London Marathon – Supporting VRUK members

Every year since I last ran the event in 1998 I have been supporting our members (VC&AC members prior to 2005) and arranged the meeting point for members if they were prepared to find their way through the crowds depending on their finish time and aching legs.

Like the last two years, I stayed overnight at the Thames YHA in Rotherhithe also on the route so could have waited here at about mile 9 but prefer to be at the Start and part of the build-up. Had our general banner to display at the Start ‘Plant Energy, Best of Luck, Veggies / Vegans’. I also had a dual role to play in supporting the members of the VC&AC.

Although only 4 miles from the Start, it is a typical slow journey on public transport via Canary Wharf and the long walk uphill to Blackheath. The elite women’s start was also at the far end but reached it with time to spare, positioning myself two hundred metres or so along the course to takes some photos. Unfortunately this year Fiona Oakes was not running due to serious illness earlier in the year and as a consequence no training. Running was out of the question, however VRUK had its highest number of entrants since our 2005 debut. Representing the VRUK were: Dave Arnold, Andi Gaywood, Stewart Boulton, Verna Burgess and running as 2nd claim members we had James Meldrum, Colin Braybrook and Frances Humphries. Verna had carried over her place from 2007 also our guaranteed club place, this year we had two due to our increased membership, allocated to Stewart & Andi.

After seeing the elite women’s start I walked over to the Blue Start, passing all of the sponsor’s balloons. With runners allocated a pen number, one at the front I was able to find out from some members where they would be lining up. For the first 3 or 4 pens there was mesh fencing. Before it was crowded close to the start time, I found Andi Gaywood in pen 7 hence the photos seen earlier in the blog and on the website. I also met two VC&AC members in other pens. It was here I made use of the banner and attracted a lot of attention if little in the way of comment. As the race started I stood adjacent to what was pen 1 holding the banner aloft. I saw Stewart pass by without attracting his attention but suddenly I was greeted by Verna who came right up to the fence and I quickly took a photo. Andi also saw me again. I waited until all of the runners went past before moving away and the long walk down to Greenwich. Earlier I received a text from Sharon Davidson who was already in a prime position near the finish to support our members.

Originally I had planned to see the runners in the Cutty Sark area but as it was approaching 1030 decided to take the train to Canary Wharf. As I arrived, the leading women had just passed and I saw Liz Yelling in her British vest. To cross the road I had to take a detour through the underground shopping centre as there were restrictions despite only the occasional runner passing at this stage. Saw most of the elite women pass and the leading men. Was conscious of the need to reach the finish and our meeting point for 1210 in case James Meldrum ran an extremely fast time. A heavy shower was also approaching so the timing was right to leave. Arrived early at the Finish so decided to take a walk up past the baggage lorries to the Finish Line where professional photographers were also in place taking photos of the elite women after they finished. There were also large numbers of medals on racks ready to be distributed as well as foil blankets, etc. Walked back to our meeting point where I had planned to stay for the next maybe 4 hours.

It was not long before Annette Herold turned up to give her support. Annette only lives maybe 2-3 miles away on the other side of the Thames so this is familiar territory. James turned up looking like he had only just run a short distance event but was disappointed with his performance due to cramping he believed was caused by the rain however he still lowered his PB by 10 minutes to 2.37 and 135th place. Running first claim for Liverpool Harriers he had to wear their vest otherwise would have been proud to wear the VRUK vest. Next to reach the meeting point was Dave Arnold who despite his lack of training finished in 3.09 and was still wearing the VRUK vest followed shortly by Colin Braybrook. In the last miles, Dave had in fact passed Colin if correct. With other VC&AC runners also finishing in similar times it was an opportune moment to take group photos with Annette holding the banner aloft behind.

Meanwhile text messages were coming from Sharon, informing me of the number of VRUK & VC&AC runners she had seen if not naming them.

We had to endure a heavy shower whilst we awaited the arrival of our heroes but it did not dampen our spirits.

Possibly the best performance of the day came from Verna who has been at her peak leading up to the event, setting a PB for the half marathon and here lowered her PB by something like 35 minutes to 3.47. Next to arrive was Stewart who despite a half marathon PB of 1.37 a fortnight earlier did not reproduce his best form here, finishing in 4.28. One day Stewart will easily break the 4 hours. Our final member home was Andi Gaywood arriving shortly before 4pm. Andi was quite content with his time of 5.39 about the time he had in mind. Our support had also increased with the arrival of Vanessa Hudson.

Despite having ran a marathon many of the runners including Dave, Andi, Stewart & James were still keen to visit the Chi Vegan Buffet. We slowly made our way over, signing I recall some petition on the way influenced by Dave. We stayed in the restaurant for at least two hours before moving next door to a pub and finally called it a day at 8pm.