London Marathon 2019 (+ bonus Milton Keynes Marathon) write ups

OS Runners was fortunate to have 3 runners in the London Marathon 2019; and they’d obtain their places via different routes;

  1. James was successful in the club ballot
  2. Karen had run a Good for Age time previously
  3. Kat was successful in the general ballot

On Saturday they all met up at the Expo to collect race numbers

Kat and Karen = massively excited, James = hiding his excitment

All 3 had done a huge amount of training since they got their places, done lots of long runs and been working really hard to ensure they gave themselves the best chance possible of running well and enjoying it.

Enough from me; now over to the 3 legends of OSR;

Karen – Having run a qualifying “Good For Age” marathon time of 3:34 last April at the Great Welsh Marathon I’d arrived at Blackheath with the ambition to set a new Marathon PB or, at the very least, get a “Good For Age” time again. My race flew by, I loved most of it, in particular, spotting various enthusiastic friends cheering along the way and spotting Mo fly past when my 13 mile section met with the 22 mile bit coming back the other way! There were also bits where I was seriously questioning my life choices, but that soon passed!!

The whole way, according to the pace on my watch, I was well on track for a 3:28 finish. I maintained the pace, even in the last 5k where congestion around slowing/stopping people was getting bad and my muscles were telling me they were done! Unfortunately, no matter how much you stick to the racing line, the distance of swerving around so many people soon adds up and that stacks on the time. I crossed the line at 3:30:30 which gives me a new PB by 4 minutes, and a renewed determination to go sub 3:30 next time. It also put me in the top 7% of women and qualifies me to do London again next year, so I’m sussing out whether to give this one another go. It really was a huge and emotional experience and I loved being part of such an amazing, massive scale event and to be literally following the footsteps of the world’s marathon heroes. Every time I crossed a timing mat I visualised all the friends who’d said they’d be tracking and that made me even more determined to give 100%. The general ballot is open this week only, and I’d recommend everyone entering, the chances of getting in are so low, that if you do, by magic, get in, then surely it’s meant to be!!

Congratulations Karen

Kat

For my first try in the General Ballot, I was one of the “lucky ones” amongst a record-breaking number who applied this year. I felt extremely lucky and thus eager to do it justice. I had run London before in 2012 as a charity place dependent on raising £2500 and spent most of the build-up hustling for sponsorship (virtue-signalling: done!). That had been its own amazing experience, but now was a fresh opportunity to focus solely on running for OSR and hopefully beat that previous time of 5:02. On the hunt for a challenge, I found a training plan that claimed if I could sub-50min in a 10K, then it would get me to a sub-4hr marathon?! Sounded crazy, but since I’d finally broken under 50mins in 10K for the first time that year, I chose to dare and see what happened.

That was last October and the 16-week plan wasn’t due to start until January. Kick back and relax, right? But it was prefaced with a warning: “Before starting, you should be running at least 20 miles per week”. I was barely on 10 back then, so had to start incrementing straight away to reach this baseline in time. Altogether, this meant training took over my life for 6+ months. Prior to this I’d never run a 30+ mile week and certainly never a 100+ mile month! I generally stuck to the ‘10% Rule’ to avoid any injuries and adjusted the plan to run Stubbington 10K and Wimborne 20 early on. Fleet Half Marathon served as a checkpoint 6 weeks out to get sub-1:50 and confirm I was on track. Overall, I missed one session due to some back spasms (because I wasn’t including strength & conditioning, whoops) and stuck close to the plan except to tailor the taper weeks to rest properly.

Garmin training graph that’s soon be ruined by my post-marathon malaise:

Those reading this far, well done – I will get to the race itself! – but wanted to share the training journey because it was what made London Marathon 2019 my best race ever. The biggest revelation was “Slowing Down to Speed Up” actually works. Nearly all my long runs were at 50secs – 2mins slower than race pace so I recovered faster, could genuinely take in the scenery, and built up an aerobic base that had a doctor ask unprompted while taking my BPM “Are you a runner?” Gold star, in my opinion!

The Race

The day before was a mix of nerves and excitement, meeting Karen and James with their entourages at the Expo and getting our race numbers. It was extra special to share the experience with both (being a fangirl of Ultra Connell since joining OSR!) and to have my partner Tom, the trusty Clarkes, and Matt Pillinger supporting us all at the race. Turned out the Clarkes were especially useful for finding pubs to spectate from on course…

I’d been generally quiet about my sub-4 hour goal. Months before, Matt had estimated 4:20ish for me, which confirmed I had to work hard because I trust his formidable stats mind-palace. So I formed a race strategy to give myself a decent buffer in the first half in case I hit ‘The Wall’ later on. But come the day and setting off from the chilly start at Blackheath, the crowds were thick, and I could feel the pace was off. Matt’s prediction echoed in my head over first few timing mats when I knew I was behind schedule. Before I knew it, I was past the roar of spectators at Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge which raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and at the halfway point. My watch said 1:59-something. Uh oh. There was no time reserve for the harder half of the race and that spelled bad news. I had a strange feeling someone else would be saying so too. 😉

Mile 15 was difficult, which had me worried since everyone says its 18 – 20 that should hurt. But I downed a few gels and got a surge of energy. Suddenly by 20 I felt stronger than ever with 10K left. I went steely-eyed and, probably a bit delirious, got super buoyed-up by a singer blasting out Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ from a lorry as I ran past, shouting wildly back at her “PLAYAS GONNA PLAY PLAY PLAY”. Um. If you like this song, I’m sorry. I’m also sorry to Sean Conway who I sidled up to pointing at my OS top, which he managed to acknowledge while running in a Scouts uniform inside a tent (yes, that wasn’t just delirium). I also passed Chris Evans who was saying we’ve all proven enough and should take the tube to the end.

But unbelievably, I didn’t need to. Somehow the energy kept coming and with an amazing boost from seeing Tom, Matt, James & Vicki at 40K, I ran my fastest miles in the last 5K to finally reach my goal in 3:57:02. It was emotional crossing the finish line, my determined stride instantly crumbling to a hobble. It felt a long way to the baggage lorry and meeting points, chatting with other exhausted, happy runners. Tom met me, confirmed the Tracking App wasn’t lying — I’d done sub-4! We staggered to the last pub, another excellent choice from the Clarkes, where Karen and gang were already celebrating, and enjoyed a few well-earned pints.

Kat doing ‘Phoebe Buffay’ running
Kat’s mega impressive 2nd half – not sure who the 25 are ..

Many factors came together on the day: The personal and public support was immense, the atmosphere electric, and the weather just the right temperature. But it came down to the training. Conclusion: Anyone can do it if you commit to a solid, long training plan, I swear. London is truly magical, and it was amazing to be there with Karen and James and have such amazing OSR support. Major thanks guys! <3

The London Marathon 2020 ballot is open, so for any inspired to give a go… Do it. Go on. SIGN UP! It’s totally worth it.

[Sub-4 Training Plan I used: https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/marathon/a760131/rws-ultimate-marathon-schedule-sub-400/]

Congratulations Kat and Karen

James

I’ve never really been bitten by the ‘marathon bug’ or to be honest the ‘running bug’. As many of you will know in OS Runners, my preferred distance is about 40 (okay 20) meters, with a rugby ball in my hand and people in the way…

However, I have done a lot more running in the last few years to supplement my rugby training, to avoid having to pay gym membership and to get to know more people at work. All of which are good reasons to get involved in a work running club.

So why did I enter the draw for the club place in OS Runners? We’ll partly to prove that anyone with a bit of training and will-power can do what is considered by many to be the ‘must run marathon’, that and it was something that I’ve not done before.

When the draw took place for the Club place, I was abroad with work, so it gave me a bit of time for it to sink in before I had to speak to anyone about it. One of the most important things was for me to sort out a training plan that I would commit to and follow. I settled on an ‘improvers’ marathon plan primarily as many of the beginners almost started from zero. So, plan chosen and committed to, time to implement. As with most of the plans this was a 16 week one designed to start around the 1st of January, In order to get into the swing of things I decided to start the plan 8 weeks early mainly to account for the weeks that I knew I wouldn’t be able to run.

Wonder if James was as excited as Karen when he saw this picture …

Almost everyone who has run a marathon wants to share their experiences and tips with you, which can be a bit overwhelming – but thank you to all of you who did…I probably listened and took your advice in, even.

When it came to race weekend, I had to pick my number/timing chip up from the Running Expo, and it was great to meet Karen and Kat the other OS Runners for a final bit of pre-race excitement. Wish each other luck – not that it was needed given all the great training that we had all done – and get ready for the next day.

Race day itself was a bit of an experience, heading from my hotel to the start meant a change of trains at London Bridge, it was easy to see which platform was needed due to the throng of runners heading one way. The next train to Blackheath was like game of sardines, how many people could you fit into a metal tube (quite a lot it turns out and it puts the overcrowding on the SWR trains to\from London into perspective). Cue obligatory chatter about how’s everyone feeling, is this your first one? Glad it’s not hot like last year etc. Everyone getting ready for the race in their own way.

From the railway station it was a short walk to the start enclosure just follow all the other runners (a common theme emerging here) and to the blue mass start. I had agreed to take part in hydration study so headed to the registration tent where I was weighed and had blood taken, then off to the bag drop and start pens. I was in the last starting zone as you had to give a predicted time for finishing on registration. This meant that although the race officially started at 1010 I didn’t cross the start line until 1103 which was a bit confusing for the people following on the app.

I had set my objectives for the run 1) Finish, 2) Run all the way, and 3) don’t be last. Setting off it was great to finally cross the starting line and knowing that in 6-6.5 hours it’d all be over. The run was simply about following the process, get settled into my rhythm, ignore everyone else, Batman, Jesus, Rhinos all came and went. Fuel at the right time. Don’t get carried away. One foot in front of the other. Keep following the crowds of other runners.

All was going fine until about the half way mark when my knee unexpectedly gave up on me with crazy shooting pains. Never mind just readjust. Could I run walk on it? Yep so that was the plan. One foot in front of the other and follow the other runners. After another 5 or so kms I physically couldn’t run any more, which was a bit annoying. But I could still meet two of my objectives. It was a case of reassess, not get worked up about it and enjoy the experience, after all I’ll only be running this once, right?

Doing some slightly dodgy calculations I worked out that I was still on track to come in ahead of my 6hr target time, which gave me the impetus needed to keep going. The final few kms were a bit of a blur but great support all round – I’m just sorry I couldn’t do a sprint finish on the Mall!

The longest 385 yards ever

Still I finished my first marathon in 5 hours 48 minutes so ahead of schedule, which lead me to wonder what could have happened if I hadn’t had to walk the final 20km…

Congratulations James

The support was fantastic all the way round the courses and it was especially great to see the group of OS Runner supporters just outside a pub at the 8 mile marker (another common theme). Thanks guys you made my day and I’m glad you got to see me actually running! As I’ve said many times before, I still don’t like running but it is a good way to get outside (see almost on brand), see new places, and take part in great events.

Here are some stats for you:

Total number of training runs: 108

Distance run: 872km Time on feet: 112hs

Number of different countries run in:6 – UK, Greece, Lanzarote, Switzerland, Japan, Germany

Weight lost from start to finish of the marathon: 5.5kg (that’s a lot of dehydration)

Number of people I overtook on the day: 3691

Number of people who overtook me: 1156

Number of marathons completed: 1

Karen’s result and splits https://results.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/2019/?content=detail&fpid=search&pid=search&idp=9999990F5ECC9700002C446F&lang=EN_CAP&event=MAS&search%5Bname%5D=connell&search_event=MAS

Kat’s result and splits https://results.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/2019/?content=detail&fpid=search&pid=search&idp=9999990F5ECC9700002C1DDE&lang=EN_CAP&event=MAS&search%5Bname%5D=earls&search_event=MAS

James result and splits https://results.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/2019/?content=detail&fpid=search&pid=search&idp=9999990F5ECC9700002CA85E&lang=EN_CAP&event=MAS&search%5Bname%5D=norris&search%5Bfirstname%5D=james&search_event=MAS

A week after London Paul Ashley ran his first marathon, at Milton Keynes, here is his story;

I choose to do Milton Keynes Marathon the week after London. It was all on a bit of a whim a few months back after a rare long run went better than expected. Despite running for 35yrs this was to be my first marathon and my target was a sub 3.05 to hopefully get me a good for age slot for London 2020. I opted for Milton Keynes as I heard it was a surprisingly scenic, flat course along tree lined paths and lakes as well as being an all-round well organised event. Training had gone reasonably well so standing on the start line I felt fairly confident of getting my sub 3.05 time. The gun went of and finally I could let out all that energy that had built up during my taper. As I glanced down at my Garmin I was pretty shocked to see I was ticking over at sub 4min km pace (2.48 Marathon) and it felt so easy. Despite letting people pass me and trying to not get pulled along I was still averaging sub 4min kms at 10km. The support was really good with lots going on and the atmosphere just seemed to be carrying me along and I felt so relaxed just talking to other runners as the kms ticked away. I continued this pace up to 20km and although starting to tire a bit between 20km and 30km my average pace had only dropped to about 4.03 per km by the 30km mark. I actually felt that I may be able to dig deep and push on and average under 4min kms.

However at around the 32km point the pace I’d set was starting to catch up on me and I was slowing. It’s at this point as so many people will tell you that the race really starts. On top of this I’d made a big mistake as I planned just to use the High5 gels on route , unfortunately they never materialised so the lack of fuel was starting to take effect. The race had now thinned out a lot and the support was not so evident and its was starting to be more about survival. My quads where starting to really tighten up and I choose to run on the grass a lot at the side of the paths to give them some relief. However I told myself I was lucky I could not feel any of the injuries/niggles I’d had prior to the marathon. I’d also been inspired by what my brother Gary (who has just joined OS Runners) went though to finish the London Marathon last week. He somehow managed to get a grade2 tear in both hamstrings (the back of both his legs are now black and blue) and still managed to harbour on to the finish for his target sub 4hr finish.

For the last 5km I was really starting to grimace and was thinking could I power walk,run,walk,run and still have enough time in the bank to finish in sub 3.05. Something told me if I stopped I’d never get going again so I carried on. It felt like I was running far slower than what my Garmin was showing and by this point I was having a word with myself verbally not just in my head. Fortunately for the last few miles the crowds started to appear and the Marathon joined back in with the Half Marathon so I had plenty of people around me again. I could see the stadium finish in sight so just dug in deep and got the job done. It was a great buzz finishing in the stadium and actually gave me goosebumps. I could see the wife and kids waiting at the finish line but just wanted to collapse but then thought better not as I’d never get back up. All in all I was very pleased despite the bad pacing to finish in 2.56. Can’t wait for the buzz of London and a chance to see if I can get more out of my body with better training and knowledge.