Sunday, 18 April 2021

Essex Marathon


When a running event leads its publicity with the name of the course measurer you get an idea of the type of runner they are trying to attract. In the case of the Essex Marathon at Saffron Walden last weekend they named Hugh Jones as the man with the trusty bike. Among Hugh’s credits are not only measuring the London Marathon, where he is a former winner of the same event, but of the 2012 Olympic one.  To meet the Covid secure conditions required for the license he had to design a route within the confines of Debden Airfield, an old RAF base from the Second World War. He managed to get the runners to trace the shape of a bomber aircraft over the multi-lap course and with the Race Director issuing warnings in advance not to use GPS devices to question the accuracy of the distance. As well as the usual UK Course Measures certificate there was the additional AIMS certificate for those wanting to use their time to gain entry to Boston or Berlin.

The course traced the shape of a bomber
There were two athletes from Grantham Running Club taking part, Catherine Payne on the tenth
anniversary of her first ever marathon and the experienced Robert McArdle joining her for what was only their second race in over a year. The rolling start format which spread the starting times over a two hour period meant they only had each other to assist with the pacing over the first half of the race and without any recent racing experience coupled with the optical illusions of the gradient changes on the runways pacing was the biggest challenge of the day. Conditions underfoot would have been frightening for anyone with expensive carbon plate shoes as the surface looked to have broken up since the end of the cold war and railway ballast chunks of debris littered the course in certain parts.

Although both of the GRC runners faded in the final laps they were happy to hold on for respectable times to start their delayed season. Catherine Payne’s 3:24:30, whilst well short of her recent best was good enough for an age grading of over 84% and more importantly a number one ranking in her age group with UK Athletics. Robert’s 3:36:03 gave him just over the 71% in his age grading and a top ten ranking.

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