Cracking marathon times

Nine members of Sidmouth Running Club made their way to Greenwich on Sunday for the London Marathon and the ultimate test of their training programme, writes Colin Flood.

The sheer number of competitors, around 37,000, make this one of the great sporting occasions, but sometimes a difficult place for the average club runner to do a good time.

The weather was good, if a bit hot. But this didn’t effect Sidmouth’s speediest two, Milan Goc (2hrs 49mins) and Justin Ashby (2.53). To do a sub-3 hour marathon is a tremendous achievement and both will be pleased with their times. As will London-based, marathon veteran Pam White (3.38), the Sidmouth Club’s first lady home.

From the start, the course meanders east through nondescript streets but enthusiastic support, back through Greenwich and on to the first landmark of Tower Bridge. These are the easy 12 miles, and it’s after this that the troubles can start. Not that anything seemed to trouble Naomi Garrick (3.48), who delivered a fine performance after problems in training.

North of the river, the course turns east and wanders around the Isle of Dogs. In the mid-1960s, your correspondent (3.50) worked around the old docks, but today there’s not a ship to be seen and even the Cutty Sark was by-passed in this year’s race. The number of supporters on the road restrict the course here, and Nicole Madeley (4.01), who will be slightly annoyed by that extra minute, and Jon Hanson (4.07), who missed five weeks of training through injury, will have found overtaking difficult.

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By midday, the snow and ice of the January training became a fond memory as the heat bounced off the glass and concrete of Canary Wharf. At 23 miles, the route disappears down a tunnel. This is both delightfully cool and strangely quiet, there are no supporters down here, but emerging onto the Embankment the heat and noise of the four deep crowd hit you like a brick, and the longest two miles of your life await. Finally, through Parliament Square, up Birdcage Walk into The Mall, and it’s all over.

Sarah Watkins was despondent at the finish. Without a stopwatch she thought she’d done a slow time, but perked up when she discovered she’d done a highly respectable 4.24. Louise Brown’s GPS registered nearly 27 miles at the end, perhaps she stopped off at the shops - the evidence is there. However, serious cramp in Docklands caused problems before she finished the last four miles running in fine style on 5.42.

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Sarah’s daughter Jess, and Louise’s daughter Sarah, both club members, were there to support their mums, or were they there to suss out the course for entering next year? Several runners had family and friends supporting them, and club colleagues Helen and Dave Palmer, Becky and Ian Robson, John Podmore and George Chalstrey were there to shout encouragement. Thanks guys.

It may seem like fun on TV, but this race is not to be undertaken lightly, it’s still 26 miles of unforgiving tarmac. At their varying abilities, all the Sidmouth team can be proud of themselves and were a credit to the club.

Finally, heat and distance can play tricks with the mind. At the half-way mark, Sarah Watkins was delighted to see a digital display showing 1.42. Congratulating herself on such a fast first half time, she then realised she’d been looking at the price of petrol!

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