2013 Virgin London Marathon

Strachan records a personal best and Brannigan eats some cake.
A special report on the 2013 Virgin London Marathon by Sir Eatalot

Lots of Photos

Last week saw the local and national press rightly applaud the efforts of Northern Ireland athletes who completed the Virgin London Marathon.  Amid all the celebration and justified euphoria of such a specular event, Newcastle’s ‘Big’ Alan Strachan recorded a PB of 2:48:21. He had trained stoically and lived a troglodyte existence in the months leading up to the event, overcoming the foot injury that had threatened to thwart his efforts.  Such was the intensity of his training that several kilos were shed and he was in tip-top condition as the big day approached and he was duly rewarded with a wonderful performance where he recorded a highly impressive finish time, dipping under 2:50 for the first time, beating his previous best by around 2 minutes and qualifying for an automatic ‘Good for Age’ entry for 2014.  This was a fitting finale to a wonderful weekend in the capital. We’re all live in one silver Mazda! The journey began on Friday afternoon when the coaching and management team for the weekend set of in Brannigan’s vintage Mazda.  A few pounds were lost in bets once Brannigan finally committed to going and participating.  As ever he had been the object of debate and slanderous derision in the weeks leading up the event.  Would he go or would the lure of the cous cous at 10:47pm each evening prove too great to leave?  His training had been interrupted by a severe touch of ‘man flu’ and this was only fuelling the growing speculation that is perennial status as a ‘maybe not’ would remain unchanged.  Nevertheless arrive he did at the appointed time and an eclectic mix set off for the ‘big smoke’.  Less fortunate among the posse was Mark Kendall who had broken his Collarbone a few short weeks before the April 21st date with destiny.  Kendall has recorded a stunning 2:43 in 2012 and had followed it up with an equally impressive 2:44 in Amsterdam in the fall.  He was well on course to challenge for a sub-2:40 until fate intervened.  Paul Rodgers was equally unlucky and was rendered DNS due to the recurrence of a hamstring injury that has bedevilled him in recent years.  Having successfully completed a credible half in Bohermeen the ‘Big Engine’ was well on course to complete his first marathon for 31 years until injury struck.  Both men are resolute in their determination to use their deferred entries to good effect and beds have been booked in Chez Strachan for 2014. Last year the greatest problem was finding our way out of Gatwick! We looked like tourists from the bog as we dragged our belongings one way then the other, rather than the much travelled international jet-setters that we claim to be!  This was not a problem as we were met by a taxi driver brandishing a sign which said ‘Elite Athletes and Paul’ – he obviously knew us well!!! After our first feed of pasta in leafy Surrey we all had a restful night.  Brannigan munched cereal for an hour before retiring for the night, having just left a restaurant which had so much food they were selling it! Team preparations continued in earnest on Saturday morning with a gentle (more gentle for some than others!) amble around the world famous Walton Heath Golf Course.  This was followed by a visit to Box Hill, the stunning setting for the cycling road race at the 2012 London Olympics.  While a multitude of cyclists struggled to varying degrees to reach the summit we sipped our coffee, decided which of the many cakes purchased we liked best (the treacle tart was unanimously declared the tastiest piece of confectionary) and contemplated what lay ahead.  Most incredulously Brannigan sampled and enjoyed all of the fayre on offer and commented on how much he enjoyed the lemon drizzle cake – emergency orders have been placed by Niki’s Kitchen Café in case this becomes a regular phenomenon on a Sunday afternoon!  Brannigan’s impetuous scoffing cost the scribe another tenner in a lost bet!!! He’s a diamond geezer! While the athletes went home to rest up the coaches and management headed off to the East End of the capital in search of a football match.  The Boleyn ground was chosen and our non-running marathoners witnessed the spectacle of West Ham v Wigan – the highlight was when one of the subs warmed up and as if endorsing the qualities of the player one fan proclaimed, ‘Yeah that Joe Cole, he’s a real diamond geezer (best appreciated with a thick cockney accent!)’.  Actually that was not the highlight – the real highlight was the post-match burger – a mighty and meaty treat! Upon returning to our adopted home it was time for the pre-marathon ritual of visiting the Spaghetti Tree for the final feed of pasta.  Brannigan was once again in fine eating form, but refused a desert claiming that he needed to leave room for the big bowl of cereal that was awaiting him. There was milk and cereal this year. Unlike last year when it was every man for himself and Kendall drank all the milk, there was an abundance of breakfast on offer.  Despite the munificence of our host in producing abundant amounts of food, Brannigan made do with a single slice of toast – presumably he was bursting from the copious amount of cereal consumed the previous evening – claiming that he never had a big feed on the morning of the race.  This advice was lost on Strachan who ate with vigour and enthusiasm for about an hour – I even noticed him eying up my arm!!! The streets were lined in Bermondsey Once in the city, the atmosphere was magnificent as the multitudes began to line the streets and jockey for the best viewing spot.  None of us had been London Marathon spectators and so the experience was refreshingly new.  It was a great experience made all the more meaningful by Kendall’s extraordinary ability to keep half a dozen devices and programmes running simultaneously.  The man emailed, texted, tweeted, updated Facebook, called and tracked like a one-armed maniac and kept us bang up to date with the whereabouts of our favourites – he too is a ‘diamond geezer’.  As 10am (the new start time) approached the outer layers were discarded as the athletes were corralled into their starting pens full of hope and anticipation (Damien went looking for the t-shirt he discarded in 2004 and as he did not find remains worried!) Strachan was off like a man on a mission and never lost his rhythm on the way to a stunning performance that saw him take 449th overall and 51st in his category (V45-49) in a race attracting over 37,000 athletes.  Brannigan despite the interrupted training was his usual steady self and knocked out another fantastic time (3:00:40 – 1330th place) to add to his already impressive CV.  Bob Brown was equally impressive in recording 3:14 (2412th overall), just over 48 hours after completing the Tollymore Hill and Dale race! Bob has also secured an automatic entry for 2014 The Red Lion is still there! Once repatriated, we kept tradition alive and made our way to the Red Lion to attend to the post –race ablutions.  Brannigan bought everyone a drink, except himself!  With the improved tracking technology available this year most of Newcastle knew the results as soon as we did and several messages arrived quickly to congratulate the athletes on their fine performances.  At this point we adjourned to the Red Lion for hard earned refreshment.  Alas it was time to bid farewell to the capital and plot the training that will have us all back next year, faster, leaner and fitter. End of Marathon Reports for the class of 2013

Alan Strachan

Distance Time Average speed (kph)
5K 00:18:49 15.95
10K 00:37:52 15.74
15K 00:57:18 15.44
20K 01:16:52 15.34
HALF 01:21:04 15.62
25K 01:38:34 13.39
30K 01:58:31 15.04
35K 02:18:48 14.78
40K 02:39:26 14.54
finish time 02:48:21 14.78
Marty McVeigh’s Assessment: A great time for the ‘Big Yin’.  He has stuck to his task this year and is making significant incremental gains.


Damien Brannigan

Distance Time Average speed (kph)
5K 00:20:20 14.76
10K 00:41:37 14.10
15K 01:02:54 14.10
20K 01:24:18 14.02
HALF 01:28:57 14.16
25K 01:45:45 13.94
30K 02:07:14 13.96
35K 02:28:55 13.83
40K 02:50:51 13.68
finish time 03:00:40 13.42
Pol Og McWhirt’s Assessment: Damien is a sound lad who could run a 3 hour marathon any day of the week.  It was great to see him taking part and I am very proud of his great achievement – well done mate!


Bob Brown

Distance Time Average speed (kph)
5K 00:22:23 13.41
10K 00:44:39 13.47
15K 01:07:32 13.11
20K 01:30:14 13.22
HALF 01:35:11 13.30
25K 01:53:27 12.82
30K 02:16:44 12.89
35K 02:40:18 12.73
40K 03:04:14 12.53
finish time 03:14:00 13.49
Jack O’Hare’s Assessment: Bob has shown great form on the dance floor every Saturday night throughout 2013 and I am convinced that his ability to do the ‘hucklebuck’ has impacted significantly on this great result.