London Marathon Retrospective

Thursday 2nd May 2024

Men's Captain Tom Hooper gives his account of how he bounced back from a tough Brighton marathon in 2023.


This year I ran the London Marathon for the 2nd time, and I was adamant this would be my last one (for the foreseeable future at least). Last year I faded badly with 4 miles to go of Brighton and with an unenviable record of 1 race out of my previous 6 attempts going to plan, I needed to have one last try to either get it right or accept that maybe 26.2 miles just isn’t my distance.

My previous London saw me go into it with a calf strain inflicted at the Sussex Road Relays and, again, I fell apart at 19 miles with all kinds of cramps, crawling in at 2:59.

This post is intended to give some detail on how I approached the training block, what I changed from last year, how I completely transformed my race day fuelling and, to some extent, my race day strategy.

I should add a caveat immediately that there are faster, more consistent and vastly more experienced runners across the club at the marathon distance and these are just things I did on this occasion. If it helps even one person then that’s great.

Spoilers: The race went really well and I was able to run the first and second halves in a pretty much identical time to finish in 2 hours and 42 minutes which was an 8 minute PB.

One last apology: I do everything in Kms when I train but I know most people prefer miles so this post is going to switch between both imperial and metric measurements with reckless abandon.


Things I felt I needed to address from my previous training block were:

  • My long runs weren’t long enough
    • I did loads of runs around 2 hours, but not enough in the 2:15 to 2:30 territory.
  • I didn’t do enough target marathon pace efforts in my long runs
  • I probably peaked a little bit early running a really good sub 75 half in Brighton in Feb 2023

Things I changed:

  • My longest run was 22 miles (two and a half hours ish)
  • In a 12 week block I ran a 20 mile long run on 4x occasions, and 19 miles twice.
  • I did the Brighton Half at marathon pace with a decent warmup before
  • I ran 20km at marathon pace in a 26km run as a Thursday workout
  • I introduced a midweek longish run (10-12 miles) into my schedule
  • When I did marathon pace in my long runs I twice did 3x5km off a float and I also did 2x8km (shout out to Alex C who joined me on a lot of these!)

Some challenges I had were that just as I was about to kick off my block after 2 solid weeks of higher mileage I was struck down by proper flu and was bedridden for 1 week and didn’t run a step for a total of 2 weeks. That meant with exactly 12 weeks to go I was starting quite a bit behind where I wanted to be. (Coach) Geoff Hill was not too optimistic (he told me this afterwards).

This also meant I was unable to toe the line in any of my planned XC races: Sussex Champs, Sussex Masters, South of England following a shin/ankle problem I rehabbed in the second half of December.

Again, not ideal at all but I still believed I could get myself in good shape.

What signs of fitness were there?

The 20km marathon pace tempo (over 5 weeks out from race day) with Jon Clays joining me on the bike and Lewis Isaacs running most of it with me was a massive confidence booster because I nailed the paces and finished the workout with a lot in the tank. This was after a day in London at work, and 3 hours of commuting and that was a good sign.

As mentioned above I also did some very encouraging long runs with marathon pace. MP was around 3:45-3:50 per km or 6:00-6:10 a mile. The best of these was running 3x5km at the end of a 20 mile run and executing those efforts progressively faster: 19:01, 18:51, 18:40.

I continued to do the Monday Intervals in the group and although I was at the back of the (admittedly fast) group, I was recovering fast and completing the whole session even after 20 miles on the Saturday. The signs were good, and sometimes you just know it’s there.

I had a couple of maintenance treatments with Franci Heasman at the FMG project and although I was tired all the time, I was sleeping well and in good nick.


With the benefit of hindsight I can say with certainty that I chronically under-fuelled in every one of my previous marathons. I was not taking on enough carbohydrates to cover what I was burning.

This time I used Precision Hydration after receiving a glowing endorsement from Nick Dawson and James Turner at B&HAC. I practiced taking gels religiously in my long runs, and I was very clear in my mind that on the day I was going to take 7 gels during the race which previously I would have thought was madness.

This works out as:

  • 15 mins before the start: 1x (30g carbs gel with caffeine)
  • 8km - 30g carbs
  • 14km - 30g carbs
  • 20km - 30g carbs
  • 26km- 30g carbs
  • 32km - 30g carbs
  • 38km - 30g carbs with caffeine 

Race Day

I stayed at the O2 just to minimise travel logistics and walked/jogged the 2 miles to the start to avoid public transport and keep everything in my control. I was there 75 mins before our start time and that was absolutely the right move so there was no bag drop stress.

It was nice to meet Jamie Signy, James Brewster, Jess and some other friends although I managed to lose almost everyone between bag drop and going to our start wave. As a result the plan to run with Jamie, Tim Clarke, Ross, James went out of the window and it was James and a friend from Seaford Striders, Joel.

We ended up right at the back of the wave and even in the first bit of a 50,000 strong race it was busy. I knew I was slower than target pace but I was focused on running the shortest distance possible and not stressing.

Race Recap

The slowest 5km of the whole race was 5-10km where all the other coloured waves merge together and there was a decent bit of middle distance forearm fending, and generally trying not to get tripped - especially at water stations.

From about 8 miles it settled down and I could start to really apply myself and just switch off as much as possible.

Tooley St into Tower Bridge is absolutely bananas and last time out I do think I got a bit too emotional and it worked against me. The main thing I was focused on was taking a manual split at the 20km marker and getting gel #3 down. I timed this perfectly for the iconic photoshoot on Tower Bridge so it’s a series of shots of me eating.

My halfway split was 1:21:07 which is 6:11 a mile. Sub 2:40 probably wasn’t on but the roads were clearer and I felt good. I was obsessively reminding myself 35km is when the race starts, it is irrelevant how you feel until then.

Once we headed out towards Canary Wharf I knew I was moving really well, but I was aware that my right hamstring felt a little bit twingey. That’s the one thing that, if anything is going to cramp, it will be that so it was on my mind but honestly I was very focused on getting to my next gel and just relaxing.

Anyone that has run with me, and anonymous friends of friends on Strava, will know I have a very lazy and inefficient left arm so I carried a gel in that hand for the whole race to tighten up my form. It also kept me focused on the next block of 6km where I got the reward of a delicious blob of carbs in a pouch.

After seeing the best cheer duo in the game a couple of times, Amy Harris and Rod Garrod, plus loads of other PHX members all over the course, I was still feeling great and actually on for an unprecedented Negative Split. There are parts of the course between Canary Wharf and getting back onto the Embankment where the support was so loud and I felt like I was only going past people. Whether I was or not is now consigned to record books.

Embankment was genuinely just really enjoyable and whilst I was wary of cramp still having the potential to snipe me from nowhere, I was running solid 3:49kms and I still hadn’t had a bad patch.

Could I have gone harder? Should I have pushed more if I was feeling good? Was sub 2:40 there for the taking? Maybe.

However I crossed the line in 2 hours 42 mins and 16 seconds and my second half of the race was 2 seconds slower than the first. I had finally nailed one.

In Summary

I am really happy with how London went for a few reasons. Lots of people saw first-hand how I was when I imploded in Brighton and the fact that many people were rooting for me was amazing and helped me beyond belief.

I learned from all the things I did wrong in previous blocks, put them into effect and put together 12 weeks that gave me the best chance to run well on the day.

I also fuelled way more. If you take one thing from this: think about your race day fuelling!

Big shout out to all the people who got this far and everyone who messaged me before and after, coach Geoff, plus training partners, the group and the bigger club. We have a serious crop of distance runners in Phoenix and it’s a pleasure to be a small part of it.

Big well done to Ross, Jamie, James, Si, Trina and everyone else who got PBs on the day too.