London Marathon inspires Polegate, Hailsham and Eastbourne athletes to fine finishes

It was the day that runners all over the country had been waiting for - the return of the London Marathon. And its virtual equivalent drew plenty of athletes too.
Polegate Plodder Helen Long after her London Marathon effortPolegate Plodder Helen Long after her London Marathon effort
Polegate Plodder Helen Long after her London Marathon effort

Like many sporting events up and down the country, the London Marathon was cancelled last year because of the the Covid-19 pandemic.

Runners were invited to take part in the event virtually but nothing beats the real buzz of pounding the country’s capital.

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Just over 36,000 runners were welcomed back this year and three inspiring Polegate Plodders were among them.

These were some of the Hailsham Harriers who did the Virtual London MarathonThese were some of the Hailsham Harriers who did the Virtual London Marathon
These were some of the Hailsham Harriers who did the Virtual London Marathon

Helen Blewitt competed in her first marathon and finished in a time of 4hr 52 min 2sec.

Like many others, she was inspired to apply for a ballot place after watching it live.

“I knew it was a challenge I wanted to take on – seeing the joy and smiles from the participants drove me to keep applying year after year. On the seventh attempt, I finally succeeded,” she said.

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“At the finish time I was overcome with emotion. The moment I checked my phone and saw the confirmation of my time I cried.

“It is a memory that will live with me forever.

“Training for a marathon is hard at the best of times but to do it over the spring and summer months adds to the intensity and emotional drain of it all.

“Initially the thought of it worried me. Thankfully the changeable British weather played to my advantage. I had a couple of hot runs in August but generally it was cool and pleasant conditions.”

In addition to guides on the internet, Helen gained most of her knowledge from speaking to experienced runners at the club. She completed three 20 mile runs in the weeks leading up to the marathon and she believed this level of fitness helped her on the day as well as developing strategies for fuelling when the going got tough.

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She was grateful for the support from friends and family and said: “They rang me before the race, cheered me on throughout and even carried a lucky mascot (inflatable penguin) so I could identify them in the crowds.

“My fantastic parents, best friend, and teammate Lorraine supported me at various points of the course. All their support was invaluable, especially the last six miles when it became a mind game to keep moving,

“The conditions were near perfect for marathon running, minus a 30 second downpour at Westminster. Luckily the sun shone down the home straight along The Mall.”

For Heather Long, it was her fifth marathon and first in the capital.

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She finished in a time of 4:34:44. It was the best race she has participated in and she plans to run an ultra next year.

“The crowd really do carry you and I went off like a rocket as I got carried away. I won’t comment on my training, as it’s great example of how not to do it, but with four kids, it was a very loosely based plan we call ‘winging it,” she said.

“I didn’t have any supporters on the day but was thinking of my dad who’s currently in hospital.”

Mega-mileage Plodder Marco Fortmann competed in his fifth London Marathon for Mary Ann Evans Hospice.

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He finished in 5:15:32 but struggled in pain with 18 miles to go because of a re-occurring stress fracture on his right foot.

Six Hailsham Harriers took part in this year’s London Marathon. And with their places deferred from the 2020 cancelled event it has felt like a long time coming.

Gary Smith, who was successful in the club’s ballot in 2019, ran his first-ever marathon distance finishing in a fantastic time of 4:14:51.

Gary, who in previous years had said he never wanted to run a marathon distance, has trained extremely hard over the past three months and crossed the finish line saying: “I loved every second and I want to do it again next year.” Gary has since signed up for another marathon later this year in Spain.

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Also in London were fellow Harriers Los Burrett who finished in 4:55:48, David Stringer 5:18:05, Sandra Fowlie 4:57:59, Charlotte Long 3:55:28 and Frances Delves.

Frances has been a member of Hailsham Harriers since 1984 and this year took part in her 15th London Marathon.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championship race was held within the 2021 London Marathon.

Qualifiers from the AbbottWMM Age Group World Rankings were joined by Good For Age and Championship runners in the event and Frances was one of those lucky qualifiers in her age group. Frances, who ran a superb time of 4:37:56, received a special age Group World Championship medal alongside her London Marathon 2021 medal at the finish line.

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This year’s London Marathon saw the largest number of runners line up at the start - more than 45,000 - with the same number of runners taking part in the virtual race both in the UK and worldwide.

But in Eastbourne 11 Hailsham Harriers took part in the Virtual London marathon. They chose their own route and time to run/walk the 26.2 mile distance. Some chose Beachy Head and our beautiful South Downs while others opted for a gentler, flatter course, running along the Cuckoo trail and Eastbourne seafront. Congratulations to Steph Bassett, Mark Bassett, Wendy Harmer-Quinn, Maria Stanford, Roberto Proietti, Rebecca Holland, Lisa Goldsmith, Tina Macenhill, Tracy Erridge, Lianne Leakey and Michelle Hollands. In the next few weeks they will receive their London Marathon medal and T-Shirt.

Runners from Eastbourne-based Run Wednesdays were celebrating their successes after the London Marathon.

This was a double celebration for the club as this saw runners finally participate in the actual event following cancellations because of the Covid lockdowns.

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Ten runners from the club participated in the marathon, including Louise Ryan, Lee Dunstall, Jade De Silva, Emma Trenners and Helen Ridley.

Hannah Holland, captain for Female Run Wednesdays, used her place in the event to raise money for a charity close to her heart – MIND.