Sandy Lane's Marathon

13th April 2003

It all seems so long ago now...

The idea came to Sandy soon after her fiftieth birthday. She must have a challenge in life, some goal to achieve - other than coping with an absentminded scientist husband!

She decided to run a London Marathon. She sent in her application form in 2001 knowing that the chance of being selected in the ballot for a place was small - and she succeeded. 

Panic set in!

She had already been training in case the unexpected happened and she got a place. She had built up gradually from jogs around the block to the achievement of being dropped off by Geoff at Portland Bill and then running all the way home. This was, in itself, a difficult run because of all the hills (there are no hills on the London Marathon) and the fact that Geoff was following in a car and stopping every mile to ask if she "wanted to give up because it was raining?"


And then, in early 2002 disaster struck on the Austrian Piste.

It was not as bad as this incident in 2001 when Sandy had to be taken to hospital in Saalbach by helicopter.

However, it was a bad fall all the same and her hip injury meant she had to drop out of the 2002 London Marathon.

Mind you, her injury would have been worse if she had not fallen on poor old Geoff!

However, she was guaranteed a place in the 2003 London marathon because she had dropped out of the 2002 event on account of injury. 

Geoff and Sandy abandoned any idea of more skiing - no point in risking another injury - and the training started again.

The running routine  really started in September 2002 leading up to the London Marathon and was intensive with runs varying between four and eight miles done up to three times a week.

On most occasions Geoff cycled to keep Sandy company and shout encouragement like "get those feet up! Stick that chest out!" 

The latter was for his benefit rather than hers!

Geoff and Sandy did their training in their own special ways; Geoff concentrating on the muscles in his arm and Sandy with overall stamina.

Gradually the training runs were increased to ten or more miles.

This chart shows the miles run each week leading up to the Marathon. In addition,  Sandy spend about 3 - 4 hours in the gym each week. There were hiccups in training when she had to have Cortisone injections.

Towards the end of training the length of the runs were built up. In February Geoff twice dropped her in the car park of Abbotsbury Gardens and she ran back to Weymouth via the Hardy Monument and Martinstown - the long and hilly way back.


The roads can be long and lonely when you are training. These pictures are from the 17 mile run in March 2003

Over the footbridge at Moreton. No time to stop and admire the view.

Lawrence of Arabia's grave is about 300 yards to the south of this point.

The final long training run was a circular 20 miles route from The Wise Man at West Stafford to Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Bryantspuddle and several more 'puddles'.

On the 20 mile training run - meeting some unexpected mud.

In total Sandy ran about 500 miles in training.


One of the last pictures taken before the 'Big Event' was this one. Geoff and Sandy drove to New Ground on the top of Portland for a publicity shot to send to the Dorset Echo.

It was freezing cold and Sandy reluctantly got out of the car.

"I'm only giving you one shot at this. It's much too cold to hang about!"

So, she pretended to run as the picture was taken, then back in the car quickly and home for a warming cup of tea!

For the week before the Marathon the pace of training was reduced to conserve energy and stamina for the Big Day. We travelling to Greenwich two days before the Marathon and stayed in Sandy's brother's flat which was about one mile from the start - very convenient.

Sandy registered at the London Arena on the Friday afternoon before the run and the next day we went back to Docklands to see the Marathon Exhibition. After all those months of training on Dorset lanes it was an emotional sight to see thousands of other runners milling around with their kit bags and registration forms knowing that they had suffered the same gruelling months leading up to this weekend.

On the evening before the run Sandy ate a hearty meal of pasta for energy and slept well. At 7 a.m. the alarms went off - two set to be sure of getting up and a short taxi ride took us to Blackheath where crowds were already gathering. Blackheath is so called because tens of thousands of plague victims were buried here in the 1660s - not a happy thought on such a pleasant day!


It was a fine misty day as we found the starting position, the baggage trucks and gasped at the length of the queues for the Portaloos!

Apart from the loos, the organisation was amazing. 

Each runner has a computer chip attached to a shoe and this is logged at the start, every 10 kilometres and at the end. This not only gives overall and intermediate timings but - it stops cheating and that has happened in the past!

Dozens of baggage lorries took personal possessions from the start to the finish.

Sandy was running to raise money for the Joseph Weld/Trimar Hospice, Outlooks family Centre and Tides Drop-In centre for Young People.

Here she poses for a publicity shot wearing her Joseph Weld Hospice T-shirt.

Here nervousness shows in her expression. 

No turning back!

A few last minute squats and stretches before the 'OFF!'

The rather glamorous blue plastic apparel is designed and created by a Cancer Research charity.

Sandy was very near to the end of the whole pack of over 35,000 runners - there were only about fifty behind her. With such a huge mass of runners in front of her could she get through and beat Paula Radcliffe?

The start of the Women's Marathon. Paula Radcliffe is in the middle. Can you see Sandy?


Oh well, she was some way behind at the start.

Time would tell.


After a few minutes the huge pack began to move slowly forward and gradually the contestants were able to walk, then jog and eventually run.

As soon as Sandy was on her way Geoff's Master Plan was put into action. He had downloaded 24 maps covering the entire Marathon route in minute detail. Together with timetables for underground, Connex and Docklands Light Railway trains he had worked out a scheme for meeting up with Sandy's children - Ria and Dave - and the three of them to travel around London to see Sandy at three points on the route. These would be at the 6, 121/2 and 22 mile points - numbers which were written in ink on the back of Sandy's hand!

Would this wonderful scheme work?

Geoff set off across Blackheath to meet Ria and Dave at Maze Hill Station. He eventually realised that, by following the crowds of spectators, he was being taken to Cutty Sark - a place to be avoided because of predicted crowds. Sweeping round behind the National Maritime Museum and cunningly cutting through some back alleys he arrived at Maze Hill Station where Ria and Dave were waiting. Then, a brisk walk north and the Marathon route was met at the six mile archway.

So far - so good!


The race leaders had already long gone past this point and the runners were streaming past.

It was here that we experienced the  equivalent of Jogger's Nipple.

Spectator's Eye Twitch!

Searching every face that passed made our eyes sore and, sure enough, we nearly missed Sandy when she got to this point.

In desperation Geoff took a photograph hoping that Sandy would be in this picture - but we cannot see her...

Never-the-less, we did all make contact and Sandy seemed fresh and happy as she passed the six-mile marker. She had taken 1 h 12 m to get here so was running twelve minute miles - a comfortable pace. Geoff had been afraid that Sandy would get dragged on by those around to run a faster pace than recommended.

Geoff, Ria and Dave then set off to follow the plan to get to the 12 mile marker on the north side of The Thames. The previous day, Geoff and Sandy had walked through Dockland, south through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and out to Cutty Sark. The tunnel was to be closed the next day to southwards foot traffic leaving it clear for the masses expected to walk north from Cutty Sark.

It was all planned and times. The aim was to get to Shadwell on the Docklands Light Railway within an hour which is when Sandy was due to be there.

The plan started to go wrong as they struggled to get along the pavement to Cutty Sark. It was jammed and it took ages to get to the boat. They were well behind schedule. Then they found we were not allowed to cross the Marathon route to get to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.


They decided to make for Cutty Sark station which Geoff had been warned beforehand might be closed. It was!

Double Disaster!

So, only one thing to do now. Find a pub and get some alcohol down!

A pub was found within view of Cutty Sark and three drinks ordered.

"Sorry mate! We are 10 yards too far from the Marathon route to get an all day licence"


The soft drinks were drunk, the loo used and they wandered out wondering what to do next. A policeman told Geoff that Cutty Sark station might open in 45 minutes. Then the policemen noticed the gates were just opened. He let them over the road and they dived down to the railway. A train arrived which was packed but, with pushing and shoving, they just got on.

Meanwhile, Sandy went over Tower Bridge to reach the north bank of the Thames.  

Sandy is on the left at the 12 mile point heading towards Canary Wharf.

At Shadwell Geoff, Ria and Dave didn't particularly rush as they believed that Sandy would already have passed the selected spot. However, within a few minutes - she arrived! And she was able to stop briefly and say that she was feeling good. That was at the 121/2 mile mark so she must have been running a little slower than I expected.

As Sandy set off for the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf, Geoff reckoned that they had about an hour or more to wait before Sandy passed this point again. So, it was off to a pie and mash shop for lunch. Amazingly cheap - pie and mash was 1.70; indeed, we all ate and drank for about 10!


Ria and Dave at Shadwell watching out for Mum on her second pass at this point!

Sandy was spotted on the return past Shadwell at the 22 mile point. She had now run further than on any of her training runs and she was tired. 

She had hit "The Wall" at about 17 miles and was now running through it and living off Dextrose tablets.

Sandy was now heading for the Tower of London and the Embankment - the last 4 miles!

Twenty miles gone - and getting really tired!

These showers were a recent innovation and much welcomed.

Sandy ran through one.

Geoff, Ria and Dave set off walking north to get to Whitechapel Underground Station from where they would be able to get to the end of the Marathon in The Mall. The area through which they had to walk was extremely run down and they found themselves inside a building site without ever noticing that they had left the proper route - that's how bad the area was! Ria was getting a little nervous and clearly thought that Geoff's plans were a little too perfect. 

"OK Geoff - so where's this Whitechapel Station?" 

she challenged.

"Over there on your left!" 

he said with undisguised relief because he knew exactly where he was.

Down into the station and a very slow trip to Westminster Station. So slow that they all thought Sandy would be waiting for ages for them to arrive. At Westminster, under the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, there were enormous crowds pressing hard to see the finishers - the stragglers by this stage. We desperately pushed to get through the mass. So bad was it that Dave suggested jumping over a wall and running. He could but not me!

Goal Achieved!

And looking in better condition than the exhausted runner on her left!

Eventually Geoff, Ria and Dave struggled to Horse Guards Parade where they hurried to a huge letter 'L' - under which was Sandy. She had finished, collected her medal and kit bag and arrived just before us.
A tearful reunion and a very proud mum - wearing her medal.
Sandy poses with her unofficial trainer and helper.

Her official time was given as 5 h 14 m 09 s - a very creditable performance!

It was then a bit of an anticlimax as we all had to get back to the Underground and travel like ordinary people - instead of a Superhero Athlete and supporters - back to Lee and the flat we were using. Sandy wore her medal all the way to the flat and this got her into conversation with others on the train.

The outcome of these long months of training and of the event itself was the raising over 1,000 for local charities and the huge sense of achievement for Sandy.

What next?

Another Marathon? Probably not - we will have to wait and see.





Geoff, being a Boring Old Scientist, had carefully recorded and analysed all Sandy's training runs. The chart below shows the time she took to complete every run as a function of length of run. It can be seen that for short runs she was averaging about ten minute miles which was a steady and sensible pace. For the longer runs the overall pace was down to twelve minute miles.

Geoff predicted, using the quadratic regression curve through the results, a Marathon time of 5 h 20 m. In fact, Sandy's time on the day was a five minutes quicker as shown by the filled red circle. Still a very close prediction however!

The chart below shows Sandy's actual progress during the Marathon run.

It can be seen that her speed was fairly steady. At the start she was running 12 minute miles and by the end she was down to 13 minute miles - hardly any difference.

Sandy's position in the Marathon was given as 5,471st. At first it was thought that this was her position overall - in the top 15% of all runners! However, it was realised later that she was ranked in that position relative to the women only. The above curves show the ranking plotted against time to complete the course with Sandy's time and position shown by the open circle.

This put Sandy just inside the slower half of women runners - but 41% of women were slower than her.