ve given up on 3 hrs 15. I’ve never done a better time in the second half of marathons than the first half because I’m always ambitious at the start but ideally you should be speeding up at the end. This time I’m going to start slowly and then try and make up for the slow start.

Do you have any tips/advice for other runners?
Running long distance is a great sport but it can be devastating for your body if you start unprepared, as I have experienced first hand over the summer myself. I would therefore advise other runners interested in running their first marathon to go and see a specialist who can look at the way you run, your posture when you are running and whether there is any problem that needs addressing – by wearing insoles, for example. Also, remember that you are building yourself up all the time you are training. Don’t train too hard, have faith in your schedule and don’t be tempted to test your progress during each training session. Someone mentioned to me the tulip bulb analogy: don’t go digging down each day to see how far up the soil the plant has come. As long as it’s watered, it will grow when it needs to grow.     
How is your fundraising going?
€10,000 was the target set but I don’t yet know what the final level of support will be from colleagues at the European Investment Fund. I’m currently at around €1,800 but I only really started fundraising at the beginning of September with the intention of it being a two-month condensed exercise. At EIF I’m part of a team of some 15 people altogether and we do a weekly blog on the intranet, where I’m being interviewed about the Marathon of Marathons, the charities, training progress etc. The idea is that this will create awareness and momentum and encourage people to donate, and I still have six weeks of internal blogging to go. The fundraising is therefore also an excellent team building exercise.

Is there anyone you are trying to beat?!
There are three answers to that. One: everyone who finishes is a winner, whether it takes you five or six hours or whether you walk or run. To finish is an accomplishment in itself. Two: I have my personal best time to beat although that goal may be compromised for the time being. Three: someone from EIF pointed out to me that I need to be top quartile because that’s the relative performance measure for the private equity industry in which we operate and therefore it should also apply to me. And who am I to disagree …?

The Marathon of Marathons – organised by Campbell Lutyens, PEI Media and UNICEF – commemorates the 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Marathon and Pheidippides’ epic run in 490 BC with news of victory. It will be an unforgettable day as the runners trace Pheidippides’ footsteps all the way to the finishing line at the Panathinaiko stadium, home of the modern Olympic Games.  

Details of Bjorn Tremmerie’s fundraising effort can be found at:

Further details of the Marathon of Marathons, including how to join the prestigious Supporters Club, can be found at: