22 Apr

Russell And The World Record

Russell Whittington and his dad, Jeff

Last week Runtalk featured the doubts and insecurities of marathon runner Russell Whittington before he took part in the Virgin London Marathon 2011. Post-race he was much more relaxed. And claiming a world record ...

My London marathon 2011 weekend didn't get off to the best of starts. My flight from Scotland was delayed and re-routed from Luton to Stanstead. I don't want to get into trouble by naming the company that provided this service, but the explanation was all Greek to me and the journey was far from easy.

It was close to midnight when I arrived at my friend Julian's house. I met Julian at university in Coventry where he signed me up for the rugby league team on my first day. We have remained good friends since and he has been an integral part of my marathon progress. We ran our first marathon together in Dublin in 2002 in 4 hours 25 minutes and I could barely walk after it.

During the Dublin weekend Julian and his South African wife Heather told me about the Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa which is more than a double marathon; Julian said he intended running it one day. He asked if I fancied it, but the way I felt he might have well have said that he was building a rocket to the moon and did I want to come on the first flight! However, less than three years later in 2005 I headed over to South Africa with Julian, Heather and their baby Gemma and ran the Comrades.

The night before the race I had a surprisingly good sleep and woke up at 6am, fortunately I didn't have the anxiety dream that I wrote about last week. Julian and I were both at the blue start and headed in to London on the train together and on to Blackheath station. We wished each other luck for the race and I headed into the championship start for the second year running. I then met up with my pals Colin McGill, Scott Kennedy and George Taylor and swapped stories about how we were feeling about the race.

My training had been geared towards a challenging target of 2 hours 40 which is an average pace of 6 minutes and 6 seconds per mile, and 1 minute 41 seconds quicker than my existing personal best. Scott Kennedy was also targeting the same time and so we set off together. We were through the first mile in 6:10 followed by 6:00, 5:49, 5:54, 5:58 and 6:04. This was slightly quicker than planned, but it felt comfortable and there were a couple of down hill miles in there so I wasn't concerned that we were going too quickly. Between about mile 8 and 9, Scott started to pull away and I was left to run the rest of the race on my own. I reached half way in 1 hour 19 minutes and 54 seconds which was 10 seconds quicker than I had run last year. In that race I had gone on to finish in 2 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds.

There is a piece of advice that I have heard several times by marathon experts and that is that the race really starts once you get to 20 miles. I kept that in mind as I tried to get to 20 miles in the best shape that I could so that I could try to kick on from there. This leaves 6.2 miles or 10 kilometres for the real race. This is a great idea in theory but has proved difficult to execute in practice in the past. This time it worked out well as I ran the fastest 5 kilometre split of my race between 35 and 40 kilometres and then continued to speed up for the final couple of kilometres to the finish. I was delighted to have set a new personal best of 2:40:28 to finish in 164th place.

The first runner I saw after the race was Colin McGill (Edinburgh AC) who has also had an excellent run and knocked a minute off his PB to finish in 2:34, in 89th place. I then went round to meeting point B in Horseguards Parade where I met up with my other club mates and also my brother and uncle Barrie who had come along to support me and my 63 year old dad, Jeff. My dad had also had an amazing run to finish in 3:7:30 which was a four and a half minute PB for him and placed him fourth in the 60-64 age group.

To celebrate we headed round the corner from the finish of the race to The Old Shades pub on Whitehall. I was still feeling ok until my fourth pint where the day's exertions seemed to suddenly catch up with me and I hit The Wall and had to head back to Julian's house to crash.

A few days later I spoke to my dad and we discussed how we would get on in a race for the fastest parent and son in the London Marathon. We looked up the Guinness Book of Records time and found a Japanese father and son listed at 6 hours 28 minutes. Further research found that the record had been broken at this year's London Marathon by Kelvin and Shane Amos with a combined time of 6:03:07. As our combined time was 5:47:58 seconds we got quite excited, but then discovered that you have to let the Guinness Book of Records know in advance that you are going to attempt a record, so we have to settle for unofficial World record holders! We will continue to train through the summer and have a crack at the official world record in autumn and hope that a Kenyan father and son don't get to hear about the record in the meantime and put it out of our sights.