BVR at the Virgin London Marathon 2015

From zero to marathon in 18 months, Charlie recalls her experiences at this year’s Virgin London Marathon and gives us the rundown on how the other BVR members got on.

So, having said I’d never do a marathon, and then 4 months after stupidly pulling my own name out of the club ballot for the club place, the day was finally here. Sunday 26th April 2015 was Virgin London Marathon day and the day of my first ever marathon!

05:55 and there’s a knock at my door… it was time, my lift had arrived! Farnham runners were kind enough to organise a bus that myself, Steve Low and ex-BVR runner Lisa Spratling all used, whilst Laine Shoeless Shepherd just about made her own way there (ask her, but suffice to say, if you enter a race and they send you info in the post, do have a quick nosey at it and don’t put it somewhere safe without at least opening a few pages!).  It was so nice travelling with 2 experienced marathon runners, even if Steve did tell me it was likely I would sprain my ankle due to all the bottles on the road (fortunately did not happen to me, but to quite a few runners around me!).

Having been fretting about getting burnt after the fantastic weather we had at Fleet, I instead was complaining about the rain and freezing temperatures (OK not freezing but very cold!). Arriving at Blackheath walking across the fields to our allocated start meant wet feet and trainers – not a good combo pre-marathon! However, I made it to the blue start and straight to the portaloo queue for the first time. Then was time to vaseline up, sort myself out and then queue again for the portaloo, then hand my bag over to the very efficient baggage lorries and then round to pen number 8! Arriving in the pen, the atmosphere was buzzing – everyone excited and raring to go, trying to keep warm. Not long later, and the crowd was moving forward… uh oh, it’s start time… slowly walking to the start banner, stripping extra layer off by extra layer, slowly getting colder but also more excited! Then suddenly the start banner is there and we’re off! How I didn’t cry at this point I have no idea – the crowd at the start cheering you on from the off, and the realisation that I was about to (hopefully) become a marathon runner and what’s more, run the London marathon – every runner’s dream run – was overwhelming.

Even running the first few miles on a miserable cold Sunday through relatively poor parts of South-East London, the crowds were out in full force. I knew I’d never do an amazing time, especially for my first, so I made a pact with myself to enjoy and embrace it and that I did. I think I high-fived the hands of every child in East London, and just soaked up the atmosphere, and the landmarks, the first one being the Cutty Sark and the first TV camera spot – big cheers and waves from the running field!

The first 8 miles or so went so quickly, I couldn’t believe it…how was I 8 miles in already? Then I knew my dad and boyfriend John were not far away so spent the next 5 minutes running scanning the crowd and then I saw them… uhoh, more tears! Quick hugs all round and a quick pose for a photo and I was off again through the streets of Bermondsey and then there’s the second big landmark – Tower Bridge! Definitely took a few moments to savour the memories I was going to make here! Everyone told me the crowd here would be incredible, but I was so not prepared for that! A massive wall of cheering all the way over the bridge! Coming off the bridge and you start seeing the super-fast runners coming back the other way along mile 22-23 and it occurred to me I might catch a glimpse of a celebrity or better still, our very own Steve Low, and lo-and-behold there he was – big cheer out to him and then I crashed into a traffic cone! Fortunately managed to stay on my feet, or I might have been able to really blame Steve for a sprained ankle!

On we continued, through to the Isle of Dogs, Poplar and Limehouse, hoping to catch a glimpse of my family again, but “sadly” the spectators were too many and so they couldn’t get on the DLR in time to beat me, but I was blissfully unaware so kept scanning the crowd for them which sped the miles up too. Whilst all at BVR have been great with getting me to the start line ready for the big day, one thing that no one can prepare you for is the crowd! People told me they were great, but nothing can prepare you for random people cheering your name and cheering you on – I was so sure I must know some of them, but I didn’t recognise a single one, until mile 23 and BVR runner Bill Hurley was there with his wife, my colleague, yelling my name! A very welcome sound and sight!

So we then head into the last 3 miles along the Embankment where the crowd seemed to get louder and larger! Thank goodness as now I am suddenly thinking “my knee is going to give way any minute!” Cue emotions of gut-wrenching sadness, regret at not being better and pain! So much pain! I took my paracetamol having already taken my strong ibuprofen at mile 10 before my toe pain really kicked in! However, I kept going, had a (quick) little walk, which clearly the crowd felt I didn’t need as they began cheering me louder, “Come on Charlie, dig deep”, “Charlie you can do this”, “Last mile Charlie” so off I was, and suddenly I turn the corner and “WOAH, Big Ben” argh! I am nearly there! Round another corner and this time I heard a “Go Charlie” I recognised and turned and saw John and my dad! A quick cry, wave and yell of “My knee b****y hurts!” and then I’m off again, knowing I am less than 1km to the end! In fact, there’s a big sign “800m to go”. I am going to do this, it’s going to happen. Then round another corner and there’s Buckingham Palace, I’m sure the Queen gave me a wave. Round another corner and there’s the mall, and a big screen showing Chris Evans finishing not far in front! I can now see the finish gantry!!! It’s so close! My knee is killing, my legs are screaming “stop it, let us rest” my toe is cursing me, but I muster the last bit of energy I have and dig deep and run a bit faster, arms in the air and across the finish line! Cue the tears! I have become a marathon runner, and I have done a marathon so many runners are desperate to do – it does not escape me what an achievement this is! As a facebook and phone addict, I get my phone out of my pocket and am overwhelmed with the texts and facebook messages! It’s clear that to what seems like most of BVR, and other friends, my challenge today has been in the forefront of their minds and I am so overwhelmed by the support!

But I wasn’t the only BVR member there, we had some fantastic achievements from all at the club (past and present). Steve Low did a fantastic time in his 96th marathon of 02:55:23 beating Eggheads very own CJ (a little bit of BVR payback), Lisa got an amazing PB and a good-for-age time for Boston and London again of 03:36:20 and Laine got an incredible 06:40:57, becoming the first person to complete the London Marathon with no shoes on! An amazing debut marathon time for someone who I understand last year was in a wheelchair due to chronic pain! I can’t imagine what it was like for Laine with no shoes on – my feet hurt in trainers and I got so stuck to the floor around the Lucozade gel stations…all I can think is eurgh! Well done all BVR – some great times and great personal achievements, which I am sure wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for BVR!

A few lasting memories from the day (there’s a lot!)

  • The crowd, man, the crowd!!
  • Tower Bridge!
  • The bands playing and the runners singing along and cheering!
  • The showers – a welcome relief even in the not nice weather!
  • The sticky floor from all the gels!
  • The volunteers and marshals – the unsung heroes of the day!
  • The man dressed as Pamela Anderson in Baywatch with dried blood on his thighs and butt – I thought I was in pain!
  • The finish line and the achievement!
  • The number 22315.
  • The time 04:42:17 of my first ever marathon!

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recommended races mabac

A Wet Day in Cranleigh

Summer finally arrived in Cranleigh on 29th March, warm day, 13’C and the obligatory wind and rain which goes with the UK summer. 14 crazy runners decided that it was a good day for a run through the roads around Cranleigh. Stood around at the start we were provided with a cooling drizzle, which never stopped for the entire run. To add insult to injury we started at 8am… (ok it was 9am but the clocks had gone forward and it certainly felt early!). Our brave team started our run which consisted of a 9 mile lap followed by either a solitary 6 mile lap or if you were really feeling it two 6 mile laps.

On time we began and we left Cranleigh behind us into the wind and  rain which was to greet us around the entire course. It was a pretty flat course, with the exception of the several hills that we had to run up and down multiple times. Three miles in and we still hadn’t found anything but a headwind and hills. Did that stop us? Not a chance. Many of us were doing our longest run that we have to do on our marathon training and for the Brighton Marathon Crew it was the last long run at all as they get to taper over the next couple of weeks.

We all flew round the first lap and ran through the centre of Cranleigh, dodging the pedestrians as we went through the streets, to a quick bit of trail which signified the start of lap two. From this point the entire run started to feel uphill, but we ploughed on past marshalls who had their heads hidden in hooded jackets to keep warm and groups of children handing out jelly babies and water who were cheerful in spite of the weather. Our second lap ends as we come up the big hill towards the finish, knowing we have to tackle that once more before the end. And then onwards past the finish and a final lap beckoned. The wind gets stronger, the rain gets wetter but we’re immune to it now. At mile 20, we all come to the bottom of the final hill and its one big push, everything that’s left out it comes as we get up and over, and we’re there, just got to run downhill to the finish. We turned the final corner and there is the big red inflatable which says we have achieved a miracle, we have run 21 miles and have survived to tell the tale. We can do anything after that. We’re untouchable.

So… onto the results. In the 15 mile race, Scott Kennedy made light of the hills and the weather and steamrollered the course in 1:33:20 to win the event by 31 seconds! Absolutely phenomenal. Great run Scott. For team BVR Andy Murphy and Charles Lee completed the 15 as well in very respectable times and hopefully the niggles they picked up will recover over the next few days.

In the 21 mile race all the credit goes to “Porter’s Princesses” who completed their 21 mile run. Great runs by Holly, Linda F, Sarah F, Charley and Linda R as they completed 21 miles, many of them for the first time. They all looked great afterwards and enjoyed the achievement they managed. Well done to Dave Porter for dragging them all round over the last 3 months to get them ready for the big event that is to follow for them all over the next 5 weeks.

Congratulations also to the rest of team BVR, Alex, Alan, Andy, Roger and Steve for a good 21 mile run.

Finally thanks to John and Val for standing out for 3 hrs plus, we all appreciated seeing you on the course.

Our next MABAC is on the 12th April at Farley Heath, look forward to seeing you all there, but if you aren’t there, good luck in the Brighton marathon!


Fleet Half

BVR Fleet Half Race Report – A PB fest!

One of the club’s favourite events in the calendar each year is the Fleet Half Marathon –

It is a long-standing local event organised by one of our fellow local clubs Fleet and Crookham AC. Offering a great course (mild undulations, closed roads, good support and atmosphere) and a strong – club runner heavy – field of around 3,000 runners it is a good opportunity for BVR to turn out in force in their blue and yellow shirts and chase a few PBs.

This year represents the best turn out yet with a massive 52 runners from all sections of the club – that’s nearly half of our membership! Some were attempting their first Half Marathon and others were seasoned runners looking for that elusive PB. The weather was, well, fine. Really bright, a little bit sunny, perfect for running and my personal favourite run of the year so far.

We agreed to meet in the field near the finish at 10am ‎for a club photo – pre-race – given we expected 50+ club shirts we really could manage a group photo worthy of publication! And here’s the result…

As always the usual level of healthy competition exists throughout the club with a bit of friendly banter in the start area and a few people choosing who else in the club to follow as a pacer.

The gun fires at 10:30 and the field takes a full 3 minutes to cross the line. We know this because Nick insisted on being the last to cross the line, having to circle a few times before crossing the line to ‘out do’ the others trying to do the same!

The course passes down the high street twice in the first five miles and this spectacle gathers a huge crowd every year. Bright, sunny weather helps today of course.

A number of our runners had generously volunteered to marshal at the event this year. Without marshals events like this don’t happen so we encourage anyone who can’t run (maybe they have an injury or are ill so need to miss the event) to marshal and support the events members of the club regularly enjoy.

Throughout the route these familiar and friendly faces appeared cheering their fellow club members of with the odd enthusiastic high five too.

So with such bright, pleasant running conditions the odd PB here and there was inevitable. Scott crossed the line in a blistering 1h17m (PB) to claim 40th place followed by Steve in 1h21m (PB) taking first in his age category and Alex setting a PB of 1h26m. Then followed Lawrence 1h32m (PB), Jason 1h34m (PB) Alan 1h35m (PB), myself and Nick nipping at my heels again this year – very impressive having started at the very back of the field!

It didn’t end there… the following people also set PBs! (a long list follows)

Amanda, Chris McW, Karen Jones (PB by 30 mins!), Linda R, Charley W, Sarah F, Zoe B, Linda F, Andy M, Steve M, Michelle B, and Lee J. ‎

Congratulations to ‎Karen M, Tina M, Susie, Kate B, Scott, Lucy E, Jennifer H, Hanne and John Taylor for running their first half marathon too.

And finally a big thanks is due to the members who volunteered, it was great to see your smiling faces en-route! ‎Karine, Steve R, Mary, Claire, Deb, Kay, Ave and Shanie.‎

Same again next year? ;)‎

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BVR Runners out and about pacing

Linda and Alex Radford have been taking part in two events from “The Human Race” as part of the Garmin Pacing Team. Firstly a half marathon at Eton Dorney on 28th February 2015 and Lidl Breakfast Run in Kingston on 15th March 2015. At Eton Dorney Linda ran the 11 minute/mile group round the lake 4 times which and Alex was supposed to be running at 7 minute/mile group but got roped into going a little quicker to bring the group back in under 90 minutes. The weather was overcast and dull and gradually got windier each time we went round the lake till it felt like it was blowing a gale at the end. All of the runners who took part in the event hung on to the pacemakers all the way round and many achieved massive PB’s. It was a privilege to be part of the event and was wonderful to be part of other people achieving their goals.

At Kingston two weeks after Eton Dorney, they were at it again, this time Linda ran 16 miles and Alex 20 miles, with the same goals to bring runners round in the time they want to for marathon preparation with the main marathons coming up in a few weeks. This time we should have had the knowledge of tour guides running the Thames path and straight past Hampton Court Palace, but alas our knowledge wasn’t that good, however when one of the foreign runners started asking questions the other runners all chipped in and knew a huge amount. Again the goals were achieved with us running within a few seconds for each mile of our assigned paces.

Pacing is a great fun thing to do and you soon realise the responsibility when you start and a great big mob of people attach themselves onto you and want you to take them round so they can succeed. The funny thing is in Kingston we ran the last 2 miles pretty much on our own. The runners were feeling good and the best bit was watching them sail off into the distance as they accelerated towards the finish. We met some great people and it was lovely to give something back into the running community.

All those people who ran with us during both the Eton Dorney run and Lidl Breakfast run, we hope achieve their goals and run the times they want to do. For us it’s onto the Fleet Half-Marathon and our own marathons in a few weeks.


Richmond Park MABAC

Another cold chilly winters morning and BVR are off to Richmond Park for the latest MABAC. 17 intrepid runners took a tour of one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Before we started though we had serious marathon training to do so 8 of us ran the entire park and got a sneaky 10 miles in before the Mabac and 2 others got a good 4 miles in before the MABAC as well. We all did this on the perimeter gravel paths around the outside of the park thinking it was a pre-amble as to what followed.

Oh how we got it wrong!! At 11:00 sharp we started off on the MABAC itself and immediately went into some nice thick sludgy and slippery mud and many of us wished we had trail shoes on. Congratulations to those that had the right footwear. Four of us decided running was too much like hard work and took a lay down on the course only to find we had to get back up and carry on running. One of us was daft enough to do it twice. We all worked hard and ran round the course as hard as we dare and made it round the two laps of a testing hilly course.

Onto the results, he does it again, can anyone beat him Scott Kennedy was 1st overall in an amazing 27:40. In fact he was so good, he had time to go on an offcourse tour round the park! Well done. Behind him Steve Low came in a creditable 7th in 30:59. Our first lady home was Holly Purser in 39:49 (72nd overall) and she’d done the 10 miles first.

Further down the group John Hogg beat Kay Collins in a sprint to the line, not really fair John as Kay is running for two. (Maybe she should get double points!)

So covered in mud we all trundled back to where we left the bags and drank coffee and ate chocolate brownies (thank you Kay, homemade and healthy as they had raisins in) and treats from Linda Folley. A good run was had by all and there will be some photos (at least clean before photos) going up of the team soon.

Well done all and here’s to the next event – Fleet Half Marathon 22nd March 2015.


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Photographs courtesy of Richard Jones.

bv running club

Blackwater Valley Runners at Bramley 20/10

On Sunday 15th February 2015, an intrepid team from Blackwater Valley Runners attended the Bramley 20/10. Some of them completed the 10 mile course, while others went for the 20 mile course. Whatever was run, it’s clear that a massive amount of effort was put in and our members are well on the way to their marathon and half marathon training. Well done to everyone who took part.

The weather was pretty close to perfect for the run with an undulating two lap course. A cool start took us all out of Bramley and up the first hill as we turned onto the main loop away from the town. We then weaved in and out of some country roads and up a couple of hills at 6 and 8 miles, before the long downhill back towards Bramley with a cheeky little uphill about 1/2 mile from the end. Those people doing the 20 miles got the joy of being told to go right and do it all again.

Congratulations to the entire team that completed the course and there were some fantastic notable performances. Scott Kennedy managed to run the 10 miles in 58:07 (chip time) and came 7th overall. Amanda Bailey ran 1:37:59, nearly 10 minutes faster than when she last did it and Claire Stevens broke 2 hrs for 10 miles running 1:58:24 (great achievement).

In the 20 mile runners Ed Bailey ran a magnificent 2:26:43 and Linda Radford running her first 20 miler ever did 3:31:04.

Great effort by everyone and all feeling it now. Here are a selection of gorgeous images of us in full flow.

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Hindhead Tea and Cake Run – July 2014

A 7 mile run through Golden Valley then up to Gibbet Hill, along the old A3 and finishing at the Punchbowl cafe for cake. What’s not to like?

Surrey Slog – July 2014

Quite a few of us were brave enough to have a go at the Surrey Slog half marathon, one of the hardest in the country.

Results below:
Position First name Surname Category Time
5 STEVE LOW M50 94.05
55 ALAN FREESTONE M40 115.24
58 DAVID PORTER M40 116.09
68 MELVYN DOLMAN M50 118.53
74 MARTIN GOULD M40 119.58
82 LISA SPRATLING F45 122.49
106 JOHN CASSELL M70 132.42
108 KEVIN VOLLER M40 133.27
137 LINDA RADFORD F35 150.59