The London Marathon 2019
As the dust settles on the VMLM (or whatever acronym they are using today) and the blisters heal, here is my version of events.
As many of you are now aware, I had never run a marathon despite running at various distances since 1983. Two key moments from the past when I maybe should have done are May 1988 when I ran in the 20 mile race, but paced it badly so continued at the Half Marathon distance, and 1993 when I ran my fastest Half and should have been capable of a decent Marathon time.
Anyway, fast forward to the current decade and I’ve been entering in the London ballot most years, with some trepidation due to the injury-prone stop-start nature of my running. In October 2018 I received an email from Angela ‘you’ve got a magazine from London’….’It will be the usual rejection, can you open it please’. This time it wasn’t a rejection so minor panic before realising it was time to think about training. Injuries and colds had blighted September through to November and working away one long weekend a month didn’t help, but that pays the bills!
Most people’s reaction was ‘that’s great, go for it’, but one or two older hands were more cautious, advising ‘careful, your body might not handle it’ and ‘you’ll screw up your running for the year’. In fairness, the last comment was from a former runner who has run some very fast times in the past and was equating his punishing training schedule with my then level of readiness. The most sensible advice was to ‘do what your body will handle and don’t overdo the training’ (Steve Coates). My original target was 3:45, based on ‘two half marathons at 1:45 with a bit to spare’. Not too scientific but it made a bit of sense and all those I mentioned it to seemed to agree it was a reasonable aim.
Christmas was approaching and I was invited to run at Levisham with Alison, Dave and Nippy. This was a great way to spend a Saturday morning, the sun shone all the way round and the run/walk was a great way to start training. The post-run sausage sandwich wasn’t bad either!
The following week I continued the longer training with the Millington pack run (as always, highly recommended) then New Year came and it was time to ‘go for it’. Humberside XC champs at Scunthorpe, then it was time to get into double figures on the road as I had entered the Brass Monkey Half, so 10.5 it was.
The Brass Monkey went pretty well in 1:44, exactly 8 min/mile. I used to do a few in the early days but have only run the Brass Monkey (3 times) since 2012 and that after a 15 year gap! I don’t think this training ‘plan’ is recommended by many coaches ☺
Managed to get to club for a run on the following Thursday, then half way round a 6 miler, disaster struck and my left calf ‘went’. Aided by Vicky Godfrey, a van driver was persuaded to lend me his phone to ring for Angela to pick me up. At this point, was I running London? Not sure……
After 2 weeks of 2 mile runs and painful ‘rest days’ I saw Kris Lecher who (rarely for him) told me not to run for 9 days but to do the exercises has was giving me. It is fair to say I started gingerly, but then realised I could manage the injury. 8 (long) days working in Chester meant my come-back was a bit patchy but got out for a 10 miler one night then 7 on the last night. By early March I still hadn’t run anything long so on 10th March I ran 15 miles, 8 weeks later than anticipated. Going well……
Ramping up to 40 miles for the week I put in a 17 the following week so I could marshal at the Walkington/Skidby race in the afternoon (and go out for a curry and beer on the night). The East Hull 20 was next up, the looks of incredulity on the faces of Jayne Earle and Linda Thacker when I told them I was running is something I’ll never forget, but I can’t blame them as 31 years is a long gap between 20 mile races.
The 20 went ok, then a 14 a week later up at Lockington. My last planned race was the Baildon Boundary Way (a mostly off-road, hilly half which I highly recommend) but only managed to crawl round due to a bout of sickness which came on during the week. Still, I managed my longest training week of 48 miles and the legs were holding up. It was ‘game on’ now and 18 miles on 14th April once again with Angela the ‘mobile drinks station’ turned out to be my last long run. On the advice of Pete I ran in the New Ellerby 5, which went reasonably well so it was now a case of not doing anything daft.
I was becoming increasing twitchy but now there was no going back. The last wine before the race was consumed on the Friday night, then it was up early for the taxi into town with Nippy. We met up with other EHH followers and sat with Eileen Deyes for the journey. Bags dropped off at the hotel and it was off the ExCel for registration with the receptionist’s words ringing in my ears ‘you’re up two flights of stairs. There is no lift’. I had visions of being crane-lifted out of the room on Monday morning!
Registration and the VLM Show went ok and we (myself, Nippy, Graeme and Michelle Smith) managed to get a photo with Jo Pavey, then back to base before meeting up with everyone at the pub next to the Italian restaurant where Katie had booked us a table for 24, which we all appreciated – thanks Katie! The runners managed to resist the array of hand-pulled ales, even the one named ‘Runner’, both before and after the meal, whereas the contingent of spectators needed no second invitation. I especially enjoyed my ‘orange and lemonade’ ☹
The highlight of the meal was the delivery of garlic bread to Nippy. Most had ordered one to share between 2, half on each plate. The waitress duly brought these round but when informed Nippy had ordered a full one the expression ‘fast food’ was redefined when she slid the second half at great speed toward Nippy’s plate from some distance, much to our amusement!
I had been telling everyone ‘under 4 hours’ but when my youngest son Chris texted me on Saturday night and asked me what I would do, I responded with 3:50. I thought I might as well have a decent target to aim for, even though I still felt a bit of an imposter due to my patchy training.
After a fitful night’s sleep, it was time to go to the start. The journey from Kings Cross was uneventful then I was glad of the knowledgeable company as we negotiated the changing tent, baggage drops, etc. By complete chance we bumped into a former colleague from West Yorkshire who had also run our 20. We all wished each other luck then it was a queue for the ‘last visit’ and a dash to take position in the start pen. Chatting to a bloke from Cottingham who is a member of Barracuda Tri and knows Gary Forrester whiled away a few minutes, then we were off…….or rather we slowly walked toward the start. 15 minutes later and I was crossing the start line, starting my watch in full view of the BBC cameras! There’s no going back now……
The first couple of miles were easy, ahead of 8:30 schedule so carried on through the merging of starts, slowdowns at drinks stations, runners darting across the road, etc. After a couple of sub-8’s I caught up with Dave Butt at about 9 miles and we kept a reasonable pace together for a few miles, Dave commenting ‘this will confuse the trackers’ as we crossed the timing mats together.
Thanks for the shout outs on the way round to Phil Lambert, Pete D, Lucas, Dave Cracknell and the rest of the EHH team (and anyone else I didn’t notice).
By 15 miles it was obvious that a urinal stop was required, so that completed I went off in pursuit of Dave again. I didn’t lose too much and caught Dave before 17 miles. Body parts were starting to ache by this time so I ploughed on regardless. I went through 20 and into the unknown for me. By 23 I was starting to fade, but the crowds really do keep you going and I wasn’t going to chuck it (and thus be eligible for the ‘Purple Vest Award’) after all this effort. At 40K I saw Angela and the rest of the EHH support crew, which kept me going for a while. The 800-600-400-200 countdown seemed to take an eternity but eventually I got to the line, glad it was over but elated with my chip time of 3:45:45. Given I went through half in 1:50 I didn’t lose too much in the second half.
Picked up the medal and goodie bag, then took a while to get changed, marvelling at the mess my toes were in. A slow walk to the pub to meet up with everyone, with a loud cheer as I approached them, followed by 4 pints with virtually no food. This was nothing like the well-deserved cheer Beth Dearing received when she walked in, having beaten 4:30 and making her dad extremely proud of her. We all shard our experiences and consoled those who hadn’t fulfilled their own expectations, then it was time to go and shower before meeting up for a Nando’s meal. Felt better after food, then forced another pint down before walking back to the hotel. I use the word ‘walking’ loosely, as I was only just capable of moving and must have looked like a crippled beggar chasing Angela very slowly.
Monday morning was spent enjoyably walking to/round Camden, then got a tube back to the Embankment and had a wander round there and Green Park before catching the train home.
Our runners recorded some very good times, led by Tom Dawson who cracked the 2:50 barrier. Jayne Earle managed to complete the race, slow by her standards but still impressive given her recent injuries. Here is the full list of 18 EHH runners.
- Tom Dawson 2:49:59
- Paul Wray 3:04:01
- Adrian Kamis 3:11:36
- Tim Groves 3:25:16
- Paul Nippress 3:27:02
- Kerry Young 3:28:30
- Katie Seddon 3:35:06
- Emily Wix 3:38:07
- Dan Newton 3:39:37
- Neil Hudgell 3:41:02
- Ian Atkinson 3:42:21
- Richard Alsop 3:45:45
- Guy Gibson 3:46:18
- David Butt 3:51:08
- Janet Kay 4:06:00
- Beth Dearing 4:29:34
- Lee Campbell 4:39:55
- Jayne Earle 5:15:53
All in all I’m glad I did it:
- The training is hard but can be done if you are sensible
- You don’t need to stick to a plan, just apply the principles
- The weekend was hugely enjoyable
- I owe a huge vote of thanks to those I train with for their support, and especially to Angela for her encouragement when I doubted myself
- If you haven’t trained enough, it helps to have done a lot of running in the past