If you remember during my report on London Marathon 2018, I briefly mentioned how two German runners approached me as I tried to sort through my bags, asking me to take a photo of them with their medal. I wasn’t so delirious at this point and for myself, this happening actually represented a nice link between the challenge I had just finished and the experience I’m about to undertake.

For many of my family, friends, colleagues, followers and fellow runners what I’m about to mention isn’t exactly news any more, because I’ve splurged it to quite a few people. Alas, it’s coming around real fast and so I can’t contain it from the rest of you any longer.

I’m going to Germany!

I’m at limits as to how much I can divulge about how I qualified so here it is. I’ve been selected to represent Team GB at an event called Allianz Sports 2018. This is a corporate, Olympic style event, which gathers up Allianz (or Allianz-affiliated) employees to partake in events such as swimming, golf, chess, track and field, and half marathon, with nations represented by employees from the nations who send their employees or affiliates out to these events. They take place once every four years, and this year it takes place in Munich, Germany. The action takes place over the weekend of July 20-21.

I was one of the lucky applicants to the process, which required myself to have run a qualifying time inside 1:55:00. I ran Liversedge the weekend before entries opened, where I managed to obliterate my PB to below 81 minutes. A few weeks later, I received an email confirming I had been selected! Furthermore, it’s an all-expenses paid trip. Accommodation, flights, subsistence, kit, insurance, etc. are all covered, and the only parts I bear responsibility for, as far as the arrangements go are getting to the airport on the way out, getting home after flying back, and of course, training for the event itself. I’ve been featured on my employer’s intranet page a couple of times and may yet get the chance to blog for them too. I was the only applicant picked from my office as well – it’s been wonderful to receive this recognition and support from my employers and my work colleagues, and I really hope to be able to repay this opportunity with an excellent performance during the race.

Initially I felt I couldn’t apply, as my wife Laura’s birthday falls on the 20th. However, Laura was absolutely understanding that this is, most likely, a once in a lifetime opportunity for myself. Never did I think I’d have such an opportunity, never mind be selected for it. All Laura asks is I get to the duty free at Munich Airport and get some gin! So I’m very grateful to Laura to have been free to apply for this, though I’ll still have to ensure the kids have specific instructions and presents for her when her birthday arrives!

I don’t have precise information yet on where the event takes place yet, but I would be hedging my bets on the Olympiapark given it looks absolutely purpose built for such an event. Nor do I know what the half marathon course will be – I suspect it will be a lap course – but I do believe (although I don’t have local knowledge of the city) it’ll be fairly flat rather than undulating. Incredibly, I haven’t yet had the privilege of running a pancake flat half marathon – of those that I’ve run, Sir Titus Trot, a canal race, had the Three Rise and Five Rise Locks; the Great North Run has a couple of inclines and that big drop at the end; Great Birmingham Run also had a hill or two and the rest range from undulating to Huddersfield (ie. brutally hilly). I’d be interested to see what I can do on a flat, or nearly flat course.

There’s not much else for me to say. This is an opportunity beyond my expectations. I never anticipated I would have been granted such a privilege to stand out for my employers in the UK, but more importantly for myself (personally), it’s been an ambition of mine to run in mainland Europe, and to be able to do it basically all-expenses paid, I still have trouble comprehending. I’m truly lucky and grateful for this opportunity, and I’m absolutely determined to perform well but more importantly, have a wonderful time, with my team mates and work colleagues, and hopefully explore a little of what Munich has to often. My trip won’t be complete without a stein and a bratwurst!

For now though, the hard work takes place at home. And that means plenty of running as I now have the incentive of trying to do what I previously might have thought as untouchable for myself – a sub 1:20 half marathon. If the last year has taught me anything, it confirms I’m not just capable once again of breaking my own records, but that right now, it is possible. The half marathon is probably my favourite and best distance out of all the traditional disciplines from 5K up to marathon – I love the challenge of running quite a reasonable distance but still being able to throw everything into it. The summer weather is likely to be a factor, but at least, unlike London, I’ll only be doing 13.1 miles, and I still ran a very good controlled first half in London (about 1:28). Of course, to get sub-1:20 I’m going to have to do some serious pace work, so the next eight or nine weeks from now are going to be very important.

I’ll keep you all up to date with how my training progresses, along with my thoughts as the trip approaches. Prost!