11 Apr 2014
In - Football

On Sunday 13 April, former England striker Michael Owen ran the Virgin Money London Marathon for Prostate Cancer UK, one of three charities benefiting from the £75,000 he raised.

Visiting us a few weeks after he completed the London Marathon in a fantastic 3 hours and 45 minutes, Michael was able to present a cheque for just over £25,000 to fellow Prostate Cancer UK runners - Director Mark Bishop, Gemma Borthwick and Kevin Rennie.

Michael was also introduced to namesake Owen Sharp, our Chief Executive who went head to head over Men United, how we support men affected by prostate cancer and what the money will be spent on (watch this space for more on the two Owens).

Before leaving the office he posed for photos and selfies which have since found themselves across the digital stratosphere.

Read on to find out more about Michael's marathon challenge prior to completing the 26.2 mile course.

On the eve of one of the biggest days in the sporting calendar Telegraph journalist Victoria Lambert talks to the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United star about his marathon challenge.

Tackling the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday could be a stretch for former England footballer Michael Owen, who’s signed up to run for Men United.

But Michael, who retired from football last spring, and is now a full time commentator and part owner of elite horse-racing thoroughbred establishment Manor House Stables, where over 90 racehorses are trained, is looking forward to the race. Well, sort of.

"I've always been a centre forward – a fast player. My game was all about high intensity sprints and recovering with a slow jog before exploding again. Running a marathon couldn’t be more different. It’s about as far flung as you can get."

Ever since he announced his intention to run the 26 mile race, Michael has been in strict training not just to build up his fitness levels (which were never really in doubt). But also to alter the fine constitution of his muscles and his posture.

Michael Owen on his London Marathon challenge by prostatecanceruk

"I’m built like a sprinter – I always get back pain when I do distance running because I have a dipped back, so I need to  run differently. Plus my muscles are largely made up of fast short-twitch muscle fibres – which give you the power needed to make a fast run up the pitch. Long distance runners have many more slow long-twitch fibres in their muscles which helps with endurance."

"I do think my body is starting to alter. Mind you, afterwards, I want my speed back."

He’s also looking forward to the end of training – which sounds a bit of a nightmare – "it’s been boring – you have to be mentally tough. You have to keep running up the same hill."

And time has been tricky too. Michael has had to be "realistic and fit in hours when I can. So although I have been doing a fair bit of international travel in the past three months, I make sure I run as soon as I get off the plane.

For example, I flew back from Qatar one Sunday, landed at 7pm, and went straight out on the roads for a run."

Tarmac is unforgiving, he says, but consistent – especially given the spring rain. "Country lanes are great but cross country in this weather wouldn’t be fun – too boggy and full of rabbit holes; that’s why I do most of my running on the roads."

He admits it’s not ideal training but says: "I’m not trying to be the next Mo Farah, but I would like to get around the four hour mark. That’s a great incentive."

Michael is not worried about any particular stretch of the marathon although he admits hitting the wall a few times in training."

Michael Owen on his London Marathon challenge part 2 by prostatecanceruk

Experts – including coaches and some of his fellow players have been, well, laughing at the idea he can break four hours – but that has spurred Michael on.

Even his running mate – Michael Jones, his best friend from school who has run the New York marathon twice – has been trying to manage the Owen expectations.

"He said, ‘‘Michael, you are just not built for this.’’ He thinks he will beat me. But we'll see on the day. I am so competitive."

He also knows that there will be hundreds of runners determined to beat him too on the day – "oh about 30-40 per cent of the runners will go faster than me. But I am hoping for good support from the crowd. And Louise and the kids will be there to watch."

All the relentless running – "honestly, it has been so boring, boring," - has meant Michael has not been able to stop for autograph hunters while out training. "I wear my hoodie up or a hat; I don’t want to be unfriendly but I need to just focus and keep moving."

But he has been making it up to fans by sending personal tweets to everyone he can who sponsors him via his justgiving page for his charities which include Prostate Cancer UK.

Michael has been aiming to raise £50,000 to support the charities as he has had an uncomfortable brush with the illness.

His father has just recovered from localised prostate cancer, which was treated with radiotherapy and his great-uncle died from the disease so Prostate Cancer UK is a cause close to his heart.

"These things resonate more — when you have been personally affected," he says. "And Prostate Cancer UK is a great charity; this disease kills a lot of people."

Michael visits Prostate Cancer UK to deliver a cheque to his fellow marathon runners.

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