All details about the event can be found here. This post is just about my experience.
150,000 people enter the ballot for a London Marathon place in the May before the event. About 50,000 places are allocated and about 40,000 start the race. In addition to the ballot places there are also some places that are allocated to runners who are very fast or who are considered ‘Good for Age’. So if like me you are female, old and considered to be quick for age and sex you get an automatic entry. In 2015 I ran the North Dorset Villages marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes (and 46 seconds) which just about quick enough to meet the Good for Age standard for women aged 60 – 64.
Of the 40,000 runners who started the London Marathon on 24th April 2016 just 204 were women aged 60 – 64 with a further 130 women over the age of 65. The reason why there were so few older women running the marathon is because it is bloody hard.
I have completed the London Marathon seven times over the years since my first one in 1994. Back in the day I used to run quite quickly and until I was 55 most marathons were sub 3 hours 30 minutes with a personal best of 3 hours 12 minutes set in Paris in 2001. In 2009 I ran 3 hours 37 minutes and I then decided to stop running marathons as I was getting too slow!
Training for a marathon is quite tricky. In an effort to train hard enough to get the best from yourself it is essential to avoid over-training and acquiring injuries. I try to vary my training and do a lot of it off road. I build intensity by running on hills (not difficult in West Dorset) and by doing some intervals and speed work. After the ironman in September 2015 I had a few months of low motivation and started 2016 with no desire to compete and not much urge to get out of the door and run! My training diary records ‘running is hard work and I am depressingly slow. I cannot imagine being at the start of VLM on April 24th’. In January a 15km run was ‘exhausting’, but by February things were improving and I was pushing the long run out to 30km. During March my mojo gradually returned and I recorded that I was ‘running well – just slowly.’ I ran the Grizzly in March at race intensity and was quite pleased. I recovered well and ran the Weymouth half marathon in 2 hours 4 minutes the weekend after. However, I only ran more than 30km in training 6 times in preparation for the London marathon.
As well as running, I have continued to swim at least once a week and cycled several times a week, including many rides over 100km. I also do some strength and conditioning with weights in the gym and Iyengar yoga.
The Virgin London Marathon is incredibly well organised. It is a massive event with 40,000 runners and many thousands helping to facilitate the event. Registration takes place at Excel in London and in itself is a huge event. Registration is open for 3 full days and although by Saturday lunch time when we rolled up it was very busy, we were quickly processed and I had my number and timing chip. I had been quite nervous in the week before going up to London but by this time I was resigned to my fate.