Saluting the region's marathon runners

HELEN Decker defied the energy-sapping heat to post another personal best time at Sunday's 27th Flora London Marathon.Decker, of Ipswich Jaffa, had set a club record in London the previous year, with an effort of 2hrs 56mins 56secs, but that was always in danger.

By Carl Marston

HELEN Decker defied the energy-sapping heat to post another personal best time at Sunday's 27th Flora London Marathon.

Decker, of Ipswich Jaffa, had set a club record in London the previous year, with an effort of 2hrs 56mins 56secs, but that was always in danger.

While many others wilted in the warm spring sunshine, Suffolk's leading lady produced another gutsy run around the 26.2-mile course to clip a further 20 seconds off the Jaffa landmark.

Times were generally slower, amongst the hundreds of runners from Suffolk and Essex who made the journey down to the Capital to toe the line at Blackheath and Greenwich Park.

Decker slowed during the closing miles, but the 27-year-old summoned up a late sprint along the Mall to record an excellent 2.56.36. She was the 42nd lady, and 13th in her age group, as opposed to 49th and 17th in these categories last year.

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“I'm blown away to get another PB, especially considering the conditions,” said Decker.

“In the end, I got there by the skin of my teeth. It was baking hot and I had to readjust my race-plan after 17 or 18 miles, because I thought it was going to all go wrong. The heat was getting to me, as it did to all the other ladies I was running alongside.

“I had to hang on during the last couple of miles, and then sprint the final 600 metres. They were the longest 600 metres of my life! I could see the clock ticking away.

“I started with the elite ladies at 9am, at which point it was already 15 degrees. It felt very warm, and I reckon the conditions cost me three or four minutes on the day. I was drinking water at every drinks station,” added Decker.

As usual, every runner had a different story to tell. Mac Speake, the semi-retired doctor from Kettlebaston who has completed every single London Marathon, rattled up No. 27 on Sunday, despite some recent back problems. He was 51st in his over-65 age group.

His eldest son, Will Speake, has been hampered by arthritis over the last year. But the former Bury 20-mile champion still registered an impressive 2.33.59, to finish 54th overall and 14th in his over-35 section.

As expected, experienced marathon runne, David Reed led home the contingent from Saint Edmund Pacers. Flying postman Reed did not threaten his PB of 2.37.41 from 12 months ago, but he still managed 2.44.13 to finish a fine eighth amongst the over-45 veterans.

“It was the hottest marathon that I've ever run, and I suffered a bit late on,” admitted Reed.

Fellow Pacer Alan Dawson was 29th in his over-50 section with 2.58.02, thanks to a strong second half of the race, although Les Heath had to pull out after 11 miles due to bad blisters.

That ailment also severely affected the performance of David Miller. The Woodbridge Shuffler was more than an hour down on his PB, having abandoned his race plan within a few miles of the start.

Miller revealed: “My feet were badly blistered by five miles, and by 10 miles I was really struggling. So I decided to jog the rest of the way and soak up the atmosphere.”

Fellow Woodbridge Shuffler, Diane Pamplin, was a fantastic fifth overall in her over-55 age category, thanks to a swift 3.41.44.

Springfield Striders manned their usual drinks station at half-way, just after Tower Bridge, and their experience reflected the amount of water consumed by the 36,500-strong field.

Each water station was given 28,500 bottles of water to distribute, but their supplies had run out before the tail-enders reached halfway.

The Striders also had 45 runners in action, with seven of them posting PBs. Paul Molyneux was their star performer with a sparkling 2.36.03, followed by Gary Chandler (2.40.46). Sarah Colbert ran a PB in fancy-dress, as a nurse!

In addition to Decker, the Jaffa duo of Matt Canham and Robin Belsom set new landmarks, while Ray Hill was the 29th over-55 veteran to finish in 3.12.46.

Paul Holley (2.52.03) flew the flag for Newmarket Joggers, and the duo of Dave Comish (3.18.50) and Laura Shewbridge (4.15.51) both ran PBs in the colours of Tiptree Road Runners.

Fred Uff, a 74-year-old from Framlingham Flyers, was 25th in his age group with 4.44.51, and marathon centurions Phil Nutley and Andy Wilmot (Halstead Road Runners) both boosted their overall totals. Nutley, of the Pacers, has now completed a remarkable 455 marathons.

Allen Smalls, who prefers even longer distances - he is in training for the West Highland Way race (95 miles) - was the first finisher from Colchester Harriers in 2.44.52. A heavy race-schedule over the last few weeks certainly took their toll. Fellow Harrier Amy Morrison impressed with 3.34.36.

Colchester & Tendring AC, a partner club of the London Marathon, were well represented, although the hot sunshine also affected their runners.

Grace Harvey clocked an eye-catching 3.15.34 in her first marathon, although she confessed: “It was a nightmare. I kept getting cramp, but at least I made it!”

The CATs also had competitors in the supporting London Mini Marathon, a 2.62-mile event for under-16s. David Gibbon was 23rd in 13.30, with Oli Jennings not far behind with 13.54 in 53rd slot. Alex Gladley was 63rd in 14.20. In the girls' race, Laura Hillyard was 52nd in 16.36.

Colchester Harrier Stacey Wheat, a student at the Colchester Sixth Form College, was also selected for the Essex team in the mini-marathon. She clocked 16.18 and also raised £370 for the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

n Brian Alldis set a personal best time of 1hr 44mins 31secs in the wheelchair event at the London Marathon on Sunday. Alldis, of Bury St Edmunds, knocked three minutes off his PB on his way to a fine sixth spot. He also set PBs at the recent Reading Half-Marathon and Redcar 10K.

Alldis has been selected to represent Great Britain at the Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester next month where his coach, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, will end her racing career.

The full round-up of local runners' results is in Tuesday's EADT.

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