I managed to get two free tickets to The National Running Show (usually £10 each) which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham over Saturday and Sunday. The event first took place in 2018 and brings together exhibitors, sports personalities, guest speakers, sponsors, charities, and run enthusiasts.
Due to the fact that there is a lot to see and do at The National Running Show, I would recommend taking a look at the floor layout and Main Stage times. This year there were a number of different guest speakers who each had a 30 minute time-slot on the Main Stage. The full line-up can be found towards the bottom of the page. I have also outlined the interactive features, expert areas and exhibitors below, however first I am going to discuss my personal experience of the day.
My Highlights Of The National Running Show:
Chris and I arrived at The National Running Show for 9:30am. We parked on the Crowne Plaza Hotel using pre-paid parking. This was the cheapest parking option at £6.25 for all day parking.
Originally I had wanted to arrive for the 9am to see the grand opening, however the Sat Nav took us on a bit of a detour! The parking was also a 5 minute walk from the NEC. Once we had entered the main NEC building, we were tasked with finding Hall 19 at. The stewards must have seen our bewildered looks as they jumped in to offer us directions.
Upon entering Hall 19, we were prompted to show our tickets and then given an empty Runderwear carrier bag, a larger goodie bag and The National Running Show guidebook. The goodie bag had three High5 electrolyte tablets which you dissolve in water and use to stay hydrated during racing or training, some Breakfast Super Oats and a few leaflets for upcoming races.
Throughout the course of The National Running Show we ventured to every single stall at least once. The first stall which really grabbed my attention was actually not really running related.
The Guide Dogs:
The Guide Dogs were there to raise funds and had brought two guide dogs with them. There was also a sensory tunnel for anyone brave enough! The idea was to navigate through the short tunnel whilst blindfolded. I contemplated it but ultimately didn’t want to take the risk of falling over with my half marathon taking place the next day. We gave a donation and collected a “dog’s nose” (like a Comic Relief Red Nose but of a dog instead!). They were advertising places for the London Landmarks Half Marathon, however I already have another race booked on that day. I did, however, register my interest in other upcoming events and also signed up for the chance to win a free pair of trainers. After spending some time with the dogs and talking to the trainers we moved onto the next stall.
I lost track of time so actually missed the first 5 minutes of Jo Pavey’s speech on the Main Stage. By the time we reached the Main Stage all of the seats had been taken and there was a large crowd. We joined the back of the crowd but struggled to hear what was being said. After a few minutes we moved on.
I was a bit disappointed to have missed her talk, however that feeling didn’t last long. On our way out of the venue we spotted Jo doing a question and answer session for Saucony. There was a small group of people crowded around. I joined the crowd to hear her answer questions and then managed to have a chat with her at the end. I asked her about cross-training and her preferred methods. She recommended indoor cycling and aqua jogging with a flotation belt. I had my photo taken with her and also got her autograph, which really made my day!
RawVelo was probably my favourite energy bar sample of the day, and I must admit I did try them all at least once! The texture was great as it didn’t taste chalky but was soft instead. I tried a sample of the Chocolate Walnut Brownie and the Chocolate Raspberry bars and enjoyed both. They are also vegan, which is a nice bonus. Unfortunately they weren’t actually selling these at the show, just sampling the bars and selling energy gels.
Run Around Europe:
Whilst browsing The National Running Show website I noticed a link to “run to the NEC”, so curiously I decided to check it out. It turns out that Run Around Europe are a virtual running company where you can run a virtual map around Europe, America and Australia and track your progress. Data syncs from Strava, or you can manually upload your run using evidence, and you then follow your progress around your chosen map. There were a few routes to the NEC, ranging from 24 miles to over 100 miles. I chose a 50+ mile route and linked my Strava account. All of my runs from January 1st synced seamlessly and I completed the run to the NEC.
When at the NEC, if you visited their stall and showed them your completed route, you got a free gift. Naturally I was curious so I headed over, armed with my smartphone map. I received a black wristband which said “I ran to The National Running Show”.
In addition, they also had a deal on where you could get a year membership, plus a 2018 t-shirt, vest top or beanie hat for £28. Alternatively, you could take a leaflet with a 25% discount code to register at home. The usual price for a yearly membership is £40, so that’s a pretty decent saving. In hindsight, I wish I’d have signed up for the £28 and got my free t-shirt, but I had so much going on that I forgot to go back at the end!
LightUpU offer a wide range of different flashing and standard lights to help you be seen when out at night. From flashing phone holder armbands to lights which clip onto a dog’s harness, they have everything covered. We also got to spin a prize wheel for the chance to win a pedometer. I span first and won, however Chris’s spin was a millimetre short so he just missed out.
Train As One:
I had briefly looked into Train As One in the past, however had never really taken much notice. At the moment I plan my own training as I have never found a plan which matched how I wanted to train. Train As One is an adaptive plan which adjusts to your paces and effort. According to the gentleman on the stall, you can train by heart rate or pace, and specify which days you want to train. You can also tell the plan when you want your speed work or hill interval day, and specify how long you want to spend (min. and max.) per day. It is something that I will consider looking into, so I took a leaflet and also entered a competition to win a Garmin 735XT.
Moving onto the recovery section and Pulseroll got my attention. I have seen them advertised elsewhere and their products do look interesting. They are basically a foam roller (they also do the massage ball variant) with a built in 4 speed vibration. I was definitely tempted to purchase one, however they are a bit pricey for an impulse purchase. At the moment I have a standard non-vibrating foam roller, which really doesn’t get as much use as it should! This is a product that I will do some more research on and consider for the future.
These are definitely not something for me! Vibram Five Fingers are barefoot running shoes. That is, they are shoes with minimal cushioning and actually separate the toes… almost like a glove, for your foot! I can’t even wear flip flops so the thought of having anything between my toes is a definite no-no.
To my surprise, Chris wanted to try them. He has tried a few pairs of running shoes and also has expensive custom orthotic insoles. He is really flat-footed and struggles with knee pain. To quote the doctor, he “is the most flat-footed person he has seen” and “definitely isn’t designed for running”. Chris tried a pair of the Vibram V-Run’s on and took them for a short run on the treadmill. He was unable to use his insoles as that negates the point of the shoe, but commented on how comfortable they felt. He had tried a pair of ON support shoes earlier in the day but found that they hurt his knees. The V-Run’s were on sale at The National Running Show for cheaper than online, so he took the plunge and purchased a pair. Hopefully they will help him to run further without discomfort.
This year more emphasis was put onto the interactive features part of The National Running Show. Previously there had been 3D Gait Analysis, The Run Café and The Run Clinic available. This year five more interactive features were added.
The full list of interactive features:
3D Gait Analysis
Assesses your joint movement patterns to examine how you run. This can help improve running form as it looks at your ankles, knees, hips and pelvis. It can also ascertain if you require supportive shoes or insoles depending on your pronation.
A series of exercises which enable you to move more effectively, efficiently and pain free. This is especially useful for injury prone runners.
Musculoskeletal strength and flexibility testing is available to measure the strength of your muscles and the range of motion in your joints. It can be useful for prevent injuries and improving running efficiency.
The Run Café
A great place to meet like-minded people and unwind. There are a range of healthy snacks and drinks available for purchase.
The Run Clinic
There will be live biomechanical analysis to help understand the movement patterns of a runner. Learning about movement patterns can help reduce the risk of injury and improve the efficiency of your running.
The Testing Track
There are a number of activities available at the Test Track. From “Redefining The Warm Up” with Gareth Walton, to “Strength and Conditioning For Running” with Maurice Ryan. Asics, Fitness First, Saucony, New Balance, ON and England Athletics all had various workshops and offerings.
Brilliant Shoe Discovery
This is a service offered by SafeSize. They offer a 3D Foot Profile by scanning your feet to help you find the perfect running shoe.
The Running Bookshop
Here you will find a wide range of running, fitness and nutrition related books. Throughout the day there will also be guest book signings.
There were also a number of zones available where you could get advice or information:
Ask The Experts
There were 6 tables available throughout the day where you could have a 15 minute one-to-one chat with a range of people. Some examples include Paul Evans, Steve Edwards, Andy Hobdell, Asics, New Balance, etc.
Nutrition Advice Zone
Find new recipes or ask questions about how to fuel your workouts. Some of the featured sessions included “Fuelling A Marathon A Month As A Vegan” and “Fuelling Extraordinary Adventures”.
Demonstrations on how to self-manage plantar fasciitis, shin splints and Achilles tendinopathy. There were also tips on how to avoid blisters and black toenails.
Sweat Test Zone
There were free sweat tests available to help you stay hydrated and avoid cramp. Advanced sweat tests were also available which determine how much sodium is lost in your sweat. This data can then be used to create a personalized hydration plan.
NoblePro were on hand with three models of treadmill to try-out. There were special discounts to be had and also a competition draw to win an Amazon Fire Tablet.
There were a range of experts available, including physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, podiatrists, sports therapists, sports rehabilitators and sports massage therapists.
There really was something for everyone at The National Running Show. In fact, Chris actually spent more than I did! From running shoes and clothing to vegan energy bars and protein supplements, it really is a runner’s dream!
It’s a great way to try out new things before making the decision to purchase them. Similarly, there were a lot of free samples being provided. As such, I lost count of the amount of free protein bars and re-hydration drinks that I sampled!
As well as new items, it’s also a good way to find out about races which you may not have heard of before. White Star Racing were there to advertise their events, along with MBNA Chester Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll Events, Simplyhealth, Ealing Half Marathon, Cannonball Events, Spartan Races, Dartmoor Running Holidays… the list goes on.
Whether you have been saving up for some running gear or on the lookout for some bargains then The National Running Show is a great event to attend. There are a lot of discounts to be had on a wide range of products. There were running t-shirts from £5, discounted training plans, even £100 off treadmills with a free Bluetooth heart rate monitor included.
Some of the most popular exhibitors were:
- New Balance
- Zone 3
- Up and Running
- KT Tape
- Virtual Runner
- POW Virtual Running
- Medal Mad
The Main Stage area was constantly busy, so it’s important to get there early for any talks that you are interested in.
For 2019 the schedule was as follows:
- Saturday = Grading Opening with Roger Black and Jo Pavey
- Sunday = Grading Opening with Paula Radcliffe
- Saturday = Welcome From The Hosts (Susie Chan and Ben Smith)
- Sunday = Welcome From The Hosts (Susie Chan and Ben Smith)
- Saturday = Running Dangerously (Jordan Wylie)
- Sunday = Breaking Barriers (Paula Radcliffe)
- Saturday = Going The Distance; Putting Mind To Matter (Jo Pavey)
- Sunday = Chasing Extraordinary By A Famously Un-famous ‘Extraordinary’ Chaser (Nikki Love)
- Saturday = Sprinting Towards The Dream (Roger Black)
- Sunday = The International Marathon Man Of Mystery (David Hellard)
- Saturday = Science Vs. Reality (Alex Cook)
- Sunday = becoming Forrest – Completing Running’s ‘Everest’ (Rob Pope)
- Saturday = From Non-believe To Achieve (Iwan Thomas)
- Sunday = Running Circles Around Cancer (Jenny Baker)
- Saturday = Getting The Very Best Out Of Yourself (Mara Yamauchi)
- Sunday = Panel: Mind Over Matter (Luke Tyburski, Allie Bailey & Rob Shenton)
- Saturday = Panel: Preparation Is Key (Mara Yamauchi & Alex Cook)
- Sunday = Facing Failure (Aleks Kashefi)
- Saturday = Running Africa Coast To Coast 4000km (Brendan Rendall)
- Sunday = Old Man In The Chair (Huw Jack Brassington)
- Saturday = Don’t Be Afraid Of A DNF (Claire Maxted)
- Sunday = Fuel Your Run (Anita Bean)
- Saturday = Get Up And Run (Vassos Alexander)
- Sunday = Punk, Running, Medals and Beer (Allie Bailey)
- Saturday = Running The World 196 (Nick Butter)
- Sunday = Fireside Chat: Moving Matters (Nell McAndrew)
- Saturday = Begin With The End In Mind (Steve Edwards)
- Sunday = Special Announcement
Overall, I really enjoyed my first trip to The National Running Show. It was great to be around so many like-minded people and to hear inspiring stories. There were lots of things to see, do and try. It was also nice to be able to talk to experts in their field and get advice on nutrition, training and recovery.
We spent just over 3 hours at The National Running Show before heading home. This could have been even longer but I didn’t want to be on my feet too long due to my half marathon being the next day.
I didn’t attend last year but spoke to a few people who did and they all agreed that this year was a much better event. The National Running Show was twice the size this year and had a lot more to offer instead of merely being exhibitor stalls. I felt like all bases were covered; clothing, shoes, nutrition, training, workshops, hydration, recovery, education. Regardless of your current running ability, there was something for everyone.
If you are local to Birmingham then it is definitely worth a visit. In the months beforehand it can be quite easy to get free tickets, especially during Black Friday.
The only comparison I can make is to the London Marathon Expo. The National Running Show has a different feel. With that being said, the London Expo is always free to enter, even for non-runners of the London Marathon. There were also more freebies at the London Expo than The National Running Show. Although, the best freebies were in the goodie bag which was only for runners of the marathon.
All in all, as long as I’m free for The National Running Show 2020 (assuming there is one!) then I would like to attend. Hopefully I won’t have an event the next day that time so I can try the treadmill challenges and take part in the interactive features without the risk of injuring myself!