Herculean performances in the hottest London Marathon ever

Claire on her way to becoming first W40 home with 800m to go, as captured by Anna Garnier

Claire on her way to becoming first W40 home with 800m to go, as captured by Anna Garnier

More than 40 Club athletes were in action in Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon and Virgin Money Giving Mini-Marathon. For much of the way, Richard McDowell was the leading Hercules Wimbledon runner in the marathon, reaching the half-way point near Tower Bridge in one hour 13 minutes 15 seconds, 48 seconds ahead of Dimos Evangelidis. Richard slowed over the second half of the race, while Dimos completed the second half 27 seconds faster than the first and managed to overtake his club mate at Big Ben with just about a mile to go, to finish 14th in the Championship race in 2:27:39 and fourth M40. Richard, who celebrated his 39th birthday three days earlier was just one place and 17 seconds behind, finishing an impressive 11th in the senior category.  Meanwhile Claire Grima, who was running the London marathon for the 12th time, achieved her goal of finishing as the top veteran woman over 40. 

Despite being pipped by his clubmate, Richard chopped seven minutes 21 seconds off his previous best time set in last year’s London race. “I was pretty pleased with my effort but more surprised than anything to be honest,” he says. “I listen to the Marathon Talk podcast and a while back they interviewed a runner/statistician guy called Barry Smythe.  He had collected a lot of marathon performance data from different events and calculated the quickest way statistically to get a pb.  For London, most people achieved this by running a 4% positive split, thus running the 2nd half 4% slower than the first.  A 2:30 finish, which was my goal, meant coming through halfway in 73 minutes, and then running the second half in 77. That sounded pretty daunting, as my stand-alone half time (albeit from a few years ago) is 76, however that was my plan and I was relatively confident.  Halfway was pretty much spot on 73, and I just kept on pushing, although never felt like I was pushing too hard, and was pretty much under control. I was passing loads of runners who must have been starting to find it tough.

"Every water station entailed a small sip of water, the rest was thoroughly over the cap and body.  I think this has quite a major impact. Keeping the surface cool then keeps the core cooler, less sweating, less drinking required, less salt loss etc.  Keeping cool along with running apparently within myself meant that I wasn’t experiencing any of the trauma of a lot of others.  I felt fresher than I’ve felt at the end of any marathon, average HR of 161, 2 sore toenails and nothing worse.

“Because I was so far ahead of my target I was able to relax and gained an impressive scalp when I passed Guye Adola, one of the pre-race favourites around the Tower of London. Dimos passed me at Big Ben, which was a bit of a surprise but there aren’t many other people you would be happy to be beaten by!”

Dimos, who ran his first marathon back in 2004, was very happy to be the first Hercules Wimbledon finisher. “It’s always great to run negative splits. My plan generally is to approach the marathon conservatively", he explains. "I can usually understand what I’m capable of by mile 6 or so, but I was extra cautious as I’d had a sore throat and cough and had been feeling under the weather the previous week, plus the expected heat which I can’t stand, despite being Greek.  I was aiming for 2:28 a month before the race, but I adapted that to 2:30 the night before. Starting the race, though, felt better than expected, so I continued with the 2:28 plan.

"I was aware that Richard was ahead of me", he says, "as he passed me soon after the start, but I didn’t really think of that until mile 20 or so, when a HW club mate in the crowd reminded me, and then I started seeing him at a distance. His pace was slightly slower than mine, but I only got him a mile before the finish and he looked strong all the way, I think he ran a superb race!

"Overall", he reflects, "the first half didn’t feel so hot, as the wind helped with cooling, but the heat was an issue during the second half. Having support from other Club runners in the crowd made the big difference for me, helping me to keep going on a day in which I struggled for a positive mindset!"

Claire finished eighth in the women’s championship in 2:53:13, but was "pretty disappointed" with her time: “That was the toughest marathon to date," she says. "I think it was the heat but I know I wasn’t the only one suffering.  My training had gone really well this year and was harder than ever so I was really hoping to get a pb, but it just wasn’t my day. I knew after about 8 miles that it was going wrong. The W40 win was a silver lining and my overall placing was the same as last year, so I have some positives to take from it. It won't be my last marathon! I have so much respect for Dimos and Richard who ran amazingly in such tough conditions", she added, "inspirational stuff –  I am proud to be their club mate".

Third Hercules Wimbledon finisher was Robbie Hynes who was 457th of more than 40000 runners in 2:50:29 on his London debut. His time took almost five minutes off his previous best set in York last year. Neil Fraser was the next of the 20 Hercules Wimbledon finishers taking 576th place 2:53:21 with David Grima clocking 2:54:51 in 643rd.

Hercules Wimbledon also had 21 youngsters in the mini-marathon over the last three miles of the main course from Old Billingsgate. Zac Purnell, running for Wandsworth, was 11th in the boys under 17 race in 15:52, the fastest Hercules Wimbledon time. Sam Barker, running for Merton, and Henry Silverstein for Wandsworth, finished 18th and 57th in the same category in 16:07 and 17:16.

Fastest of the thirteen HW girls taking part was Georgie Clarke who was fifth in the under 15 race for Wandsworth in 18:06. Ellen Weir, representing Merton, was 16th in the under 15 race in 18:51, with Lauren Armitage, also running for Merton, 21st in the under 13 race in 19:44.

On a crowded weekend of fixtures, teams were also competing in the annual Kinnaird and Sward Trophies Meeting at Kingston, where HW finished in fourth place in the Kinnaird match (track) and fifth in the Sward match (field). And at Battersea, those U13 and U15 girls and boys who were not in action in the Mini Marathon took part in the Club's first match in the Youth Development League, where many of the track team doubled up on the field, often trying jumps and throws for the first time. Pick of the bunch was Zipporah Golding, who despite never having gone near a shot before, won the U15 Girls A-string shot putt with a distance of 9.15m before helping the 4 x 100m relay team to victory. 

This weekend, HW opens the Southern Athletics League programme at Carshalton on Saturday, starting at 11am and host the first Southern Veterans League match at Wimbledon Park on Monday, starting at 6.30pm.

'McDimos': virtually inseparable in 14th and 15th place.

'McDimos': virtually inseparable in 14th and 15th place.

Impressive hat co-ordination too!

Impressive hat co-ordination too!


Sat 21 April:  Youth Development League, Battersea Park: Team results: 1. Cambridge Harriers (Kent), 556.3 pts; 2. TVH , 471.3 pts; 3. Holland Sports, 412.0 pts; 5. Dartford H, 319.3 pts; 6. Reigate Priory, 318.0 pts; 7. HW, 130.0 pts; 8. Team Hounslow, 103.0 pts. Full results
Sat 21 April: Kinnaird and Sward Trophies Meeting, Kingston:
Team results: Kinnaird (track) trophy: 
1. KACPH, 239 pts; 2. Achilles, 227 pts; 3. Epsom & Ewell, 223 pts; 4. HW, 203 pts, 5 HHH, 45 pts; 6. Sutton, 30 pts.  Sward (field) trophy: 1. KACPH, 273 pts; 2. Achilles, 184 pts; 3. Epsom & Ewell, 165 pts;  4. Sutton 54 pts; 5 HW, 48 pts; 6. HHH, 32 pts. Full results 

Sun 22 April: Virgin Money Giving Mini Marathon:  
Boys U17: Zachary Purnell, 11th, 15:52 (Wandsworth);
Sam Barker, 18th, 16:07 (Merton); Henry Silverstein, 57th, 17:16 (Wandsworth); Daniel Illis, 64th, 17:38 (Richmond); Fred Jimack, 86th, 18:05 (Wandsworth); Guy Saville,146th,  23:08 (Merton) (149 finishers)
Boys U15: Hector Revill, 31st, 17:23 (Merton); Morgan Rennie, 73rd, 18:17 (Merton) (176 finishers); 
Boys U13: Lloyd Hodgson, 48th, 18:56 (Wandsworth 3rd team); Reuben Gallagher,107th, 20:00 (Merton) (179 finishers)
Girls U17: Georgia Hanley, 73rd, 22:00 (Merton) (128 finishers)
Girls U15: Georgina Clarke, 5th, 18:06 (Wandsworth 3rd team); Ellen Weir, 16th, 18:51 (Merton); Niamh Thompson, 51st , 21:26 (Kingston); Anya Stacey, 87th, 21:52 (Merton); Selma Hegvold, 89th, 21:59 (Merton); Albane Fery, 109th, 22:46 (Merton); Hannah Hegvold, 144th, 24:22 (Merton) (170 finishers)

Girls U13: Lauren Armitage, 21st, 19:44 (Merton); Millie Doyle, 28th, 20:02 (Wandsworth 2nd team); Lulu Weisz, 45th, 20:34 (Merton); Millie Thorpe, 66th, 21:21 (Merton); Bailey O’Leary, 136th, 23:12 (Merton 2nd team) (184 finishers)

Sun 22 April: Virgin Money London Marathon finishers:

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Hercules Wimbledon