There was huge disappointment at the postponement of the London Marathon but six Fairlands Valley Spartan women were determined to still raise money for charity and to make their running effort a bit special.
This would have been the first time the Spartans had a race qualified women’s team in the British Marathon Championship. GAIL MACKIE, MICHELLE REEVES, SAMANTHA PRETTY-CONNORS, ELLA HARDS, SUZY HAWKINS and ASHLEY KING decided to organise a virtual relay on Sunday morning to see if they could beat the three hour barrier.
Spartans Ladies Sub-3 Hour Marathon Challenge.
They raised at least £1500 for Age UK and Bridge the Gap (which will be doubled by River Island bringing the total to £3000 + Gift aid!).
After a year of training four Fairlands Valley Ladies had qualified and entered the British Marathon Championships and were due to compete at the Virgin London Marathon this year. Michelle Reeves ran 3 hours 14 minutes at the Virgin London Marathon in 2019 to qualify for the championships, and her team-mates Suzy Hawkins, Samantha Pretty-Connors, Gail Mackie 30, all ran sub-90minute half marathon times to make up the first Fairlands Valley Spartans British Marathon Championship Team.
They were looking in fantastic form up until lockdown, training hard, pushing each other in training, alongside their team mates Ashley King and Ella Hards. All were aiming for some collective personal bests (PBs) and ambitious goals. Samantha Pretty-Connors and Suzy Hawkins, both juggling childcare and training, ran a 1:26 half marathon in Cambridge just before the lockdown and looked on form to go sub-3 hours at London.
Disappointed the event was unable to go ahead, the ladies wanted to do something positive to mark the occasion and raise money for charity.
Michelle Reeves, said “Charities have been really hard hit during this crisis and whilst we were disappointed we couldn’t take part in the event, the biggest worry is about the charities who will no longer be able to fundraise. The London Marathon raises around £65 million in funding for charities each year, and for some, this is their main source of donations. We were inspired by the Virgin London Marathon 2.6 challenge to raise money for charity and hopefully lift spirits in our running community and entertain people a little on the way. I’d been put on furlough from my work at River Island, so wanted to put this time to good use and raise money for charity, which River Island have kindly offered to match.”
The ladies came up with the idea during a Zoom fitness session together. Samantha, suggested doing something to mark the occasion, that they would otherwise be pounding the streets on London, so, alongside their training buddies, they set themselves a challenge. The idea of a Virtual Marathon Relay came to Michelle, just two days before the London Marathon was due to take place! Between the six of them, they aimed to complete the marathon distance, which meant running 4.37 miles each, one after the other – and Live Stream as much as they could. Each would run out to complete a leg from their homes, adhering to current social distancing rules, and virtually pass a baton to the next runner, who would then go out and complete their leg, starting at 10am on the Sunday, when the Virgin London Marathon would have started for the mass participants. “We needed to set ourselves a challenge” Suzy said, “so we wanted to complete the challenge in under 3 hours, which would be tough, as we had just trained for endurance, rather than speed!” The ladies each needed to complete their individual 4.37miles in under 30minutes.
We also needed to think of an object we all had in our houses we could pretend to pass to each other in front of the camera – that’s where the wooden spoon came into it – we would pretend to pass the wooden spoon to the next runner on live video streaming! “I got some strange looks sprinting down the road, on my own, with a wooden spoon in my hand.” laughed Samantha.
Come the morning of the 26th April we were all so nervous – exactly the same feeling as before any race – and not wanting to let down any of our team or supporters. Ella, who is currently staying in Hampshire, kicked off the event at 10am, in a time of 28 minutes 38 seconds, setting the ladies off to a good start.
Michelle was quick to take the wooden spoon baton, but the nerves and excitement got to her, and went off far too quickly! “I knew I was in trouble, when I ran faster than my 5km PB for the first 2km, and really slowed up in the middle part of the race. I just kept thinking, don’t slow up too much. I didn’t want to let down the others – or make them run even faster! In the end I held on for 30:16”
Sam was off next, who came through at an amazing 28:03. “I was so pleased I was able to give us a bit of a buffer, as honestly none of us knew how we would perform.” She then handed over to Gail, who said “I was really excited, but really nervous. I was also worried as I was in charge of the FaceBook live and technology. With Michelle’s wise words echoing in my ears not to go out too fast – I still managed to do just that! A couple hills later, I spotted a familiar Spartan on the side of the road, ready to cheer from two metres away, which gave me a massive boost. It was getting hard but I knew that there were supporters ready and waiting to see me finish – spurring me on to 29:34, 26 seconds under target”. Next up was Suzy, who said “I found it hard to sleep last night, I was so nervous, and didn’t know what I would be able to do, but was really please to finish my leg in 28:47.”
We then went all the way to the Virginia, USA to Ashley for our final leg. She had been travelling, cycling round Asia when the outbreak occurred and returned to her parents in the USA. She finished her leg in 29:24, running through the finishing ribbon her family were holding and they presented her with a medal for us all, bringing our total time to 2 hours 54 minutes and 43 seconds.
We were so pleased to raise over £1500 pounds for Age UK and Bridge the Gap, charities which are both working so hard at the moment to support vulnerable people in our community, and completely overwhelmed with the support people have shown, by donating and following our live feed on Facebook. We are so happy we have been able to take part in something so positive. Thank you to everyone who has shown their support and donated. If you would like to donate, to these wonderful charities, the page is here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FVSGirlsGoSub3
Simon Solo Sub Three
To avoid everyone and the need for water stations Spartan SIMON JACKSON ran solo and ran early and had completed a full marathon by 8a.m!
With the London marathon being postponed from Sunday Simon decided to run for 26.2 miles in a loop where he was never further than two miles from his house.
He said, “I went sensible and went out just before the sun came up, so I didn’t overheat and I wasn’t in the need of dozens of aid stations there would be in London.”
He did the 26.2 mile route in 2:55:16 and was home comfortably before 8am.
Simon is training for a Guiness World Record when he wil be attempting to break the indoor 140.6 mile triathlon world record by rowing 3.86 km on a rowing machine, cycling 180.25 km on an indoor bike then running 42.2 km on a treadmill in LESS THAN 8 hours 24 minutes and 47 seconds.
He is doing this in aid of Garden House Hospice Care and has a Just Giving page at:
Jim Brown in the 2.6 Challenge
Jim Brown would have run his 20th London Marathon on Sunday. He had qualified – “Good For Age” by running two sub four hour marathons in 2019. Jim’s 2.6 challenge was to run 2.6 times 5 miles, a solo half marathon for Stevenage Helps and to donate 26 items to the Stevenage Foodbank by the end of the week.
Stevenage Community Trust’s Stevenage Helps Appeal will directly help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stevenage Community trust “support both individuals through Hardship Grants and charities and organisations through Community Grants, covering Stevenage and surrounding villages.
In order to ensure that your money reaches those in most need we have been approved by Stevenage Borough Council to create this fund to ensure that your generosity goes to the people that need it most.
Stevenage Community Trust has been serving the people of Stevenage for 30 years, this appeal will be run at zero cost ensuring that 100% of the money we receive from Virgin Money Giving goes directly to those benefiting from the appeal. *Virgin Money Giving charges a small fee for processing donations, you can cover this fee as you donate to ensure that your full donation goes to the appeal.”
Please send donations via www.Virginmoneygiving.com/fund/stevenage-helps or www.stevenagecommunitytrust.org/stevenage-helps-covid-19-appeal Please refer to “Deputy Jim” when you donate. Jim is the Deputy Mayor of Stevenage.
Starting from home at 11a.m. Jim ran a solo Stevenage half marathon which took in chunks of his first ever marathon including running through the start at Argyle Way. He said it was a bit tough running that distance with no other runners and as it got warmer but despite losing a little time ensuring there was enough space around him at all times he was happy to achieve his target and finish the 21.1 kilometres in 1:59:17.
How lucky we are to have the wide cycleways in Stevenage.
The real Stevenage Half Marathon is due to take place on Sunday1st November.
Stoop for Jennings
Spartan Paul Jennings ran a solo marathon following STOOP – the Stevenage Outer Orbital Path. No chance of it being as fast as on flat tarmac, it was his birthday and he had to do some route checking but he finished happy in 5:15:43
Train Virtually With The Spartans
Despite the lack of races and coaching club sessions the Spartans are keeping active despite not being able to run in groups and making sure they maintain the two metre separation from everyone else.
Brian White, the head coach, is publishing weekly training programmes for members to follow solo; many Spartans were almost marathon ready and are relaxing with local runs from home to maintain fitness levels without over training; and members are benefiting from training videos published by Marriotts Sports Centre – the Spartans base in normal times. Full membership of the Spartans including UKA affiliation costs just £19 from now until 31st March 2021.
To join the Spartans visit www.fvspartans.org.uk now.