The weekend of 2nd and 3rd October was a busy one for Gade Valley Harriers. As always there were Parkruns on Saturday morning but there were also several races on Sunday including the return of a local favourite, the Abbots Langley Tough 10, as well as the return of a global favourite, the London Marathon.
First of all, an update from 2 weeks ago. Caron Williams was part of a World Record attempt for the “highest number of people running 10k in 24 hours”. It was confirmed at the end of last week that the World Record attempt was successful as over 35,000 people submitted times and over 25,000 had been verified. Congratulations Caron, no doubt you will be comparing notes with Gade Valley’s other illustrious multiple World Record holder, Tom Langdown.
The Abbots Langley Tough 10, recently renamed in honour of Watford FC’s legendary manager Graham Taylor, is a 10k race that starts and finishes on the Manor House grounds in Abbots Langley. Anybody familiar with the local geography will know that the Manor House grounds sit right at the top of a steep hill. That location should in turn give a clue as to why the adjective “Tough” is applied to the race. Whilst the beginning and middle of the race are either flat or downhill, the last mile or so climbs back up to the playing fields from Kings Langley by way of the steep Gallows Hill Lane.
One person who didn’t find the race too “tough” was Gade Valley’s Matt Watt. He put in a magnificent time of 35:55 to finish 4th overall and scoop a rather magnificent trophy as the winner of the V40 category. James Felstead and Andy Bishop, making his first competitive appearance for the Harriers for over 3 years, were next to finish, both inside the top 30. Vicky Crawley Wise and Claire McDonnell both ran strongly, finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the V35 age category, netting some nice trophies and a bunch of flowers for Vicky.
Spouses Helen and Andy Terry chose to take on a marathon on Sunday, running together in the Royal Windsor Trail Marathon. Helen declared some time ago that she wanted to complete 10 marathons before her 40th birthday and this race was the one to complete that challenge. There is no record of the conversation that the pair enjoyed but Helen’s comments after the race were illuminating: “Done! The hardest marathon I have done. The second half was a complete car crash and I’m amazed we’re still married.” She added, “If anyone ever hears me even think about doing another marathon, please punch me in the face.” At the time of writing it isn’t known if the offer has yet been accepted, by Andy or anybody else.
Also away from the crowds of the London Marathon, Tracey Cotton and Kirstie Hardiman took on the altogether more lonely challenge of the Dorney Lakes Marathon. Dorney has been well documented in these pages previously and presents a challenge based on monotony and repetition consisting as it does of 4 “laps” of a course that processes up and down either side of a long lake, thus consisting of 16 trips back and forwards along essentially the same strip of land. Tracey and Kirstie both scored new PB times over the course with Kirstie finishing 13th in her category and just missing out on a sub 4 hour time in 4:00:08 with Tracey not far behind in 4:11:36.
Meanwhile, around 20 Harriers took part in what was undoubtedly the main event of the day as they took part in what was billed as the largest marathon ever to have taken place as around 40,000 competitors lined up at Blackheath and a further 40,000 competed in the Virtual London Marathon all over the World. This year’s event was particularly special as it is almost two and a half years since the last mass participation London Marathon took place, in April 2019.
Although crowds were allowed (but discouraged) Covid still cast its ugly shadow on the event. The start was not the usual mass start as runners were set off in waves to try to minimise the press of people at the start. Frustratingly for competitors, there was no bag drop facility on the day as runners were asked to hand in their kit ahead of time in the week leading up to the race. The organisers also attempted to limit the numbers of spectators on the course by asking runners to only invite a single person to cheer them on. This last measure seemed to be largely ignored and unpoliced (or perhaps unpolicable) judging by the crowds visible at the roadside, albeit not perhaps in the numbers normally associated with the Spring race.
Heading off in the earliest wave of starters were Stu Gallagher, Antony Beamish and Gareth Tucker. Stu Gallagher recorded the fastest, and most evenly paced, time on the day finishing the course in a superb 3:10:09, despite only managing 5 weeks of training because of injury. Gareth Tucker was next to finish with a new PB and the distinction of running a negative split as he ran the first half marathon in 1:38:01 and the full marathon in 3:15:11. Gareth was clearly delighted with his run saying after the race, “Thanks, PB by 22 minutes”. Antony Beamish also recorded a PB on the day, completing the course in 3:16:02. Antony couldn’t quite match Gareth’s enthusiasm for his own achievement, commenting that “It’s a PB Mate… I’m chuffed”.
Tom Langdown already holds the World Record for the “fastest marathon dressed as a tap” (2016) and the “fastest marathon dressed in chainmail [must include gauntlets, a hood, full sleeves and a skirt extending below the knee]” (2017) as well as a narrow failure to scoop the much coveted “fastest marathon dressed in pyjamas [must include a wee willie winkie hat]” (2019), all three attempts took place at the London Marathon. Tom wasn’t taking on a World Record this year but he was dressed as an elephant as he was raising money for Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Tom was very clear on this point as he angrily confronted a BBC interviewer who accused him of being dressed as a Rhino. Despite the altercation, Tom completed the course in a very respectable 5:12:33 (though slower than when he was dressed in chainmail in 2017 and wasn’t accused of wearing sheet armour).
Also not dressed as a rhino, but very happy with the result, was Charlie Cadogan. After the race he said “Woo hoo. That was amazing, and now very hurty. I got 3:45:03, a PB by 12 mins! I can’t thank you all enough for the camaraderie and brilliant, creative training.” Finishing with a time only 47 seconds behind that of Charlie was Trevor Normoyle. His official time was 3:45:50.
Running the London Marathon course together, but not married, were good friends Nicky Moore and Ciara Barry. They completed the first half of the course in 2:19:20 but got marathon divorced in the second half as Nicky tired slightly to complete the 26 miles in a hugely respectable 4:44:01 (but still comfortably inside her goal time of 4:45) while Ciara picked up the pace to record a negative split, finishing in 4:37:12.
Another London Marathon veteran is Jane Percival. She was taking on the World’s most famous marathon for the 3rd and (she says) final time. She said “London puts on a marathon like nobody else (having done a few others, I can say that with confidence). It was Incredible. The crowds in London are back!” She went on to say “looking at the photos I can see what I need to improve on – stop hugging all the crowds and concentrate on running!” She didn’t come across Tom Langdown dressed as an elephant but she did encounter other costumes, she commented: “I was almost knocked over at mile 10 by a giant yellow star overtaking me and I was beaten on the line by a giant pint of Guinness. I didn’t see Tom in his rhino suit though, did he look good?”
Paul Williams was running his first ever marathon and was just a few seconds outside a 4 hour finish time, in 4:00:06. He wasn’t disappointed by what was a superb first marathon effort, saying “A great day out today for my first Marathon. Fantastic support all of the way around. Official time 4:00:06” Competing in his first London Marathon since the last London Marathon, Dave Goodman has completed more marathons in the past month than most people complete in a lifetime. He struggled this time, still feeling the effects of his efforts in Berlin last weekend no doubt, and slowed down appreciably in the later part of the race to finish in a still commendable 5:06:27. He wondered afterwards if his time could have been improved if, like Tom Langdown, he had considered a rhino suit.
Mel Hardy and her partner Sam Richards were both on the start line (or different start lines) of the London Marathon with high hopes after steady improvement throughout the past couple of years. The London Marathon has four different start areas which take different amounts of time to get through. Despite travelling more quickly, Sam “overtook” Mel after about 10 miles as he had started later. He didn’t wait around too long for a chat and duly sped away into the distance to clock 3:34, knocking nearly an hour off his previous PB. Mel was no less successful, crossing the finish line in 3:54, knocking well over half an hour from her previous best.
Priscilla Pathak is a veteran of many marathons and she was happy to be taking part in the London Marathon. She commented “Couldn’t achieve a personal best! The last 4 miles was a real struggle. There’s always something to blame at each marathon but it wasn’t the weather this time but a throbbing pain from a black toe. I’m very grateful to be able to run the World’s largest marathon finishing 194th in my age category.” Well done Priscilla, a fantastic effort. She also thanked the GVH support team: “A big ‘Thank You’ to GVH for giving me the ballot place, support & opportunity to participate in this amazing race! Special thanks to Ed and all the coaches for your guidance and support.”
Kitty Cole and Kelly Cox were photographed together early on in the race before they got separated around the halfway mark. Kitty went on to complete the race in 4:55:34 to earn a new PB. Kelly was suffering with illness but was determined to finish the race and worked very hard to make sure she did. Kitty said on Monday “I found her RUNNING across the line on the TV! She’s a legend and I hope she looks back and is damn proud.” She certainly should be proud.
The last word goes to Heather Timmis. Back in April Teresa Reason became the first GVH woman to qualify for the championship race with her V45 club record breaking run at the Dorney Lake Marathon. Teresa will now have company in the Championship start area for the London Marathon 2022 as Heather not only ran quickly enough to qualify herself but lowered Teresa’s mark by 10 seconds as she completed her first official road marathon in a scarcely believable 3:13:48. Congratulations to both Heather, on a day of great achievements everywhere, a standout performance.