It’s a marathon AND a sprint

Journalist Will Macpherson ran the London Marathon for the Primary Club last October and completed it in an eye-wateringly quick time – here are his recollections

When the pandemic arrived and my faintly interesting professional and social lives ground to a halt, I turned to running to cure the boredom.

You may remember that the early weeks of the lockdown in Spring 2020 were stunning – much better than this year! – so I took to the streets of south London on my legally permitted daily dose of exercise.

Soon, I found I couldn’t stop (I had nothing else to do). I had run a bit here and there since university as organised sport drifted out of my life, but never as regularly as I was now. Word got around that I was pounding the capital’s deserted streets and, through my job (I am cricket correspondent of the Evening Standard), I was lucky enough to be offered the Primary Club’s place in the London Marathon for 2021 by trustee Paul Doyle and the team. It would be my first.

The Marathon was initially meant to take place in April, as it had for 40 years. But the pandemic put paid to that and, fortunately for me, it was moved to October. This allowed me to train in the warmer summer months and take in the routes of Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester and other cities as I travelled the country watching England’s men. By the time race day arrived, I felt ready(ish), but still had no idea what to expect.

I had been told, often, that adrenaline would kick in as I ran, and that I would be carried along by the crowd. Having never played any sport in front of a crowd of more than a few dozen, I thought this unlikely.

I was very wrong. The crowds were immense, from the early trot through Greenwich and south east London to the desperate final few miles along the river.

I have no doubt people came out in greater numbers because the weather was beautiful, but it probably also helped that, this being October 2021, it was now two and a half years since the London Marathon had been held properly (there was a virtual event in October 2020, with runners plotting their own routes all over the country to prevent people gathering together). The atmosphere they created was electric, and really did help.

I had felt that if were I to have the perfect day, I could get inside three hours 20 minutes. The weather (15° and blue skies all the way round) was just about perfect for running, and the crowd made a huge difference. With that help, I surpassed even my wildest expectations, and finished in three hours, eight minutes.

This was a hugely rewarding experience, and hopefully the Club felt it worthwhile too, with plenty of funds raised (£4,983). But please don’t ask again – my legs won’t forgive me!