Mark Armstrong: The 2021 race schedule just got less complicated

Runners make their way over the start line during the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Will the London Marathon start line look like this in October? - Credit: PA

My running year became a little clearer this week with the ballot results for the London Marathon out. 

I naively allowed myself to get slightly excited on Sunday evening at the prospect of getting in. 

Deep down, like a lot of runners, I knew what was coming. When the much-anticipated email dropped the next day with a link telling me that they’re ‘sorry’ that I hadn't been successful, it came as no surprise.. 

 I’m becoming something of an old hand when it comes to handling London rejection – this is the fifth year in a row that I’ve been missed out. 

It goes something like this... 

  1. Pure bitterness – how has <insert chosen name here> got in? He/she only started running three months ago! 

  1. Considered bitterness – why is there not a more advanced process whereby runners who have been rejected before are given more of a priority? 

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  1. Convince myself that I will chase a charity place instead. 

  1. Realise I haven’t got the time or desire to raise more than £2,000 for said charity place (although it could be a good home-school project for my daughter, Lara...) 

  1. Come to terms with the fact there are a lot of other races to run out there and my time to run London will arrive one day. 

All I would ask is that if you were someone who put in an application ‘for a laugh’ and got in then you respect it. There are hundreds of thousands of runners who are desperate for that London experience that know the commitment you need to tackle 26.2 miles. 

If you’re going to run it, run it in the best way you can and do the training. I’ve got absolutely no time for people who rock up on a marathon start line without doing what’s necessary to prepare their bodies for it. I know it’s hard enough when you have. 

So I’ve decided to chase a ‘Good For Age’ time... just kidding, I thought I’d put that in to frighten my coach Neil Featherby. I’d have to take more than an hour off my current personal best marathon time and I think it’s safe to say that’s not going to happen this year... maybe if it hadn’t snowed this week I’d have had a chance... 

In reality not getting into London has removed at least one complication to what is looking like a very busy end to the year running wise. 

It seems that every big event has banked on October being the month we can all be hoarded into pens on a start line where social distancing would be impossible.  

I’ve already got Run Norwich and the Manchester Marathon on the same day (October 10), so there is a decision to make there. My wife, Alison, is also running the Royal Parks Half Marathon on, you guessed it, October 10. 

I’m willing to bet the Run Anglia Facebook group is going to get pretty busy in terms of people wanting to ditch places at races as our path out of lockdown becomes clearer. 

I was asked the other day what I’m looking to achieve this year with my running and the honest answer is that I’m not sure. I don’t want to commit to a goal when there is still so much uncertainty around our path out of lockdown. 

There’s part of me that wants to have another go at a marathon in Manchester after the pig’s ear I made out of it in 2019. However, the thought of missing a Run Norwich event makes me sad. 

However, it’s a cause for optimism that runners are starting to think this way. It will be a joyous occasion on whatever start line you’re on when we can line up together with the only fear being whether you’re going to go off too fast. 

That will be a fine day... and it’s coming... but it won’t be at London this year for me.