Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 Review

It was possibly the most competitive Virgin Money London Marathon in the 39 years of the iconic race. Sir Mo Farah and several notable East Africans were out to dethrone Eliud Kipchoge, whilst four amazing female athletes were vying for more glory in the UK’s capital.

Kipchoge is the Indisputable GOAT

For many, Eliud Kipchoge is considered the greatest marathoner of all time. The way that he can control marathoners from the front is remarkable. By winning his fourth London Marathon title he has won 11 of his 12 marathons to date, and 10th in a row. During the race his relaxed, seemingly effortless running technique and economy was a joy to see. So when he picked up his pace at the 40km mark, whilst also taking a quick drink, he demonstrated his superior class. His smile told everyone watching how phenomenal an athlete he really is. His time of 2 hours, 2 minutes and 37 seconds was the second-fastest marathon time (after his own world record), but his performance is second to no one.

The Best Marathoners are Getting Younger

Beside Kipchoge, this year’s race revealed the prominence of younger athletes. Traditionally, elite marathoners would race shorter distances on the track before advancing to the longer road races. Sir Mo Farah has done exactly that. But due to the lucrative prizes and accolades on offer, plus the fierce competition on the track, more athletes are transitioning to the marathon younger. Not only that, but they are proving that age isn’t synonymous with inexperience.

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei became the youngest female winner of the London Marathon at the age of 25. This came after winning her first Major Marathon in Chicago last year at 24 years old.

Likewise in the men’s race the silver and bronze medals went to a 27- and 25-year-old respectively. Mosinet Geremew, the Ethiopian who was only 18 seconds behind Kipchoge became the second fastest marathoner of all-time. Kipchoge is over 7 years Geremew’s senior. This could indicate that the younger generation have the opportunity to surpass even the great Kipchoge over the next decade.

Negative Split Marathons Prove Successful

The top two men and and top six women clocked a faster second half of the race compared to the first. Not only did these athletes secure impressive times, they proved that to succeed athletes must always conserve energy during the first 13.1 miles.

Indeed the difference between the eventual winners and the runners-up was the extra speed and strength in the closing mile or so.

The different racing strategies on show supports this argument. Whilst the women’s race was relatively slow for the first half, the leading pack of men maintained a more even split. Regardless of how hard and fast an athlete runs during the race, if they can’t accelerate to a new speed near the end then they are unlikely to win. It appears that to become a champion you must be able to find a new gear even when you’ve already expended so much energy.

Weir Wins at Home Again

David Weir, the six-time Olympic gold medalist, executed a superb race to win his eighth London Marathon two Sundays ago.

Ever since I’ve watched the London Marathon on television, I have rooted for Weir in the T54 men’s wheelchair race.

His record at London alone is phenomenal. He has raced nineteen times in a row. Apart from the eight wins, he has placed in the top three nine times. His two other performances were fourth and fifth. He also won the London Mini Wheelchair Marathon seven times before he entered the full distance race1.

His consistency at the event is unquestionably amazing, especially when you consider that Weir has had to face conditions ranging from heat waves to torrential downpours. His competition has included many different names from North America and Europe. It is often said that, like the able-bodied races, any number of competitors could win each year. But unlike the main events, many of the races come down to a sprint finish. He has to be sharp to any surges, and must push on when the time is right, when others cannot respond.

As Jessica Whittington eludes in this week’s Athletics Weekly2, his home city brings the best out of him. Although I myself have experienced inspired performances in my hometown, albeit on an amateur level, I believe his London Marathon record could easily put pressure on him.

He has overcome expectations by being an extremely strong athlete, mentally and physically. Granted, his arm muscles are more visible. But his long battle against depression reveals how persistent he has needed to be3.

The 38-year-old has not had the smoothest journey to success, but the legendary retired wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson suggested post-race that he could certainly win ten London Marathon titles. The point appears obvious. If Weir truly wants to win on the biggest stage of all again, he will. That is the greatest compliment to any athlete, and I agree with Tanni’s assessment.

I hope for the sake of the sport and for the country, his hunger triumphs over his depression. Like Mo, he is a national treasure, a living example of what a hard-working attitude and down-to-earth personality can accomplish.


1 According to race reports from the London Marathon.
2 Published on 26th April 2018. The article is entitled Great Eight For Weir.
3 Weir’s honesty about his struggles is outlined in The Telegraph article entitled David Weir reveals his battle with depression: ‘I wrote a letter to my kids saying I was going away and I was sorry’ .

Staying Patient (Week 4)

23-29 April 2018

Despite my best intentions I didn’t find the energy to build on last week’s increased mileage.

Much of the week consisted of staying realistic about my chances in my upcoming race and keeping my body healthy.

Lesson #7: Don’t push the pace unless you can

Ideally, the week would have consisted of more miles at my intended race pace*. Except for the first two miles of Wednesday’s (25th April) run my pace was not close.

The effort required to get up to speed would not have been worth it, as I didn’t feel confident I could sustain it. Rather than risk injury, especially in wet conditions, and further discouragement I focused on slower-paced miles**. The 27.45 miles I covered in five days was beneficial to keep my legs and my mind active without much stress.

Approaching my taper week, the most important aspects of my training are now remaining injury-free and eager for the challenge ahead. As I developed some tightness in my left calf muscle I now must ease off to ensure full recovery before race day.

Lesson #8: It’s not always about times or distances

On Sunday (29th April), a week after the 2018 London Marathon, I purposefully ran 3.7 miles.

I thought of Matt Campbell, the man who collapsed and died 22.5 miles into the capital’s most iconic race. The sadness of his death reminded me that although running performances  are important for motivation it’s the sport itself that should bring the most joy.

Sometimes times, distances, races and medals are not important. Instead, all the support, globally and from non-runners, has the greatest impact. Unfortunately, mass participation events in relatively hot conditions will very likely result in casualties, but the best of people often shines through.


I took two rest days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and will now look to stretch and rest before my first 10 mile race in a week’s time.

10 mile Training: Week 4

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-8:30 per mile.

Mo’s Marathon Progress

Last Sunday, Mo Farah competed in only his second marathon. Much of the build-up surrounding the 38th Virgin Money London Marathon concerned comparing Farah to previous records. His own, from four year ago. The British record, set in 1985. The European record, set less than five months ago.

My prediction before the race was for Farah to break the British record of 2:17:13, set by Welshman Steve Jones. But with such a quality field I was reluctant to believe he would finish in the top five.

Despite the heat, and his fast early pace, Farah was strong enough to stay in touch with the eventual winner Eliud Kipchoge for around 17 miles. Farah’s third place finish was less surprising than the significant slowing of more experienced athletes such as Kenenisa Bekele, Bedan Karoki and Daniel Wanjiru.

The editor of Athletics Weekly1, Jason Henderson, writes this week that he was worried Mo wouldn’t even finish2. I didn’t believe that was ever going to happen. However, although a new personal best and British record were set, I feel less impressed about this achievement than Henderson.

The ‘bronze medal’ was a bonus that Farah received for his persistence, especially running mostly alone during the final miles of the race. But the rest of the elite field didn’t put up much a fight for third place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge admirer of Farah. He has inspired me along with much of the UK with his global medals, canny performances and humble personality, but my analysis is partly informed by the man’s high personal expectations.

I remember his reaction after earning a silver medal in his last major championship track race3. It was pain mixed with anger and disgust. He has built his career on winning. Nothing else feels right for him.

Although I would love him to win major marathon titles, and by doing so cement his already legendary status, the reality is that he was over two minutes behind Kipchoge in London. More importantly, 31 other marathoners have run faster than Farah in the last twelve months4.

This suggests that if he is to truly make an impact on the marathon circuit (and as Henderson writes, challenge at the next IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games) he is going to have to improve his personal best by further minutes. At 35 years old this is a tall order. Still, if he corrects his water intake and concentration on the road ahead (two aspects of his race strategy that let him down on the day), he has a chance of success.

But, unlike on the track, I don’t believe he will be able to dictate races. Gold medals won’t come without arguably more heroics than he has evidenced over the past twenty years. Of course, I wish him the best of luck and look forward to following his journey.


1 Published on 26th April 2018.
2 The editorial piece is entitled Farah Comes Up Trumps.
3 The IAAF World Championship 5,000m held in London on 12th August 2017.
4 According to statistics from the IAAF, since 23rd April 2017, found here.