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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.

Week 19, day 7 (T-0) – London Marathon

The London Marathon was finally here, after a lot of training, and the forecast was for cloud cover and middling temperatures (12-14ºC). After the train journey and walk to the green start (which was a fair hike up a not inconsequential hill) it was clear that it wasn’t going to stay that way and it was time to crack the sunglasses out. After dropping the bags at the lorry Jane and I stood in a queue for the portaloos which took up all of the time before it was necessary to get into the start pens.

The 3:30 pacer was in a pen ahead of me, so I took note of the time I crossed the start line (3 minutes 10 seconds after the start) and headed off. Given that the pens are supposed to be divided up by expected pace I was surprised at home many runners appeared to have zero spatial awareness (something that became a recurring theme over the race) and I was cut up left right and centre. In a way this was good because it prevented me going off too fast, but it was using up energy having to stop and start and go for gaps when then came up.

Before hardly any time at all we merged with the blue start where the road was a little wider but it was still hard to get any space to run into. At around 3 miles we joined up with the red a start and hit the first water station, with more carnage as people veered steeply across other runners to get to the water (again a feature throughout the race).

I was happy with my pace through the first 24km or so, it was putting me nicely on target for sub 3:30, but the sun was getting hotter and as we entered the Isle of Dogs the screaming from the supporters was echoing off the buildings and making me feel quite ill. It didn’t help that I seemed to be keeping pace with a Guinness World Record attempt of a two-man Jamaican bobsled, which was attracting a lot of attention. The buildings there meant that you couldn’t trust your GPS to give a true reading of your pace, and I dropped off a little as I went through the toughest miles in terms of there not being much to look at and it being too far out to really start counting down to the finish. I started to struggle to take on any gels, managing a mouthful but not being able to stomach the rest in the heat, but took on water at every station (and still ended up with great salty deposits from how much I was sweating, you do not want to know the colour of my pee when I finished).

There were some nasty inclines and hairpins to get you back headed in the right direction and as I hit the embankment I knew it was going to be close as to whether I would get sub 3:30. I would need to pick up to my planned marathon pace. I gave it all I had, but when I went through 25 miles I knew it would be a stretch. When the 1km to go marker came I knew it was over, but still pushed on to finish as well as I could. My official provisional time was 3:31:19, which is still a massive PB and good-for-age for next year. Apparently it put me in 6549th overall, 918th lady, and 562nd in my age category.

Thank you to everyone who sent message of support, or who supported me through my training, as well as those who came along to cheer (sorry I didn’t spot you Sam).

Week 19, day 6 (T-1) – Mile End parkrun

A final jog out before the big one tomorrow, after a bit of a hike out to Mile End (we were all following Alison who thought someone would yell if she was going the wrong way, we all assumed she knew the way), a rather crowded bit of parkrun tourism. Last week they had under 200 runners, this week they had over 400. I managed to sneak in to get one of the final proper position tokens in 246 having taken it reasonably steady (the downhill’s were fun).

I’m feeling good ahead of tomorrow’s race. I have done the training and now we just have to see what happens on the day. I’ve set myself 3 times that I would be varying levels of happy with:

Bronze: 3:44:59 – this would be qualification for London next year as good for age for my age category.
Silver: 3:40:20 – this would be a new marathon pb (my previous time being 3:40:21).
Gold: 3:29:59 – I’ve been training to go sub 3:30, so anything under that pace would be great. If I feel good and have the opportunity to push on towards the end of the race then I will, but realistically you can’t make up too much time over the last 5-6 miles and I’m more likely to be working on holding to pace than be able to increase it.

It should be fun, I’m nervous obviously (a marathon is always a huge challenge), but excited more than nervous and I have done all of the preparation asked of me. What happens on the day happens (good or bad). For anyone wanting to track me, I am number 30917.

A spot of #parkrun tourism @ashtoncourtparkrun on tour

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Week 19, day 4 (T-3) – easy 30 minutes by the river

My final run in Bristol as I head off for London tomorrow morning. Just a gentle 30 minutes to keep the legs ticking over. I picked the flatest bit of Bristol I know (apart from the getting there and back), the track alongside the river Avon (not in it as the GPS suggests). Remarkably low on the duck count this morning, but high on the bluebell front. Not long now.

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.

Final dress run for #vmlm next week #bigmarathonchallenge #ukrunchat #thisgirlcan

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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.