With most of his running hopes and aspirations usually centred around the London Marathon, Sanjai Sharma was in action at the MBNA Chester Marathon where he was looking to secure a Good For Age time.
In his age bracket, that meant recording under 3 hours 40 minutes for the distance. Whilst that may not seem like a tall order for an athlete of Sanjai’s calibre, he’d been plagued by injury problems for the vast majority of the year and as a result had failed to get a decent block of training behind him going into the race.
In fact, he’d only managed one long slow run in preparation for it and wasn’t even sure he’d be able to finish the course pain free. He was going into it more in hope than expectation.
Last year of course there was no London Marathon, so Sanjai, like many others, competed in the Virtual London Marathon. That was also on the first weekend of October and he ran it in a proper race at Dorney Lake.
A storm had blown in that weekend though and the conditions on the day were atrocious. Sanjai still somehow managed to pull a good run out of the bag though, getting round in 3:19:32.
That did earn him in a place in the London Marathon this year via Good For Age qualification but there was a mix up with his entry and he was unfortunately unable to take his place in the race due to that.
Hence, why he ended up running at Chester instead. It was frustrating for Sanjai as it would have been his 20th consecutive London Marathon if you count last year’s virtual race. But alas, it was not to be.
Luckily there was still the opportunity to run it as a Virtual London Marathon this time round as well, so Sanjai decided to do that. At least it meant he was still effectively doing that race, even though he wasn’t in the actual location.
The last time Sanjai raced was also at Dorney Lake. That was when he was competing in the Maidenhead Half Marathon and the location had been moved due to a low amount of entries. He registered a time of 1:40:13 that day.
Whilst it may have been his slowest half marathon, it was actually a good progressive run where he managed to up the pace on each of the four laps.
The course for the Chester Marathon started at Chester Racecourse. It then headed into the city passing the Town Hall and the Cathedral, along with several other historic landmarks before heading over Old Dee Bridge.
It then heads past the Duke of Westminster’s estate and through Pulford before crossing the border into Wales. Keeping to the rural lanes, it is then onto the village of Holt.
Then it’s over the ancient Roman bridge at Farndon and back into England for the final part of the race. It’s then through Churton, Aldford and Huntington before heading back into the city and into Grosvenor Park for the finish.
There were a number of hills on route, including a couple at mile 25 which was a real sting in the tail. It was a wet and windy out on the course as well, but nowhere near as bad as Dorney Lake the previous year.
Running a very good race tactically, Sanjai tucked in behind a group for the first 15 miles. He was actually having to hold himself back at certain points as he felt like he could go faster.
After that the group were beginning to slow down so Sanjai broke away from them. From then on he managed to increase the pace and finish strongly.
Pacing the race extremely well, Sanjai did the first 10k in 49:19, the second 10k in 49:08, the third 10k in 49:18 and then next 10k in a slightly faster 48:05.
It was a textbook way to run a marathon and a testament to Sanjai’s experience and ability that he was able to pull that off on fairly minimal training.
With a finishing time of 3:27:24, Sanjai was positioned 251 in a field of 1,711. In the MV60-64 category he finished 6th out of 49, so all in all it was not a bad result for Sanjai.
In the Virtual London Marathon he finished 564th and 12th in the 60-64 category. He still got the same London Marathon t-shirt and medal as everyone else as well so that was a bonus.
The race was won by Michael Young of West Cheshire AC in a time of 2:27:31. That put him over a minute ahead of his nearest rival Joseph Turner of Cambridge and Coleridge who was 2nd in 2:28:47. 3rd place went to Tomas Roberts of Meirionnydd RC in 2:33:44.
The 1st female spot went to Melissah Gibson of East Eagles RC and she finished 23rd overall in 2:48:44. Keely Smith of West Cheshire was 2nd female and 68th overall in a time of 2:58:29. Alison Taylor was 3rd female over the line and 80th overall in a time of 2:59:19.
For Sanjai, he’d comfortably achieved his goal of a Good For Age qualifying time for London next October so as far as he was concerned it was mission accomplished.
He’s now looking to knuckle down and get some good training in and work his way back to his best form. Provided he can stay injury free, he’ll have plenty of time in which to do that so hopefully, come next October, he’ll be on the start line at Blackheath full of optimism.