Monthly Archives: April 2015

London Marathon

On 21 July 1964 Mildred Sampson of New Zealand broke the world record for the women’s marathon, running in 3 hours 19 minutes and 33 seconds. On 26 April 2015, at the London Marathon, 451 women beat that world record. One of those women was me, another was the greatest marathon runner the world has ever seen. Now that’s what I call progress! Back when Mildred set her record, it was extremely difficult for women to get the opportunity to run marathons. The men that organised these races believed that women weren’t constitutionally strong enough to complete the distance. Obviously no intelligent person really believed that a body designed to withstand child birth was incapable of running 26.2 miles. What they were really worried about was that if they allowed women to experience the joy and freedom of running they would be less interested in cooking their dinner and ironing their shirts. How right they were!!

Lining up in Pen 3 at the green good for age start I was surrounded almost exclusively by women, not surprising as the good for age men would have been starting further forward. My nerves had been reasonably under control until I entered the pen but with 20 minutes until the start I had nothing to do but wish I hadn’t had the last cup of coffee and wonder if I’d be able to last for 26 miles without a loo stop. The green start was really small and it felt more like a local race than one of the world’s biggest marathons and it took just 40 seconds to cross the start line. My goal of beating Mildred’s world record and finishing in 3.19.32 or less required 7.37 minute miles but I knew that the course would measure longer on my Garmin so was aiming for 7.30’s. I went off pretty fast, partly to try and get a bit of space around me but mostly because I really, really needed the loo. I think I stopped around mile 2, broke the world record for the fastest female wee in history and was finally able to settle into the race.

I can’t remember where it first happened, maybe as we were approaching Cutty Sark, but the crowds got thicker and I was just hit by a ball of sound. Like a thunder clap it was so loud you didn’t just hear it, you felt it. It really was breathtaking and then I knew what a special race I was running in. I’d read and been told that the crowd support at London was the best in the world but I assumed the people that said that hadn’t run New York. But London is definitely louder! Crossing Tower Bridge, looking up at that iconic structure, with the cheers in my ears I found myself getting short of breath with the excitement of it all. It really was too much. My mantra changed from ‘Run Strong. Like a Girl’ to ‘Calm Down. Breathe. Don’t Blow It’! I just about managed to get a grip and focussed on searching for my family in the crowd along The Highway. I was sure they wouldn’t have been able to find a spot amongst so many people but there they were, a patchwork of multi coloured down jackets, screaming my name. I waved back at them furiously and the crowd around them responded and cheered even louder. This was just overwhelming, and I choked on a sob of gratitude that there they all were, yet again, standing around in the cold, willing me to do my best.

Another sonic boom around Canary Wharf and then back out along The Highway where my family had planned to cross the road and see me on the other side. Again I was convinced this would be impossible amongst so thick a crowd but distracted myself from the pain by searching for them. And then I heard my name being shouted, turned around to see Fiona Jamie jumping up and down and waving furiously. I was yet to compose myself after the excitement of seeing Fiona when seconds later there were my family. At this point I practically hyperventilated and received a pat on the back from a fellow runner, assuring me that their cheers would get me to the end. Along the embankment and more shouts of ‘Tara!’ and there was Vegan Dave and later on my friends Joe and Jane. In 2014 I’d chosen to run Brighton marathon instead of London because I liked the local support of friends in the crowd and here I was in one of the world’s biggest marathons seeing so many familiar faces and hearing my name. I knew it would be a miracle too far for my family to make it to Birdcage Walk and apparently they only just missed me but it didn’t matter. I knew I’d done enough to get that world record and I crossed the line in 3.18.44. For the number geeks amongst you my 5k splits were 23.19; 23.12; 23.47; 23.47; 23.41; 23.40; 23.34; 23.28. My second half was 12 seconds slower than the first.

I love marathons because I think they show humanity at its very best. So much effort and striving, giving and supporting, goodwill and compassion. All the supporters willing total strangers to achieve more than they thought they could. All the individual stories and motivations that get the runners to the start line and all the willpower that gets them to the finish. In my experience of 7 marathons no other race encapsulates all this better than London. It’s too soon to decide whether to do it again, I think I might need a bit of a break and try and improve over the shorter distances. But I have already had a sneaky peak to see who broke Mildred’s world record next and in what time. Maureen Wilton 3.15.23. I reckon I could beat that!


Manchester Marathon 

In the weeks leading up the marathon, I was wary of saying (even though I said it on several occasions) that the build-up had been ‘perfect’, because the judge of that would be the race itself.  Additionally, I did not assume that I would have a ‘perfect’ race (even with a ‘perfect’ build up), because a lot can happen during 26.2x miles and I am not one for underestimating the distance.

From the start (5th January 2015) of the marathon training, until I finshed the marathon, I amassed over 1,020 miles and 132 hours of training.  I consistently ran long slow runs between 14 – 26.5 miles.  I varied the long runs as well – some were at a slow pace, some were at a steady pace, some finished with a decent chunk of projected marathon pace miles, etc.

Throughout the training, I regularly wore my heart rate monitor to ensure I was not over exerting myself.  Approximately, 75% of my training was done at a steady – easy pace as calculated my by heart zones.  The correct pace is essential for my slow twitch muscle fibres where endurance running is concerned.

Early on in my training plan, I identified 4 key races that I would run (against predetermined times) to make sure I was on target for my time goal.  The four key races were: Worthing 4, Brighton Half, parkrun & the BM10k – all of these went to plan.  Additionally, the last few weeks of training went really well too, so I knew I was in decent shape and my confidence had grown week on week.

After a straightforward two week taper, I was rested, feeling fresh and ready and raring to attack the planned sub-2:55.

Race morning and race morning ritual arrive – awake at 5:45am, foam roll, massage stick, porridge, water, stretch and a few toilet sit downs later, I feel ready to go.  Set on our way by Ron Hill and Mara Yamauchi, the plan was to set off at 6:30(ish) pace.  After a couple of kms, I looked at my GPS and noticed the average pace was, 6:21 – I consciously tried to slow down, but it wasn’t happening, so I decided to abandon the sub-2:55 attempt and see how long I could hold the 6:21 pace for…

There was a group around me, so I decided to tuck in with them, stick to the new plan and concentrate on my own race.  The first 10k was 40:08.  The miles were ticking by and I was feeling relaxed and confident, but I was unsure if the revised plan was realistic or not – no doubt, time would be the judge of this.  In no time at all, I went through both the 10 mile and half marathon markers in 1:03:26 & 1:23:03 respectively – the former being a 10 mile PB by 4+ minutes.

I would soon be entering unknown territory in that I had never run low 6:20 pace much beyond a half marathon distance before now.  I was solely focussed on reaching the 20 mile point (the business end of the race) with a low 6:20 average.  20 miles passed in 2:06:11, which would represent a negative split for the second 10 miles, a 20 mile PB by 6+ minutes and confirmation that the new plan was going surprisingly well.

Looking at my progress from the half marathon – 20 mile section, I had gained 25 places.  My progress in the race up until that point was – through 7k in 167th, 10k in 162nd, 10 mile in 147th, HM in 139th and 20 mile in 114th

During the half marathon – 20 mile section, I started overtaking more and more people.  It was during this part of the race, on another out and back section that I spotted David Kemp and we shared a hi and a wave – it is always a pleasure to see a friendly face.
So, it was down to the business of the race now and I knew that unless something drastic happened, I was on for something quite decent relative to my initial goal.  I calculated in my head – in the worst case scenario, 7 minute mile pace from here to the finish would still result in a sub-2:50 – “lovely jubbly” I told myself.  The body was still feeling good and the mind was in a great place as well – however, I knew it would get tough at some point over the finishing stretch.
Around mile 22, the body was tiring and the pace started to feel tougher than it had for any of the previous miles – here is where that mental strength was needed.  I caught up with the third place female who was being drafted by two male runners into the wind – I decided to tuck in and run with them for a while.  Gone was the relaxed McKivett face – it was now all about the race face.

I felt as if I was doing myself a disservice by sitting in with the group of three, so I pushed on and over the last few miles, I overtook growing numbers of people.  As I turned the corner, on to Sir Matt Busby Way, with Old Trafford right next to me and with just a few hundred metres to go, I knew I was about to massively exceed the sub-2:55 I initially planned.  I could see the race clock in the distance ticking along in the 2:46’s, so I surged to finish and finished 86th (gained 28 places in the last 10k) with a chip time of 2:46:34.

A massive marathon PB by almost 12 minutes.

Manchester is a great marathon, with great crowds, great entertainment out on the course, with a great PB potential – I will be back one day that’s for sure.

Gary McKivett


SDW 50, after jettisoning at 80 and 85 miles on two goes at the SDW100 and missing the NDW50 finish cut off by 5 mins last year this was to be my 4th attempt at a Centurion medal.  I knew to give myself a chance I had to improve my speed to give myself a cushion at the cut offs. Alas, best laid plans and all that meant a seriously shouty Achilles put a halt to my quality hill sessions in Hove Park with Arena. I struggled at times with my training, the long dark evening runs alone and the slogs over the Downs on a wet cold Sunday needed to be done if I was to get myself to Eastbourne. 

I spent the last week visualising that final 400 metres round the track at the finish, punching the air, dancing, sprinting! Wrote myself motivational messages, I want this, I own the Downs, happy music, roar like a lion! I then spent the rest of the time anguishing about the cut offs…but then after the stiff climbs there are some decent down hill sections, time to fly down like a bird. 

So finally, here I am at Hillbarn in Worthing, waiting for the start, realising that the world of the ultra is really quite small there are many happy smiling familiar faces. Reminiscing, congratulating for other greatnesses and faffing with kit we prepare for the day ahead. 9am and we are off, straight up the side of the golf course, my calfs are not keen and the hustle and bustle makes it hard to settle into the race. But eventually we start to spread, I feel like it is all a bit of an effort which worries me slightly…combat those negative thoughts, happy songs! 

I never think about the whole race, but break it into sections, my first goal was Chanctonbury, once there it was a decent runnable section pass stinky pig farm (who actually weren’t too stinky today). And down to Botox (Botophs) where I knew my Mum was going to be. My stomach was all over the place so I dug into the S!caps in a hope it was an electrolyte lackage. I knew I needed to get some food in to sustain the miles but it all went a bit off balance when I suddenly burst into tears… Not really sure why, but I am a woman after all and maybe reverting to child at the sight of my Mum. She did however pack me off with a bag of grapes and satsuma, but silly me forgot to top up my water…hey ho. 

So the steep climb up to Truleigh Hill, cheering and chat with Little Dave and Sarah who were out course clearing and supporting, onto the road section, run 4 fence posts, walk 4, keep on going. The nausea is back coming and going like my mood, come on dig in, get across to the Devils Dyke and then it is the nice down hill to Saddlescombe. Sarah 1 at the Dyke then Sarah 2 on the descent gives me a much needed boost. Into CP 2, a hug and another cry with Michele…manage some melon, chocolate and jelly babies. Quick chat with Carole and it is on wards, towards Clayton windmills and over the ridge to Ditchling Beacon…another cheer from Michele who promised me if I finished this I could stick to half marathons from then on. Ditching and Sarah 1, stop and put an extra layer on…that cheeky North/north easterly wind is cold and forever in my face across to Blackcap, grim…come on happy songs, plug in my music. 

Some more decent down hill sections towards Housedean and I start visualising dropping at the CP, nice cosy flat to go home to, no more cold, no more pain, no more nausea. I vocalise that I am going to drop…but then the argument in my head starts….what will you feel like tomorrow, I don’t care, yes you do! Get to CP, eat sandwiches that taste like sawdust and pick around the table, get some fuel in, cup of tea, bliss! Ok…let’s try to get to the next CP at Southease, easier to get picked up from and where I dropped in last years 100. Down the yellow brick road, up to the top of Rodmell then that nasty decent…Southease and Sarah2, I can’t drop here she has made an effort to come out. Lovely CP, they knew what I needed and offered the right amount of support and encouragement plus a cup full of tomatoes and salty nuts to eat on the climb to Firle Beacon and what a bloody bugger that was! Feeling cold again, I did a double hat routine and keep run/walking across the top. This is probably the most bleak section, it goes on and on, the wind was relentless and I felt pants. Come on, what will you feel like tomorrow if you quit, just get to Alfriston, don’t think any further, happy songs…Lalalala! 

Into Alfriston, lovely cup of tea, chuck out the junk from my pack and force down another sawdust sandwich….I buckle, I can’t do it…I’ve had enough! Suddenly a voice, yes you can, it’s 4.1 miles to the next CP, one long climb then down, down, keep moving forward with purpose…thank you Nel for that motivational drive that pushed me out of the door…we were off, head torch ready for the fast failing light we starting the climb up Windover hill….I hate this, I am never going to run again, never ever. Anne and Lisa who I am running with disappear from view but wait for me at the top. I’m given a stern warning that I have to keep pushing hard if we are to make it before the cut off. I’m doing the best I can I rant…but I know it was those harsh words that kept me going over the hill to Jevington…last CP, I knew in my heart of hearts I would finish but there was wicked sense in me thought it would be easy to be timed out. It was about here that my head torch started to malfunction…..drat, I couldn’t remember where I had tucked my back-up light ( take note, we have mandatory kit for a reason) I got Anne to rummage to no avail luckily in a group we were like Blackpool illuminations and I borrowed Anne’s back up light to add to the display, within in seconds it slipped down and bashed me on the nose…that made me laugh! In another light bulb moment I remembered where my spare light was…so now I was the lucky holder of two lights. I had about 1hr 25 mins to do 4.5 miles, keep moving forward, push up the hill, even manage some running as I tried to keep up with Blackpool. Very soon I see a bright star at the top of the hill, the star turned out to be Tim Lambert waiting to point us towards the gulley of death. Tim’s words of encouragement and belief filled me with hope, I was going to do the rumba round that track. Pointed down the right gulley by Drew, we started the descent from the Downs, the descent to the finish, victory! 

Lisa leading the way, me as two hand torch Luke, super beam Anne and Mr Man who joined us…we kept encouraging him to pass but he seemed to like following us…it was a nice distraction and a change of chat, I was at last taking some control of this party. Keeping a look out for tree roots, slippage here and there, groans and moans from all, finally we are at the end of that sting in the 50 tail, I visualised James wicked sense of humour sticking this at the end of a race. Out into the road, across the road, past the school, yapping dog, shut up! Last push along the main road, ops nearly jumped in front of a car! Cross and down the cycle path, will it ever end, is that the finish, don’t get too excited…yes it ruddy well is, the track, it’s there and we have 20 mins to spare! And so onto that track for a dance and cheer…reality was I struggled to maintain 400 metres of continuous running and could only make old woman grunting noises. 

But finally, just finally I crossed that flipping line, medal round neck, hug from Nici, tears , grit in our eyes, laugh, wobbly legs, relief, photos, t-shirt, tea…I am so very pleased. 

Seated inside, it’s time to reflect and swap mad moments with other runners. I have met so many true friends on my running journey,  I don’t care if I am first or last it’s the challenge of completing and those friends and my family that support me that is the true meaning. The day I don’t feel that will be the day running loses its life. I battle with my self belief nearly every day but today it finally came home to me, just how supported I am. Thank you…and a special thank you to those that kept me in the game. 

I can’t recommend Centurion Running enough, I’ve experienced it from every angle, checkpoints volunteer, pacer and runner…seamless organisation, everyone working to the same goal.