Rich Brawn in the hunt for sub-3 at the London Marathon

Tough times and magical moments for BAC faithful at London Marathon

Rich Brawn in the hunt for sub-3 at the London Marathon
Rich Brawn was hoping to crown his first ever London Marathon by getting his first ever sub-3 time

Recognised by many to be the very pinnacle of long distance running in the UK, and in fact one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the London Marathon never fails to serve up some spectacular memories to savour for those involved.

It’s also an event that has been known to bring out the best in Bournemouth AC athletes over the years. Who can forget that famous moment in the 2014 edition when Steve Way popped up out of nowhere to finish as the top Brit in 2 hours 16 minutes?

Then there was Rob McTaggart‘s extraordinary death march to the line last year when he broke every rule in the book taking on no water and no gels as others around him were flaking out in the scorching sunshine.

After finishing in 2 hours 30 minutes he then got straight on the beers and ended up collapsing and being taken to hospital suffering from severe dehydration. He really did go ‘all out’ in every sense that day.

In this year’s race it was Tag who was again hoping to lead the BAC charge, looking for a sumptuous sub-2:25 time. He’d been showing a few glimmers of great form in the build up to the race, with a solid win at the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon and a 2nd place finish in both the Salisbury 10 and the SAL 5,000 metres in the same weekend. Plus a decent 6th place finish in the Eastleigh 10k.

Others like Rich Brawn and Sam Laws were relative marathon novices but they had very clear targets in mind and were prepared to put the hard training in in order to achieve their goals.

Rich was going all out for a sub-3 time whilst Sam had her heart set on a sub-4-hour finish. They both exuded a steely determination to get what they wanted and incorporated the infamous Steve Way 12-week marathon session programme into their training.

After deferring her entry from the previous year when she was injured Estelle Slatford finally got her chance to run at London. She’d had issues finding the time to get a proper regimented training programme going but had done her best to fit the sessions in when she could. She was also hoping for a sub-4-hour finish but was worried that the training she had done might not be enough to see her through.

After being forced to conduct virtually his entire training schedule on the treadmill due to an ongoing glute issue, Graeme Miller was hoping his fitness would translate to the great outdoors when he hit the London streets. He was hoping to go sub-2:50 ideally but knew after minimal outdoor activity, it could potentially prove difficult.

Coming off the back of a splendid sub-2:30 marathon PB at Manchester, along with his club comrade Steve Way who finished just behind him, Anthony Clark was looking to use the London Marathon as a training run with a view to the Comrades Marathon which takes place in June.

He was planning to run the first half of the race as a hard enough effort to be rivalling his half marathon PB pace before switching to Comrades pace for the second half of the race.

Hoping to run the marathon faster than he did at Manchester, for Steve, it was liable to be a fairly hard effort all the way through.

Some Bournemouth AC members had had their training severely hampered, either by injury, illness, or just a general lack of time to fit the training runs in.

Falling into the latter category, Chris O’Brien had had very little training so was not expecting a particularly quick time. He’d only taken the decision to run a month before race day and he knew he wouldn’t be in for a repeat of the sub-3-hour time he registered at Abingdon in the Autumn of 2017 which got him the qualifying time.

Also going into the race without his usual strong block of training behind him, Billy McGreevy wasn’t expecting a time to rival that of previous years. He’d had a couple of good sub-3 times at London but he knew he wasn’t in that kind of form this time round. He’d also been suffering from a knee injury that he was thinking might well effect him over the course of the race.

For a man who is usually so consistent and disciplined with his training every year when it comes to London, this year had been a bit a disaster from Sanjai Sharma‘s perspective.

Again, he’d found it difficult to find the time to get the sessions in in the early part of the year and that set back led to doubts creeping in as to whether he’d be fit enough come the end of April to get anything close to the kinds of times he normally posts.

Sanjai would usually expect to be finishing in around 2:50 but this year was a completely different prospect. Then his luck took a turn for the worse when he contracted an illness in the weeks leading up to the race that had completely wiped him out and left him going into the race with minimal recent training runs behind him.

After achieving her dream of running the six major city marathons and earning the coveted Abbotts World Marathon Major Six Star Medal, Caroline Rowley had taken a bit of time out to recuperate and recover. She wasn’t really targeting any specific time at London but was just looking to enjoy the experience and see what happens.

Usually a 400 metre hurdler by trade, Lewis Bartlett had a very different sort of obstacle in front of him when he decided to tackle the London Marathon. It was his first ever marathon he was running it on behalf of The Brain Tumour Charity, raising almost £3,000 for the cause.

Starting as he meant to go on, Tag was out of the blocks quickly, making the most of the Blue Zone Championship pen getaway. he reached the 5k point in 16:42 and then went on to go over the 10k chip timer at 33:47.

Finding himself in a group of sub 2:23 runners, Tag was exactly where he wanted to be at the point. He checked in at the half way stage in 1:11:59, which was bang on course for a sub-2:25.

Rob McTaggart in the London Marathon
Rob McTaggart was in the hunt for a sub 2:25 time and was looking very strong in the first half of the race

He was fine going at that pace for the first 15 miles. On the 16th mile his pace began to drop slightly. Although he was now going slightly slower than his target pace, Tag hung on in there for the next few miles.

When he arrived at mile 20 though, he had nothing left and was suffering the indignity of seeing other runners overtaking him left, right and centre.

By mile 24 he was mentally shot as well as physically and from there it was a difficult plod to the line which took him to unprecedented lows in terms of pace.

Rob McTaggart in the London Marathon
Over the last 10k Tag began to really struggle and his pace fell away, as did his hopes of achieving the ambitious target he’d set

It was gutting for Tag as he’d put a lot into his training and had even been persuaded to give up red meat and beer in his quest for success. Those who know Tag will know, giving up beer was a huge sacrifice from his perspective.

Sadly though, it just wasn’t to be and his search for a sub-2:25 marathon will continue, for now at least. His official finishing time was 2:37:59 which put him in 307th place overall.

Meanwhile, Ant Clark had had a much more successful outing and had in fact managed to run the race pretty much exactly as he’d intended.

Anthony Clark in the London Marathon
It wasn’t long after he’d secured a fantastic PB at the Manchester Marathon but Anthony Clark was back on the road again at London

Pushing the pace for the first half of the race, he went through 5k in 17:29 and 10k in 34:47 before crossing the checkpoint for half way at 1:13:51. The plan had been to run the first half at roughly the same pace he ran his recent half marathon PB at, which he did at the Fleet Half Marathon, finishing in 1:12:31.

After that he dropped down to Comrades effort levels, so 6 to 6:15 pace and a 140 bpm heart rate.

Anthony Clark at the London Marathon
Ant was treating it s a structured training run, with a fast half marathon followed by a Comrades paced effort

Despite stopping on four different occasions to say hi to people who were watching on the sidelines, including his family whom he shared a few emotional moments with, Ant made it to the line in a time of 2:34:32, making him the first BAC finisher and putting him in 185th place overall and 26th in the 40-44 category.

Ant Clark kisses Nikki at London Marathon
Ant took the opportunity to stop off and show his nearest and dearest how much he appreciated their support

For most of the race, Ant was accompanied by his Comrades training partner and BAC teammate Steve Way. In fact, after reaching the half way point with Ant at just under 1 hour 14 minutes, which was the same as what he did at Manchester, Steve decided that it felt too much of a hard effort and decided to drop the pace and continue on with Ant.

Steve Way and Ant Clark in the London Marathon
BAC comrades Ant and Steve ran together for much of the race

On mile 19 though, he had to stop and pay a visit to the restroom, costing him a couple of minutes on that mile. He carried on at the same pace for one more mile before dropping the pace back a touch further for the remaining six miles in order to steady his heart rate.

Steve Way and Ant Clark in the London Marathon
Getting to the half way stage in just under 1:14, Ant and Steve then deliberately dropped the pace a little for the remainder of the race

Crossing the line in 2:39:18, Steve took 381st place overall and was 61st in the 40-44 category. With his legs not feeling too great at the end of the race Steve wondered if perhaps he should have just stuck to the original plan and continue going quickly after the half way point.

Steve Way in the London Marathon
Steve Way decided against his original plan which was to run it faster than he did at Manchester

Having only run outdoors on four or five occasions since December and also missing ten full weeks of training over that time Graeme Miller didn’t really know what to expect. All he knew was that he was going to have a good go at it and see what happens.

He needed to stay under 6:30 pace to achieve his target of a sub 2:50 finish but he actually started off the 6:09 first mile which was way faster than he was anticipating.

It felt good though running at that pace so he continued, reaching the 5k point in 19:13. he then crossed the 10k marker at 38:19. Although he’d have difficulty maintaining that pace, he decided to roll with it and see where it took him.

Graeme Miller in the London Marathon
Graeme got off to a great start and was feeling really strong in the early stages of the race

Arriving at the 10 mile point in 62:09, Graeme was still feeling good and enjoying the run. Reaching the half way stage in 1:21:29, he then began to dream of sub-2:45. Unfortunately though, his legs were saying otherwise.

Managing the maintain the pace pretty well up till 20 miles though, he was still in sub-2:45 territory but his legs were screaming and he began to slow down a fair bit from that point on.

Graeme Miller in the London Marathon
As he reached the 20 mile point, Graeme’s legs were beginning to tire and he had to dig deep to find the resolve

In the end he had to dig deep in order to bring it home in a sub-2:50 but he managed it, crossing the line in a fantastic time of 2:48:10. It certainly wasn’t the textbook way to run a marathon but it worked for Graeme on this occasion and was absolutely ecstatic with his time.

That put Graeme in 912th position overall and placed him 74th in the 44-45 category.

After the race he stopped off for a quick pint before heading to see a play and when he arrived the security guard noticed his London Marathon finishers medal and he and wife ended up getting their seats upgraded from the cheaper seats at the back to the third row, so it was a brilliant result all round for Graeme.

Graeme Miller after the London Marathon
If anyone needed proof that treadmill training really does work, Graeme was the testament to that

After seeing a couple of friends from his previous club who are of a similar standard get good sub-3 times at the Manchester Marathon, Rich Brawn was feeling pretty confident that he should be able to do it with the training he had behind him.

He’d chosen a marathon pace that was significantly under what he would ordinarily need to get a sub-3 as he didn’t want to leave anything to chance and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t touch-and-go at the end.

The main worry for Rich was the threat of getting cramp – something that had ruined his last couple of marathon attempts. This time he’d taken a lot of precautions against that, including taking magnesium tablets and drinking mineral water in the lead up to the race, using electrolyte drinks, bringing salt tablets to take during the race and even using electromagnetic plasters on the muscles on the backs of his legs.

He’d even managed to get hold of a substance called Crampfix at the expo the day before which you are meant to take as soon as you feel that cramp is on the horizon.

He started off with the figure of 6:38 in his head as a pace that he could potentially run at comfortably enough to hold for the duration of the race.

Expecting it to be a little congested at the start though, Rich was surprised to find that he did have enough space to run at the speed he was hoping to so that was a bonus. He also found that he felt very comfortable running at that pace as well so that gave him great confidence for road ahead.

The first five miles included quite a bit of downhill as well which enabled him to get ahead of his scheduled pace without putting in any extra effort.

There was a spine tingling moment on the 6th mile where you turn the corner and are greeted by huge crowds for the first time. That is when it really hits home that you’re in the London Marathon and the magnitude of the event becomes evident.

Rich Brawn in the London Marathon
Rich Brawn was able to settle into the pace he wanted to go at from the outset and was feeling strong in the early stages

With his mind preoccupied by worries about getting an upset stomach as he often does in his long runs and whether his ongoing lower back problems would flare up or cause a pain in his hip-flexor, the crowds were a welcome distraction.

Continuing to churn at the miles at exactly the pace he wanted, Rich got over nine miles before he even remembered to take his first gel. That was good though as he knew that would give him less chance of getting an upset stomach.

Reaching the half way stage in just under 1 hour and 27 minutes, it was so far so good for Rich and he was very much enjoying the race thus far and liking his chances of a sub-3 finish.

From around mile 15 onward his pace dropped slightly but he knew it was still comfortably under the pace he needed to go at to get a sub-3 so he wasn’t too concerned.

His thinking was to try and get to 20 miles and then see how much time had left to do the last 10k. The more time he had, to do it in, the more chance he’d have in allowance in case he did get cramp or start to struggle.

When he got to 20 miles he worked out that he had at least 47 minutes to complete the last 10k. His thoughts then turned to cramp. He knew that was the only thing that could stop him now.

At this point he was feeling really strong and considered pushing the pace but he was so scared about getting cramp that he decided to just carry on as he was.

He considered just taking the shot of Crampfix anyway but decided against it in case it did something that triggered the cramp instead of preventing it.

Going through 23 miles, and then 24 miles, there was still no sign of cramp. He couldn’t quite believe his luck. But it was really playing on his mind.

One of the main highlights of the race for Rich was when he saw people he knew in the crowd watching. He’d seen his brother Dave out there cheering him on and knew his Dad was there watching as well. He also saw some of his Bournemouth AC teammates there including Mitch Griffiths and Pete Thompson.

Rich Brawn acknowledges the crowd in the London Marathon
Rich acknowledges the support from his brother Dave who had come to watch

He particularly enjoyed going past his friends from his former club Dacorum & Tring who always have a massive support network. It was a great boost high-fiving them all near the end as he got into the last few miles.

The first sign of cramp he got was when he was almost at mile 25-and-a-half. It was a pang in his left hamstring, which is usually what happens right before he gets cramp.

He immediately whipped out the Crampfix and took the shot. After that he got two more pangs at the same time, one in each hamstring. He knew he was in trouble now and started to run in a weird kind of style to try to stop the cramp setting in.

He was half expecting to be struck down as he arrived onto the finishing straight but luckily nothing else happened and Rich was able to make it to the line.

Finishing in a time of 2:55:23, Rich was 1,557th overall. He couldn’t believe he’d actually done it and the reality of the situation began to set in. He’d done it! He was now a sub-3-hour marathon runner!

As he went over the line he bumped into Stephen Cook of Poole AC who had crossed the line at roughly the same time. Stephen had posted another excellent marathon time, just three weeks after running a magnificent 2:51:29 at Manchester.

The two local Dorset writers were over the moon to pen such solid sub-3 times. They were also both relieved not to have been beaten by the bumble been that they had overtaken right near the end as well. It was a great buzz.

Rich Brawn in the London Marathon
Rich was over the moon to secure a superb sub-3 time and very chuffed to do so in such an emphatic way

One person who had probably trained harder than anyone for London was Sam Laws. She’d only ever ran one marathon before that which was the ABP Southampton, completing that in 4 hours 21 minutes. She desperately wanted a sub-4 finish at London though so set about it by embarking on a rigorous training plan 12 weeks out that incorporated three interval sessions per week.

She was also soon banging out her long runs every Sunday and attending the BAC marathon training sessions with Rich Brawn on Tuesday nights.

Hitting unprecedented mileage every week, over the course of her training, Sam went through a huge transformation. She lost a lot weight and gained a huge amount of fitness. And with that came the inevitable thing she’d always previously struggled with – speed.

It was quite noticeable during the latter stages of her interval training how much she’d improved as a runner and how strong she was becoming.

That was highlighted when three three weeks before London she ran the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, adding some miles on before and after to make it the fastest 20 mile run she’d ever done. It was over 10 minutes quicker than she’d run at the Wimborne 20 the previous month.

The week before London she secured a new parkrun PB as well and it was her first time under 25 minutes. That was a massive confidence booster for Sam going into the marathon and underlined the progression she’d made over the training period.

It was still of course a nerve wracking experience for Sam though as she knew she still had to produce the goods on the day so in that respect, the pressure was on.

Completing the first 5k in just under 26 minutes, that was quite fast in comparison to the majority of the parkruns she’s done previously. But it felt comfortable now as she was so much fitter.

She then went through 10k in 52:28 and was running a much faster pace than she needed to to get sub-4 time. She was feeling good though so continued to go for it.

Reaching the half marathon point in 1:52:26, she was on course to finish comfortably under her target time if she could continue in the same vain.

Managing to maintain the pace for the next couple of miles she was up to mile 16 before showing any signs of difficulty. Her pace dropped a bit after that but she knew she was well ahead of schedule so wasn’t worried.

Over the last 10 miles she battled on well and all the hard work she’d done in training was clearly paying dividends.

Arriving at the finish in an incredible time of 3:53:20, Sam had not just beaten her target, she’d absolutely smashed it and that was a great feeling.

Needless to say, she was over the moon with the run which saw her finish in 12,512th position overall and 3,239th female. In the 45-49 category she placed 501st and had comprehensively beaten her time at Southampton by a massive 28 minutes.

Her amazing performance showed, if you acquit yourself correctly and want it badly enough, anything is possible.

Sam Laws and Caroline Rowley at the London Marathon
Sam Laws (left) had an amazing run and looked ecstatic as she celebrated with BAC teammate Caroline Rowley after the race

Considering it was his first ever marathon, Lewis Bartlett handled to race splendidly well. Going through the first 5k in 23 minutes he made a very smooth start, subsequently reaching the 10k marker in 46 minutes.

At the half way stage, Lewis was at 1 hour 39 minutes and looked on course for the sub-3:30 time. Understandably his pace dropped a tad over the second half of the race but he held it together well to reach the finish line in a magnificent time 3:29:30.

It was a terrific run from Lewis and put him in 6,640th place overall which was a truly remarkable achievement. He found it to be an incredible experience running the London Marathon and one that he’d certainly never forget. Going over Tower Bridge was one  of the highlights of his race and he was thrilled to have conquered the hallowed route.

Lewis Bartless after the London Marathon
Lewis Bartlett had gotten over his biggest hurdle yet in completing the 2019 London Marathon

Rather than suffering at the end of the race though, Lewis actually felt like he still had plenty left in the tank as he crossed the finish line and felt that he could perhaps have pushed a little harder. That sort of knowhow will come with experience though and if he does another one, he’ll perhaps modify his strategy accordingly.

The marathon training has helped him massively with his preparation for hitting the summer trails and he’ll now focus back on the track in his much more comfortable setting of the 400 hurdles.

He would definitely like to do another marathon though and is hoping it might even be possible to do London again over the next couple of years.

Lewis Bartless celebrates completing the London Marathon
Lewis raised almost £3,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity which was another reason to be proud

Estelle Slatford started off pretty well, going through the first 5k in 27:11. She then crossed the 10k marker in 54:38 so it was so far so good at that stage.

Reaching the half marathon point in 1:56:48, Estelle was well on course to achieve the sub-4-hour time she was hoping for. For the next couple of miles she kept the pace going well and it was around the 16th mile when she started to find it tough.

Although her pace had dropped slightly, she was still going okay for the next couple of miles. On the 18th mile though, she started cramping up a bit. She decided to slow down a bit but still wasn’t too concerned at that stage.

Before long though her legs really began to ache and she had to stop. From that point on she had to keep stopping to walk in order to ease the pain.

That made things really tough for Estelle over the last 10k but she did extremely well to soldier on and see out the race despite the agony she was in.

Estelle Slatford during the London Marathon
Estelle was going well for much of the race and was on course for a sub-4 finish until she started getting cramp

Crossing the line in 4:11:07 in the end, Estelle came in 17,679th place and was 5,048th woman to finish. In the 40-44 category, she was 936th.

Although she was a bit disappointed, it was actually not a disastrous time for Estelle considering everything she’d been through. That was down to the fact that she’d run so well for the first 15 miles or so.

Despite the problems she suffered from, Estelle appreciated the event for what it was and enjoyed the amazing support from the huge crowds along the route.

It feels very much like unfinished business to her though and Estelle will definitely be looking to do another marathon at some stage in order to achieve her goal. In fact, she’s already entered the ballot for next year’s race.

The other silver lining for Estelle was that she managed to make it onto the TV screens as well and she was particularly pleased that that was at a time when she was running rather than in the latter stages when she was walking.

Estelle Slatford after the London Marathon
Estelle was pleased to have finished despite the difficulties she had over the latter stages of the race

Despite his patchy training and niggling knee complaint, Billy McGreevy started off okay reaching the 5k point in 20:41. He then went over the 10k marker in 41:38 before reaching the half way point in 1:28:24.

At that stage it was looking a sub-3 might be on the cards and he continued on pace up until around the 30k point. That was when he really began to struggle and his time fell away a bit.

From there, it was damage limitation for Billy as he focused on just getting to the line as best as he could. Finishing in a time of 3:06:56, he placed 2,980th overall.

It wasn’t a great run from Billy when you consider what he’s capable of but under the circumstances, it wasn’t a bad run either.

Billy McGreevy in the London Marathon
Billy McGreevy wasn’t on top form but he still came away with a time that most runners would be overjoyed with

The goal for the day from Chris O’Brien’s perspective was really just to finish and above all, to enjoy the race.

He went through 5k in 21:31 and then reached 10k in 42:58. At the half way stage in the proceedings, he arrived at 1:31:19, so it was a pretty decent first half of the race and he had lots of fun in that time.

After completing 15 miles, he began to struggle a bit and his paced dropped. Over the last 10k he really started to suffer and had a dig in well to make it to the finish.

Crossing the line in a time of 3:16:36 in the end. Chris finished up in 4,267th place and was 619th in the 45-49 category.

Chris OBrien after London Marathon
Chris O’Brien achieved his goal which was simply to enjoy the run and pick up this huge piece of bling at the end of it

Caroline Rowley was another who didn’t really have any specific target in mind. After securing the Abbott Six Star World Marathon Major Medal though, the pressure was off a bit for her. She was able to just enjoy the experience and soak it all in.

She went through the first 5k in 26:49 before crossing the 10k line in 53:37. Reaching the half way point in 1:54:49, she began to realise that she could perhaps be on for a sub-4 finish.

Despite not really training for it at all, Caroline held her pace remarkably well over the second half of the race and managed to cruise into the finish in a time of 3:58:25, which put her in 14,241st place overall. She was the 3,782nd lady on the day and took 585th in the 45-49 category.

After the race, Caroline was thrilled to have pulled that performance out of the bag and the buzz she got from it prompted her to rediscover her running mojo. She’s now determined to go for a qualifying time at the Abingdon Marathon in October.

Sam Laws and Caroline Rowley at the London Marathon
Caroline (right) ran a very good race off the back of very limited training and the race has made her hungry for more marathon action

Having had such bad luck getting ill in the build up to the race, Sanjai Sharma knew he was really up against it to get a time anywhere near what he usually does. His only real goal for this one was to finish.

He went through 5k in 21:34 and got to the 10k stage in 43:05. He then continued on at a similar pace to reach the half way point in a time of 1:32:45.

He was actually pleasantly surprised at how well he’d run up till that point. As the race went on though he began to find it tougher and tougher.

The last 10k in particular were a real struggle for Sanjai but credit to him, he stuck at it and made it through the end, crossing the line in a final time of 3:47:01. That put him 10,789th overall and 369th in the 55-59 category.

Sanjai and Marie Sharma at the London Marathon
Sanjai Sharma was completing his 26th London Marathon, whilst his wife Marie was competing in her 4th

Whilst it may not have been the sort of time he’d expect under normal circumstances it was still a job well done from Sanjai and he could be proud of the fact that he’d now done 18 consecutive London Marathons.

It’s a very impressive record he has there and certainly not too many could boast a stat like that on their Power of 10. Sanjai has vowed to continue at least until he gets to 20 consecutive London Marathons, so he’s got at least the next two years there.

Jason Bell who regularly trains with the Bournemouth AC Tuesday night group also ran completing the race in a cracking time of 3:04:11. That put him in 2,677th place overall and it was a decent result for Jason considering he’d had an injury which meant he hadn’t been able to train much in the build up to the race.

Whilst it produced something of a mixed bag of results from the Bournemouth AC representatives this year, for those running it for the first time, it certainly served up some special memories and moments to savour and for everyone involved, it was inspiring to be part of the biggest and best marathon on Earth.

Steve Way and Ant Clark in the London Marathon
Steve and Ant were ticking off another training run on their path to the Comrades Marathon in June