LDN: Mind the Gap and Run Your Way

Scroll down

New Balance Is Helping Five Runners Reach the London Marathon

Editor’s note: New Balance are stepping up once again to support five Australian and New Zealand runners to compete in one of the World Marathon Majors. They’re sending a lucky group of everyday runners, each with their own unique story, to the TCS London Marathon. Last year, the brand helped a contingent realise their dreams at the New York City Marathon.

Tempo is partnering with New Balance as we follow the group through training to the finish line and beyond. Along the way, the five runners will be guided by expert mentoring from New Balance athletes and Olympians Ellie Pashley and Camille French. And standing behind them are their run clubs. Inclusive, grassroots and determined – it’s crews like this that grow running, and we’re proud to recognise their hard work.

Like our five runners, they’re out there running their way. That’s the New Balance message we’re celebrating – that anyone, you most of all, can run your way.

The first world record at the 2024 TCS London Marathon fell 11 months before the starter’s gun will even be fired.

By May last year, only a week after the dust had settled on the 2023 event, 578,374 people had applied for the 2024 ballot. This is the first time in history more than half a million people have applied for a marathon.

While race organisers don’t release the exact number of ballot places, it’s estimated to be around 17,000–20,000. That means roughly only one in 30 people who entered the ballot for London, one of the world’s six major marathons – c’mon Sydney! – managed to get in.

“Our five runners each show a unique commitment to running, and each has a remarkable story to tell. They’re all steadfast members of some of the grassroots amateur run crews that have sprung up across Australia and New Zealand.”

Dylan Rainforth

01 Editorial DSC08291

The overwhelming interest in the ballot also extended to the qualifying times, where five minutes had to be deducted from the advertised men’s qualifying times and two minutes from the women’s. Most of the charities and tour operators reached their capacity or closing dates long ago, too.

And yet, despite the odds, five lucky runners will get a chance to line up for the 2024 event. New Balance are sponsors of the London and New York City marathons and have access to a select number of entry bibs for London. They’re empowering a small group of talented, determined Australian and New Zealand runners to give it their all.

It’s part of a campaign that sees New Balance reinforce their commitment of last year when they sent five runners to the NYC Marathon. This time, New Balance are providing these five everyday aspirants with support, training and racing apparel and shoes. They’ll also receive invaluable mentoring from New Balance elite athletes and Olympians Ellie Pashley and Camille French (née Buscomb).

02 Editorial

The group has been training in the versatile, ultra-comfortable Fresh Foam X v13. For race day, they’ve been given exclusive early access to New Balance’s most advanced carbon plate running shoe yet, the newly released FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4. The SC Elite v4 is the result of years of research with some of the fastest athletes in the world, including digital modelling at New Balance’s state-of-the-art Innovation Lab in Boston, to design an energetic ride that delivers energy return with every stride.

Our five runners each show a unique commitment to running, and each has a remarkable story to tell. They’re all steadfast members of some of the grassroots amateur run crews that have sprung up across Australia and New Zealand as the sport’s popularity has soared in recent years.

Editorial 03

Increased understanding of running’s benefits for physical and mental health are part of what’s driving this surge, and that’s something New Balance and Tempo want to amplify. By working together on this exciting campaign, we want to show there are an infinite number of different approaches to running. Any way you choose to run is perfect. We’re celebrating the New Balance message that you can, and should, run your way.

Coming together in London will be Katie Kelso (AM:PM.RC), James Pham (Kings Cross Track Club), Martha Myers (SoSo’s), Travis Ovalsen (445 Auckland) and Phoebe Thomasson (Early Ones). Let’s meet the squad.

Katie 1


When she was younger, Katie Kelso enjoyed running as a way of connecting with her father. “I’ve been running my whole life,” she says. “There was a time of the day when my dad would come home from work, and it was an opportunity for us to spend time together. In hindsight, it was probably only six kilometres around the block but, when you’re 13, that feels like a long distance.”

Katie, a 33-year-old project consultant, would go on to make her marathon debut in her hometown of Melbourne in 2019. Tragedy struck only a few months later.

“It was a Friday morning, the 10th of January, 2020, and I was running through Gosch’s Paddock in Richmond,” Katie says. Crossing the intersection at Punt Road and Swan Street, she was hit by a bus that had run a red light.

Katie 2

“I was thrown seven metres and broke four ribs. I cracked the back of my head open and ended up with an acquired brain injury,” Katie explains. “I was in hospital for four or five days and I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember being told by a doctor that my fitness had saved my life.”

“I came away pretty lucky, which is difficult in itself because mentally, psychologically, I was a lot worse than I immediately realised. I tried to go back to work the day after coming home from hospital, not understanding how impacted my brain was. I had all the hallmark symptoms of an acquired brain injury, including nausea, migraines, anger, depression, anxiety.

“Physically, I presented exactly the same. Scars heal and bruises fade, so it took two years to really understand the full impact of what had happened and how serious it was. When people ask me now if I’ve fully recovered, it’s still hard to know. Because when it’s your brain, you’re living in it all the time,” she says.

Katie 3

“Four years on, I probably still have the ongoing effects of anxiety and depression, which is why running is so important to me.”

Katie needed six months off work, which coincided with the lockdowns in Melbourne in 2020.

“After my ribs healed, the exact activity that tipped my life upside-down became the form of therapy that pulled it back together again,” she says. “I had all this time and there was nothing else to do, especially as we were heading into lockdown. So, suddenly I found myself running a half marathon almost every day.”

Katie 4 L
Katie 4 R

“Aside from the obvious physical benefits, running and mental health are intrinsically linked for me. I haven’t stopped since.”

“For me, running is therapy; it’s meditation. When I’m trying to get to sleep at night at 10pm, 2am, whenever it is, I can’t turn my brain off. But running is the time that I completely unwind, and that’s probably why I like long-distance running – it’s such a mental reset.”

After her accident, Katie formed a connection with the AM:PM run crew that’s helped her rebuild. “The crew has changed my life, honestly,” she says. “I’d been running for quite a while before a few people from AM:PM, including [founder] Ben Clement, reached out and encouraged me to come along.” She started by joining in on Tuesday evening social runs before adding the crew’s Thursday morning track sessions.

Katie 5

“It’s such a motley crew of amazing people that, if it weren’t for running, we probably wouldn’t have met,” she says. “But it’s funny how, when you have that one thing in common, you become so connected. It’s also a source of so much creativity and critical thinking.”

Now, Katie is excitedly looking forward to London. “I'm still pinching myself. It seems surreal,” she says. Although she completed last year’s Melbourne Marathon (her second and, to date, most recent 42km race) in an impressive 3:15, she’s concentrating on safely finishing the course.

“I’ve copped so many injuries over the years, I just can’t bear to have running taken away from me again. I think I’ll probably aim for 3:20 to 3:30,” she says.

BB James 1


Long-distance running is sometimes considered a solitary, even lonely pursuit. Does the rise of the run crew change all that? James Pham hopes so. The Sydney-based 31-year-old chartered accountant has played more team sports than most. But he now believes running with a tight-knit community can transform the sport and make it feel like one big family.

“I’m a former basketball player,” James says. “I played at a pretty competitive level – not professional or anything like that, but I was part of a travel team that would play in overseas tournaments, and I was playing with some really good New South Wales players.”

Then, the lockdowns. “Before that, I was training twice a week, and I was in the gym quite a lot. During the pandemic, I really didn’t know what to do with myself.”

BB James 2

Stuck at home, James got curious about the Strava maps he saw people posting on social media. “I started running and – a typical story when you’re running by yourself – I’d go out and run 5km as fast as I could, get absolutely cooked and then not run for another week. But as I started to get a bit more consistent, more fit, I started uploading my own Strava maps to Instagram Stories.”

James’ cousin, Dan Pham, is a dedicated runner affiliated with the Kings Cross Track Club (KXTC). Seeing his cousin getting into the sport, Dan suggested James come down to check out the club.

“We hadn’t spoken in years,” James says. “So Kings Cross Track Club did two things for me. It reunited me with my cousin. And it helped me become more consistent with my running. Then, with the club, you meet your people there and you come to love the social aspect of running.”

BB James 3

James naturally gravitated towards helping the club organise training sessions, race enrolments and running trips. “I’ve always been a team player,” he says. “Sometimes I’d go on these basketball trips, and I’d sit on the bench for three quarters of the game and then only come out for the last few minutes. But I loved that – I love being part of the team environment.

“While running is an individual pursuit, with KXTC I’ve found that team environment. We train together, and we travel to races together. You’re all standing on the start line wearing the same kit, the same jersey. We might finish at different times, but it’s still teamwork.”

Is the perception of running changing so that more people recognise its benefits for social wellbeing? James definitely thinks so.

James 01 (resized)
Kings Cross Track Club

“I feel like nowadays, especially in Sydney from what I’m seeing, social run clubs are exploding all over the place,” he says. “I’ll run in Centennial Park on a Sunday morning and there are so many different groups running together. Running has become pretty cool, and it’s a welcoming environment where people from different walks of life can come together.”

The great thing about the new social aspect of running is that everyone can find their level. For James, that means he can be around other serious runners as he trains for the London Marathon. It will be his third, after previously completing the Melbourne and Sydney marathons.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity from New Balance, so I’m training to reflect that. I want to run with intent, with purpose. To quantify that, I want to run at around the three-hour mark.

BB James 6

“I want to get to the start line healthy and strong. In my training block, I’ve been doing more kilometres than I’ve ever done before; I’ve been aiming to sustain 100km each week in the most risk-averse way possible. I’m happy to adjust down along the way if something’s not feeling right. “

James says he’s a big fan of New Balance athlete Ellie Pashley, having listened to her quite a bit on the Inside Running podcast. He’d love to be able to tap into his mentor’s experience with the mental struggle of running marathons. “During a marathon, what do you do when you’re not feeling great? Or how do you break through the 35km wall – and how has she done it in the past?”

CC Martha 1


“When I started running, around three years ago, I was running for all the wrong reasons, Martha Myers, a 25-year-old Brisbane-based HR consultant, says. “To try to look good and be skinny – all those sorts of things.”

“Prior to that, I was having a few mental health challenges. I don’t want to generalise, but I was like a lot of young women going through things in their teens and early twenties, thinking you’re not good enough and things like that, and a lot of it comes back to body image. And then I paired that with running.

“Fortunately, I quickly discovered the more positive benefits that come with running. I’ve gone through a lot of self-growth and I’ve surrounded myself with people who make me feel good, and I no longer doubt myself so much.”

Martha 01 (resized)
SoSo's Run Club

“Now I’m like, ‘Well, actually I am good enough. My body is amazing to be able to run these distances – but to run these distances I need to be fuelling my body.’”

By “these distances”, Martha means the Gold Coast Half Marathon and, late last year, the 30km fundraiser she did to support mental health awareness as part of Movember’s [Mo]re than a Run event.

Empowered by New Balance, Martha will take her first crack at the classic 42km distance when she runs the London Marathon next month.

“What I love about running now is that I can challenge myself to reach those goals and know that I’m good enough to get there,” she says. “I get so emotional every time I think about it. I never thought I’d be running a marathon, so I feel so proud and so happy that the girl of three or four years ago has made it here.”

Martha Alt 3

Training for the race, Martha is doing a mix of interval and tempo sessions, a shakeout and a long run each week, augmented by three sessions in the gym. She isn’t being too strict about shooting for a particular time in London but hopes to hold herself to run the entire distance without walking. “Ideally, I’d want to finish it in under four hours, but I’d be happy with 4:30 as well. I try to keep the mentality that it’s amazing I’m running a marathon at all, let alone setting too many goals there.”

Asked what she might tap into with New Balance mentor Ellie Pashley, Martha nominates technique, nutrition and learning more about the lead-in to the big day.

“I’d also be interested to hear her history of running and how she got into it. I’m the sort of person who wants to hear everyone’s running stories. I want to hear how they started and how they keep going.”

CC Martha 5

When it comes to keeping going, Martha is the first to acknowledge she hasn’t gone it alone. The friendships she has made at her run club, SoSo’s, are a huge support.

“SoSo’s was started by these two girls, Sophie [Rindfleish] and Sofie [Spelta]. And they’re just amazing. The run club aligns with my values because it’s not created primarily for athletic reasons but rather to help people start running and also to meet people. The distance we usually run is 5km, but they always start by saying, ‘Yeah, it’s zero to 5km, whatever you feel like you can do.’”

Martha Alt 1

I’m curious if Martha has any advice for other young women starting out in running, whether with Soso’s or anywhere else. Especially those who might identify with where she has come from, who might feel their relationship with running is a bit toxic and only geared towards controlling how they look.

“I like to say to my friends that go through similar things, or to people who’ve reached out to me, that if you don’t fuel your body you won’t be able to run, and you won’t be able to achieve these goals that you have. If you want to enjoy running, it will be easier the more you take care of yourself.”

DD Travis 1


New Zealander Travis Ovalsen played football from when he was just four years old. Then, in 2022, the 23-year-old electrician was hit hard by the death of his best friend.

“My switch to running pretty much came from being in a real bad mental state, which came from my best mate committing suicide. My football coach said to take the year off, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself for like a month after I quit. And then I saw a couple of my mates coming to these awesome run communities. I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and try something different.’ I’ve always been a team sports sort of guy but that’s how I came into 445 here in Auckland. I started to find myself again and started enjoying what I’m doing again.”

DD Travis 2

445 is the run club – more precisely, a network of chapters spread across Aotearoa and Australia – that does what it says on the box. Its members assemble at 4.45am to move out at 5am. “No excuses. Rain. Hail. Shine,” they say. Okay, but why so early? “To get uncomfortable.” They want people to test their limits. Travis says, “It’s to show people that if you’re waking up at that time, you can use that discipline in other areas of your life.”

Before sunrise, every Friday, each chapter sets out not to run a particular distance but a time: 20 minutes out and then 20 minutes back. “Whatever distance that is for you. The only thing is that every week you come back 1% better than the last.” The model obviously works: they get around 250–300 people every week at Travis’ group.

DD Travis 4

One of 445 Auckland’s leaders, Travis is now stronger than ever and on a mission to promote better mental health. He made his 42km debut in the 2022 Auckland Marathon and fundraised $7,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.

“I want to create the life that I want through prioritising my mental health and inspiring others to do the same,” he says. “I think it’s important these days, especially with social media, that people see that raw and vulnerable side of you as well. They’re like, ‘Okay, Trav’s not always picture perfect or always that happy, energetic dude – sometimes he has his off days, too’. It’s showing people that it’s okay not being okay.”

Travis 01(resized)
445 Run Club

Along with James, Travis is one of the fastest New Balance runners heading to the London Marathon. He’s already notched up “four or five” marathons and “around 10” half marathons (all in New Zealand) and is striving for a sub-three result this time out. His current PB is 3:10 so he’s got his work cut out for him, but he’s able to draw strength from his mentor, Olympian and New Balance athlete Camille French. And his training regime is inspiring: in a recent weekly recap he shared that he’d run 100km, cycled 35km and spent five hours at the gym across four sessions.

DS Travis 3

“For my marathon block I’ve integrated a lot of cross training. So, some cycling, some swimming. Just to make sure I don’t get any niggles or injuries in the lead-up. And I’ve got a good bunch of mates helping me out: one’s being my chiropractor and another is my physio.”

Travis describes the opportunity to run the London Marathon – his first big running event outside of New Zealand – as “pretty jaw dropping … It means a lot. It hurts me in a way, as well, because my best mate couldn’t be here to see it. He and I had said that we would run a half marathon together before he passed away, but we never got the chance to do it. So I’ll be thinking of him when I’m out there.”

Phoebe 1


When we first catch up with Phoebe Thomasson, she’s just battled through 33-degree heat to finish her third marathon, the Busselton Runners Club Bay Run, 220km south of Perth, the 21-year-old sport science student’s hometown. Her marathon debut was in the same race only a year ago.

“This time, I did it in 3:54 and I wanted to get 3:45,” Phoebe says. “But afterwards, realising how hot it was, I was like, ‘Okay, I did pretty good for the heat.’ My dad was there, and he had to do the last 2km with me. Because I was like, ‘I’m going to walk off the course if I don’t have anyone.’ It was hard. I’ve never had that much of a mental battle running before.”

Phoebe 3

That’s grit. It might not be the first thing that Phoebe emphasises for her followers on TikTok, where she posts as runwithphoebe. She’s more about offering encouraging tips to other young women (and guys too) looking for advice on warmups, nutrition, strength training and any of the million other topics those new to #RunTok might want to know about. Phoebe’s tone is welcoming; holding her selfie stick and smiling, she invites viewers to follow her on runs of all kinds. “Join me … Save for … How I …” Her TikTok is practical above all else. But make no mistake, Phoebe has grit.

Phoebe 2

She hopes to use her TikTok and Instagram presence to break down some of the barriers that prevent more young women from getting into the sport.

“For women, sometimes it’s the fear and embarrassment around beginning running that can prevent them from taking it up. They’re afraid they’re not going to be able to run fast enough or survive that first kilometre,” she says.

“TikTok’s a really good resource for educating female runners. Purely because of the fact that a lot of people are using it these days, and it offers them these very short, inspiring videos they can easily access.”

Phoebe Early Ones 1
The Early Ones

Phoebe also uses her TikTok to spread the word about her run club, the Early Ones. “I like the setup they’ve got, because for their main weekly run they label it as a 40-minute run slash jog slash walk. So people don’t feel pressured to go really fast. At the beginning, we all gather together and Steve [Komene], the club’s leader, encourages us to talk to new people, and we say something that we’re grateful for. Then we run. Afterwards, we all take a group photo and then we’ll go for coffee and swims. So it’s not just a run – you get that social aspect as well.”

Phoebe recently stepped up to a leadership role, guiding the group on monthly Sunday long runs that began with a 13km distance in February and are building from there. Understandably, she’s excited about the chance New Balance have given her to run the London Marathon.

Phoebe 4

“It’s incredible. I never thought I would leave Australia, or even WA, to do a marathon. Doing a world major is something that I never thought I’d be able to do – maybe like in 10 years, but not when I’m 21. It will allow me to meet a lot of like-minded people and hopefully, through my TikTok and my Instagram, I can share my journey and inspire others to run marathons. Because I’m taking the training quite seriously for this one.”

Which means four runs each week: a long run, two easy runs, and an interval or threshold run as well as two or three strength sessions in the gym (Phoebe has also taken up competitive HYROX recently). Aided along the way by some mentoring from New Balance athlete Ellie Pashley, Phoebe hopes to complete the London Marathon in under 3:40.

Phoebe 5

“Yeah, that’s the main goal. My best time at the moment is 3:46, which I did in the Perth Marathon in October.”

Shaving six minutes off your PB is no easy task. But remember, Phoebe might make it look easy on TikTok but, when she needs to, she gives it everything she’s got and then some. That’s grit.

Thanks, squad. Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling these runners and meeting their crews in a video series we’ll drop on Instagram and YouTube. We’ll document their training blocks and their paths to London with behind-the-scenes stories and updates. Let their efforts inspire you, too, to run your way.

Shop the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 here or the Fresh Foam X 1080v13 here.

Back to top

You may also like

Subscribe to stay up to date

Subscribe for the latest news and exclusive offers. Join the Tempo community today.