Category Archives: running

A quick and dirty look at the new 2019 London Marathon GFA times

Yesterday, London Marathon announced that they were changing the way good for age entries worked, starting with the 2019 race. Instead of everyone who made the qualifying time in each age category getting a guaranteed place, 3,000 places for men and 3,000 places for women would be available. If there are more applicants with the qualifying times than places then the qualifying time will be reduced (evenly across each age category) until there are only 3,000 qualifiers of each gender left. They also changed the age categories in line with other major marathons and this has led to some pretty big jumps in qualifying time for people the ‘wrong’ side of the new categories.

I don’t have time to do a full analysis of who has currently run qualifying times since 1st January 2017 in each age category, so I thought I’d do a quick and dirty look at the 2017 results to see who would qualify for GFA places under the new rules, stripping out those who would qualify for championship places. The age categories don’t map completely, but this is quick and dirty stuff.

The Good for Age qualifying times for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon are:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-39 sub 3:00 Age 18-39 sub 3:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:05 Age 40-44 sub 3:50
Age 45-49 sub 3:10 Age 45-49 sub 3:53
Age 50-54 sub 3:15 Age 50-54 sub 4:00
Age 55-59 sub 3:20 Age 55-59 sub 4:05
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-74 sub 5:00 Age 70-74 sub 6:00
Age 75-79 sub 5:15 Age 75-79 sub 6:20
80+ sub 5:30 80+ sub 6:40

Let’s start with the women. Going through the rest of the age categories we end up with a table that looks like this based on the 2017 results:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:45  186  876
Age 40-44 sub 3:50  59  391
Age 45-49 sub 3:53  25  318
Age 50-54 sub 4:00  12  272
Age 55-59 sub 4:05  4  105
Age 60-64 sub 4:30  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00  0  34
Age 70-74 sub 6:00  0  33
Age 75-79 sub 6:20  0  4
80+ sub 6:40  0 3

In 2017 there was only one age category for 70+ so I have listed all of those that were sub 6:00 as 70-74, those between 6:00 and 6:20 as 75-79, and those between 6:20 and 6:40 as 80+. That gives us a total of 2,153 women who meet the qualifying times just from last year’s London Marathon.

Now let’s have a look at the men.

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-39 sub 3:00  392  701
Age 40-44 sub 3:05  104  437
Age 45-49 sub 3:10  31  376
Age 50-54 sub 3:15  15  287
Age 55-59 sub 3:20  0  138
Age 60-64 sub 3:45  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00  0  58
Age 70-74 sub 5:00  0  82
Age 75-79 sub 5:15  0  17
80+ sub 5:30  0  16

This would give a total of 2,215 men meeting the qualifying time just at London. On first glance it would seem that if you meet the new qualifying time then you should be fine, but remember that London is only one marathon (and not necessarily the fastest). People will also be running qualifying times at Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Brighton, Manchester, etc.

For shits and giggles lets have a look at how many people would have been guaranteed a place under the old system based on the 2018 GFA times and age boundaries to see how many people may now be losing out (either because of the 3,000 cap, the age category change or the time change).

This is the old table:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 Age 18-40 sub 3:45
Age 41-49 sub 3:15 Age 41-49 sub 3:50
Age 50-59 sub 3:20 Age 50-59 sub 4:00
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 Age 60-64 sub 4:30
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 Age 65-69 sub 5:00
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 Age 70-75 sub 6:00
76+ sub 5:30 76+ sub 6:30

So, starting with the women again:

Women Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 3:15 Number between 3:15 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:45 (no change)  186  876
Age 41-49 sub 3:50  84  679
Age 50-59 sub 4:00  16  361
Age 60-64 sub 4:30 (no change)  0  81
Age 65-69 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  34
Age 70-75 sub 6:00 (no change)  0  33
76+ sub 6:30  0  4

As we can see an 85 additional women qualify under the new procedure, as by splitting the age categories into 5 year increments the second half of a decade get an extra few minutes.

Onto the men ( and this is where the age category jumps get painful in the new procedure):

Men Qualifying Time (in hours) Number under 2:45 Number between 2:45 and QT
Age 18-40 sub 3:05 (no change)  392  701
Age 41-49 sub 3:15  135  1,237
Age 50-59 sub 3:20  15  458
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 (no change)  0  103
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 (no change)  0  58
Age 70-75 sub 5:00 (no change)  0  82
76+ sub 5:30  0  33

Under the old system, 2,672 men would have qualified for GFA places, meaning that 457 will now miss out. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s quite a high proportion, and it comes from the tighter times for the younger halves of the old age categories. A 54 year old now has to run 3:15 instead of 3:20, a 44 year old 3:05 instead of 3:15.

I feel bad for those who have just run Brighton or Manchester, thinking that they crossed the line in a qualifying time only to find out that not only don’t they meet the new time, but even if they did they are still not guaranteed a place. At least with Boston (where you also need a qualifying time to even apply for a place) there are a lot more places available.

nine pic collage

2018 goals – running

All of the books about achieving your goals (running or otherwise) say that formalising, writing down, and telling people about them make you much more likely to succeed. 2017 was a pretty good year, running-wise (and my nine most liked instagram photos were all running related). I set PBs at 10k (40:35), half marathon (90:19) and marathon (3:31:19) distances, and ran my fastest ever 5k (19:25), albeit not on an officially measured course.

I’m hoping aiming to make 2018 even better (it’s certainly going to be more expensive, with 3 overseas races but at time of writing these have all been paid for). I have, as all of the books recommend, set myself A, B and C goals and organised my training around these.

My A races:

  • 22nd April 2018 – London Marathon. I set a big PB in 2017 despite hot conditions and this year I am aiming even higher and training to go sub 3 hrs 20.
  • 16th September 2018 – Berlin Marathon. If London goes well (and even if it doesn’t, so long as I don’t injure myself in training) I am going to train and aim for a sub 3 hr 15 marathon, the championship time for London. In the past I have increased speed over the summer when taking in more rays, so expect this to be true again. Berlin is also notorious as a PB course unlike London with its crowded streets.

My B races:

  • 4th March 2018 – London Big Half Marathon. I didn’t quite manage to get my sub-90 last year, so I’m going to have one more go at the London Big Half as part of my London marathon prep. I am sure that there will be other half marathons scattered throughout the year (indeed one of them is one of my C races) but this will be the first targeted attempt at the sub-90.
  • 7th October 2018 – Chicago marathon. This comes just 3 weeks after Berlin so I won’t be racing it as such, but it is an Abbott World Marathon Major so just attempting to complete it marks it down as a B race. It will be great to see how the city has changed since I was last there in 2003 and if I come out of Berlin OK I think I might be able to manage around 4 hours (but really the aim is just to finish, as a victory lap for the year).

My C races:

  • 11th March 2018 – Lisbon Half Marathon. This is a week after the London Big Half, but was booked in beforehand and is a bit of a jolly with some other Bristol runners. Now that I have set the previous week’s half as a B race this will likely be more of a training run, but it will be my first overseas race.
  • The remaining Weston Prom 5 mile races. I should be able to keep these fairly competitive as marathon tempo runs (with warm ups and cool downs) within my marathon training, to help out with whichever club team I am on (I think it is ‘Bristol & West South Westerlies’).

I would also like to set new 10k and 5k PBs but have not factored them into my existing plans (I get a week or so off after London before starting training again for Berlin) so they will have to be as a consequence of my marathon training if they come rather than anything specifically tailored towards those distances. As such I have not booked any races of this length into my diary yet. I am sure more races will be added during the year (such as the Bristol & West 5k series and the GWR 10k series) but I won’t be adding any more A races, two marathons in a year is plenty to focus on.

Week 19, day 2 (T-5) – final threshold run

I spent yesterday afternoon following the Boston marathon via twitter and their app, cheering on friends who were tackling the course in some nasty high temperatures. I think that left me a little bit emotionally drained for this morning’s final threshold session as my first rep was terrible (4:47 min/km though it was uphill and the GAP was 4:25 min/km).

The second and third reps picked it up to more respectable paces 4:34 and 4:20 min/km as I revelled in the bright sunshine but cool temperatures. That would do me just fine for Sunday. Just a couple of gentle jogs left now to keep the legs turning over (and stretching, lots of stretching).

Week 18, day 7 (T-7) – final dress run

The final long run a week out from the big one and a last chance to test out all of the kit, including eating what I intend to and starting at about the same time. This was just 50 minutes of marathon pace after a quick 10 minute warm up and followed by a 10 minute cool down.

It was just enough time to squeeze in the 10k version of the Zombies, Run! spring race, which was confused by Staple Hill tunnel again, but which awarded me a time of 48:13 for the race portion of the mission. I also managed to finish off the rest of the 5k mission (the race part was already over), so I can open up my goodies now and hang my medal.

Trying not to think about next week too much now, I have put the training in but don’t want to get over anxious or over excited before I cross that start line and see what I can do. Fingers crossed the weather holds much as it has been today, not too hot.

Week 18, day 6 (T-8) – post-parkrun pootle

I was RD1 at Ashton Court this morning, which featured TV and radio as well as an incident to report (all well, just overdoing it on the hill), so had to do my 30 minutes of easy running after parkrun and after processing the results.

The cloud had cleared by this time, though it was still a little chilly, but I got to crack out the sunglasses for a gentle run along the riverside. I maybe shouldn’t have used my marathon playlist as I went out a little fast (plus the extra adrenaline from being RD), but settled down into a nice rhythm once I hit the flat. One more parkrun to go!

Week 18, day 4 (T-10) – sleep-deprived threshold intervals

Sleep-deprivation mounted up over the week of the BJC, but after reuniting with the kittens and unloading the car I still had a threshold interval session to do so I headed out to the good old railway path which has been much neglected while I have been away. The zombies, run! Spring virtual race was also live so I decided to start the 5k race after my warm up.

Today’s session was 6 reps of 5 minutes at threshold (heart rate zone 4) with 60 seconds recovery. The first rep was a bit ropey as my legs seemed somewhat uncoordinated, but I soon warmed up into the session and my pace improved going from 4:40 min/km to 4:30, 4:25, 4:31, 4:24 finishing with 4:20. The Zombies, run! app always gets confused when I go through the Staple Hill tunnel so I actually ran further than 5km to finish the 5km race, but was given a race time of 23:47 (though I stopped the mission at 30:12, after I was instructed to stop running). I’ll try and do the 10k race on Sunday in my final bit of marathon pace before London.

Week 18, day 2 (T-12) – recovery run

I had a day off yesterday, though this being a juggling convention I was considerably more active than I would be on a normal rest day (I even attended two workshops, which is virtually unheard of).

This morning I managed to have a lie-in, and when I did emerge in my running gear I attracted the attention of my tent neighbour, friend and fellow runner Paul. Since I was only going out for a recovery run he decided to join me and it was lovely to have some company for a change. We had a lovely bimble round a little nature reserve, comparing innacurate wrist heart rate readings.

Week 17, day 7 (T-14) – hot and sunny marathon pace run

Marathon training stops for nothing. Even though I am away at a festival, which means I am eating too much crap whilst not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, I still had a marathon paced effort to do. The weather was not my friend. I have a highly efficient cooling system (aka I sweat a lot) so hot and sunny weather is pretty much my worst nightmare and why I spent the last three miles of my first marathon feeling like I was going to throw up every step I took.

I usually make sure I take on water every 10 minutes on my long run, but today under a cloudless blue sky I drank every time my brain thought ‘water’ which was closer to every 5 minutes. Having plotted my route on google maps there were a couple of wrong turns as I made my way to and then round Wollaton Park, but I managed to maintain my marathon pace for the full 90 minutes and was grateful for the many trees along the route offering shade. I can only hope it’s not as hot in London.

Week 17, day 6 (T-15) – Forest Rec parkrun & core

A spot of parkrun tourism at the BJC, though we very nearly didn’t make it as the gate that was supposed to allow 24-hour access was locked and we luckily found an alternate route out to make it just in the nick of time. If there was any important information in the briefing we didn’t hear it, not because we were late, but because the megaphone was feeble. A lovely little two lap course that went around a series of football pitches then up into a wooded area. I spent the time chatting to Polly with a little sprint at the end.

Back on site I squirelled myself away in a squash court with my yoga mat to get some core work done. At one point the staff came in to make the court bigger, but they didn’t seem to mind me so I just let them get on with it without interrupting my workout. Long run tomorrow, I think I have my route planned out.

Week 17, day 4 (T-17) – sunny Thursday threshold intervals

I was woken early by the kittens who wanted to play fetch, but as I intended to use the railway path for my Thursday threshold intervals I bimbled around a bit at home before heading out so that most of the commuters will already have moved through. This meant I had time to read my coach’s email reassuring me that I shouldn’t worry about missing my marathon pace towards the end of my long run on Sunday as I ‘hit it for the most part on a hilly route and on a warm day off the back of some hard training weeks’. It amuses me that he thinks the route I have been using for my long runs is hilly as it’s the flattest bit of Bristol I could find without doing lots of little loops (I found a message in my Garmin Connect notifications this morning suggesting I find a flatter route after the previous week’s long run, but honestly, that’s the flattest one I can find, the elevation gain was only 132m which is nothing in Bristol).

Anyway, back to the railway path for some threshold intervals under glorious blue skies. It was almost the same session as last week, except the recovery was 60s rather than 90s. Last week my 4 reps of 8 minutes at threshold pace (aka heart rate zone 4) came out at 4:44, 4:44, 4:46 and 4:41 min/km. This week, off a shorter recovery (but not having raced a 5k two days previously), they were 4:36, 4:29, 4:29 and 4:19 min/km. Much better and I am much happier with the difference between that and my marathon pace (4:55 min/km). It gives me much more confidence with 17 days to go.