The weekend of 1st and 2nd April saw the first marathons of the spring marathon season, this year fully populated with the big city marathons as London and Manchester return to their usual berths for the first time since 2019. On Sunday 10 Harriers took on the Brighton Marathon, 4 GVH tourists made the trip to the Llanelli coastline for the Great Welsh Marathon and 1 Harrier did a half marathon in London.
Before talk of marathons, however, a piece of admin from the previous weekend. Going completely under the radar Jon Roberts took part in the Great Horwood Mad March Hare 5k race on 26th March. Great Horwood is a small village in Bucks, roughly halfway between Buckingham and Bletchley and Jon had signed up for the small event alongside many of his close family. Not only did Jon win the race, but his official time of 18:38 took 50 seconds off the existing club V50 5k road race record. Club statistician Andy Newing commented, “Big Congrats to Jon Roberts who smashed the MV50 5K (Road) Club record on the 26th March by a whopping 50 seconds!”
On Sunday, away from marathons, GVH fancy dress World Record specialist Tom Langdown took part in the London Landmarks Half Marathon. As he didn’t run in fancy dress, didn’t break a World Record and chose to do a half marathon on a day when others were doing a full one, he frankly should consider himself lucky to have his time of 1:28:43 mentioned at all. Tom wasn’t approached for a comment.
The Great Welsh Marathon sounded like a good idea at the time when people were contemplating their annual rejection from the London Marathon ballot. Mary McCluskey was the ringleader as she saw an opportunity to visit her Welsh family and Phil Mercer, Holly Beckett and Ashleigh Taylor were happy to join the trip. Whilst a great weekend was had by all, the best that can be said about the Great Welsh Marathon is that it was indeed a marathon that took place in Wales.
The information promised a fast flat course along the beautiful Welsh Coast. Whilst it was largely flat, the course designers’ decision to make the runners head straight on up a steep hill, instead of turning left to the finish about 200m away, seemed illogical and borderline sadistic. Mary had something to say about the “beautiful Welsh coast”, afterwards commenting that she “didn’t really see any beach or coastline, just a load of mud flat looking stuff.”
Phil was the first of the four to finish the course, he is training for an ultra marathon and saw the race not as a goal race but as a long training run for his ultra. He was aiming to finish the course in around 3½ hours but found the going tough, particularly the wind and the oddly desolate landscape and lack of crowds. He was still satisfied with his time of 3:43:03.
Ashleigh was running her first marathon, which surprised a few people, but is rumoured to have been a very handy Ironman (should it be Ironwoman or maybe Ironperson?) competitor before she joined the club. She is a regular runner and trained very hard for her first marathon, sometimes (although rarely) managing up to 2 runs per week. Her hard work paid off as she posted a superb time of 4:09:21 in her first outing over the 26.2 mile distance.
Holly Beckett was next home for the Harriers and she also managed a PB in the challenging conditions. Her time of 4:29:05 was nearly a minute under her target of 4½ hours and took 5 minutes off her previous PB.
Mary McCluskey found the conditions particularly difficult and realised afterwards that she “needs the crowd in a city marathon” for next time (she has confirmed there will be a next time). The relatively small field meant that she was running virtually alone in the latter stages of the race and that, combined with the scarcity of marshals on the course, caused her to take a wrong turn around the 18 mile mark, adding around 600m to her distance on the day. That possibly proved crucial as she missed out on a new PB and missed her target of 5 hours by a whisker, finishing the 26.6 miles in 5:01:16.
Meanwhile in Brighton, 10 Harriers benefited from a genuine big city (Brighton and Hove is a city, I checked) marathon crowd. Brighton, along with Manchester and, of course, London has traditionally been one of the three big city spring marathons in England. As with all races it struggled because of the pandemic and Grounded Events, the company which owned and ran the event, went into receivership last November, casting the existence of the race into doubt. Fortunately the race was rescued by the London Marathon Company and those that had already entered had their entries honoured. Just short of 8500 runners started the marathon which was far fewer than previous years (perhaps because of the uncertainty around the organisers) but is still a huge number of participants.
Roly Kendal was running for the Harriers and continued his improvement across all distances. Perhaps benefitting from the proximity of Brighton Racecourse to parts of the marathon route, he was able to use his preferred mode of transport, the stolen horse, to get to the startline. He delivered yet another PB, finishing the race in 3:39:15. He said afterwards, “Started too fast, wheels came off. Seeing the GVH flag gave me a massive boost! Managed to hang in there for a PB by 15 minutes and got a trucker tan as a bonus.” Only true bandits can “hang in there” for a 15 minute PB!
Dan Green was next back for GVH, running his first ever marathon. He said he was “…so pleased to get under my target time of 4 hours! In absolute pieces now tho!” He didn’t just “get under” his target, he smashed it, setting a PB of 3:55:25 which will surely be tough to beat next time out. Gary Kingsley was also very happy with his time, commenting, “A massive PB of 1:52 means I can finally put my London Marathon disaster to bed! Chip time 03:59:11”. At the time of writing it isn’t clear to me if Gary beat his PB by nearly two hours, or nearly two minutes. Paul Williams also completed the race under 4 hours, clocking 3:57:13.
Kim Morgan was next to finish for GVH, in 4:13:06. It wasn’t a PB, but she was happy with her work, saying, “Another marathon in the bag! Great weekend and great company!” Laura Johnson wasn’t far behind Kim, finishing in 4:14:13. Jane Percival was next home for the Harriers and was happy to give her own assessment of the race: “Official time 4 hr 33. Marathon 14! Last 6 miles were my definition of Hell. Next time I think about entering a marathon, someone please stop me.” If you’ve taken 14 marathons to come to this conclusion, you’ll definitely be on the line for marathon 15, Jane!
Natasha Gibbs was next home for GVH, finishing in 4:40:25, ahead of Sam Raffety, who had a day that she’d like to forget. She said it was “…Not my finest hour!” and the split times show that she slowed considerably in the closing 10k or so, which can be the fate of many a well planned marathon. We know Sam will come back stronger. One who didn’t struggle too badly in the closing stages was Ines Trent as she continued her excellent recent form, as she, in her words, “managed a PB by 25 minutes”.
Well done to everybody from GVH who took part in the most challenging of distances last weekend. Congratulations to all of those who managed a new PB and commiserations to those that thought they might but didn’t. Completing a marathon, any marathon, is an achievement to be proud of. If you didn’t get what you wanted, just remember that you still have that achievement to look back on and one more marathon (and the knowledge and experience of what may not have worked) under your belt.