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The Runners of London

Guest post by Andy Waterman

In the weeks running up to the London Marathon, Strava sent emails to our UK running athletes saying hey, if you’re running in London, we’ve booked out a pub after the race, very close to the finish, come say hi and tell us about your race (and yes, the ‘recovery’ beverages are on us).

It was a great opportunity to put faces to names, get some real world feedback on how athletes like you use Strava, and hear the stories behind some exceptional performances.

The first person to appear after the race was teacher, Peter Garrod, who lives and trains roughly 40 miles east of London.

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I’m a math teacher and I use my Strava feed in lessons to talk about speed, distance and time, or when I talk about statistics”, he told us. “I can find links and I don’t mind sharing my activities with my pupils because I believe doing all this training sets me up as a positive role model, and they see me in different light to how they do in my professional capacity as a teacher.

It turns out Garrod is a triathlete at heart and is looking forward to getting back on his bike now that the marathon is behind him: “I feel like I’ve conquered my running demons!” he told us.

With the weather in England being so bad this winter, we suggested it must have been a blessing in disguise to have a running event to train for through the dark, wet months of December and January: “being able to run all through that period was actually really good”, he agreed. “A long run in the rain feels much better than an 80 mile bike ride. And having a full-time job and a full-time family, winter riding takes up a lot more time than running – it’s easy to run in the dark, but I don’t really want to cycle in the dark if I don’t have to.”

For Garrod, running a half marathon in the dark before school after a 4.30am alarm call is not uncommon. “The honest truth is that without Strava I wouldn’t have done the marathon. I need that short term feedback, that pat on the back”, he told us. “I’ve got 50 or 60 friends on Strava, and whenever I do any activity, even if it’s a two mile tapering run like I did on Friday, it’s kudos, kudos, kudos. I love it, I’m addicted to it.”

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That motivation extended to the marathon itself, and kept him going through the dark moments towards the end of the race. “During the last mile in the marathon, I really wanted to stop and walk,” he admitted, “but everyone would know – they’d see my splits on Strava, so I had to keep on going. I ran the whole distance, and I’m really satisfied with my splits – they’re really consistent – and people will notice that and give me kudos for it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being addicted to that.”

Next up we spoke to John Clarke, a Strava Ambassador from South East London. His race was a story of an ambitious early pace followed by a massive crash. “It was hot today”, he said. “The guys in my pen were good: I’d set my sights on 7.30 average per mile, which would lead to my goal of 3.15. We set off and I felt pretty good and I got to half way at 7.20 pace.” That pace, only a few seconds slower than his half marathon pr, was to be his downfall.

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At mile 17 my legs gave in”, he explained. “I guess they call it the wall. I hadn’t hit the wall before – it’s your legs refusing to run. My mind was telling them to move forward, but they were like lead. I stopped and stretched, had some electrolytes but this wasn’t far past halfway – you can’t just shake that off and tell yourself you’re nearly there! I figured this is what the training had been for – the early runs, the late runs, the fast runs, the long runs. Stubbornness got me through I guess.

He stopped with his family at mile 20, ate and drank a little and set off, hoping a short rest would act as a reset. It wasn’t to be: “from there it was literally a mile at a time – 21, 22, 23…”

It was Clarke’s second attempt at London, and even going through the wall he managed to get round in 3.43, over an hour quicker than his previous attempt, and a pr by 12 minutes. Would he consider going for a 3.30 in his next attempt, rather than 3.15? “Next time I’m sticking to 3.15 – I know I’ve got a 3.15 in me”, he said confidently. “Today I worked out my breaking point and my next batch of training will be based on this effort. I’ve come out of it really excited to get training again and start working towards the next thing. I can take a lot of positives out of the first half of the race, and I was actually thinking about Strava at that time, thinking about how all the guys I run with are going to see that – as soon as I had Strava in my life, it became my motivation. There will be lots of chat tonight about where I went wrong and where I can improve.”

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Thanks to all the athletes who took the time to visit us after the race – it was great to meet you and hear your stories. We’ll be attending more events across the globe this year – keep on training and keep an eye on your inbox for an invite, we’d love to meet you for a celebratory post race beer!

In the seven days between the London and Boston marathons, Strava is challenging you to run a total of 42.2km (26.2mi). Unlike a real world race, you can break this Challenge up over multiple activities throughout the week.  Even if you can’t be at the start in Hopkinton or Greenwich Park, you can still celebrate your love for running and these iconic events by covering the marathon distance on your own between April 14th and April 20th.