The Circus Is Coming To Town: London Marathon 2024

Race Date: Sunday 21st April 2024

Why London? Like it or loathe it, London certainly attracts the attention of the country, runners and civilians alike together with the lunatic fringe who always seem to be out in force for this one. Unsure of plans for the following spring a Good for Age application was submitted not really knowing if it would be taken up. Having first run London in 1985, none of the subsequent five outings were particularly inspiring, the worst moment being when Batman went past on the Embankment in 1999. The 2011 logbook states “Hot and noisy. Fell off a cliff at 20 miles. Will never run this race again” so when the acceptance email came through there was indecision. Darling wife, taking an unusual interest in my affairs, advised “You may as well do it, you might never get another chance”. Still not sure how to take that.

Travel? With relations in deepest suburban Sidcup, we drove South on Friday, stopping off at the Expo en-route to pick up the race number. It would have been interesting to have a look at some of the stalls but the Expo was oh so busy and glad number collection wasn’t left until Saturday. Having last been to ExCel in 2011 it was a bit of a shock to discover that the car park is now a flat rate of £25.00 per day. They really do dislike cars in the capital.

Training? Now this is where the fun starts. This was based on a simple diet of long Lactate Threshold reps on Tuesday, VO2 Max at the track on Thursday and a long run at the weekend with junk mileage along the way plus strength and conditioning at the gym on Monday. Lucky to have a wonderful training group who are always there no matter what and prepared to put up with me. Average from Christmas to taper was over 50 miles per week with eight efforts of twenty miles or so. Races included Ashby 20 and Barcelona Half. Mileage topped out at 85 miles in seven days when we went warm (rainy) weather training in the Algarve in March and that’s when the trouble began. Coming back from Portugal it was clear that an old tight TFL (tensor fasciae latae, the muscle at the top of the ITB) had raised its ugly head again. Why is it that we stop doing our maintenance exercises once everything is going well? The plan was two hard weeks after Portugal then a three week taper but it ended up closer to a five week taper despite assiduous resumption of remedial stretching.

With official photographs at £12-£33 a go and without the usual army at local club events armed with their i-Phones, photos are scarce but here we have Luke Tipping coming down The Mall courtesy of BBC iPlayer

Nutrition? Throughout the block regular diet included Wold Top Scarborough Fair and Titanic Plum Porter. Back in the day, only water was available on race day except for the elites and old habits die hard but the young ‘uns kept nagging to use gels for the race and on the long run. SiS orange flavour, available by the box load at Sainsbury and Tesco, did seem to work.

Race Day -1 This was an easy jog to the supermarket and back to stock up on savoury snacks. The rest of the day was spent editing a race report for the website (Rotterdam) and completing Safeguarding and First Aid training in order to renew the coaching badge. Evening meal was a bit of pasta with some peas and tuna – plain and simple fare. No beer. Mary Peters “My Story” was the bedtime book.

What Pace? Get this wrong and you can have a rather unpleasant time. Twice Half Marathon race time plus 10% is an old favourite but only works when fully trained. What is really important is the training in the 11-12 week block up to taper: weekly mileage, long run and how long is your next longest run during the week? Oddly, the time taken for a 23 mile training run seems to come up well too. Whatever model is chosen, race pace should be based on current ability not some pre-conceived or fanciful wish. With the TFL issues expectations were low and had actually considered withdrawing at one stage so target and therefore pace were conservative. Take your GPS with a pinch of salt, it’s inaccurate with tall buildings and bridges etc.

Race Day Being woken by the alarm is always a good sign. A short lift by car as near to Blackheath Station as we could get took out the stress of having to catch a the train full of enthusiastic runners. The Blue Start on Blackheath was freezing and every bit of clothing available was donned as the wind scoured the open heath with barely any shelter available. Bag drop off was left as late as possible. The noise has already started with awful music and banal interviews blasted out of the speakers. On the whole highly organised there were reports of massive toilet queues; this is what happens when the field is increased to fifty thousand.

Race The start was very well worked with each wave released in turn every ten minutes or so with effectively a rolling start as we crossed the line. What a change to the old mass start where it could take minutes to cross the start line thus adding chunks onto the official time. It was great until the other starts merged with ours and after that it was all a bit of a blur. The overwhelming impression is of dementors spewing forth white noise and chaos getting barged and having to push past to overtake. Our Simone Young-Alls was tripped then trampled on but she recovered well and still managed a pb. (When you’re on the Championship start with others also on a mission, no-one is going to stop). Other Steel City also remarked on how congested nearly the entire the course was. Some points do stick in the memory however such as thinking that the first 5km was too quick, wanting to tell the BBC to get off the course at Cutty Sark and giving Luke Tipping a shout at halfway as he powered on in the opposite direction en-route to a 2:36 pb. There was an amusing notice at 35km advising “Elite Drop Out 100m” – would dropping out here make me elite? Don’t recall being bothered by the TFL at all. Final time was three minutes under target and already thinking that could have run quicker as a minute slower than Belfast last year on a hilly course. What was pleasing was maintaining pace in the latter stages of the race. In terms of execution, this was the best effort at the distance for many years where the tendency has been to slow from 30km onwards. Perhaps being unsure about fitness led to the setting of a realistic target?

The things that some people will do to get on t.v. Would have been a better shot but the cameras were focussing on some bloke carrying a foam helicopter at the time. There were about 300 finishers per minute at this stage in the race.(BBC iPlayer)

What Next? Almost as soon as the line was crossed it was clear that the third gel at 34km was having an undesired effect. Too much information but at least got to sit down for a while. Thought it might be good to visit the “S” meeting point to see if there were other Steel City about but this turned out to be miles away in the wrong direction from Charing Cross. Some were going to The Harp but by then just wanted to get back which was just as well as, sitting on the train, recently acquired first aid knowledge enabled me to recognise that my sweating, nausea, headache and generally feeling awful were symptoms of heat exhaustion. Remove some layers to cool down and take small sips of water.  Luckily only a few stops remained before it was possible to get off the train and cool down properly. The bar for Good For Age has been raised yet again for 2025 so you won’t see this Steel City vest at London next year. Hurrah!

Winner of the elite male race was Alexander Munyao (Ken) 2:04:01 with the first female Peres Chepchirchir (Ken) 2:16:16. Second male was M40 Kenenisa Bekele (Eth) 2:04:14 yet again highlighting how ridiculous it is to call M35’s veterans.

Steel City Results extracted from the provisional London Marathon 2024 Results 

Pos Name Cat Time
484 Luke Tipping SM 02:36:31
3416 John Kilcoyne M40 02:59:09
4636 David Twigg SM 03:06:34
4841 Simone Young-Alls SF 03:07:51
7225 Richard Somers SM 03:19:19
9349 Kathy Liddiard F35 03:27:32
9900 John Egginton SM 03:29:06
11824 Sarah Allcard F50 03:35:31
12319 Peter Brown M60 03:37:10
12655 Stephanie Millar SF 03:38:15
13055 Sarah Thorne SF 03:39:33
13843 Adam Brooks SM 03:42:01
18038 Jemma Anderson F35 03:53:36
18340 Nicola Rafferty F60 03:54:16
19712 Mandy Taylor F60 03:57:29
31571 Ryan Talley M55 04:34:08
31767 Martin Evans SM 04:34:49
36916 Andy Telford M45 04:53:10
38618 Rachel Rea F40 04:59:16
41958 Raj Mavourneen M40 05:15:21
47813 Hannah Wright F35 05:50:51

With over twenty Steel City in the results the original version of this chart has been whittled down but it shows some excellent pacing with a couple of negative splits hiding in there. We can also see how others were struggling from the start with some excellent bonks along the way too. Have also included NS from Rotterdam who recovered there after going through a bad patch at 35km.

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