Glenpark Harriers Smash the Virtual London Marathon 2020

This year has been very different for Greenock Glenpark Harriers. It was supposed to be a year of joy celebrating the club’s 125th anniversary. Those celebrations will have to be put on hold. There have been no races throughout the summer, and the runners have all kept themselves busy with a variety of virtual races set by Scottish Athletics and the club itself.

Each year in April, Glenpark have always sent a good contingent down to London to run one of the world’s best marathons. This year, the marathon was initially postponed until October, before ultimately being reduced to an elite race only. To try and keep the runners interested, London decided to organise a virtual marathon for those lucky enough to have a place in the actual run.

So whilst Eliud Kipchoge was being proven to be human, and Sarah Hall was sprinting over the finish line in one of the best finishes London has seen, our club runners were out pounding the pavements of Inverclyde in a bid to record their time for the 26.2 miles. We had 7 athletes competing in the race, and some inspirational stories amongst them.

The Battery Park is just over a kilometre in circumference, and all Inverclyde runners know it as a great training ground. It’s flat, it has nice pavement or grass, it usually has a toilet. However, not many people would think that over 41 laps of the park sounds like a good idea? Step forward Oliver Reilly. One of the rising stars within Greenock Glenpark Harriers he was the lucky recipient of the club’s ballot place in the marathon. Well he didn’t want that ballot place going to waste, and he wanted to represent his club with pride. Boy did he do that.

Oliver has ran two marathons before (PB of 3.17), and wanted his solid training to go to use. So he set out with a target of sub 3, and as close to the good for age time of 2.57 as possible. To help, the club rallied round Oliver and he was met with over ten runners and countless supporters who came down to the Battery Park to help with pacing and support. It was a fantastic sight to see the club vest out there for the first time in 6 months. Needless to say, Oliver absolutely smashed it, running 2.57.35! A big thanks must go out to Kevin O’Donoghue, who paced the whole distance with Oliver, and provided many words of ‘encouragement’, especially in the dying stages…

Some of the pacers deserve a shout out too. The likes of Andy McCall and Duncan Anderson, running 20 miles at that pace just shows how well they’ve been training over the summer. Here’s hoping there’s something for these guys to compete in soon.

A traditional Sunday run route for our runners is to head out the IBM road, and loop back through Gourock. It’s essentially a half marathon route, so Donna Campbell set out to do it twice!  Donna ran an absolute stormer, completing in under 3.40! A fantastic run! That time is within the good for age rankings, and will see Donna get to experience the real deal next year hopefully. Other ladies competing included Sue Hewitson who ran 4.08 and Kirsty Ormond who walked it in 7.27. Unreal effort from Kirsty, who went down the Old Largs Road and back up the coast. That’s a lot of time on your feet!

Inverclyde was host to Scotland’s first mass participation marathons in 1981. To commemorate this, and take part in their own virtual London, Robert Dolan and John Stevenson set out to recreate the route. It starts with a loop of the Esplanade, then out to Gourock Road end via the Cloch Road. It then turns and heads all the way back to Coronation Park in Port Glasgow before turning back for a finish on the Esplanade.

Robert, club president and London marathon regular, assisted by different generations of his family on foot and bike, got round the route in 3.23.46. The finish on the Esplanade was greeted with champagne and family members a plenty. It might not quite be The Mall, but it’s not bad. John had less fun in his run. Having went out with Robert, the marathon distance took a prisoner. Not for the first time, and definitely not for the last, a fantastic runner hit the wall. John, a veteran of London and multiple ultra marathons ran well through 16 miles, but the last 10 were not as easy. However club captain John stuck at it, and battled to the finish. Finishing in under 4 hours has to be hugely commended!

Craig Canning picked up a late entry into the virtual marathon, and ran a very steady 3.52 which is brilliant considering the lack of marathon training. Craig benefitted from some more Harriers helping him round the final few laps of the Battery Park.

The stories of the help and support on offer throughout the day sums up what this running club is all about. It’s been a tough year for everyone, but Greenock Glenpark Harriers are going to emerge from it stronger than ever. Bring on 2021.

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