Can a couch potato run a half-marathon in eight weeks? I put a new app’s claims to the test

Heavy rain clouds hang in the sky, I’m being pummeled by gale force winds, there’s a herd of rhinos right behind me, and I just had to dodge a flying Big Ben.

Half an hour earlier I was standing outside the Tower Of London in a bin bag, feeling about as nervous as I’ve ever felt in my life. I was about to begin the Vitality Big Half marathon, alongside 13,300 more seasoned runners, including one Mo Farah.

Had you told me this would be how I’d be spending my Sunday a few weeks earlier, I’d have laughed in your face.

How did I get here? The answer goes back to a phone call I received in January. “We’ve got an app which can train you to do a half-marathon in eight weeks,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “Do you want to try it and compete in one?”

My answer, of course, was “no”. I’ve never enjoyed exercise. From PE classes at school to several aborted attempts to join a gym, I’ve proved myself immune to the fitness bug. I barely know what arch support is, let alone own a pair of trainers with it.

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