In recovery mode after hacking 10 minutes off his own marathon PB in Chicago recently, Andy Leung got on his bike to cheer on his team-mates at the Abingdon Marathon this weekend. Anyone who has witnessed Andy supporting a race knows he puts almost as much energy into it as those participating, so here’s his account of the race…
“Getting out of bed early to support ESMers is a nice feeling – no need to worry about eating breakfast at crazy hours, packing your gels and moisturizing body parts!
“My only aim was to navigate my way round the course, catching club mates as many times as possible. My task was easy: to shout as loud as I could, [editor’s note: that is LOUD!], offer warm support, and take snaps of our soldiers, as those initial smiles and relaxed arm-waving moments transition into grimaces and grasping for their gels in the latter stages.
“Conditions were good: cloudy, around 8 degrees Celsius and no wind. By 6 miles, front runner Jonathan Poole was already leading by a good few minutes. I hadn’t met him before, but I knew he was in the field and guessed it must be him. He seemed confused when I shouted his name, but responded with a quick nod and smile. Shortly after, I spotted John Robertson, well up the field. [Editor’s note: see below for feedback from John]. Again, I’d not met him but knew he was one of three ESMers running, so I shouted his name and again got a nod in reply. An unusual way to introduce myself, but we knew who we were now. Not that he knew I was also ESM.
“Some minutes later, Bruce Li and Ian Leslie came past smiling and waving and looking pleased to see me. I later found out from Ian that they were on 3:08 pace at that point, which is commendable but maybe they paid the price later in the race.
“I raced round to mile 11 on the Brompton and managed to catch them all again – all still looking good – so I headed on to mile 19 in the business park. From my previous experience, the place sucks the life out of you: soulless, quiet and eerie, but I was there to provide the necessary motivation and chants that I hoped would wake the runners up. Bruce told me afterwards my shouts of encouragement were useless to him because he couldn’t hear anything, but he’d pulled out a lead from Ian and was shouting 7:20 minute miles. That meant his average pace was 10 seconds faster than his target pace for 3:16, a time that would get him a “Good for Age” place in the Boston and Chicago marathons.
“By the time I caught up with Bruce at the finish, he gave me a hug and pointed to his watch showing he had 3:15 (unofficial at that point, but a PB). I was so happy for him as he’d been really determined, despite missing training due to a recent calf strain.
“Ian came running down the back-straight of the track to the finish, not sure if he was smiling or grimacing but he was definitely showing signs of discomfort. He hobbled round and cited pain on the hip and calf, but was pleased to finish despite very little training.
“John was probably at home by this stage having a bath and cup of tea but we managed to catch the presentation where Jonathan Poole won comfortably with 2:29. We parted company with Ian and slowly made our way out of Abingdon onto the M40, heading for a well earned KFC bucket. Bruce was already snoring away with a smug look on his face, knowing it was mission accomplished!”
It was John’s debut at this distance, and he gave Fiona some thoughts on the experience:
“There was really good support out on the course including my family and Andy Leung, who I don’t think I’ve met before, but recognised me in an Ealing vest and started cheering for me. It gives you a great lift when someone does that, a bit like when Steve Mann bellowed my name at Claybury the week before and said “every place matters in this John, come on!”. Peter Flewitt phoned me up the day before and warned me not to start too fast, but did I listen?
“I was running well I thought, until 22 miles, when I had to start slowing down and started to ache and that was tough. But I finished in 2:49, having set myself the target of 2:50 when I began training, I was really pleased with that.
“Running a marathon is something I’ve weighed up doing for a long time now and I’m really glad I finally did. It’s like its own little adventure. It was a great experience from start to finish. If I could do it all again tomorrow I would, I just can’t walk properly right now. I’d encourage anyone at the club who is thinking about training for a marathon to go for it. People tell you all kinds of horror stories about how tired you will get and toe nails dropping off, which is probably all true stuff, but it’s also very fun too and an amazing sense of achievement when you finish”.
It was clear John had talent as soon as he started running, but he’s been unable to realise his full potential due to injuries and family commitments, so it’s especially gratifying to see him complete a marathon in such a good time. He was also nearly on home territory as he’s based out in Oxfordshire.
I’m not sure who took which of these pictures, but thank you, whoever it was!
ESM results summary:
38 John Robertson (M40) 2:49:30, 260 Bruce Li (M40) 3:15:43, 444 Ian Leslie (M60) 3:39:35
Provisional results here. Full results to follow on runbritain.
Frieth Hilly 10K
This wasn’t on the club fixture list, but four of our finest ladies set off to tackle those hills. Sarah Gerrie and Shona Cowper took first and second places respectively, with Leanne Smith not far behind in sixth. Pat Thomas was tackling her second race of the weekend and deserves a round of applause for that alone!
Road Team Manager Sarah Gerrie reports:
“I had a moment of concern about the race when, in the car over, both Pat and Shona were telling Leanne and I how they remember very little about the race… it sounded as though they’d been that traumatised by it!! The race starts off with a blessing from the priest and a chorus of Jerusalem, again leading me to question how tough it was going to be if we needed prayers beforehand!
“It’s a tough course through fields and woods with the occasional bit of road and fallen tree to dodge. I can see how it’s easy to not remember much about it when a lot of the time is spent concentrating on not tripping over and just either getting down a hill or up a hill, so all the paths and trails tend to blur into one. It also has a horrendous last 400m uphill which is best to blank from memory. However, I really enjoyed it for being a small, local race and I personally love hills and a bit of mud. Also, they give out nice bottles of red and a voucher to pick out some new trainers if you win!”
ESM results summary: (positions within women’s field)
1 Sarah Gerrie 43:53, 2 Shona Cowper 45:35, 6 Leanne Smith 46:59, 26 Patricia Thomas (V55) 53:14
Full results here.