Dan Jarvis MP: ‘Running in a muddy field is where I’m happiest’
I’ve always run. I remember school cross-country, running round the fields in a vest and shorts, which I lot of people didn’t enjoy, but I did. Then I served for 15 years in the army, when I’d run most days. My dad, Bernard, now in his late-seventies, is a runner so I guess it’s in the blood.
Every single run I’ve done over the course of my life, I’ve felt better at the end of it than I did at the start. I can’t think of anything else that has that consistency of outcome. Whatever I’m thinking about or however I feel, it’s always worthwhile going for a run.
My marathon PB is 3:12. I set at the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri in 1996. It’s not known for being a quick course – there are lots of hills – but it’s a great race. I’ve run it three times and would love to do it again. Maybe in 2024 …
I’ve run 16 marathons in total – 13 London Marathons and three Snowdonias – as well as the Marathon des Sables. But my real love is trail and fell. If I turn up to a fell run, nobody is remotely bothered that I’m an MP; I’m treated the same as everyone else, and that’s great.
My favourite event is called the Trunce. It’s a short, sharp fell race, which begins in a field in Oxspring in the borough of Barnsley. After the race, people go to the Wagon and Horses pub near the field to have a pint. Running in the London Marathon is a privilege, but running in a muddy field in Barnsley is where I’m happiest.
I got involved with Cancer Research UK after my first wife died from cancer. Having had firsthand experience of the devastation that cancer causes, it means a lot to me to be able to support this extraordinary organisation through my running. It’s not just about raising money but also awareness, particularly among men, who are notoriously bad at getting cancer symptoms checked out.
Running definitely helps with the day job, though I think some members of my team dread me going for a run, because they know I’ll come back with three or four new ideas. The act of going for a run gives me that time and space to think about things. Purely from a work productivity point of view, it’s worthwhile. However busy you are, however much you have on your plate, you’re better off in every respect carving out 45 minutes to go for a run.
My personal trainer has four legs. He’s a springer spaniel, and he has to get out, whatever the weather. So many times, he’s dragged me out and we’ve ended up having a brilliant run together. Mine can be a busy, pressurised job, so carving out a bit of time for me and the dog is really precious.
If I had to pick a running hero, it would be my dad. He’s done the Bob Graham Round and run a 2:46 marathon. Years ago, for reasons best known to himself, he ran a 48-hour race around a 400m track. He has been an inspiration to me, running-wise, and he’s still going strong.
My running attire is older than some runners. I read somewhere that the lifespan of a pair of shoes is about 300 miles; I want to get about 3,000 miles out of mine before getting a new pair.
Parkrun shows that running can be a force for good. My local one, at Locke Park, is one of the hilliest in in the UK. Whenever I go, there’s such a wide range of runners. People are made to feel welcome, and from a health and wellbeing point of view, there’s a real benefit. Running can be a force for good in terms of bringing people together, and long may that continue.
Dan Jarvis runs in support of Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research cancerresearchuk.org
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