You may remember my viral videos and photos – and the intense news coverage that followed – of London Marathon participants being sprayed as they navigated their way around course.
In the video, you can also see that I have an intimidating, large orange cleaning vehicle right behind me covering me with goodness knows what.
For seven and a half hours over 26.2 miles, the runners were told numerous times they were ‘too fat’ or ‘too slow’, dodged cleanup vehicles, received no water and were sprayed with water and detergents.
It was completely demoralising and hurtful – so I blew the whistle on ‘everybody’s race’ and shared the videos on social media.
As an official race pacer I am assigned a time to complete the course in and runners who have a specific finish time in mind will join me. We also try to motivate and support our group of runners to keep them going over the distance. I’m definitely not supposed to be abused or intimidated either.
On race day many of my pace group were forced to fall further behind because of clean up vehicles blocking our way and separating us.
Some of my group quit mid-race because the intense pressure and continuous abuse was too much for them and a few were injured by vehicles.
They weren’t ‘too slow’, they weren’t being allowed to proceed unhindered!
The abuse was heartbreaking and happened constantly. I began to get angry by everything going on and by halfway I was close to taking down my pacer flag and quitting the course.
Every single one of those runners with me was still moving forward, they wanted to get to that finish line so I couldn’t leave them to face the problems alone.
In the latter miles, timing mats were removed so no-one could track us and know where we were. Can you imagine how nerve-wracking that was for families who may now be worried something awful has happened? You see it in the news all the time about runners needing serious medical assistance.
London Marathon investigated after my original online post went viral and apologies were made to the runners. The group has also been guaranteed a spot in next year’s marathon.
I hope that this investigation will help address the issues we faced – such as bullying and fatphobia – and I look forward to seeing the proposed changes implemented. I’ll also be involved with the consultation group being set up to improve the experience at the back.
The online vitriol towards the back runners since the issues hit the media was bad enough but now it’s worse that the runners have got places for next year. They are still being accused of being ‘too fat’ and ‘too slow’ yet they finished a marathon!
Speed is relative, we are all faster than someone and slower than others. Sir Mo Farah is a huge advocate of getting people out and running regardless of age, pace or size.
The vast majority of all runners at Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 made it to the finish within time, the cut off point London marathon events decided was good enough so that anyone could take part in ‘everybody’s race’.
There is nothing in the rules that state you must run it all or that you must run it at a certain pace, you can even walk it if you feel like it, just make the cut-off.
But why on earth does it matter what size these runners are or what pace they run?
Those who are deemed ‘plus size’ are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Stay in doing nothing and they are ‘supposedly’ a drain on the NHS, yet if they go out and run they still get abused.
Size and speed is not an indicator of whether you can run or not. Some of us don’t want to be elite runners… we run to be fitter, for our mental health, for enjoyment, we run because we can and we want to!
Running 26.2 miles is far from easy no matter your speed and the back of the pack runners will be on their feet much longer than most, that takes an extraordinary amount of willpower and determination that cannot be rivalled.
This is why I volunteered to pace at the back, to give these amazing runners support and maybe a little fun along the way, to show them they still count.
Despite what you see on the TV during athletics season, runners come in all shapes and sizes.
If you put on your trainers and go for a run then you’re a runner, why is that so hard for a lot of people to accept?
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