Tag Archives: London Marathon

Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sarah Davies

Sweat, Blood and Tears.

Sweat. Yes, it was hot! As we waited for the start, we were all drinking water, looking for shade and paying frequent visits to the ‘female urinals’ (a bizarre experience!) Finally, our wave set off. After all the waiting and anticipation, it was great to be finally running my first marathon! Although my training had been derailed by a combination of injury, snow and work, I still hoped I might be able to finish in under 4 hours. The first miles seemed deceptively easy. The atmosphere was brilliant and there were plenty of distractions: crazily-dressed runners (Paddington costume – in that heat??), cheerful crowds, Greenwich, the Cutty Sark. It was already roasting, but there were lots of water-stations and showers, and I found I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.

Blood. About 10 miles in, with the temperature continuing to rise, I suddenly had a terrible nosebleed! What to do? This was definitely not in the Plan! I didn’t want to stop, so I carried on running slowly for a couple of miles with blood streaming from my nose onto my face, hands and legs. Not a pretty sight! It finally stopped, but by then I realised would have to abandon any hopes of a sub 4-hour time.

Tears. The second half was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There were lots of highs: catching sight of my family by chance; spotting Striders Rachel and Michael Mason and Peter Hart in the crowds at around 18 miles; strangers shouting my name; the man running with the washing machine on his back… But there were plenty of lows too: by about mile 20 my legs were screaming at me to stop and I had to force myself to continue. By 24 miles, I knew the end was in sight. Despite the excruciating pain, I managed to pick up the pace and finish with a decent time of just over 4 hours.

I came away from my first marathon with mixed feelings. I’m really glad I did it and it was a thoroughly memorable experience, but I can’t say I’m in a hurry to do another one any time soon!

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Results Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018

Anita Wright




Place overallPlace genderPlace cat.NameRunner noCategoryFinish
111KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN)318-3902.04.17
1511CHERUIYOT, Vivian (KEN)10918-3902.18.31
142142111Jackson, Stephen (GBR)139718-3902.39.31
45544978Littlewood, Michael (GBR)196540-4402.50.28
631621434Pritchard, Gareth (GBR)144418-3902.54.14
703692475Kearney, Mark (GBR)198918-3902.55.32
924120671155Walton, Katy (GBR)2029118-3903.58.02
106822558181Davies, Sarah (GBR)1004550-5404.05.42
129223374716Gardham, Sue (GBR)2029340-4404.16.41
251218102120Bradley, Jean (GBR)2471660-6405.09.38
2840496975229Brannan, Stacey (GBR)2029218-3905.24.56
304241071661Farnsworth, Christine (GBR)3059565-6905.35.48
355691353288Thompson, Margaret (GBR)2029065-6906.10.04
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Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 – Michael Littlewood, Sunday, April 23, 2017

Michael Littlewood


2:45 was the magic number, 6.17 min/mile average pace. This meant Championship time.  I had missed this target by 2 minutes last year and it was not going to happen again. To achieve this, while I needed to heed Allan’s advice (don’t go off too fast x 3) I wanted to feel settled at 6.13/min mile pace until halfway to then relax for the remainder of the run. I had my nutrition strategy sorted – my normal gels at 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hours + five sips of water. Oh and I had remembered my Strider vest and the ubiquitous yellow hat!!



We had managed to stay at the same hotel as last year which was close to Stephen meaning we could travel to our separate start lines together. This calmed my nerves greatly. At the actual start line, my body wasn’t playing the game – cramp in both calves and spasms in piriformis and hamstring. Trying to complete flexor stretches next to the Elites on a full start line was fun!! Even more fun was the toilet etiquette when I was not allowed to leave the start line to visit the facilities and was forced to use a bottle instead!! Time to then put my music on, have a little dance (a little bit of Cypruss Hill) and get my head in the game.


0 – 6.2mile

The first 10k was a dream, I felt photo fresh and cramp free. My pace was bang on time and I had a massive smile on my face. I even managed to work the crowd a bit and enjoy some of the sights.


6.2 – 13.1

Still smiling and running well. I was concerned about taking the gel, although I had practised with this, I only had a 50/50 success rate meaning that on occasion it upsets my stomach. Not this time!

The absolute highlight was spotting Oscar, Lewis and Wendy as I ran off Tower Bridge. The first time in 3 years that I have noticed them in the crowd. It really gave me a massive boost and I actually had to slow myself down a bit in order not to excitedly increase my pace!


13.1-17 miles

Now this was the first tricky bit. The route is a little dull coupled with the run getting harder. I needed to increase my effort to maintain my pace. I can’t say that I was struggling but my legs were definitely feeling more tired and just not as fresh – a bit of an anti-climax after the exhilaration of getting to the half way point.


18 – 23 miles

Mile 18 was my slowest mile at 6.30/min but I did not feel like I had slowed down. This worried me. I responded with a 5.53 at 19 miles which was maybe a mistake because miles 20 and 21 were really hard. I was not going to let it slip now though. I spotted a runner in front of me with ‘Training Oscar’ on his back – he was my focus. My pace stayed at 6.12 and 6.18 – still on track. This bit me on the backside at mile 22 and 23, pace was now 6.27 and 6.28. Could this really be slipping away??


The Decider – 24

Mile 24 was the biggest mile of my running life. I came out of the tunnel, up the hill and onto the Embankment, I had real negative thoughts. I wanted to give up, 2:45 seemed certainly out of range, I knew Striders were expecting me to succeed and I felt a failure, I had let them down. I had to kick my own arse and I looked at my hand which reminded me of Wendy and the boys who love me and really spur me on.

The attack began. The pain was incredible, the tops of my hamstrings were on fire, calves were screaming and my eyesight was beginning to blur but I was passing people left and right. I spotted a Crook runner about 50 metres ahead and I was catching him which gave me strength. Mile 24 was the quickest of the race – 5.47min/mile.


Mile 25

I had caught the Crook runner Rob Teasdale. This was North East team mentality in a nutshell! He said ‘Let’s do this!! Let’s get that Championship time!!’ This encouragement and teamwork was just what I needed, I was gone by then and really struggling, the impact of mile 24 meant I was even tasting a metallic taste in my mouth, the blood vessels at the back of my throat were bursting.


Mile 26 – finish line.

I came around the last corner with Rob and noted that I only had 40 seconds left, I was not sure I was going to make it. I told myself to light this one up!! I visualised myself in the morning looking back on the race and knowing that I had accomplished it. I don’t really remember much about that last 200 metres but I crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare!!

I could not believe what I had done, I stood still and was then quickly ushered forward although I did need some assistance with the first few steps.


The Championship Finishers – Stephen Jackson and Michael Littlewood


Final thoughts. (Warning – the soppy bit!!)

I would like to say a massive thank you to the purple army who I know had my back. I simply could not do this without your support. Allan Seheult as my coach and friend, thank you for all the time and care you give. My training partners Gareth, Tamsin, Matty and Stephen. It really is a privilege to run with you and most importantly, great fun! Stephen, Vics and Allan also get special mention for putting up with my drunken ramblings on that long train ride back home!!

To Wendy, Oscar and Lewis. I love you, thank you for all you do. Can’t wait to cheer you across the London Marathon finish line in 2018 Wendy!!

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Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stephen Jackson and Elaine Bisson

Stephen Jackson …

Ready. The day before I travelled to London I was informed, via Facebook, that my 2015 PB from the Greater Manchester Marathon was no longer recognised by England Athletics as an official marathon time. Suddenly, the trip to the Capital had a little more pressure attached to it.

Ready.Fastforward three days, and I’m inside a portable toilet in the Blackwall tunnel, about fourteen miles into the Virgin Money London Marathon, again cursing my luck as my dreamof emulating that time from Manchester isslipping away before my very eyes.

There is undoubtedly a metaphor I could shoehorn into this report (hopes and dreams down the toilet related), but I won’t. Safe to say my race plan did not involve a portaloos portable toilets stop.

However, I emerged from that tunnel with a new focus, running a sub 02:45 marathon – slightly slower than my ‘dream’ time for London – but enough to earn a Championship place for the following year and a symbolic two fingered salute to the organisers of the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Just after the toilet stop I passed Alyson Dixon, leading the charge for the GB women, going in the opposite direction; this lifted my spirits as I was able to manage a “go on Aly” as she flew by me. Not long after that I saw my lovely wife Vics, our two girls and my Mam and Dad who’d made the trip to London to again meet the newest member of our family, my Nephew Seb.

Before long I was again hitting on or around 03:53 per km (06:15 minute miles) and things were, sort of, back on course. I felt better at 16 miles than I did at 6, I felt like I was back in control. 19 – 23 miles were, as expected, a struggle. My pace dropped off slightly and I really needed to dig deep to keep the dream alive. That said, I was passing people, I wasn’t thriving but I was struggling less than those around me. At 24 miles, I started to work towards the finish line. I had a wrong to right from Manchester, I wanted my Championship place back.


The last two miles were everything I hoped they would be, I didn’t really give a monkeys about the iconic landscape, I was more interested in the fact I was finishing strongly. I did the maths in my head with 1km to go and new it was in my grasp, only just.

02:44:06 – 54 seconds to spare; maybe I didn’t need to rush that toilet stop after all. I have unfinished business at this distance; I can and will go faster, no doubt about it. But the feeling as I crossed the finish line was as satisfying as I’ve had in my short running career.

Cops and Runners.

I’d barely paused for breath and I saw Michael Littlewood heading towards me – a HUGE PB for him on the day, taking 12 minutes off in 12 months – impressive to say the least. I only mention Michael by name as we’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK together over the last 9 weeks, united in a common goal under the stewardship of coach Allan Seheult. We were in this together and I got just as much pleasure out of Michael’s time as I did my own.

All the Elvet Striders in London did the club and the North East proud.

Now, I have a taste for the Marathon majors; what to do next?

… Elaine Bisson

Driven by the excitement surrounding last years VMLM, I gained a place with a GFA entry. The hotel and train tickets were booked months in advance. I travelled down on friday, staying in Lewisham (ideal 20min walk from the start line at Blackheath). Registration was at Custom Excel VMLM Expo, here there was a buzz of excitement from fellow marathoners and stewards.

I spent the remainder of the Saturday being very lazy and finishing off my carb loading. That night was the first in a long time when I slept until the buzz of my alarm clock heralded the start of race day. Fuelled up with porridge heavily soaked with maple syrup, I made my way through the magnificent surroundings of Lewisham to locate the green blip in the sky, marking the start for the GFA and celebs! By the Hare and Billet Road there was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right place, it was absolutely teaming with runners as they too made their way to the start.

A highlight for me was running into some fellow striders and being sneaked into the Virgin tent, with its warmth, bean bags, chairs, pre race fuelling, and most importantly pristine toilets with no queue (thank you!)

Baggage buses were loaded by 9:25, we headed to the start pens with 10 minutes to spare. 10am and we were off. Our route collides with the blue and then the red masses and the paths get busier and busier. So busy I narrowly escaped being tripped many, many times over as runners pushed to get past, or to stick strictly to the thin blue line marking the shortest route, or to dash in front to grab water. It felt like mayhem. I did not like it. I cursed a lot.

Honestly, I don’t remember much. If you asked me about Kielder or of Windermere, I could tell you so much about the surroundings, the rise and fall of the road, this was very different. It was an assault on all of my senses.

The noise from the spectators was incredible, throughout the entire 26.2 miles, and as the day wore on the voices seemed to get louder and louder. There were numerous bands along the route, pubs playing music, an insane 100m stretch filled with people in blue frantically ringing bells.

The smells were pungent from takeaways preparing food, beer, smoke… The sights of thousands of people shouting, the Cutty Sark, miles upon miles of roads that could be anywhere in the UK, the dark grotty tunnel, the shard, no. 10, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the most amazing finish line ever. We experienced all seasons, from a cold chilly start, hot sun, hailstones, rain, wind.

With 5miles to go, I had had enough. The buildings were encroaching on the sky, the spectators were becoming more raucous as the pubs were drunk dry. My ears were ringing and my heart no longer singing. The wheels were quickly falling off, I tried to imagine running along the quiet road to the finish line at windermere, I summoned all my strength to get this thing over. I clung to two women and forced my legs to keep in time with theirs, finally the mall was in sight and my heart began to leap, 1000m to go, 800, 600, I round the bend and see the finish line, with its 3 entrance ways and large clocks tick, tick, ticking. It was quite spectacular, I should have enjoyed it more. Expertly herded through to receive the biggest, heaviest gold medal (sorry, no, i hadn’t won), to get a picture taken (and try to smile and stand upright while my legs start to cramp), along to pick up my bags and then out of the barriers and into even more mayhem.

I tackle my way as quickly as I can through the masses swarming St James Park, up and then down a footbridge to find Victoria Station…then the long journey back to my hotel to pick up my bags, back to Kings Cross to fill a waitrose bag with utter rubbish and then on the train home. My phone turned on and there is pandemonium as it beeps and buzzes signalling facebook conversations, messages and voice mail from friends and family who have excitably followed my small red running figure on a computer screen and watched trying to spot my purple vest on TV…I wonder if they have had more fun than me.

I have the most hilarious trip home, filling my tummy full of goodies, and sharing prosecco and daft stories with an actress who is off to dress as a cyborg for her next movie. I fall out of the station with legs unwilling to move and perhaps having had a little too much bubbles. The taxis are all taken. As I stumble towards the hill that I will have to climb to get home, the wonderful Simon saves me and gives me a lift (another highlight of my day!)

So, what did I think? I wonder if I’ve missed something. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it, if at all. There were parts that made me grin, but when I thought the cheers would spur me on, I longed for the solitude, for countryside, for air that I wanted to inhale, for the sound of my breathing and of my own trainers tapping the floor.

However, I also know I have unfinished business. With every marathon under my belt, I learn more about how my mind and body work, Ill come back stronger and smash that PB next time…


Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Sean Hehir IRL 02:17:20
501 Stephen Jackson 02:44:06
671 Michael Littlewood 02:47:31
4316 Elaine Bisson 03:17:32
5130 Penny Browell 03:22:51
9345 Fiona Jones 03:43:28
9780 Lucy Cowton 03:45:04
13264 Jane Ives 03:57:18
14269 Ian Spencer 03:59:55
15593 Kevin Williams 04:05:22
19422 Katherine Preson 04:20:11
19423 Kate Macpherson 04:20:12
20527 Chris Shearsmith 04:24:19
21703 Jenny Search 04:28:53
22443 Andrew Davies 04:31:41
26005 Debbie McFarland 04:46:20
26970 Jayne Freeman 04:50:46
27959 Christine Farnsworth 04:55:00
32195 Kelly Collier 05:19:11
32613 David Case 05:22:06
34779 Sophie Dennis 05:40:35
34860 Hellen Allen 05:41:19
34895 Lindsay Craig 05:41:19
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London Marathon, Sunday, April 26, 2015

Penny Browell

An Emotional Visit to the Capital

Penny!To us Brits there’s probably no bigger race than the London Marathon. I can’t pretend I grew up particularly obsessed with it or anything because I grew up as an overweight child with very little interest in anything sport-related – if you asked anybody I went to school with who was LEAST likely to run the London Marathon they would all have agreed it was me. However even as an anti-sporty type I was aware of it and heard of various (obviously insane) people who ran it.

When I qualified for a good for age place last year I wasn’t absolutely sure I wanted to do it. I’m not mad about road races and my previous marathons hadn’t gone particularly well. However, having joined Striders in the Autumn I decided it was worth trying to do it properly. I’ve spent a lot of my life living and working in London; my family all still live in and around London – so it would be an opportunity to get everyone together as well.

Training went well – PBs at half marathon and 5k and a good Cross Country season – everything was looking good. However, a few days before the race I heard people talking about it on the radio and surprised myself when I started welling up. This was to be a theme for the next few days. I spoke to my parents about where they’d be on the course and I felt emotional, I looked at the weather forecast and I got a bit shakey. It was all becoming too real.

We stayed the night before the race in a hotel about half an hour from the start. I woke at 3.30am and was totally unable to get back to sleep. On the train and at the start I tried to hold my emotions in but everything seemed so big and I was so aware of the time and effort that had gone into this day, it was hard to stay calm. At the start I met a friend who was pacing 3.45s and we enjoyed the atmosphere and meeting various oddly-dressed runners, including one dinosaur, whose costume must have weighed a ton.

Anyway onto the race itself. The start was very congested and quite stressful. All week I’d been saying I was worried about the start and the finish and I just wanted to get the first few miles done. I knew I was going faster than planned but I needed to get away from the crowds. Plus after a week of scarcely running I wanted to stretch my legs a bit! After a few miles I settled into my planned pace and felt good. At around 9 miles I heard a shout from my parents who looked utterly thrilled to see me. I gave them a wave and then felt a wave of emotion and tears getting the better of me. I couldn’t start crying at 9 miles! I tried to get a grip and managed to get my breathing back to normal but was aware of just how on edge I was still feeling. I had a similar reaction to going over Tower Bridge (such an iconic landmark and also near the halfway point) and then seeing my brother.

At this point I was so relieved we’d decided that my children would just come to the end rather than cheering me on around the course. With this level of vulnerability my kids would have sent me right over the edge!

Highlights on the course were the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, crossing the elites on the out and back section (wow, they looked amazing!), the tunnel of hell at around Mile 23 and the final section along the Embankment and up Birdcage walk – an area of London I have walked around countless times. But the real stars of the London marathon are the crowds. Unlike anything I’ve experienced before the noise at times was deafening and their passion overwhelming.

From a running point of view, things got tough from around Mile 18. I knew the last third was going to be the hardest and I over-compensated with my fastest mile of the whole race at Mile 19. After this I was just holding on. I couldn’t stomach any more sweet energy-giving concoctions and was even struggling to take sips of water but knew I was getting weaker. I kept telling myself I could have a little walk when I got to the next mile marker but on each occasion the crowd kept me going so I gave myself another mile before the walk. Somehow this got me through to the end without ever stopping. My pace dropped a bit but I was delighted to have done it with a PB of 16 minutes.

It was without doubt an experience of a lifetime. Anyone who gets the opportunity to run it, please do. You will have an amazing day. Having said that, dealing with the mental and emotional exhaustion, as well as physical, made it incredibly tough. At the end I yearned for a little fell race with 200 runners and no crowds! Will I do it again? I don’t know. I wasn’t planning to but then my daughter pointed out that in 2 years I’ll go up an age category. Having come 104th in my category this year she reckons I’ll be on for a top 100 once I get REALLY old. Hmmm…


Pos Name Club Time
1 Eliud Kipchoge KEN 02:04:42
21 Tigist Tufa ETH 02:23:22
989 Gareth Pritchard 02:52:56
4068 Graeme Walton 03:17:54
4797 Penny Browell 03:22:59
11589 Matthew Crow 03:53:03
15995 Richard Hall 04:08:17
18995 Jacquie Robson 04:19:53
22374 Megan Bell 04:32:15
24733 Denise Benvin 04:41:59
28090 Sue Jennings 04:57:01
31036 Kelly Collier 05:14:46
31258 Helen Allen 05:16:25
34186 Katie Butler 05:43:41
35583 Vicki McLean 06:05:07

37551 finishers

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mark Dunseith

I’m not really sure why I applied for the London marathon but apply I did and I was very surprised to get in. I always thought I’d run a marathon one day but this was a bit earlier than expected. I think I was swept up in the Facebook frenzy and I applied on a whim.

Bugger ... not chocolate at all ...

So January 1st was my date to start my training. Luckily Jantastic started at the same time and it got me going on my marathon training. I read though all the marathon plans and ignored the lot of them. Around the time I was starting training I was having a bit of problem with self diagnosed shin splints. I still haven’t a clue what it was, but it’s stopped now so my mantra of ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ comes up trumps again. Due to this injury I couldn’t run for too long so I started running 4 times a week at about 6 miles, thinking that if I get my cardio up then I’ll be fine. Everything was going fine in training until Jantastic finished at the start of April when I stopped running. I didn’t taper, I just plain stopped.

So even though I felt great all the way through training from January, as soon as I got to London I was pretty worried. I did a sub 30 minute parkrun at Gunpowder Park on the Saturday, Anita’s first sub 30, then headed through to the Excel to collect my number and meet some Striders. I was very nervous while at the Excel and think I must have spoken a total of ten words to Alan, Stephanie, Jacquie and Alister. Anita loved the different stalls that were set up there and I was interested in a few but all I wanted to do was have a lie down. I was knackered. Finally we got back to my Uncle James’ house and had a carb load with lots of pasta and an early night.

Race day. I was up before my alarm and just lay in bed and waited. The alarm went off and I was up and getting ready. My Uncle James made me scrambled eggs on toast and I had that then nipped to the loo. This was my biggest worry in the week leading up to the race, Paula Radcliffe has a lot to answer for. I was ready to leave and just milling around the house wasting time, not really doing anything. Little did I realise that we were running very late. Straight in the car and to the train station where I had to say goodbye to Anita and James and run for my train. As I could travel for free I didn’t have to wait in line for a ticket in the queue but spectators had to. Luckily the train was a couple of minutes late and they both managed to get tickets in time to join me on the train. I wouldn’t have fancied the journey on my own.

We arrived in Blackheath with hundreds of other nervous runners all walking to the start line. When 9am arrived I said goodbye to Anita and James for a second time and entered the Blue section from where I was due to set off in a little under an hour. I was ready to run so dropped my bag off at the baggage lorries and went to the area near to the urinals and start area where I had a sit down and waited, conserving energy. Then a lie down, conserving more energy. Then I went to the toilet; it’s at this point I am always glad I’m a boy as my queue was a lot quicker than the queue for the portaloos. I repeated this process another 2 times. I was lying on the grass staring up at an almost cloudless sky just wanting to get the run underway. I’d thought about this run since September when I got my confirmation through and all I wanted to do was start running it. Eventually people started streaming past me towards the start pens so I followed and joined the crowds and got in my start position. From my position I couldn’t hear anything to indicate the race had started, my only clue was that everyone in my pen had started walking towards the start line. As we were approaching the startling a fellow runner was applying suntan lotion and offered the bottle around before he threw it away, this is why I love the running community. So suntan lotion applied and I eventually crossed the start line 9 minutes after the Elites and within the first 50 metres it dawned on me that I was running a marathon and I still had 26 miles to go. My immediate second thought was that it’s not a good time to start thinking about how long I have left to go. I got into a rhythm I was comfortable with and concentrated on not tripping anyone up. I was going about 25 seconds per mile too fast at this point and I had visions of smashing my 4 hours target by about 20 minutes but I decided to heed Alister’s words of warning and not get carried away so I wound it back and started taking it a bit easier. Very shortly I was in Greenwich and the place where Anita and James said they would try and see me for the first time. I was looking left and right for a large amount of the time to try and see them but there were so many people along the route that I had no chance.

It was starting to get very warm and I was glad Anita suggested bringing a baseball cap. I’m not great in the sun and when we go on holiday we always have to find a shady area for me to sit while Anita sits in the sun. There isn’t much to say about the race itself at this point as I can’t remember much. I ran past a fire station where the fire brigade had a makeshift shower which was a welcome relief and at one point someone stopped dead in front of me and I had to jump round him, only to realise he was texting someone! Anita said later that she was stood beside people who were receiving texts from their loved ones on the course to say how far they’d done and when they’d likely be at a certain spot. Crazy. I also passed Tony the Fridge, a group of guys dressed at the Jamaican bobsleigh team complete with foam bobsleigh and countless other people dressed in crazy outfits. One lad was even kicking a football the full length of the course.

I kept running and doing maths and split times in my head, making sure I was still within my 4 hour pace. I waved at someone holding a sign saying ‘give us a wave if you parkrun’ and just crowd watched the rest of the time. There is very little of the 26.2 mile route which doesn’t have some spectators so there is always something to look at. Alan Smith ran up behind me at one point and asked how I was doing and it was nice to see a familiar face. I said I was fine and on course for my time and asked how he was. I think he said he had a sore leg before wishing me luck. At some point between 6 miles and 20 (my memory of the race is that vague) I got a cheer of ‘Well done Mark Dunseith’ and I looked up to see Jacquie and Stephanie’s partner waving at me. It’s amazing how much of a lift this gives you, seeing someone you know give you encouragement does spur you on and you forget the pain for a little while.

I was worried about mile 17 as people say this is the point where you hit ‘the wall’ but a strategically placed gel station just before this got me through and I felt comfortable but slow going through the next 3 miles. I was losing precious seconds every mile around this point and thought I wasn’t going to make it in less than 4 hours but I decided that rather than walk I would aim for 4:02 or 4:03 and give myself something good to aim for next time. I got to mile 20 in 3 hours and decided that I could make my target time and just to keep going at the speed I was doing and not to get excited and try and increase my pace. All through the previous 10 miles I was taking a water bottle at every point I could and taking a sip then pouring the rest in my hat to keep cool. This kept me feeling comfortable in the heat all the way round and I continued this tactic to the end. I got to a point which I thought was a 5k to go marker but it turned out to be a mini marathon start point but I figured it was about the same distance and I knew at this point I was going to beat 4 hours, it was going to be close but I wasn’t letting it get away. Less than a parkrun to go and I increased my speed slightly. I felt great at this point, the pain was gone and I knew I was going to finish.

At 25 miles I finally saw Anita and my uncle and it was the boost I needed to get me over the last mile. I ran past St Stephen’s Tower as Big Ben struck 2pm which was brilliant. The British army had soldiers positioned along the last half mile and they were all giving encouragement to the runners. It was a great final mile. Until 600 meters to go where I just had nothing left. I was struggling to move my legs and just wanted to sit down. I trudged past Lizzie’s house and noticed the flag was flying high so knew she was probably having a cup of tea and watching me out the window so I looked at the clock and realised I had just over 3 minutes to cross the line and gave everything I had left. Over the line and stopped. My legs felt awful and I’m not sure I could have run another step, but I didn’t have to. I took off my timing chip and was given a medal and walked, slowly, to the baggage bus. One of the volunteers saw me walking towards them and had my bag ready for me the second I got there. Brilliant service.

After crossing the line I decided I was never going to do it again … I have since signed up for an ultra…. and have entered the ballot for next year….


Pos Name Club Cat Finish
1 Kipsang, Wilson (KEN) Kenya M 2:04:29
1* Kiplagat, Edna (KEN) Kenya F 2:20:21
4187 Terry, Rachel (GBR) FV40 3:24:59
6247 Robson, Alister (GBR) MV40 3:37:08
10023 Walker, Stephanie (GBR) F 3:54:01
11318 Dunseith, Mark Lewis (GBR) M 3:58:18
12016 Gourlay, Aaron (GBR) M 4:00:51
17045 Brodie, Mark William (GBR) M 4:22:09
21167 Smith, Alan (GBR) MV65 4:39:42
21905 Goddard, Debra (GBR) FV40 4:42:57
31342 Thompson, Margaret (GBR) FV60 5:38:47

35,847 finishers.
*Elite Women’s race.

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lindsay Tarn

The day had finally arrived. The day we had trained for. The day of the London Marathon.

I wasn’t feeling like I’d rested as much as I would have liked over the past 48 hours but nevertheless, I was up, getting ready and raring to go (well, maybe ‘raring’ was a tad exaggerated). Steph and I had a hearty bowl of porridge to keep us going before we set off on our journey to the start line … Thankfully, we only had to use the tube for a couple of stops and then we were lucky enough to blag a free ride in a taxi to as close to the Blackheath start (blue zone) as possible. There, we were met with the crowds of fellow runners and spectators – this was really happening! The sun was out in force too – this was a little worrying as most of our training was done in low and sometimes minus temperatures. After finding our way through the masses, we arrived at the blue assembly area, where we didn’t have too much time to wait before bags were loaded onto the baggage buses and we found ourselves in the toilet queues. This is where we spotted a fellow Strider – Margaret. The queues went down quick enough but pretty much as soon as we got turned around and grabbed a drink we were back in them.

We made our way over to our starting zones (bumping into Andrew on the way) and the heat was really starting to pick up as much as our nervous anticipation. In theory, we had decided to try and run with a pacer (9.43 minute miles) and so were pleased to see him stood just behind us. The countdown had begun: my watch read 10:00am. We started to move slowly forward and after about 10 minutes we were through the start line and off on our journey …

Lindsay blissfully unaware of what's coming ...

The pacer seemed a little way behind even though my Garmin was telling me we were doing the right pace so we steadily proceeded without him. A couple of times I had to call Steph back to slow the pace down which felt alien to her to run a start of a race at such a slowed pace – however, we knew it would be for the best to conserve energy for the second half. Steph was also probably tired of me saying “blue line Steph, keep near the blue line” …

I couldn’t believe the support around the course; it was simply amazing! It was the first race I had participated in where my name was printed on my running top and the boost from the crowd certainly spurred me on. The first half felt great and we were met by our family and friends at around about this point (just after crossing Tower Bridge) – which was perfect! I mentioned earlier how sunny it was … well, it was unbelievably hot, especially since there was no breeze or cover for the majority of the route. I longed for the sporadic shaded patches we came across and the welcoming showers.

From about 18 to 20 miles, Steph and I were beginning to feel the pains and felt unable to keep any sort of consistent pace up (as hoped). I just settled back and enjoyed the atmosphere, knowing that I wasn’t prepared to do myself an injury or jeopardise my health from pushing myself to an uncomfortable level of running; especially with the heat pounding down on us.

I don’t normally take on board much water when racing but I was rarely without a bottle and found it a great comfort. Two and a half gels into the race I was starting to feel the lethargic legs and was so glad of the family support again at mile 23 – it’s what kept me going until the finish – 4 hours 26 minutes I crossed the line. Three minutes slower than my Liverpool time in 2011 but my Garmin read just over 26.5 miles and so I allowed myself that extra time. The support was to be applauded alongside the organisers of the event – an absolute pleasure to be a part of.


However, what happened after made the day even more special …

Awaiting the arrival of friends and family at the meeting area, I was in a heap on the floor, eating my pistachios and longing for a hot bath; not wanting to think of the journey home or the fact I had to work the next day. Soon they arrived and after the initial emotional embraces Daniel got down on bended knee, pulled a ring out of his pocket and proposed. The pain in my legs subsided, the tears flowed and I said yes! There were cheers around us, approved clapping and a few photos.

A special day indeed!


Pos Name Club Cat Finish
1 Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH) Kenya M 2:06:04
1* Jeptoo, Priscah (KEN) Kenya F 2:20:15
10905 Thompson, Andrew M 3:59:43
10987 Spencer, Ian MV50 4:00:01
15822 Smith, Alan MV60 4:22:21
16859 Tarn, Lindsay F 4:26:33
19748 Barlow, Stephanie FV40 4:38:38
21503 Jennings, Sue FV45 4:46:23
27334 Thompson, Margaret FV60 5:18:28
27925 Porter, Joanne FV40 5:22:36

34,171 finishers.
*Elite Women’s race.

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2012

Alister Robson

I had such a positive experience in last year’s London marathon I was worried that this year might not live up to that. I needn’t have worried.

My big running target for 2012 was supposed to be the Hull marathon. I entered the VLM ballot, sure, but was unlucky so thought no more about it. I didn’t enter the club ballot because I was lucky enough to get a place via the club last year and wanted to give others the same chance so I thought no more about it, entered Hull and got on with my training. It was only in the middle of February when I got a phone call out of the blue telling me I’d got a place courtesy of adidas that it was back on.

Hull came and went and I have to admit I was a bit envious reading Yusef’s report, but it was just too much of a risk only two weeks before London. All my races leading up to London were tailored towards Hull so I was a bit worried my taper was too long. There were positive signs (5K, 5M and 10M PB’s) but also some really bad races (Spen 20, probably as a result of doing Dent the day before and also Run Northumberland Wallington Half, again probably as a result of doing Prudhoe XC the day before). I broke 4 hours last time, so thought 3.45 was an appropriate target, although publicly I only said I was looking for a PB. I deliberately set my target on the low side because I’d rather run well, achieve that slightly low target and then lower that. If I was to have a real blow up going for an ambitious time I might not want to run one again. That works for me, but I’m not sure it will work for others. The traditional method of calculating your marathon pace is to take a recent, decent half marathon, double it and add 10%.

Alister hears the voice of experience.

We travelled down on the Friday afternoon same as last year and stayed at a friend’s (again the same as last year). After a very pleasant Italian meal on the Friday evening, we popped across London on Saturday morning to Bushy Park, where along with another 800+ runners we took part in the parkrun that started it all. I took it steady and even let Jacquie beat me and we had a very pleasant coffee and bacon butty with the parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the bushy park Event Directors Ray and Ann Coward and Dave and Gabby who are starting a new parkrun in Newcastle. Newcastle, New South Wales that is! After that it was back across London again to get to the marathon Expo. Lots of runners hate this and find it something to be endured but after being so nervous last year I wanted to drink it all in and was glad I did. We bumped into Ian and Jane and had arranged to meet Anna which was nice. My good friend Craig was working on the Sweatshop stand so we called in and saw him. We listened to Martin Yelling, coach and husband of Liz up on the main stage and some of his tips, although I’d heard before, had a real resonance.

After a couple of hours it was back to our friend’s house, (via the supermarket to pick up exactly the same food I normally eat before an important run and a cheap jumper to throw away at the race start), where I cooked dinner and then we popped out to our friend’s local to have a beer. I know some people would frown on this but I find it relaxes and helps me sleep and in moderation doesn’t affect my performance. We were tucked up in bed at about 10pm.

Next day we were up and about at 6am and after the obligatory race morning photo it was off to get the train to Blackheath. I was in the Red start this year rather than the Blue and although you were supposed to go to Maze Hill station, I wanted to repeat as much as possible of last years run, helping to reinforce positive memories. I loved the feeling of coming up the quiet Blackheath common off the first train and gradually spotting the huge assembly area at the top of the hill.

Although the weather all week had been heavy rain and chilly it was a beautiful clear morning. I had a coffee on the way up, something which is also one of my pre-race rituals now and then we just milled around at the Blue start looking out for people we knew. We bumped into a couple of Quakers RC we knew from parkrun but no-one else and were just about to set off for the Red start when we saw Barrie ambling up the common looking every inch the experienced campaigner he is and seemingly without a care in the world.

It was great to see him, Jacquie got some nice photo’s and we had a nice chat and then bid each other good luck. I didn’t know anyone else who was in Red which was a shame but by this point I didn’t have too long to wait. I’d brought some bin bags (to keep warm and dry with) and a newspaper to kill a bit of time. After putting my bag onto the baggage lorries (so well organised it’s almost unbelievable to behold) it was time to go into my pen, Red 4 (the pens are numbered with lower numbers being nearest the front). The pen was still pretty quiet and it was bright and sunny and warming up nicely. I always prefer to run in warmer conditions and I knew that would be better for the spectators although I also know that most runners prefer it cooler and struggle in the heat.

All too soon we were off. There’s a slight delay but nowhere near as bad as the Great North Run and after a couple of minutes I was over the line. After last year it was no surprise to see so many (male) runners who were clearly wanting to make sure they were correctly hydrated dash for the sidelines!

Alister benefits from a sponsor's top-notch recovery drink.

The first couple of miles passed without incident although there was one downhill and uphill which seemed a lot steeper than I remembered from the Blue start, soon the starts merged and after some good natured booing and ‘Who are ya?’s the full marathon assemble was in one stream at last. It was somewhat surprising therefore to hear Andy Biggs a Durham City Harrier I know know well from parkrun come up behind me. Naturally he’d recognised the trademark yellow hat and gloves from some distance back. After a chat, (If you can’t chat in the first half of the race, you’re almost certainly going off too fast, I reckon) , we agreed to run together and this worked brilliantly – me slowing him down slightly and him dragging me a tiny touch faster than I would have done on my own. We stayed together for the next ten miles and were also joined by another Durham parkrunner, Simon Gardner for a while in the middle too. We saw Jacquie cheering just after the Cutty Sark and Andy’s wife a little further on still and then we went past Ian who still looked comfortable. Going over Tower Bridge was as incredible as I remembered last year and I was very pleased with the pace – 8:36 by my Garmin, or bang on for a 3.45 finish, but Andy thought we were a little behind schedule and just after half way pushed on and left me.

I saw Jacquie again at about 14 miles and handed her by now soaked yellow hat – I’m sure she was pleased with that! After that it was just a case of sticking to the plan and to the watch. Everything felt fine, I maybe even felt a touch more comfortable than last year. Perhaps you have a natural pace that your body is more comfortable with. There was nothing more of any note until at about 20 miles if memory serves I caught and passed Anna and then Andy, or maybe the other way round. With a little more than 3 miles (parkrun?) to go I tried to push on a little faster as I felt good but my body didn’t respond and just stayed at the same pace. I guess after so long it just wants to keep doing the same thing! I crossed the line with a little sprint, and remembering this time not to stop my Garmin on the line but to smile and look up to the cameras. It was a little surprise to be so far off from 3.45 when I know I was doing such consistent 8:36 miles but I realised afterwards that I’d actually run quite a bit more than the 26 miles and 385 yards marathon distance weaving in and out. Still I was over the moon with that, 9 minutes knocked off last year and with room for improvement if I ever get back in.

After collecting my goodie bag, medal and having my photo taken I got to the baggage collection where again I was handed my bag as I walked up and then I half stumbled and walked around to the ‘R’ meeting area where Jacquie and my friend were waiting. Anna arrived just afterwards and after some photos, a recovery milkshake and a cheeky beer we set off across Trafalgar square to a pub where Anna had arranged to meet a few (hundreds!) Fetch Everyone runners. After a quick couple of beers it was off to get back home, but that’s another story altogether and thanks to this country’s unique railway ‘infrastructure’ we didn’t get back to Durham until 1.30am. Suffice to say two hours standing on the Transpennine ‘express’ from Manchester to York between 10.30 and 00.30 didn’t exactly help my tired legs recover…


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Halfway Finish
1 Kipsang, Wilson Kenya M 1 1:02:12 2:04:44
1* Keitany, Mary Kenya F 1 1:10:53 2:18:37
7,880 Robson, Alister MV40 1,348 1:53:13 3:48:10
10,264 Seeley, Anna F 1,237 1:50:28 3:57:30
12,730 Ives, Jane FV40 542 2:01:30 4:07:12
14,677 Spencer, Ian MV50 892 1:56:16 4:15:08
29,937 Thompson, Margaret FV60 114 2:24:17 5:24:13
30,394 Readey, Claire F 5,690 2:16:26 5:27:32
32,463 Evans, Barrie J MV65 159 2:18:23 5:43:58

*Elite Women’s race.

Anna keeping cool ...

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jacquie Robson

A Spectator’s Report

For the second time in two years I found myself in the supporting role at the Virgin London Marathon. As a rather long(!) point-to-point race with tens of thousands of runners and many more supporters crowding the streets of London, being a spectator at the right point at the right time to cheer on your runner is a sport in itself.

Jacquie on the DLR ...

Last year, I deposited a rather nervous Alister at the Blue start, having escorted him to Blackheath station (on the south of the river Thames) via the very efficient Transport for London train/tube system and up onto the Common. I was then lucky enough to have a friend escort me around London to ensure I didn’t get lost. We legged it back to Blackheath station and made our way to Shadwell tube station. A short walk from here, you can watch the runners go past at 13 miles. It’s just past Tower Bridge for the runners (and they see you on their right), then, once you’ve spotted your targets, you can run/walk/push past the spectators to the underpass to get on the other side of the dual carriageway and wave, shout and cheer again at 20 miles (again on the runners’ right). I made my way to the Acorns’ charity cheering post last year and stayed with them so Alister could spot me (although the Striders hoody is great for that purpose), but I found myself waiting for well over two hours. I then had a mad rush to try to get to the finish. I chose Westminster tube station and found myself on the wrong side of the marathon route. This meant me and about 5000 other people were all trying to cross the race at a designated crossing point and it took AGES. I missed any chance I had of seeing Alister run along the finishing straight, managing to make my way to the well-marked meeting area along Horseguards Parade well after he’d finished to find him slumped on a kerb, grinning like a mad man and halfway down his first can of London Pride. Good lad!

This year, I decided to try and spot Alister four times along the course and to do it more effectively. I again deposited him at the start, the Red start this time, but we still arrived via Blackheath so Alister could enjoy the approach to the Common the same as last year. I hung about with him, meeting Barrie and watching for other purple hoodies, until he wanted to get sorted in his Red start area (which spectators can’t enter). I escorted him to the entrance and wished him luck. He was definitely more relaxed than last year. Lesson 1 from last year: TELL YOUR RUNNERS WHERE YOU’LL TRY TO SPOT THEM. There are so many people both running nd spectating it helps if you’re watching out for each other. I told him I’d try to be between 6 and 7 miles, just by the Cutty Sark.

Transition 1: Blackheath starting area to Greenwich (walking)
I headed off, clutching my Transport for London travelcard (well worth the money!) and walking as fast as I could, following a rather useless map provided in the marathon pack in the general direction of Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. It’s important to plan ahead and check out your next transition as you can get trapped in by the marathon route and struggle to make your next rendez-vous, and I knew I needed to be near the Cutty Sark DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station. After a few wrong turns and a few policemen who only seemed to be able to direct me to New Cross (“sorry, love, we’re normally motorway cops.” Thanks, fellas!), I spotted the cones and police cordons indicating the route ahead of me and stumbled upon Greenwich the long way round. I’d made it there before the first runners (always the Elite Women – they set off first) came past so had some time to get myself in position. I walked through a bit of Greenwich, avoided the Cutty Sark itself (apparently, it’s quite common to get trapped in the route there) and made my way to the correct DLR station. From there, I went the shortest way back to the route and positioned myself near the barrier at about 6.75 miles. No loitering in a pub or grabbing any breakfast for me – I learned last year that if you see a bit of barrier, grab it – it’s usually about 4 people deep by the time the runners come past and you’ll have no chance of spotting anyone. There was about 15 minutes to wait before the Elite Women came past so I updated Facebook for people following Alister and the other Striders at home, and let my mum and dad know where to watch out for me on the telly! My dad was also a dab hand with the live tracking of the runners, and he texted me when Alister passed key points throughout the race so I knew when to expect him at my viewing point. This was incredibly useful throughout the marathon as my phone internet signal was not great due to the huge number of people. Another advantage of going to Greenwich is that they have lots of ‘Spectator Marshals’ who give advice as to where to stand, and give out ‘Spectator Information’ booklets with tube maps and route maps and advice for spectators (such as what times to expect the runners through each mile marker) which was great. Lesson 2: GRAB A SPECTATOR INFORMATION BROCHURE QUICKLY – THEY SOON RUN OUT.

After cheering on the Elite Women (including the northeast’s Aly Dixon) and the wheelchair athletes it wasn’t long until I spotted Nell McAndrew (who gave me a wave to acknowledge my ‘Go on, Nell’ as she passed at some considerable speed!) and then Anna, Ian Spencer and Alister. Anna didn’t hear me shouting (Lesson 3: ALWAYS SHOUT FIRST NAME AND SURNAME OF YOUR RUNNER, OR THEY’LL ASSUME IT’S GENERAL SUPPORT OR SUPPORT FOR SOMEONE ELSE AND THEY WON’T TURN AROUND!) but I got a smile and a wave from Ian and Alister. Knowing my next transition needed to be quick, I ran off before I’d seen anyone else, updating Facebook as I went. Dad texted to confirm Alister had passed 10k (which I’d already established!) and updated me on his pace – spot on target! Good going, Mr Robson! I Facebooked an update as I ran.

Transition 2: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Shadwell DLR
On running into the DLR station, it was HEAVING with people, but marshals were less-than-helpfully directing some unsuspecting travellers to other DLR stations. I joined the queue to get in and listened to the announcements. The sheer volume of people trying to make their way around the same route means that the most popular Tube stations get extremely busy and I listened carefully for news about Shadwell. Sure enough “Shadwell tube station is currently closed due to reaching maximum capacity. Expect delays”. Plan B it is, then!

Transition 2: Plan B: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Limehouse DLR
I’d been put on to an alternative viewing point by someone before the run, and, checking in my invaluable spectator guide, I found that if I made my way to Docklands, I could watch the runners come past at just after 14 miles to begin the Docklands loop then, after seeing them, walk 100 yards down the road to see them again as they completed the loop at 20 miles. I made it onto a DLR train (see Alister’s photos for what fun the DLR trains can be if you’re a 10 year old wannabe train driver. Or if you’re Alister) and studied my Spectator Information. I needed to aim for ‘Narrow Street’ round the corner from Limehouse DLR station just after 14 miles of the route. It seemed this was a reasonably well kept secret as most of the train travellers continued on towards Shadwell (good luck with that!) and I got off with about 20 others at Limehouse. I asked a Spectator Marshal helpfully kitted out in HiViz and a friendly smile where I could find Narrow Street. “14 miles marker, love, down that road there” and pointed me towards a large board outside the DLR station saying ‘Narrow Street this way’. Very helpful! It was less than 2 minutes walk and I seemed to be one of the first ones there, straight onto a patch of barrier (claimed as my on very quickly with rucksack tied to the railing and hand spread widely onto the barrier – similar tactics can be employed to get to the front of a very busy bar!). I’d missed the Elite Women but spotted Nell McAndrew storming past. I struck up a conversation with friendly people on either side of me at the barrier – one couple watching for their son who was hoping to run a similar time to Alister, so I updated them on the pace and when their son would likely pass, and a gentleman to my right waiting for his daughter who was completing her first marathon to raise money for a cancer charity in memory of her late mum. Very emotional! I started enjoying myself, shouting for everyone who had a name on their vest. It wasn’t long before the gentleman enquired as to how I knew so many people – I explained that I only knew a few who had yet to go past but that I was just offering my general support to people who had probably put their names on their vests to get encouragement shouted to them. He liked this idea very much and he joined my shouting; we soon had the whole barrier shouting out the names of everyone passing us, trying to make sure everyone got a shout-out, with special joint shout-outs to those who looked like they were beginning to struggle. I went a bit bonkers when Anna went past, and even more when I saw Alister, who turned towards me as he spotted me in the crowd. I thought he was going to come towards me for a kiss, but instead he kindly threw me his very hot, wet and sweaty fluorescent yellow hat which, as I caught it, splattered me and those around me. Thanks, love! It’s a good job I’d made friends with my barrier-mates by then!! The son of the couple next to me went past just after Alister and I joined them in cheering him on. I also managed to spot Ian Spencer a bit further back but must have missed Jane Ives and Barrie. I did manage to spot Anthony Corbett from Quakers, a Durham parkrunner. I waited just long enough for Claire Readey to spot me – good job I had the hoody on or she’d have missed me and I didn’t spot her as she was at the other side of the road. She looked quite strong, chugging down a sports drink as she passed, and she sounded quite chipper as she shouted back to me. I jogged a little bit with her, then turned around to get to the 21 mile point before Al arrived.

Transition 3: 14 mile point to 21 mile point
An easy one, this – a 100 yard walk across Narrow Street and back towards the Limehouse DLR station. The only problem was that the crowds were now 4-5 deep at the barrier. I wandered along the route looking for a weak spot in the crowd and spotted my chance, edging in towards the barrier. I managed to claim a small section before any of our runners went past and, within minutes, spotted Anna Seeley. She acknowledged my cheers with a smile then an ominous raise of her eyebrows. The lady next to me commented on how fresh Anna appeared to be, but I know Ms Seeley well enough to know that those eyebrows meant ‘I’m not enjoying this very much’. Still, she was ahead of Alister and I wasn’t worried about her – but I knew she wouldn’t be happy with her time. Only a few minutes later Alister came jogging past (the gloves were spotted well in advance) and he veered across the crowds to come over and give me a sweaty kiss, nearly tripping over the kerb in his exuberance! He was still grinning so I was relieved! He was still running at PB pace. I waited a few minutes longer to try to catch some of the others, but when a mum with two kids came past, desperately trying to get to the barrier for the kids to shout for their Dad, I let them in to my spot and ran off towards the DLR to try to get to the finish to watch Alister come along Birdcage Walk.

Transition 4: Limehouse DLR to Westminster tube station
The DLR station was still reasonably quiet and well staffed with Spectator Marshals. Unfortunately, the second I made it to the platform, I heard that Westminster tube station was overcrowded and experiencing long delays, so I knew I’d need another change of plan to make it to the finish for Alister. Plan C!

Transition 4: Plan C: Limehouse DLR to Piccadilly tube station
I knew I could run to the finish from Piccadilly tube station, which was on the correct side of the run route for the finish and about a mile away, but the journey there involved a few stops and changes. I plotted what I thought would be a quick route there, but warnings of delays meant I changed my options a few times, finally making it to Piccadilly to find a hugely busy station. It took about 10 minutes to get out onto the street, but then I took off running towards the finish. Texts from my Dad, however, told me Al was past 25 miles and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time to see him finish, so I headed straight for the meeting area. This is a long, wide area along Horseguards Parade, round the corner from Admiralty Arch, and consists of an avenue of trees, each one labelled very clearly with a letter of the alphabet. Despite the crowds, it’s surprisingly easy to spot people you know, and I was pleased to see Ian, our host for the weekend, waiting there to congratulate Alister. He’d been tracking him live on the website, too, so knew he was doing well. Within minutes I had a text from my Dad to say that Alister had crossed the finish line in a new PB, knocking 9 minutes off his time from last year. I knew I’d be meeting a happy husband! It took Al a while to wind his way round to us from the finish area (although it’s incredibly well organised, with runners’ kit bags given directly to them within 50m of the finish line), and I soon saw him approaching us with can of London Pride in hand and big grin firmly plastered on his face. Anna wasn’t far behind, and we wandered through Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square and on to a pub for a few beers before making our way home.

So, in summary, the spectating is an adventure in itself and I really enjoyed it, despite being on my own. The atmosphere at London really is something else – the cheering, the camaradarie and the support extend to all the supporters and you leave feeling you’ve been a part of something really special. If you fancy trying the supporting role, my main advice would be to plan your route, buy a travelcard, and make friends along the way!!

Oh, and stay over on the Sunday night so you don’t have to fight your way back across London with a runner with sore legs and tube stations packed to capacity. And don’t use East Coast trains – two journeys to the VLM in two years, both with over 5 hours delays….

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London Marathon, Sunday, April 17, 2011

Five Fabulous Fables

Zoe Evans …

Zoe. This was the second time I have run the London Marathon, and having taken it all way too seriously in 2008 (obsessing over mile timings, weighing out pasta relative to my body weight, sobbing uncontrollably at mile 21 etc etc), I decided if there was only one plan I would stick to this time round it would be to ENJOY IT!! I had a vague idea I would be somewhere between a 9:30 and 10 min mile, but just decided to run however felt good.

The weather was already getting warm as I got off the train at Blackheath, and it was only to get warmer. The start area was buzzing and I made friends with a nice lady from Cornwall in zone 6. And we were off! I managed 3 miles before I accepted the fact that I was desperate for the loo and resigned myself to stopping in the portaloo queue (no, I did NOT do a ‘Paula’). Although this lost me about 3 mins I felt a whole lot better for it! From then on I cruised along, taking in the views, enjoying the music, the drumming band around mile 5 were fantastic, and even did a bit of celebrity spotting – Cheryl Baker!! Wasn’t she in Bucks Fizz??

I spotted my family at mile 12 which was a massive boost, as the weather was getting really hot by then, and my knees feeling a little bit funny. Stopped for a minute to give them a hug and then pressed on. As I crossed Tower Bridge I’m not sure why but I felt really emotional and overwhelmed, felt so grateful just to be there, be a part of something that does so much good for so many people. I’m trying not to make this sound corny but it really felt so special to be a part of it all. As I commenced the big ‘loop’ and saw the really fast dudes speeding past on the other side, I realised that I still had a while to go before I had tamed the beast. The sun was beating down so thank god for all those water stations and showers. Maybe it’s being from down South, or having been running around in a few fires at work of late, but I really do enjoy running in the heat, much more than in the cold, so although it was challenging I felt comfortable plodding along, anticipating a nice suntan later on. I did pour some water over myself, which mainly served to cause my some unfortunate chafing! Mile 20 and I was slowing down a bit, but took a couple of painkillers for my creaky knees, and kept on plodding. I realised that last time I ran this race I had already started walking on and off by this point, so was happy to find myself still jogging and still enjoying the scenery.

The next 2 miles went by in a haze of staring intently at the crowd for my family, who finally appeared at 23.5 miles, happy days! And then I realised, I had less than 3 miles to go! Less than a Parkrun! And I’m still running! The crowds were great, I heard my name countless times and felt so grateful to everyone who shouted for me. By this point every muscle in my legs was burning but I was determined that I would run the whole way this time. And finally, there it was, the Mall. Then the ‘400m to go’ sign…. And with the end in sight I managed a little token sprint to finish in 4hrs14mins, knocking 15mins off my pb, and finishing with a big smile on my face. Thanks to all the Striders for their encouragement, especially on wednesday night before the race, it gave me such a confidence booster and reminded me of everything I love about running. Well done to all the ‘Super 6’, it’s been fun!!

… and Alister Robson…

What an absolutely fantastic event. When I first applied back in April last year I didn’t know what I’d let myself in for. I do now and I also know I’m going to be applying again. All those long, horrible runs on cold mornings in January and February were worth it as everything came together on the day.

Alister, Kathryn and George at the Expo. The whole day was just one brilliant experience after another. I even enjoyed the Expo on the Saturday where it was great to meet up with George and Kathryn and get some silly photo’s. The expo itself was great and I ended up buying far more stuff than I probably needed. In the end I plumped for running in my Striders vest over the Acorns charity vest – I had my name put onto it at the Expo. It just felt right somehow to be running in purple on a Sunday!

I hit a slight snag on race morning as we missed an overland train from Dalston where we were staying, but there was another along very shortly afterwards and all the trains were full of pensive looking runners. Walking across Blackheath to the blue area was brilliant too, a real sense of converging on something important. The start was fantastically well organised, with loads of loos and the pens were much better organised than the GNR. When the start went off the pens gradually merged and there was a bit of bunching. Quite a few other male runners took this opportunity to have a last minute pee against the fence and although I didn’t think I really needed to go, I thought it prudent to join them. Turns out I did desperately need to go, and also that this would be the last time for about 10 hours that I would be able to! I lost quite a bit of time here as many, many runners went past me, but I actually think this worked in my advantage as I was forced to slow to their pace which was slightly slower than I intended, and given the later heat, could well have saved me. I stayed sensible and didn’t try to catch up the lost time as I knew that would be a mistake.

The first ten or so miles went past really easily and I felt a bit of a fraud, knowing full well that I was basically coasting quite a bit slower than I knew I could run. I was also surprised by how emotional the whole day was. I ran with a smile on my face and my head up as advised by several people – really trying to drink in the atmosphere – and you can’t help but be inspired by some of the wonderful stories from the charity runners and supporters around you. Some daft song set me off and somehow I found tears in my eyes at several points early on. Tower Bridge was also a particular highpoint – it just looked stunning in the sunshine and the crowds were fantastic. Just after the halfway marker I spotted my wife, Jacquie, and was able to get across to give her a sweaty kiss – it was a real boost to see her and our friend who kindly put us up for the weekend. 13-22 miles was where the real hard work began as I knew it would. The heat was now really starting to get up and whereas in the first part I’d been able to carry and sip a bottle of powerade from the start most of the way round, I grabbed water and lucozade from nearly every drinks station all the way home. My gel strategy I also adjusted on the fly – I took one every 50 minutes or so rather than the hour I’d been practising beforehand, but again this seemed to work. My right knee which has been a little sore for a couple of weeks, I certainly became more aware of, although from my splits it doesn’t appear to have slowed me too much. I spotted my wife again at about 22 miles and again grabbed a kiss. She later said that we’d have both been gutted if I missed my four hour target by a few seconds! I don’t remember a great deal from about 22 miles in – it was very much a case of gritting my teeth and getting on – this was further than I had ever run before. I think I worked out at 5K out that there was only a ‘parkrun’ left and I knew I could do that. Alister. I even managed a sprint coming up and over the line, especially as the race clock still had 3.59.xx on it, but I think I just missed the race clock 4 hour mark.

The medal was well worth it and I think I even managed a smile for my photo. Bag collection was easy and simple and I made my way over to ‘R’ where I’d arranged to meet my wife and slumped on the kerb. The only bad thing about the day was when we found out about George, and thank goodness he’s OK now. I think he still thinks he let people down by not finishing but he did no such thing. He is a personal hero and an inspiration.

Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible for me to do, joined me on training runs and provided freely some great advice and best wishes. I would name you all personally but I’d be petrified of leaving someone out.
You know who you are.

… and Kathryn Sygrove…

I still don’t really know what to make of my London marathon race, my first ever marathon two years after I took up running in earnest. Did I achieve my goals? Yes and no. Yes, I raised nigh on £1200 for Toybox, a charity which works with street children in Central America. No, I did not achieve the sub-4 hours which I had hoped for. Does it matter? Yes and no. Yes, because that’s the sort of person I am. No, because I have helped to make the lives of some desperately poverty-stricken children better (maybe even helped to save their lives, the way some of them are “removed” for good by the police); no, because I made it in hot conditions, whilst having the nouse to re-think my original game plan in light of those unexpected conditions; and, no, because I achieved something which many people will never achieve in their lives. In balance, then, I came up trumps.

Kathryn and pink toyboy. On the day, I started at the red start with George Nick, after having met him, his wife Anne, Ali and Jacqui, at the Expo on the Saturday after a 5am start. The Nicholsons and I went on to meet Amanda, one of George’s daughters, at Heathrow Ariel, where our hotel was. Saturday passed and Sunday greeted us with another 5am start for breakfast. YIKES! The coach transfer to the start left at 6.30am and we got to the start points about 7.50am. Lots of photos, mainly mad ones, were taken, then me and George were left to find our pen near the back. George swapped pens to start with me, so we could encourage each other in the pre-race wait. So far, so good.

It was coolish as we went over the start line about 9:57. A bit jostly, but fine. I soon separated from George and kept an eye on my pace, aware that some bottlenecks slowed me down (probably for the best) and at other times, I was as close to my marathon race pace as I could be. Really, the first 10 miles went like a dream. I have never managed to be THAT close to my race pace so consistently well in any of my training runs, apart from slowing a bit for drinks (my first at 6 miles might have been a bit tardy, and may have impacted me later on, but in the relative cool, I was feeling strong and steady). First signs of a bit of weariness were evident in trying to bob along behind the 3:56 pacing guy, but I held on till about halfway at around 1:58. My tried and tested Shotblox had gone down pretty well, and I had increased my water intake to include running with it by now, for extra hydration.

Then came the heat. WHAM! (at least, that’s how I felt it). 13 to 16 miles I focussed on 14, 15 then 16 miles in between the mile markers, but was starting to feel increasingly nauseous and a bit light-headed. The psychological “10 miles to go” point saw me stop briefly to force down more Shotblox, which stuck to my dry mouth by then, and a good bottle of water in sips. A man collapsed on the path at that point made me think: “You better rethink your plan, or that will be you, if you feel like this already.” That wise move saw me move off again, re-energised, but still feeling churny and a bit sick. All of a sudden I was at 21 miles, and the same thing happened again. Eh? I had drunk so much extra water, maybe not quite as many Shotblox as intended, but the choice between nausea without them and a different nausea after imbibing them, wasn’t really much cop. In fact, having to take on board a lot more liquid on the run had not been easy either. My gut felt assailed and complained evidently. A coolish bit under a bridge (not many of them all the way round) saw me repeat my tactic of 16 miles, but I could have wept, I felt so sick. I could have cheerfully stood there and not budged one inch further. More water, more ramming down of Shotblox, some of which I spat back out as they were so cloying by then. I asked a marshall – a young guy – for a hug, and reluctantly set off, feeling awful. But I knew the 22 mile mark was familiar territory – across the road from 13 miles – and the crowd started to roar in an ever-increasing crescendo, the closer the finish-line got. Somehow, I crossed 23, 24, 25 miles, Heaven knows how. My mental determination was spent that is for sure, and I realised how alone you can feel after doing so much of your training with running buddies. I walked a wee bit then, as faint-headedness re-occurred, with thoughts of “Stuff the time, I am gunna make it now, come what may.” And as we rounded the corner into the Mall, I broke into a very gentle trot, ever-so-slightly upping the pace as the 800/600/400/200 metre markers came along. I saw a man limping in obvious great pain, and asked if he would like me to walk with him to the end, but he waved me on, so I finished jogging lightly, but nothing more than that.

After picking up my kitbag, I sat down in a haze. I could not believe that, after having felt so dreadful for most of the second half – mainly the heat, partly my ever-dicky tum – I had actually done it. The second leg had been an absolute ordeal, I had forced myself through it, and I honestly cannot say that I enjoyed that part. My thoughts turned to George in that hot “Buzz” suit and I started to worry about him, if I, when lightly-clad, had felt so lousy. When I heard about Sophie Raworth and how she had pushed for a similar goal to mine, only to end in collapse at 24 miles with a core body temperature of 43 degrees, I realised that I had probably also been starting to show symptoms of heat exhaustion, and had run the best and only way I could have on that day and in that hot weather. It suddenly hit me that this isn’t a game, it is serious business, and if your body is sending you messages you did not expect to hear on race day, it is because it knows so much better than your competitively- driven mind.

… and Dougie Nisbet

The portaloos were the first thing to impress me. Policed by fierce looking women armed with radios and spare toilet roll there was absolutely no doubt about who was in charge. Once you reached the front of the queue you were given a curt nod and pointed to the first free loo. All very reassuring and efficient. I’d arrived at the blue start with plenty of time in hand and as it was warm and spacious I found a space on the grass and settled down to wait. This was to be my 6th marathon and I felt good. Rested, hydrated, trained, tapered, calm, confident and a little bit excited. I wasn’t worried about the heat as I’d run Edinburgh in 2009 in very hot conditions and this looked nowhere close.

Dougal the Brave running.I joined the exodus to the starting pens and waited for the action to begin. I’d left my Garmin at home and would be running alone, using the Force. I knew there would be timer clocks at every mile and I had a rough idea of where I should be and when but mostly I simply planned to run, run as fast, as I can, until I got to the finish. There was no indication of when the race actually started just a gradual movement of bodies forward and when I reached the timer mats at the Start Line I was disconcerted to see there were no clocks there. I didn’t know when we’d started and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway as there were no clocks to subtract the walking to the start time from. I asked a few fellow runners but they were all Italian and then I realised I really wasn’t that bothered anyway. Use the Force.

I’d expected congestion but I hadn’t really appreciated how long it lasted. I thought things would open up after a few miles but even getting on for the half-way point it was still pretty boingy. It didn’t worry me unduly and I enjoyed running at the pace that felt right when I could and soaking up the atmosphere. The evangelists giving us bible readings intrigued me (I didn’t stop to listen) and the steel drum bands under the motorway bridges were just fantastic. Normally I don’t get very thirsty during races but given the weather I was drinking a little water at every drinks station.

I’ve listened to lots of people saying how great the London Marathon atmosphere is but I still wasn’t quite prepared for the reality. Crossing Tower Bridge under clear blue skies with the glorious cacophony from the fantastic crowds will be a memory I shall never forget. Sharp right and on to the Isle of Dogs I knew I was wide of my dream target time but still good for a sub-4. I was a happy man. Things started unravelling for me around Canary Wharf when the noise from the crowd was so loud my ears hurt! The heat was getting to me now and I knew I had to tread the fine line between keeping the pace ticking over and pushing the needle into the red. There was no breeze to take the heat away and I wondered how George was faring in a Buzz Lightyear costume.

Mile 21 proved to be the deal breaker. I was hot but coping ok until a man with a 5-foot lollipop ran passed. The lollipop said “Runners World 3:56 pacer”. Excellent. Realising I was still in with a shout for a sub-4 I lifted my pace to stick with the Lollipop Man. It was to be my undoing. I was managing to hang on to LM but I was also pretty sure that the sky wasn’t meant to contain quite so many bright colours and that the road wasn’t meant to wobble like the set of Faulty Towers. The painful muscles and the prescription free hallucinogenics I could just about deal with as I realised I was pushing the envelope and simply needed to ease up. It was the sudden, unexpected, intense nausea that crippled me. There was no elegant gradual slowing up; I simply stopped running then concentrated on walking gently and focussing on the ground ahead. Any serious attempt at a time ended there and then and I continued walking, absolutely petrified in case I threw up in front of all these people. I may have been close to being one of the many roadside first-aid statistics but the thought racing through my mind was PleaseDontBeSickPleaseDontBeSick, it would just be so embarrassing. I looked around wondering where Zoe’s Uncontrollable Sobbing point was as I felt that perhaps I could pause there as a mark of respect. I was feeling none too great myself.

It’s all very public in the final few miles. In some marathons if you’re struggling you can ease up, walk, and put on a brave face for the final few yards. In London it’s a solid wall of crowd and sound and there’s nowhere to hide. I must have walked for about 15 minutes before I gradually started to feel better and became aware again of the encouragement from the crowd. It was now more specific and directed, beyond the usual “C’mon Dougie!”. I heard “Don’t give up now, Dougie; you’re nearly there.”, and when I responded with a beleaguered nod and broke into a jog I was rewarded with “That’s the spirit!” and cheers and applause.

Dougal the Brave with his medal.Reading Kathyrn’s report I think we had a similar race. We were going for similar times, had done the training, and judging by our times, crashed and burned about the same place. In the end we both succumbed to the heat. I ran, rather than raced, the last mile or two to the finish and the final emotional awe-inspiring run up the Mall. The crowds are phenomenal and the whole experience is rather humbling. My race went nowhere to plan (approximately 30 minutes slower than target) but that’s the great thing about our sport. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with my time but it’s great to be outwitted by the fickleness of a race. Despite all the preparation and training the race will be what it is, on the day, and full of surprises. A great run by Alister who ran on form and a brilliant performance by Zoe who sizzled round ahead of me and Kathryn. George was unlucky and there’s no point in sugar-coating the disappointment he must feel. But it was hot and tough out there and no one is indestructible, not even Buzz Lightyear.

Shaun adds: Hard luck to George Nick, who stopped at the 22-mile medic tent with stomach and leg cramps, but was ambulanced into hospital, unlike Sophie Raworth, who was allowed to recover for a couple of hours and carry on. The account of her collapse on her running blog is actually quite interesting, by the way, though Paul Evans reckons she should have also been pulled out of the race if her core temperature was 43°C. Sophie sent George a message on twitter saying she was sorry to hear what happened to me, which was nice.

George says: “My London 2011 experience did not end as planned, however nothing can detract from some great memories leading up to the big day, the camaraderie and fun of the Super 6 in particular. My failure to finish meant I received dozens of warm & wonderful messages of support from a lot of people. These have made me feel very privileged and honoured indeed, and they mean far more to me than ‘crossing’ across that finish line on Sunday. That will have to now have to wait until April 2012!” A fuller report from George is here.

Those who have followed the fortunes of the VLM Super Six might like to read their sixth and final report by Sunderland Harrier David Savage. David’s account of his London Marathon can be found in this Word document.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Mutai, Emmanuel Kenya M 1 2:04:40
1* Keitany, Mary Kenya F 1 2:22:00
8,648 Robson, Alister M 3,698 3:57:19
12,336 Evans, Zoe F 1,603 4:14:08
13,517 Nisbet, Dougie MV45 1,467 4:19:06
14,470 Sygrove, Kathryn FV45 409 4:24:00
23,991 Farnsworth, Christine FV55 160 5:02:27
26,883 Nicholson, Jim MV60 341 5:18:50
29,965 Thompson, Margaret FV60 101 5:41:05

34,656 finishers.
*Elite Women’s race.

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