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London Marathon in hot water over holiday food tweet

The Virgin Money London Marathon's RealBuzz.com site provoked controversy recently with a message about running as penance for over-indulgence in holiday food

The Virgin Money London Marathon provoked a flood of responses on Friday in response to a newsletter item suggesting runners create a “run and reward” system around all the extra food they might consume over the holidays.

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Entitled “Run for Pudding” (the colloquial British term for dessert), the message reads: “Creating a run and reward system over Christmas is a great idea. With so much treaty food doing the rounds, you shouldn’t have to miss out and deprive yourself. But, let’s face it: some of our favourite Christmas goodies are laden with sugar and fat, so why not run the miles to burn off the ultra indulgent treats. Create a points system and make it a mile-based challenge for yourself.”



The message, which could generously be interpreted as a somewhat clumsy way of suggesting that running can be a good way to maintain a healthy weight, appeared in a newsletter from RealBuzz.com, which is sent to all London Marathon registrants. 

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#TrainBrave, a UK-based movement to raise awareness of eating disorders and RED-S, or relative energy deficiency in sport, a condition that can lead to loss of periods in women and stress fractures in both genders, tweeted the message, along with this response: “You do not have to earn food” and “Running is not punishment for eating.” And further: “Language and tone is really important in shaping attitudes towards, and relationships with, food and exercise. @LondonMarathon we would be more than happy to help you with future communications on this topic and provide guidance and advice.”


Michelle Adams-Arent, director of training and conditioning at the Rutgers Center for Health and Human Performance, replied, “Things like that do not promote a healthy relationship with food. You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution…”

@gooseberry_rose replied: “I was really disheartened to see it esp as I received it while recovering from 3rd stress fracture this year caused by #RED-S and was already having a mental battle with all the Xmas food around atm.”

Some respondents had no trouble with the message, but most felt it was tone-deaf, and that it reinforced the outdated notion of running as punishment for over-indulgence. A quick look at RealBuzz.com revealed articles with titles like “10 Kitchen Tips to Keep you Slim” and “5 Guilt-Free Snacks for Dieters.” Hm.

@KatieWelford replied, “I unsigned [unsubscribed to the RealBuzz.com newsletter] as every other article was about running and weight loss.”

The folks at the London Marathon reportely got the message, apologizing in a subsequent newsletter. But the articles on the website would seem to indicate the organization has a bit more learning to do on the subject.