The Virgin Money opened its ballot today for the 37th London Marathon. Like hundreds of thousands of others, I submitted my application. However, only 50,000 runners are accepted each year, with the knowledge that around 40,000 will actually line up. Of this 50k, a certain percentage will be charity runners, securing a place through gold or silver bond charities, some will be deferrals from the previous year, and some will be Championship (elite), Good For Age or competition/media places. With a record 247,069 people entering the ballot last year, and so few (comparatively) places allocated to ballot entrants, it’s worth looking at those alternative means of entry.
The Elusive Championship (Elite) Marathon Qualifier
Most people who run their first marathon aim to “just get round”. You might set yourself a secondary goal of a certain time, and you might even hit that goal first time. I know when I ran Brighton Marathon back in 2012, I set myself a challenging, but realistic, goal of getting in under 4 hours. Unfortunately I missed out by 7 minutes. Even though I said I’d never do another marathon, the bug took hold and I started thinking about whether I could do it all again to get my goal.
Some may aim for milestone times, like 4 hours. Others for named goals, like Good For Age (GFA) or a Boston Qualifier (BQ). Jared, who runs for my local running club, Harlow Running Club, on the other hand, always has his sights set higher. A Championship place, a.k.a. the elite. So just what does it take to run a Championship, or elite, London Marathon qualifier*? I caught up with him after the race to find out.
You just ran an elite qualifying time at the London Marathon, what was your race experience like?
My experience running London always has left me feeling like I have achieved something great. This is because it’s the biggest and the best marathon for me. I have run it for seven consecutive years and each one has its own story. My best was my first by far! But Sunday was amazing after completing Brighton [Jared ran Brighton just a week before, finishing 15th in 2:45:36]. It’s the challenge for me.
You ran Brighton before London, was London your goal race? Was it always the plan to race the marathon distance as part of your training for London?
I wanted to test my limits and after entering both I realised that I would need to “choose” which one to race. Surely I can’t race them both with little rest in between? Well, that’s what my tactic was in the end. I recover quickly from physical activity and I wanted to race BOTH. So I did! And because I’ve been able to maintain a high level of exercise I don’t worry or stress too much. Consistency is the key and if you look at my marathon times, particularly London, they are all consistently under 3hrs.
What was your training plan for this marathon? How has it differed from previous marathon plans you’ve followed?
Due to the nature of my work being a personal trainer, I fit in “my training” with clients. I join in with them at classes, PT sessions and find it helps motivate them to challenge themselves. I do follow a strict training plan which does mean I do very early morning runs and also late night strength conditioning sessions. Training with someone quicker than you to keep up is the challenge and most people shy away from it.
You’re a personal trainer and run fitness classes, how do you supplement your running training?
My PT sessions and classes are in addition to my running and I find it helps keep me strong and also reduce any risk of injury. It also gives me a opportunity to strengthen in other areas that are key to a successful marathon.
How do you fuel your body for the amount of activity you do? Do you feel as though your nutrition strategy was important to your race plan and how it went on the day?
I eat three meals a day and snack on fruit and nuts between meals. I also drink plenty of water. I train my body glycogen depleted to become more efficient, particularly early morning running. I consume fewer carbs towards end of the week so I don’t feel too heavy. My body is also very efficient at using body fat as a source of energy. I do not have protein shakes and have never used them.
How many marathons have you done? When was your first race at the marathon distance and how did that go?
I’m not sure on exactly how many, but could be 30 something. My medals are in a shoe box in the cupboard! My first was London in 2010 for St Clare’s Hospice. I raised loads of money for them with my wife who also completed it and then I proposed at Trafalgar Square. We’ve been married for five years this year! I’ve also raced marathons abroad. My PB is 2.41 at Nice, the Cannes Marathon in 2015.
Have you always been a natural runner, or do you feel it’s something you’ve really had to work for?
I have always enjoyed running. I ran from school years and played football up until my mid 20s. I really enjoy competitive racing events, that’s why I always try to be better than previous races/years.
What would be your one biggest tip for someone aiming an elite qualifying time?
Come and train with JB FITNESS; I know what it takes to achieve the elite qualification time!
You may be excused for thinking that elite times come easy for Jared, having always been into running, but there’s no denying that running a consistent 6:17 minute/mile is no mean feat. Jared trains hard, putting aside the time around his personal training business in often unsociable hours to fit in his run training. Whether you’re aiming for a Good For Age time, or a Championship place, the target is there… you’ve just got to work for it!
Have you ever run a Good For Age or Championship time? What are your top tips for racing this fast? Have you entered the London Marathon ballot? Comment below!
* Championship entry for the Virgin Money London Marathon is currently a sub 2:45 marathon, or sub 1:15 half marathon, for men; sub 3:15 marathon, or sub 1:30 half marathon, for women.