People are right to be annoyed/frustrated that they thought they had a GFA time but now know they don’t, but I think starting petitions and badmouthing the system about it isn’t really going to maintain people’s sympathy. The 2014 entry criteria were only announced yesterday. People who assumed they would qualify by looking at the 2013 criteria haven’t been cheated or had the goalposts moved; they simply made a false assumption.
I’ve read a lot about GFA on here in the last couple of days but not a single comment (that I recall) which describes what the actual purpose of GFA is. Many who are complaining are assuming it’s purely aspirational and designed to encourage people to achieve certain times. I’ve never seen the London Marathon describe it that way (or any other way, to be fair).
I’ve always assumed that GFA is about having balance in the field. If the race was purely ballot and club/charity places there would be relatively few people on the course at sub 3:10 pace, so they allow people to run in what would otherwise be empty space (without it placing undue logistical problems at the start and finish). Similarly, they ensure they have more women in the 3-4 hour pace band (which would similarly be slightly sparse otherwise) so the gender balance isn’t too male. They give times to older runners to prevent it being too much of a young person’s game. Therefore, GFA is about having the maximum number of people on the course, but without having too large an imbalance of male or younger runners.
If this is the purpose of it, there isn’t an aspirational side to the times but rather a filtering system of how many extra runners can be added. Logically, if there are too many runners in the 3:05-3:10 band it makes sense for them to lower the GFA times to control the congestion. Similarly, if there are too few finishers in the 3:10-3:15 category, by a similar number that there are likely people to apply, it makes sense to increase the numbers. Only by looking at the finishing times on the day and the levels of congestion on the course can they make an informed decision. Allowing too many people to take part at a certain pace can make it much slower for everyone and therefore a less enjoyable experience for all.
If the times are being used as aspirational, then logically that will see more people pushing to get within those times and therefore more congestion on those parts of the course. Similarly, if more people are pushing for sub 3;10, say, that could create a lack of runners in the 3:11-3:13 times since they’ve all pushed more to achieve the times. Once the times start being used as an aspiration, more people will meet them and their ability to be consistent over time decreases.
Personally, my best chance of a GFA time will be for the 2018 race, where I can use a time I achieved as a 39 year old to qualify me to run as a 41 year old. The time I’ll be aspiring for in 2016 will be the GFA as reported in 2016. If I achieve it, but fail to get a place as a year later the times are altered I’ll be disappointed, but still glad that I achieved what I was intending to get. I’ll probably have no chance of knowing the time I need for 2018 until I’ve completed all my races which could qualify me. That’s a bad thing if you view GFA as an aspirational time, but logical if you view it as a crowd congestion control. I suspect they use it as the latter, so it’s going to have times where it fails as the former.
First advice would be to look under the training tab above as there is lots of information on this site about how to get started and how to build towards your first 5k race. Most of the advice you'll get off the forum will be on there, although of course use the forum for anything you can't find in there (they can never be fully comprehensive).
(This isn't a flippant comment, it's perfectly understandable if you haven't looked there to suspect a site for runners won't tell you how to start, just as I doubt Cycling World has a section on how to ride a bike.)
The easiest way to build distance is to learn you need to walk/run before you can run. Don't just see how far you can run in one go as it will tire your legs (and, potentially, leave you disspirited). Instead, try to do 1.5 miles but walking for 1 minute in every 3. Take it slowly and make sure you can finish feeling like you could do further.
From that start, you can do 1 minute in every 4, 1 in 6 and eventually go all the way. Similarly, you can increase the mileage whilst still walking 1 minute in every 3. Try not to make the increases too daunting, feel in control of the increases.
When you're preparing for a marathon, with a couple of half marathons behind you, it's perfectly acceptable on your first 18 mile training run to plan to stop for a rest/walk to conserve your legs. So a run/walk strategy early on isn't a sign you're not a runner yet, it's good preparation for a training tactic you might well use again a few years down the line.
Congratulations Kerry. Glad to see you were able to rescue what seemed like a poor training regime and got what you wanted. Well done.
I unwillingly ended up having to avoid most of the good advice regarding training, due to a knee injury and further illnesses. In the end I only managed 13.1 miles once, with most of my runs being 9 milers. From 1st Jan until race day I'd managed a grand total of 123 miles.
I did the race anyway, expecting to suffer a lot. I decided to reduce the run down to 5 5-mile runs with 2 minutes of walking inbetween, going well slower than I needed to in the hope of conserving energy and delaying the suffering. I hoped making it more like a training session would help. On seeing the course map, I decide to change slightly, running inbetween the sports drinks stations (roughly 4.5 miles apart) and walking for 2 minutes between each (whilst drinking). Doing 11 minute miles elsewhere was intended, to do around 5 hours.
My tactics worked amazingly well until 22 miles. I was slowing in the second half, but still felt quite strong and able to go on. Only having 4.5 mile streches before a rest broke it down well. Just after 22 miles though my old back injury played up, leaving me in absolute agony and barely able to even walk (each step sent pain right up my spine). I managed to walk about 1/4 of a mile in just over 20 minutes, hoping I could do a long, slow walk to the finish rather than having to pull out.
Amazingly, the problem corrected itself after those 20-odd minutes, enabling me to run the last 3.5 miles to the finish, without needing to stop, take onboard water and actually moving fast than I was between 13 and 20 miles when I felt fresh. I finished in 5:15 which I was amazed with given the lack of training. Even more surprisingly, I felt fine afterwards and have never recovered from a marathon so quickly (felt ready to run the next day, but didn't).
I think the running conservatively and walking early on strategy was highly effective. It did save my eneregy and make up for the lack of training. I think the 20 minute break towards the end has convinced my body I did a 22.5-mile training session, followed by a 3.5 mile warm-down as well.
I know I was very fortunate rather than it being well-judged, and won't be doing a marathon with such little training again.
Having ran London this week without, for various reasons, training past 13 miles I think it's possible if you plan sensibly.
My approach was to break it up into a training session, doing 5 x 5 miles with a 2 minute walk inbetween each rep. I'd aimed to do 11 minute miles (whilst not-walking), having done a 2:07 half (admitedly whilst still having a cold). I changed my plan, slightly, into running between the sports drinks stations (4.5 miles apart) and walking for 2 minutes whilst drinking them.
Despite a pitiful amount of training, often whilst ill, this tactic worked really well. I was running well within myself so felt fresh and the walking every 4.5 miles really made a difference (legs fresher, broke it down into manageable chunks and didn't lose me too much time).
The plan wasn't quite perfect as I picked up a back injury at 22 miles, could barely even walk, but it cured itself and went away. I think this was an issue to do with previous back injuries I've had rather than the plan failing. Once I was able to get running again after that I did the last 3 miles easily (miles 23-26 were faster than 13-16).
A 5x5mile easy is a tough, but not impossible, training session. Approaching an ultra with a plan to walk every so many miles is an effective way to get around. I found approaching a marathon as a cross between a long training session and a short ultra worked well. In fact, despite the lack of training I recovered much quicker than I had from previous marathons, with my legs seemingly unaware of how far I ran.
You can still claim the five rejections place if you had your first rejection before they ended the programme.
I think they stopped letting people start the five years after the 2009 Marathon, meaning people rejected every year from 2009 until 2013 can get an automatic place, but people can't start their rejections from 2010 onwards. Not 100% sure of the years, but they definately let you continue existing runs after they shut the scheme down.