Spring Marathon Roundup

Wednesday 08th May 2019

Being a Brighton based club, having the UK’s second largest marathon on our doorstep and being close enough to London, and the major sporting event that its marathon has become, more and more of us have been taking on the challenge of the unique road racing distance in the Springtime. This year Brighton and London marathons were two weeks apart, but we have also had representation at the races in Vienna and Paris.

It should be noted that well before April had arrived, Andy ‘early bird’ Pumphrey was already two marathons into his year, after finishing the Steyning Stinger and the Moyleman off-road races with respectable times for both.

There are a lot of factors which make racing over 26.2 miles special and often the achievements experienced are not adequately distilled by a finishing time and simple ranking by gender and age group. The more occasions that we race over the distance, the harder it may be to achieve a lifetime PB or one for the age group we are in. There are races when our preparation goes well and there are others when illness, injury or life gets in the way to limit our chances of success. It’s often how we mitigate or overcome these challenges and still get to both the start and finish lines on the day, which define our personal triumphs. Not many of us are racing for a position on the podium but we are all trying to be the best version of ourselves as marathon racers on the given day.

After fantastic personal performances from many at the half marathons in February and March, the green shoots showing the promise of much more to come at double the distance were emerging.

Vienna Marathon

First up on the road were sister and brother act, Rachel Gorman and Andrew Gorman. After breaking the club’s half marathon record in Brighton in February, it was obvious that Rachel was in terrific shape, but unfortunately, injury problems struck in the later stages of her training program. Despite being undercooked, on the day Rachel still ran 3:04:16, finishing 6th in her age group and with a huge 17 minute PB. That sub-3 barrier is in big trouble next time out! Andrew finished his first marathon in 3:26:49 (the first PB is for free).

Brighton Marathon

In the days before the next weekend, many weather apps and websites were compulsively refreshed and rechecked in the lead up to Brighton marathon. As we all know, the seafront courses can be a lot more testing if we have to fight into a fresh westerly or, in this case, a cold easterly. These conditions, along with the lack of possible shelter and the chance to get a bit isolated on the course, provide the context for the huge number of personal bests which our athletes delivered (18 out of our 25 finishers).

Third overall, after a thrilling men’s race, Ian Leitch finished in an outstanding 2:18:34, claiming our club all-time record. This is special enough when you consider the esteemed company on that list that we have over all the distances, but also remembering that Ian - running in the Vets age group (over 40) - had clocked the fifth fastest time ever by a Sussex athlete over the marathon.

Maxwell Dumbrell had to run on his own a lot of the way but finished in 14th place with a creditible time of 2:31:50, a big improvement on his personal best, as he becomes more familiar with this length of race.

Also fighting into the wind over the closing miles, Alex Cruttenden was our next finisher in 2:39:06. All those Thursday evening tempo runs through gales must have helped steel him for the effort he produced to thoroughly deserve an improved time on last year’s breakthrough performance in Brighton.

Ash Dorrington seemed to get stronger and stronger every time we saw him pass our spectator points on the course. Running a negative split and apparently still feeling energetic at the finish line were the icing on the cake for a 12 minute personal best and a 2:43:13 performance, which only a few weeks prior had seemed unlikely - Ash had been unwell, missed two weeks of training and had to abandon his half marathon race at Reading, jogging most of the course in severe pain.

Next up, and having run a lot of the way in tandem effort with Ash, came relatively new club member Joe Butler, bettering his previous fastest finish by nearly eight minutes and finishing third in his V45 age group at 2:44:30, securing an England age-group vest for the upcoming York marathon in the process! Joe looked comfortable and economical each time we saw him on the course.

Fresh off a speedy 78 minutes at Brighton Half, Lewis Isaacs came in next in a quick PB of 2:52:23. Lew had been getting faster in training and certainly stepped up in distance well, to achieve a deserved performance with a smile on his face most of the way.

Tobias Bremer really enjoyed the experience of a return to the Brighton course, where he has raced well before. He hung on for a 2:55:14 finish, coping with a nagging injury which had hampered his build up.

Jonny McCormack lowered his marathon PB to 2:56:23, off relatively light mileage and with sleep deprivation from a recent family arrival with his wife Jude. Jonny is a consistent performer across 5km, Cross Country and longer distances, and is sure to be a stalwart for Phoenix for years to come.

Cyril Crua has been improving fast over all distances in the past year and was building on his performance at Brighton Half. Applying judicious use of spreadsheet heavy analysis and an engineer’s approach to his body as a finely tuned racing machine, Cyril had been aiming for 3:05:00. So when his finish time read 3:04:56, some of us wondered whether this would be considered within an acceptable range of tolerance/delivery on expectations. Either way, this French marque had improved his time over the same course in 2018 by a huge 22 minutes.

Another new member Tim Clarke is also coming along leaps and bounds, clocking a 3:05:20 PB after joining Phoenix following his 3:29 marathon debut in 2018.

Tony Rickwood, also in the V40 age group, ran an extremely composed and well-paced 3:08:06 PB that bodes extremely well for what’s to come in the future. The Patcham-based runner looks set to lower that time given his recent displays in XC, HM and parkrun.

Sean Butchers has been head down in his PhD dissertation on thermal inflation in Astrophysics for most of this year. He managed to keep his feet on the ground for just enough training to run 3:08:17 and a six minute PB on the day. The perseverance he showed to get to the finish line may mean the sky’s the limit once the distraction of his doctorate is out of the way.

New club member, Alex Garrod, battled out there with his very own tough conditions (you’ll have to ask him) to finish in 3:13:23. Fast Ironman age group athletes like Alex tend to store up experiences of when things don’t go well to build resilience for other races. He’ll look forward to more upcoming opportunities to compete, tri or other.

Competing in his tenth Brighton Marathon (out of 10!), John Lamb ran his fastest time of 3:26:56 over the distance. Training had been going well and John had been a regular at the Wednesday evening track sessions, which he said had helped contribute to improved running fitness and leg speed. This had showed in his fastest half marathon at Barns Green last Autumn and had given him the confidence to push for a PB in Brighton.

Tom Holborn competed for Phoenix as a junior athlete over middle distances and followed in his Dad’s footsteps in taking on the marathon as a senior. He makes it an annual event to return to the Brighton course and this year completed in 3:31:51.

Brighton probably felt quite run of the mill to Robert Bishop, who had completed a treadmill marathon a few weeks ago; both of these are merely the entree to the 5 marathons in 5 days he’s planning to do at the end of June.

Phil Grabsky followed up a fast half marathon in Brighton by running a 3:28:36 marathon to take a minute off his best time. Phil has been improving consistently over the last few years since giving up football. Sunday league’s loss has been Phoenix’s gain as Phil continues to get faster and faster after Fifty.

Emily Budd recently joined Phoenix and is set to represent the club in the South Downs Way Relay in June. She ran extremely well over the 42.2km course to post a PB time of 3:32:15.

Will Russell has competed for Phoenix for many years as a junior and now, as an under 23 athlete, was running his third marathon. This time he took another six minutes off his previous best at Brighton and followed up by racing London Marathon two weeks later.

Charlotte Softly, another PHX lady who is set to run the SDW Relay, was not far behind Emily, recording a Personal Best for the marathon in an excellent 3:35:44.

Andrew Haslam was our penultimate finisher which is hugely impressive considering his time of 3:37:41 is a fine performance.

Gill Checkley ran as an official pacemaker just inside the planned 4 hours 30. Great job Gill!

Paris Marathon

Meanwhile, across the channel, Bobby Searle was racing her first marathon over in Paris. After a fast 20 mile race earlier in the year and five weeks at altitude on a family trekking holiday in Nepal, what could Bobby run? Finishing 33rd woman overall in 3:01:02 - Boom! This comfortably achieved a championship qualifying time for London Marathon. But did she beat her Mum’s best-ever marathon time?!

London Marathon

With all the great performances by our running peers prior to Easter, by now the pressure to deliver was being felt by those tapering for London. Esoteric discussion in one WhatsApp group about carbohydrate depletion plans which had been ‘acceptable in the 80’s’ left those not in the know wondering about the adequacy of their pre-race dietary rituals, whilst resisting the ubiquitous hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

After his PB at the Brighton 10k, marathon debutant Ross Skelton was taking great form and also good performances from his cross country season into London Marathon. 2:25:50 was the return for 30th position overall and a great start at this new distance for him. Ross is returning to his hometown club of Hastings AC and we wish him every success for the future.

Milan Watson continued his good form, off the back of a podium finish at Beachy Head Marathon and two 74 minute half marathons in Worthing and Surrey. Converting new levels of fitness into a fast road marathon time was the aim and he did not disappoint, running 2:34:58 at his first time on the London course, including a two minute negative split for a 30 minute improvement on his only other road marathon.

Next Phoenix finisher was Dave Powell, in 2:46:03, which was an 11 minute improvement on his previous best and was not surprising for those that witnessed his gutsy performance earlier in the year at the South of England XC Champs, where he was the first Phoenix finisher, and his excellent 77 minute HM at a blustery Worthing.

Alex Bonzi finished extremely strongly in 2:53:45, running an expertly paced race where he ran a negative split and sported some sensational arm warmers.

Matt Greenall’s build-up to the race had been okay. He also couldn’t have been lacking inspiration, after meeting Sir Mo on a (work) trip to Ethiopia. In London, he ran with teammate Mark Cossey for most of the race. With 7 miles to go he pushed on and held strong to finish in 2:57:09, a two-minute improvement on his previous best.

Tom Hooper had unfortunately picked up a calf injury at the Sussex Road Relays only three weeks before London. He worked hard on his rehab to recover in time to get to the start line, still a bit unsure if his leg would hold out. The race started well for Tom but he had to stay very determined to carry himself through to the finish, which he still did in 2:59:17.

Since 2015, Mark Cossey had been very close in his attempts at an elusive sub-three hour marathon finish. After recovering from a serious accident and going on to make a successful start to triathlon racing, would this be the race time which finally began with a two? Mark finished in 2:59:25 but, after some uncertainty on his exact finish time, had to wait until the confirmatory email from the organisers. What a relief and well done!

It appears from her Powerof10 profile that Amelia Culshaw has run faster in each of her ten plus marathons so far. Not wanting to break with tradition, another personal best time was delivered with a fantastic 3:16:31. Amelia is well on her way to completing the group of World Marathon Majors and hopefully saving the best for last on the fastest course of all, in Berlin.

Phil Jeffrey completed the course in 3:52:50, comfortably breaking the four hour mark for the first time on the big stage in London.

This concludes our round-up of this year’s exceptional Spring marathon racing. Well done to everyone who finished and helped make it one of the best collections of race performances that we have ever had as a club over the 26.2.