It was only the night before when I checked the train times that the first replacement coach was due to arrive earlier than I thought so, had the opportunity to visit the Start. Thousands of runners were still making their way to the Start after 9am with trains packed to capacity and others being left on the platform for a later train at London Bridge. Took ages to get out of Blackheath station and some had difficulty getting off the train with the doors about to close.
Immediately headed for the supporters side of the blue start where a considerable number of runners were already in their starting pens. Could not see any of our VRUK or VC&AC runners as I walked up and down the field, eventually deciding to hold the banner in view of the runners i.e. ‘Plant /Energy, Best of Luck, Veggies / Vegans’. Some runners were looking in the direction of the banner otherwise there was no response apart from a few facial expressions. Stood near pen 1 so maximised the publicity as the runners moved forward. As the race started the banner seemed to attract more attention, especially from the rear of the field who were also more relaxed. Ade of the VC&AC found me again as he did at the 2007 event and Doug Hawkin, one of our contacts was wearing the VRUK vest. Doug came up to the fence as I was about to take his photo he decided a picture of his back was more important.
After the last runners passed I walked back through the Blue Start meeting area, the baggage lorries appeared to have left quite swiftly with the odd late arrival having nowhere safe to leave their bag. I noticed runners were still pouring out of the Greenwich Park at the Red Start as I walked around the edge and down to Greenwich station to go over to Canary Wharf. As I arrived, the leaders of the women’s race who started at 9am had already gone through. Went for a drink in the underground shopping complex and returned in time to see the leading men pass at a pace that would win many 5K events. Due to the change in arrangements for some of the slower elite women who started at the head of the main start, I had to leave for the finish before Fiona Oakes had passed. I had arranged to meet Ron Franklin (aged 80+) at our meeting point. Ron is a former 2 hours 25 minutes marathon achiever and his diet has been free of dairy and egg for about 50 years. Ron alongwith myself decided to greet our runners at the finish.
I stayed long enough at Canary Wharf to see James Meldrum pass, also running in the English (or AAAs) Marathon Championships for Liverpool Harriers. I feel guilty not staying to see our other sub 3-hour runners including Fiona but did not have a mobile number for Ron. Despite arriving rather late for the appointment, Ron did likewise knowing Fiona had started later. It was not long before some of the elite runners were walking past, quoting their sub 2.30 times. With few people around at this stage I soon picked out James (2.36) approaching us, still looking quite fit in outward appearance. James although 1 minute faster than 2008 was disappointed he did not achieve nearer or below 2.30. It was appropriate to take a photo of Ron holding our congratulatory banner with each of our runners. In quick succession Ed Banks (2.51) and Max Newton (2.52) arrived and all three are in the photo with Ron.
We were also joined by members Dave Arnold, Andrew Knight, Wolfgang Kunst, James Millington and Annette Herold, a good show of support to our runners. Both Dave and Andrew alongwith myself and other VRUK members had the previous day participated in the national anti-vivisection march from Hyde Park to Whitehall which took about 2 hours.
Unfortunately due to Fiona sustaining an injury earlier in the race related to her weak knee without the cap she still managed to continue and achieve a remarkable time of 2.58. In extreme pain at the finish, Fiona was in need of urgent medical attention and in no fit state to visit our meeting point. Fiona was also running for Captive Animals Protection Society.
Vanessa Hudson, due to limited training was thinking in terms of finishing around 5 hours but exceeded her expectations with a good personal time of 4.38. Vanessa was also running for WSPA with ‘Vegan Vanessa’ printed on her WSPA vest. Relatives from Nottinghamshire had also made the special trip to support Vanessa and met her at the finish inspite of the huge crowds around that time.
Other VRUK members who had to defer their entry due to injury or health included: Laurence Klein and Andrew Rankine.
Four of the VC&AC runners also made it to our joint meeting point, namely Ryan Procter (3.07), Andy Jordan (3.22), Jim Cheseldine (3.56) and Caroline Chapman (5.12) her first.
Continuing our previous year’s arrangements we visited the CHI Vegan Buffet in St Martin’s Lane which must have seemed a long walk for Vanessa in particular. We seemed to lose Vanessa and her relatives before we reached Admiralty Arch but eight of us including Ron eventually met at the buffet for a welcome sit down for all of us. It was an opportunity to hear details of Ron’s major achievements. Around 6pm I thought that was the end of the social but Vanessa had other ideas with a visit (and a fair walk) to Neal’s Yard (for the remaining six of us) for a large vegan chocolate slice of cake (more like a desert) and a hot drink. With a chilly wind developing as we sat outside we were shivering by the end.
A memorable day for Vegan Runners UK.