Twenty-six members completed officially recognised road marathons this year (twenty-seven if we include second-claim member Bill Lonsdale). Nine of them did so for the first time, while this year’s marathon “junkies” were Bill (five marathons) followed by Andy Leung, Bruce Li, Santosh Rai & Steve Plummer, who each ran three events.
Bill’s were all run in pursuit of the London Marathon M65 good-for-age criterion of four hours exactly (London, Liverpool, Forest of Dean, Leicester and Nottingham). Sadly, although he improved through the year, he ended up with a year’s best of 4:00:08 on December 1st in Nottingham. In his own words: “that cursed 8 seconds!” I think the rest of us would say: “what an amazing achievement to complete five marathons the year after a heart attack – and to get so close to your target!”
Four members recorded PBs this year: Jonathan Horan, Nick Steel, Aneta Neumann & Tiffany Fontenot. (Tiffany in fact debuted at the Manchester marathon in April, then followed it up with a PB at Abingdon – the way we’d all like our running to progress!)
Steve Plummer achieved his goal of completing all six “Abbotts Majors” – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago & New York City – becoming the first club member to do so. The photo shows him with all those medals – plus an extra one for finishing fifth in his age group at Chicago. (More on Steve at the end of this article!) Santosh looks set to become the second to achieve this goal, with Tokyo the only one missing from his profile.
They weren’t the only ones to travel overseas for their races, as the Paris marathon attracted five club members: Andy, Aneta, Beverley Packwood, Bruce & Catherine Gunnewicht. There’s a bit more detail on that weekend here.
Bruce and Andy travelled to Berlin, and Bruce achieved a PB there. He’s already got quite a few marathons under his belt, so I asked him what he thought made the difference this time. Typically for a runner, he proceeded to tell me he’d expected a better time (“was in good shape for 3:22-ish”), and then listed all the things that had gone wrong, both in the build-up and on the day! Lack of electrolytes and salt slowed him down in the last 5 miles apparently, a mistake he’s vowed not to make again. As to how he managed that PB, well it seems he’s keeping that secret to himself…
Jav Sondh chose the road less travelled and raced in Kiev. I asked why, and as ever the answer was entertaining:
“[It was] on the recommendation of a friend who wanted to run his first marathon (the other option was Chisinau but I am still struggling to find it on a map). Entry into the Kiev marathon was relatively cheap (about £20) and the race itself is quite small with under 1500 participants. This meant that there would be less pressure than running in a ‘big city’ marathon. The trip to Kiev also gave us a chance to visit Chernobyl the day before the run – having watched Spiderman I was hopeful that I would end up with some superpowers with which to run the race. Alas this did not happen. The run itself went through some beautiful locations in the city and conditions were great for running, but I wasn’t prepared for how hilly the course would be- the last 2km going uphill nearly destroyed me! Also support along the route was sparse, and where present, it was mainly made up of military personnel. However, Kiev is a beautiful city and the people were lovely. I would definitely recommend using the excuse of running a marathon to explore different places”.
Santosh obviously shares this last sentiment, as he travelled to Boston, Chicago & New York, all within the space of five months. If ESM had a Jetsetter of the Year Award, it would have his name on it! He was joined in Chicago by Adam Goodman who ran his debut.
Even within the British Isles, ESM members spread themselves far and wide. Anne Price, Annette Galloway, Jonathan & Marie de Greef all crossed the Irish Sea to Dublin, while Mark Delahunty raced in Limerick, where he was born.
James Steel’s name featured in the top 10 finishers at the Great Welsh marathon in Llanelli, in Wales. “I fancied a quieter marathon on a fairly fast course to try and run a quick time”. He did just that, finishing third M40 and gaining a good-for-age place at next year’s London Marathon. (I’m not sure why all the lettering in the photo is backwards…!)
The Liverpool marathon saw Jennifer Jones make her debut, while Bruce & Davinder Sohal picked Milton Keynes. For Bruce, an experience he’d rather not be reminded of, as it was one of those unseasonably hot days that are the stuff of nightmares for marathon runners: “with 10 miles left I just wanted to go home”. Davinder had hoped to run his debut in London but didn’t get a place, so he chose Milton Keynes for its flat course. With the temperature rising to 26 degrees on the day, it wasn’t the easiest introduction to marathon running, but he did what all sensible runners do: changed his race strategy to reflect the circumstances. He set off with hydration packs and sunscreen, ignored the time on his watch and focused on just getting to the finish. The next one has got to be easier, right?
Speaking of unseasonably hot days, eight took part in the London marathon in April: Anne, Jane Ruhland, Margaret Duffy, Sarah Holroyd, Shona Cowper, Bill & Steve. (Surprise, surprise: no PBs there!) Martin Wilson wrote a great article at the time, which you can find here.
Almost as many opted for Abingdon in the autumn, where conditions were much more favourable: Aneta, Andy, Ian Leslie, Malcolm Woolsey, Nick, Simon Turrell & Tiffany. If you want all the low-down on that one, click here for the report Cath wrote at the time.
So who was the fastest? Well, Simon Shaw’s 2:43:27 in the London marathon was the fastest run under the ESM name, but he didn’t renew his subs this year, so it doesn’t count! This leaves our fast-improving Jonathan as top of the list with his 2:51:56 from Dublin.
Now, Jonathan would argue that his 2:49:57 at the Loch Ness marathon was faster, but technically speaking that doesn’t count either! Apparently, it’s classified as “downhill” because the drop from start to finish exceeds the permitted 5 metres per kilometre… (It can be as tough and undulating as you like between the start and the finish, it’s the overall drop that counts!!)
Nick was ranked second with his 2:55:32 PB at Abingdon, while Santosh’s 2:57:19 in Chicago saw him ranked third for 2018.
Mark Delahunty, who entertained many of us with his training blog, was our quickest veteran, with 2:57:58.
Our speediest female was Aneta with her 3:46:54, followed by Tiffany’s 3:50:25 – both PBs and both achieved at Abingdon. Aneta was also our fastest female veteran.
Going back to Steve Plummer, I was intrigued to find out a bit more about his running background, as he’s known as a bit of a marathon specialist yet hasn’t been a club member for very long. He’s also rarely seen at the club so for many members he remains a bit of a mystery man…
I asked him what inspired him to get into marathons in the first place, and it turns out his marathon career didn’t get off to a good start, as he explained: “In my younger days I used to run mainly 10km which was my favourite distance, but quite often I ran 5km and half marathons. I did attempt the marathon three times, but really struggled with the distance. My quickest time was 4:19 and slowest well over 5 hours. (I still have a dislike of Liverpool for that painful experience). I then had a break completely from running after injury for about 17 years, before being persuaded by a work colleague to go for a lunchtime 4km. Now about 4 stones heavier than I was when I ran a lot, I really struggled on that first run. I set myself a goal to run 4km without walking. Two years later that same colleague convinced me it would be a good idea to put in for one of the London Marathon places they had at work. Having being given a place, I decided that I would set a public goal of sub 4 hours, but privately I wanted to break 3:45 (which I achieved). I taught me that with the right preparation I could run a marathon, so maybe I could do some more”.
As a puzzled onlooker who has never run a marathon, my next question was: what made you want to do so many?! To which he replied: “Following my London success, my work colleague asked if I would do Paris the following year, so I thought why not. That was followed by us doing three marathons in three weeks to raise money for charity the following year. After that I decided it was time to challenge myself at the marathon with the goal being to break 3:30. After failing to break that barrier, I reset the goal to break 3:20 so I could get a good for age place for London which also meant I could put a plan in place to do all the majors. A multi year plan which relied on me being able to peak at the right time to achieve my qualification times”.
My final question was why he wanted to complete the Abbotts Majors, and it seems it was all about the bling: “When I first saw the 6 star medal I wanted to have one. At the time there were only about 600 people worldwide who had achieved it. I wanted to be on that list of six star finishers. It would mean I could achieve something at a distance that in my younger days, I never thought I could master. Now I want to use it to show others that anything is possible, just needs the right preparation and a positive outlook”.
So I think there are several morals to be drawn from Steve’s experience: (a) if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again, (b) if you miss your target, just aim higher, and (c) you’re never too old!
Well done to all our marathon runners in 2018 and good luck if you’re targeting one in 2019.
ESM ranking by best 2018 performance (chip times):
1 Jonathan Horan 2:51:56 Dublin, 2 Nick Steel 2:55:32 Abingdon, 3 Santosh Rai 2:57:19 Chicago, 4 Mark Delahunty (V40) 2:57:58 Limerick, 5 Stephen Plummer (V55) 3:05:06 Tokyo, 6 James Steel (V45) 3:09:32 Llanelli, 7 Adam Goodman 3:22:49 Chicago, 8 Bruce Li (V40) 3:25:18 Berlin, 9 Malcolm Woolsey 3:26:53 Abingdon, 10 Ian Leslie (V60) 3:37:18 Abingdon, 11 Aneta Neumann (V40) 3:46:54 Abingdon, 12 Andy Leung (V45) 3:49:55 Abingdon, 13 Tiffany Fontenot 3:50:25 Abingdon, 14 Jav Sondh 3:55:19 Kiev, 15 Simon Turrell (V50) 3:59:39 Abingdon, 16 Bill Lonsdale (V65) 4:00:08 Nottingham, 17 Jane Ruhland (V50) 4:07:49 London, 18 Anne Price (V60) 4:10:38 Dublin, 19 Shona Cowper 4:10:42 London, 20 Marie De Greef (V50) 4:26:19 Dublin, 21 Catherine Gunnewicht (V50) 4:40:06 Paris, 22 Beverley Packwood (V45) 4:40:06 Paris, 23 Annette Galloway (V50) 4:45:55 Dublin, 24 Sarah Holroyd (V55) 4:47:29 London, 25 Jennifer Jones (V50) 4:51:50 Liverpool, 26 Davinder Sohal (V55) 4:54:48 Milton Keynes, 27 Margaret Duffy (V50) 5:12:54 London