Usually in the lead up to the London Marathon there is a real buzz of excitement and anticipation amongst the athletes taking part as they brace themselves for an attempt at a new PB, or for others maybe for a first attempt at the 26.2 mile distance.
This time round it was slightly different though. All the pre-race discussion was centred around how hot it is going to be and how tough it is going to be whilst out there in the sweltering heatwave that had suddenly swept over the country.
The soaring temperatures were unusual for this time of year and forced many of those taking part to rethink their race strategies and adjust their target times to allow for the additional strain this was going to put on the body.
It even meant that many of those who had planned to run in costumes of some sort to raise money for charity had had to discard their outfits as it was simply just too hot to even attempt whilst dressed up.
Amongst the Bournemouth AC members though, many still had high hopes of a good time. Steve Way was in excellent form, coming into the race off the back of wins in the Bournemouth 10 and the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, as well as a 5000 metres victory on the track in the Southern Athletics League.
Rob McTaggart is in the form of his life and was hopeful of a new marathon PB after his spectacular 2:28 performance last year. Tag was 2nd to Steve in the Bournemouth 10 and hammered home a magnificent PB of 70:25 in the Big Half Marathon in London on 4th March.
But it turned out even they, along with everyone else, would surely have to revise their targets in the wake of the ferocious heat they were about to throw themselves into.
This year’s race was started off by Her Majesty The Queen, who appeared on the big screen in live footage from Windsor Castle. She pressed a big red button which triggered the klaxon to sound at the start line in Blackheath. Then the masses were off, led out by the elite men, including Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele and the great Brit hope, Mo Farah.
Just behind them, were the very fast club runners, including Steve Way and Rob McTaggart, amongst many others. Steve was the first BAC member to reach the 5k point, arriving in a 16:46. Tag was right behind him though, going through in 16:50.
Steve crossed the 10k point in 33:47 with Tag following in in 34:05. The pair were both pretty close to the front of the field in terms of the non-elites as they motored past the Cutty Sark in Greenwhich.
Steve was still marginally ahead of Tag when they reached the 15k point, with Steve arriving in 51:07 and Tag in 51:19. It was developing into quite a race between the two of them.
By the time they reached the 20k point, Tag had overtaken Steve, arriving in 1:08:32 with Steve going through 6 seconds later. Tag hit the half way point in the race in 1:12:10 and Steve in 1:12:17.
At this juncture they were both going pretty well, although Steve was around a minute off his target pace. Steve has been having some issues with his glutes recently and he felt like they were struggling right from the outset.
Over the next 5k, Steve dropped off his target pace quite considerably and when they got to the 25k point, Tag had begun to pull away a bit. He arrived at 1:25:46 with Steve coming in at 1:26:03.
Steve then took the decision to back off a bit as he didn’t want to risk putting his training for the forthcoming week into jeopardy. By the 30k point there was a significant gap between the two, with Tag going over at 1:43:27 and Steve arriving in 1:45:19.
Tag was seriously going for broke now and determined not to let relentless sunshine ruin his time. Before the race he’d labelled it as “Operation 2:26 or hospital”, demonstrating how he was prepared to put everything on the line for this race. And that was exactly what he did.
He arrived at the 35k point in 2:02:07, giving him the impetuous to keep rattling out the speed for the remainder of the race. He wasn’t quite on course for 2:28, but in these conditions, that was totally understandable. Again, targets had to be revised to give some sense of reality.
Having already abandoned any hopes of hitting his target time, Steve had decided to just enjoy the last 10 miles and took to a bit of showboating or playing to the crowds as he cruised on toward the finish at the Mall.
The latter stages of the race were going to be very different for Tag. In fact, the last 10k was an utter death march. He’d drank no fluid throughout the race and must have been severely dehydrated by this point. All he could think about was getting to the line though, such was his focus and desire to do well.
Tag arrived at the finish line in front of Buckingham Place in a quite incredible time of 2 hours 30 minutes and 40 seconds. Given the conditions he was running in, that was an unbelievable effort.
That put him in an amazing 31st place out of a 40,158 finishers. It was a monumental achievement, eclipsing what he did last year in the London Marathon when he came in 71st.
Indeed, you’d have to say it was the kind of conditions where only a true warrior could succeed and Tag had certainly proved to be one of those.
Unfortunately though, that wasn’t the end of the story for Tag though. With typical enthusiasm, he was straight on the beers after the race was over. Having not drank any liquid throughout the race, that was always going to end badly and resulted in him passing out and thus spending the night in Euston Hospital suffering with chronic dehydration and sunstroke and just generally, being a wally.
If ever a race day could epitomise Tag though then this was it. He works hard with his running and is prepared to give everything he has for the cause, no much how much it hurts.
But by the same token, he also likes to play hard as well though and loves getting out on the beers. Someone perhaps needs to teach him though that alcohol and hydration are two very different things. At least he’d kept his promise though of 2:26 or hospital.
Despite his showboating and frequently stopping to entertain the crowds, Steve still finished in 85th place in a time most could still only dream of, crossing the line in 2:36:35. That put him 10th in the 40-44 category.
Next up for Steve it’s the North Dorset Village Marathon as he’ll continue to bang out the big mileage in preparation for the Comrades Marathon in June.
Another person who did have a good run on the day, despite the hindrance of the heat was Craig Palmer, who finished in 2:34:45. That gave Craig, who was running for his first claim club of Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers, 66th place overall, so a superb run from him.
Craig runs for Bournemouth AC as 2nd claim and competed in the Hampshire League Cross Country last season. This was an improvement on last year for Craig in terms of placings, having finished in 98th in the 2017 race. Of course, his time was faster last year, but practically everyone’s would have been.
With his target race of the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k aleady done and dusted, there was no major pressure on Ant Clark going into the marathon. His initial target was 2:35 to 2:40 but after going through the half way point in 1:17, he decided and to push and just to concentrate of getting home in one piece.
Ant was still feeling the after effects from his amazing run at the Anglo Celtic Plate three weeks earlier, where he took 2nd place, completing the full 100k in just over 7 hours.
In the end, Ant finished the marathon in a still very commendable time of 2:41:58, which put him in 187th place and 20th in the 40-44 category.
The next man to cross the line in the yellow and blue of BAC was Simon Way, who registered a time of 2:54:32. Again, if you take the conditions into account, this was actually a very good day on the road for Simon.
He was aiming to complete the distance in 2:44, so he was about 10 minutes off where he was expecting to be. That can almost certainly be put down to the heat. In reality, after battling the sizzling sun, he was glad just to finish. His time put him in 649th place and 18th in the 50-54 category.
It was actually only 21 seconds off the time he completed the London Marathon in last year and that was in much better running conditions, so there’s some signs of good progress from Simon there. Last year he finished 1,207th as well, so again, he made a vast improvement on that with this year’s run.
The next BAC member to reach the Mall was Graeme Miller – and he was followed shortly after by Sanjai Sharma. The pair, who often train together, finished within a minute of one another, with Graeme clocking a time of 2:57:39 and Sanjai coming in at 2:58:35.
Neither Graeme or Sanjai would have been over the moon with those times under normal circumstances, but given the tough conditions, they had had to adjust their target times accordingly. It’s something that an experienced marathon runner might be able to do better than one who is perhaps more of a novice.
Originally, Graeme had planned to set out at 6:25 pace, which would have given him a finishing time of 2:49, but by the time he’d gone through the first 5k, he knew that wasn’t going to happen.
He then made the shift to plan B, which was to finish in a sub 3. That he did manage to accomplish, which is quite an achievement given the carnage that he’d seen out on the course.
Many runners succumbed to the heat that day, either hanging over the barriers in exhaustion, or just having completely collapsed. It was an incredibly tough day out there.
Graeme‘s time put him in 864th place and he was 79th in the 45-49 category. In terms of placings, that was a vast improvement on last year where he came 1,448th.
Sanjai also had to switch from his original plan and after assessing the conditions, he decided to hold back and take a few precautions with hydration and electrolytes.
Fortunately it paid off and Sanjai was happy with the time he got, which put him in 946th place overall and a very impressive 6th in the 55-59 category.
He did find it hard to compromise though on the time he was aiming for as it’s a shame when you’ve put so much hard training in to get a particular time. That’s the way the cookie crumbles though. Sometimes the conditions just don’t play ball.
The run would have still helped Sanjai lay the ghosts of the previous year to rest though, where he got cramp in both legs near the end and had to stop and walk to finish line, scuppering his chances of achieving his goal.
Finishing in a stellar time of 3:06:27, Tom Paskins was delighted with the run he had, given the difficult conditions. He loved the experience, although it was the second year in a row he’d run a marathon in blisteringly hot conditions after Boston last year.
In fact, his finishing time at London this year was also identical to his finishing time in Boston as well, which is a rather spooky turn of events. Unless of course, he planned it!
Taking 1,587th place, Tom enjoyed a couple of pints of home brewed London Pride after the race to help him re-hydrate and after negotiating the sweltering heat, he’d certainly earned them!
Needless to say, it wasn’t really a day for a PB and it’s fairly certain that no one would have been expecting one on the day of what turned out to be the hottest London Marathon ever, with temperatures reaching highs of 24 degrees. That didn’t stop Damian Boyle though in his quest.
Damian’s previous best was set at Dorchester last year where he came in 3:14:08. There is a back story to this though, which is that Damian was originally planning to go for a sub 3 at London this year.
He then went and accidentally signed up for a 50 mile ultra in Snowdonia, as you do, so that became the priority. He figured, blowing up in London would be a lot less painful than not being fully prepared for two ascents up Mount Snowdon.
Sensibly, he then adjusted his marathon target accordingly to put him in a situation where he would have been happy with a small PB. So the target became to better the time he did at Dorchester.
Looking back on the race, he recalls how it was good, then not so good, then absolutely awful, then good again. It was a real roller-coaster of emotion that saw him experience the joy in taking part in something so huge on such a glorious day and experiencing his all-time running highlight of crossing Tower Bridge.
Then came the realisation that it wasn’t a 10k party and it was going to become hard work. That was then followed by 8 miles of “this isn’t fun any more”, although he was still faring rather better than a lot of the fellow runners, walkers or collapsers that were around him at this stage.
Normally the “good again” feeling comes right after the finish, but this time it took Damian until he got to the pub for that to return. His finishing time was an almighty 3:12:30, giving him a PB of just over 1 and half minutes and putting him in 2,140th place overall.
Damian said he’ll probably look back fondly on the whole day once his ears stop ringing from the noise of the crowd. Judging by the shouts he was hearing, it seemed like everyone was called Dave!
After a relatively non-existent build up, struggling with a cold for most of January and then struggling to get back into training throughout February and March, Nick Kenchington had all but given up on doing the marathon this year.
It was only in the two weeks leading up to the race that he had a change of heart, giving into the pressure of knowing that there were so many people out there who would have loved to be running and they wouldn’t have believed he would turn down the opportunity.
Nick had qualified for the London Marathon after achieving a Good For Age time of 3:13:11 at the North Dorset Village Marathon last year.
Knowing that there was no way he was really race fit, Nick made a conscious effort to run at a realistic pace. Having a previous experience of blowing up in the London Marathon back in 1996, there was no way he was going to push himself beyond a comfortable state.
He took on lots of water during the race and poured any residual over himself to try and stay cool. Despite the lack of training though and the extremely tough conditions, Nick did himself proud, crossing the line in a superb time of 3:18:26. That put him in 2,768th place and 59th in the 55-59 category.
Another who had had a less the optimal build up to the race was Paul Chapman. He was going into it off the back of only three weeks worth of training so he knew it was never going to be a PB day.
He went through 10k in just under 3 hour pace but then his calf started twitching. His calf then went fully at 11 miles and it was painful to push off, so he jogged in for a 3:30 finish.
Given his lack of pace and effort in the second half of the race, he was able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the day and was glad to avoid the sheer brutality of trying to get a fast time in such testing temperatures. Paul‘s time of 3:30:29 put him in 4,421st position.
When a man who has done so many different marathons across the continent says the London Marathon is the best in the world, you take notice. And as everyone knows, Pete Thompson certainly has the experience to give an informed opinion in that area.
He simply loves the London Marathon though and does genuinely put it at the top of the list. Although the heat caused many problems on the day, it definitely brought the crowds out in force and they did not disappoint.
Pete set off with his friend Tom and the plan was just to enjoy the race without focusing too much on time and just to be sensible in the heat.
As the pair drifted along, stealing jelly babies from children and, at one point, being hosed down by the fire brigade, their spirits were high. They then saw Tom’s family and then Pete’s which sent them into the second half of the race with a real boost.
The second half was a tough slog but they made it to the finish line, with Pete clocking a time of 3:32:54. That put him in 4,754th place. It wasn’t really about times or placings for Pete though. It was purely about enjoying the experience.
It was, however, a stark reminder of the challenge that Pete has ahead of him when he embarks upon his challenge of running the entire 2,069 mile route of the Tour de France in 70 days.
That equates to 27,000 ft of climbing and averages out at 30 miles per day. It’s going to be an extraordinarily tough task for Pete but he’s doing it to raise money and awareness for mental health charities. That’s certainly a sobering thought for anyone who found the London Marathon tough.
There were a couple of BAC members who unfortunately didn’t make it to end in the London Marathon. They were Adrian Townsend and Paul Dixon-Box.
Paul was going well at the half way stage, registering a time of 1:25:22. Unfortunately he was feeling sick though and pulled out after the 25k point. He’s unsure whether to put in down to lack of preparation, lack of racing or just not really knowing what pace to run at. He’s convinced it wasn’t directly due to the heat though.
It was a bit of a disaster for Adrian, as he picked up a bug a few days before the race. He didn’t feel too clever at breakfast but headed down to the start line any way to give it a go.
At the beginning he felt okay but he then began to suffer with stomach cramps. He tried going at a slower pace but still felt grim. He ended up just going slower and slower until he almost keeled over at the half way stage. At that point, he was left with no choice but to abandon.
He was really gutted it panned out that way but it was definitely the right decision for him to pull out before being carried out. He’ll get other opportunities in future, no doubt.
All things considered though, it was a great day for those who came out to watch and be part of such a great event and especially rewarding for those who were able to make it to the finish.
To demonstrate such great resolve in conditions as tough as they were is a true testament to the courage, desire and determination of all those who succeeded. Each and every one of them deserves a medal. And a t-shirt too of course.