Hopefully you’re sitting comfortably with a cup of tea for this one:
The 23rd of April saw the 43rd running of the London Marathon. The mass participation event is a highlight in the sporting calendar where the whole nation watches elite athletes and ordinary people take part in the same gruelling event over 26.2 miles through the streets of the capital. The route takes in some of London’s best-known landmarks including Big Ben, Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, and finishes with the iconic home straight on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.
18 members of Grantham Running Club gathered in a soggy Greenwich Park in various start waves in the morning. Driving rain wasn’t the best condition to stand around in running gear waiting to go but thankfully it subsided to gentle drizzle which was perfect for running (apart from the large puddles that had formed).
Team GRC were enthusiastically supported by a large contingent of fellow club members who took the train down bringing with them banners, jelly babies, pork pies, t-shirts and (loud) words of encouragement.
First back for GRC was Russel Whittaker in his second go at the marathon distance following Manchester in 2022 which earned him his Good For Age place. His meticulous approach to training which included dedicated track sessions alongside the long runs paid dividends and he felt strong and happy throughout (apart from the downpours). The atmosphere and crowd support more than made up for the weather and he romped round in a spectacular 2:53:05, knocking 5 minutes off his PB and he’s looking forward to doing it all again.
Dean Riggall who has been working hard towards the magical sub 3-hour mark did it in style in 2:57:35, giving him a new PB. What made this result even more astonishing is that only a week before he flew around Manchester Marathon where he broke the 3-hour mark for the first time.
Next back for GRC was Joe Diggins. After coming agonisingly close to breaking the 3-hour mark at Manchester in 2021 where he missed out by a matter of seconds, then smashing his PB (and 3 hours) at Manchester again in 2022, Joe improved even further to knock more than a minute off his previous time, setting a shiny new PB of 2:55:43.
After starting to run to raise money for Fight For Sight UK, inspired by a friend and her journey with sight loss, Mikey Brain ran the virtual London Marathon in 2020 during Covid. This year he was lucky enough to be invited by Fight for Sight to run the London Marathon for real. He described it as an amazing experience with so many people with inspiring stories giving it everything. He enjoyed the first 20 miles and got stuck in, with the last 6 a blur. He posted a fantastic time of 3:32:05.
Mark Angeloni was taking part in his first London Marathon, running for the charity Young Lives vs. Cancer. Having raised a staggering £16,580 in a combined effort he was very happy with his time of 3:41:28 and is looking forward to taking everything he learned and applying it to his 2024 campaign. He noted that the event was an absolute blast with amazing support from family, friends and the spectators on the course.
Matt Fryer, in his long-awaited marathon debut, had previously been forced to defer his place due to injury. He finally got his chance to join the historic event and crossed the finish in a fantastic time of 3:49:38.
Seasoned marathon campaigner Caroline Davis was the first lady back for GRC and comfortably broke the 4-hour mark with a time of 3:55:03. Amazingly, this was on tired legs from the Manchester Marathon the previous weekend.
Warren Stark, clearly a glutton for punishment, ran at Manchester the week before where things didn’t quite go to plan. As the winner of one of the club places, he pulled it out of the bag with an improved time of 4:03:28.
Hannah Whittaker followed soon after Warren. Sadly, Hannah suffered with feeling poorly during the race which meant she didn’t get the result she deserved from her training. Though her finish time was a little adrift of her previous best, she battled hard and still posted a very commendable 4:04:56, no mean feat.
Marathon stalwart Sarah High had earned her Good For Age entry with a sub-4 hour marathon at Manchester last year. Despite some misgivings before the start, she finished in an excellent time of 4:11:27.
Closely behind was Tony Boyle who was running in his first ever marathon. He certainly felt the magic of the day and the privilege of getting a ballot place and trained hard to post an impressive debut time of 4:11:47.
Next up was Sylv Hull who was running for the charity Brooke Hospital for Working Animals. She massively enjoyed the event and atmosphere and was pleased to run consistently to finish in 4:36:53 and raise over £3,000 for her charity. She was especially appreciative of friends and family that turned out to support.
Jonathan Whittaker chose the best possible event for his debut at the marathon distance and completed in a very creditable time of 4:48:07.
GRC’s very own ‘Spice Girls’ Julie Gilbert, Ros Sadler and Rachel Pattison were running in the colours of the charity Young Lives vs. Cancer, a cause close to their hearts that they have supported for several years. This year’s London marathon was Julie’s 9th, Rachel’s 7th, and Ros’s 5th (including the virtual events during the covid years) and their phenomenal fundraising efforts over the years have raised an astounding £48,000 and counting.
Their philosophy with this event is not about a fast time, but a great time and they gambolled their way round enjoying the support, atmosphere, and their reason for running. They crossed the line together in 5:21:38. Julie paid tribute to everyone who took part and is totally ready to do it all again. Ros commented that she is “still knackered”.
For Emma Hopkinson, the aim was just to get round and enjoy it after her training plan went to pot, when illness meant her longest training run was 16 miles. She was running for Cancer Research UK, so she knew she had to drag herself to the start after a little snooze on the train, then getting soaked before the off!
After her legs felt like lead for the first 5k and a loo stop, she then started to feel really good all the way to 40km where she did slow with a few walk breaks. She was very pleased to beat her previous London Marathon time set in 2011 by more than 20 minutes, crossing the finish in 5:10:09. Her takeaway from the marathon is that running is a mind game and there is nothing wrong with taking a walk break. She was also very happy to exceed her fundraising target with over £2,000 raised.
Vicky Willan rounded off the GRC contingent having gained her place through the club draw. She improved on her 2022 time by more than 10 minutes in a time of 6:11:18 and dedicated her run to the memory of a dear friend.
Once again, the event was one to remember with a superb medal, incredible support from friends, family, and thousands of complete strangers. Apparently, the elite racing was quite exciting too.