From Watford to London

By Elliot Hind
I’ve entered the ballot for the London marathon for the past few years and been unsuccessful; it is something I’ve really wanted for longer than I can remember.

I’ve only run one marathon (Brighton 2014 in 3.28) and had made it my 2015 goal to qualify for London on a ‘Good For Age’ time of under 3.05.  I entered the MK Marathon and the Kent Roadrunner marathon and was feeling confident that with training I could get under that time.  Unfortunately, disaster struck in December 2014 as a tackle on the football pitch destroyed my ankle ligaments and put an end to my marathon dream; I was crushed.  I was at a real low for a long time and in all honesty I wasn’t nice to be around.

After a few months of feeling sorry for myself I thought my ankle had healed and managed to get round the MK parkrun.  I did a couple of other parkruns but things still didn’t feel right in April.  I went to see a physio who started me on strengthening work and gradually I got stronger again.  I was going to have to work hard, but my marathon dream was back on, but just delayed a year.  I spent the summer working on speed work and got under 17 minutes for a parkun at the end of August as well as finishing 4th in the Tour of MK.

I got married at the end of September and had a glorious 3 week honeymoon in French Polynesia.  While there I found out that once again I hadn’t made it into the London Marathon and was unsuccessful in the LBAC ballot too!  I decided to enter the Greater Manchester Marathon and when I got back the hard work would start!

Things have been going to plan and I have gradually built up my mileage while continuing speed sessions with Marshall MKAC (Sorry. It’s a lot closer to where I live now than to Leighton!) and weekly parkruns.  I have been consistently running 60 miles a week and running sub 3.05 at Manchester looks very likely (although nothing is certain when it comes to marathons!); I even have my eye on 2.45 to qualify for a Championship Entry at London.

Manchester is on April 10 so I entered the Watford Half and MK Festival 20 miles to help my preparation.  Having done a 1.15 at the end of 2015 I knew my legs could run fast over a half marathon, but Watford is very hilly and not a fast course; I would have been very happy with around 1.17 to 1.20.

As usual I did a parkrun on Saturday morning (Conkers in 16.43) and had a few texts questioning my tapering.  I’ve always run well the day after quick parkruns so ignored the messages!  I woke up on Sunday morning and my legs felt heavy; I was nervous and suddenly I was questioning if the parkrun was a good idea!

There are two separate starts at Watford; one for the senior men and one for the vets and ladies; they all run the same distance and meet after about 500m.  Oddly the start took us all by surprise and the horn sounded somewhere in the distance (I presume by the vets and ladies start) and it took an official to say ‘go’ for us all to realise the race had started!

I knew the start would be quick so tried to hold back, but I’ve never been very good at that!  We ran down the hill and then into a residential area I was feeling comfortable and started chatting to a nice bloke called Luke from Tring.  Paul Martelletti who won the Manchester Marathon and Watford Half last year was already well clear in first.  I settled into a pack of about 6 and felt comfortable; I looked down at my watch as we passed 5km and was pretty shocked to see I’d done it bang on 17 minutes.  The course then becomes very hilly indeed and the pack of 6 quickly dropped to 4 of us and amazingly as I passed my family for the first time after 4 miles I was in 2nd place, they were very shocked.  Not long after I was overtaken and the lad looked strong, but I was comfortable in 3rd place; the hills kept coming but they didn’t affect me too much.  I passed 10k in under 35 minutes and crossed halfway in under 37 minutes, I suddenly realised that I had a very good shot at running under 1.15 and qualifying for London through that method instead.

The hills kept coming, but after 10 miles (approx 56.30) I still felt okay.  Nobody else seemed to be near me and I allowed myself to start thinking I might finish 3rd, then I heard footsteps which seemed to get louder and louder; someone was behind me.  I pushed on, trying to lose them but as we came back into the residential area I knew it would be a fight until the end. We looped down back into Cassiobury Park with less than 1km to go, unfortunately the majority of that was all up hill.  We were neck and neck pushing harder and harder, unfortunately with 100m to go the other guy pulled ahead and just beat me to it.  I crossed the line in 1.14:03 (annoying as the clock said 1.13:55 as I went over at the time).  I had done it!  I’d qualified for the London Marathon 2017 and got a brilliant time on a very tough course.

I shook the guy’s hand who had beaten me, it turned out to be Luke who I’d chatted to over the first couple of miles and (after a bit of research when I got home) the winner of the Leighton 10 in 2015.  It was great to meet up with my family & friends afterwards and I felt on top of the world; I let it bother me for a while that I missed out on the £100 prize for finishing 3rd, but it’s finally sunk in that I’ve qualified by right to run at one of the biggest marathons in the world and I’ll start with the best amateur runners in the country just behind the professionals.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can do on the flat course that makes up the Manchester Marathon but before then we have the last Chiltern league fixture on Saturday to enjoy!