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Simon Dow, executive head chef at Exeter's Abode hotel

20 April 2006

Simon Dow, executive head chef at Exeter's Abode hotel, is running his first London Marathon this Sunday, joining about 32,000 runners determined to complete the gruelling 26-mile race. He talks to Alix Young about the challenge

What inspired you to run the marathon? It's something I've always wanted to do and, as I'm getting on a bit (32), I thought now was the time to go for it.

What charity are you running for? A charity called Get Kids Going that is run by Lord Coe to help young disabled people and give them a chance to take part in different sports. With the Olympics coming up, it helps them by covering doctors' bills, as well as providing training and equipment.

How long have you been in training? I started training before Christmas. I do a wide variety of exercise including cardiovascular and endurance programmes. There is a full regime I'm supposed to follow and I've been pretty good really - I've even stopped drinking!

What have you been eating? I eat a lot of carbohydrates in the morning and then a lot of proteins in the afternoon. It's quite tough because a lot of the food we cook here is very rich and I try to resist it, but I can't help getting tempted every now and again.

Why do you like running? I served in the Royal Navy and have always been sporty and into exercise. We've got a gym upstairs and, when you are up early and finish late, it's good to have a release. There are a lot of chefs running in the marathon, probably because it's a positive distraction from the kitchen.

What time do you hope to finish in? I've done a couple of 12-milers but haven't got any proper times yet. I'm aiming for about three-and-a-half hours. I reckon the quicker I get it done, the less it will hurt.

Do you think you'll run the marathon again? I hope so - I'm planning to get into triathlons after this.

What's your tip for anyone competing? Eat the right foods, do all your stretching and get some professional help. There are lots of local gyms willing to provide help for free.

How have you found the training? Occasionally, when I have to get up for early morning training, I ask myself why I'm doing it, but it's all about self-discipline and putting your all into it. I've found it has helped in my day job, as I'm not so sluggish, and much more alert and active. My concentration has improved a lot.

Are you nervous? Apprehensive would be the word. I only told people I was doing it when my application was confirmed, and thought I had better get some sponsorship. The jokes have only made me more determined, though.

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