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Mini marathon report by Jeff Shotton

The mini marathon recently seems to be blessed with nice mornings, and this was not one to disappoint – with clear skies, a gentle breeze and weather almost breaking the teens (referring to the temperature in Celsius) . The ACTUAL breaking of the teens (i.e the juniors) happened at the 9am start.

This event first started in 1985, and was held the same day as the actual London Marathon, but since 2022 has been run on the Saturday a day before as a separate affair, and this year will see approximately 14000 children take part. There is an emphasis now on inclusion to allow younger runners to take part and hopefully encourage a new generation to partake in more physical activity. Organisation is excellent, with plenty of marshals to direct, security staff, amenities, and signage. There is a DJ/announcer to keep everyone informed and to schedule, and the music pumping while everyone is preparing.

Runners either enter through their school for the one mile ‘open’ event, or qualify for a championship spot. Each school is allowed up to 50 children and is open to all children aged 17 or under. The championship series is held over the final 2.6km of the London Marathon route, and is selective – each borough or region are allowed six children in each category. As you might imagine, this makes championship spots highly competitive. Each year Hillingdon AC will field several runners for the borough, and this year was no exception, with Rosie Bishop, Edey Kestell, Alastair Burton, Barnabe Lesenne-Ward, Lewis Wake, and Ryan Stoddart all securing the right and running for Hillingdon. Along with former club athletes Annabelle Shotton and Marcus Shotton. 

As per previous years, there were 3 age championship age groups for boys and girls, with the U13 consisting of Y7/Y8, U15 belonging to Y9/10 and U17 would come from Y11/12. While London boroughs are each allowed to field their own team of six per category, athletes travel from all over the UK. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland only have one team each – I can only imagine that competition for those places is incredibly fierce.

Next to the start line, the runners are corralled into holding pens for their championship group. Each of these is fizzing with energy as warm-ups are carried out and the athletes chatter excitedly amongst themselves. All runners within a single group wear the same colour shirt so it is very easy to identify where everyone needs to be. The groups are then called forwards in turn to the start line.

Then, for a moment in time, all is quiet. The only sounds coming from the occasional squeak of super-shoes as those wearing carbon plated racers (which appears to be most) adjust for balance and position. To have that many children gathered in one place, yet still be able to hear a pin drop (or shoe squeak), is a true testimony to the seriousness these future GB stars hold this event.

As the runners stand like statues, A lone photographer stands in the centre of the road, around 50m from the start and holding a camera with a lens more akin to a cannon than a Canon. Little does he seem to realise that a thunderous wave of children will reach him within ten seconds and trample him mercilessly underfoot.

Then comes the roar. Like a damn breaking, the flood charges forwards. The cameraman dives for cover. Anything remaining on the path would be swept aside by a torrent of determination as four hundred arms and legs whirl in a blur. As fast as it starts, it is all over again, with the last of the runners disappearing around the corner and into the distance.

As a spectator, unfortunately, this is the highlight. To reach the finish having witnessed the start, one would need to also be wearing a set of super-shoes and employ them vigorously towards the finish line. For most then, the next time their child is seen is walking nonchalantly from the tape up The Mall towards the district holding pens.

Ask how it went, and the tussle, struggles, gamesmanship, effort and sweat are all boiled down to one word. “Good”. Extracting more eloquence from this generation is a work in progress. Maybe I should have sent a whatsapp message instead. Instead, effort is judged by the pinkness of the cheeks and sweat on the brow. But let’s not fool ourselves – they all tried hard and did amazingly well.

Special mention must go to Barnabe Lessene-Ward, finishing 16th in the borough challenge (63rd overall) and in a time of 8 minutes 23 seconds. Congratulations!

U13 Boys- Alastair Burton 201st ,11:31

U15 Boys- Lewis Wake 153rd, 9:28; Marcus Shotton 178th, 9.48

U17 Boys- Ryan Stoddart 140th, 9:17

U13 Girls- Rosie Bishop 133rd, 11:26; Annabelle Shotton U13G, 196th, 12:55

U15 Girls- Edey Kestell 121st, 10:41

Full results available here : https://results.tcslondonmarathon.com/2024/minimarathon/?content=downloadable_files&action=download&id=28891