Returning runners praise London Marathon’s ‘brilliant’ back-of-the-pack changes

Runners who witnessed abuse and saw the 2019 London Marathon clean-up begin around them have praised organisers after changes were made to benefit slower participants.

One runner described how she suffered intimidation from clean-up teams who nudged her with their vehicles, saying she was also “sprayed with chemicals and water”.

Among the changes for the 2020 race, a bus with a DJ will drive behind the Tailwalkers to maintain atmosphere while Virgin Money Angels will offer help to those who need it.

Event photographers will also stay in place for late finishers while anyone who falls behind the eight-hour pace will have a Tailwalker with them until the end.

Kerrie Aldridge, 40, from Cardiff, was one of those who witnessed runners being called “too fat” in 2019 and said that from three miles in, the “clean-up crews were on our tails” during what she described as “a pretty lonely experience”.

Kerrie Aldridge, who witnessed abuse during the 2019 London Marathon, running
Kerrie Aldridge (Alex McGrath/PA)

Despite that, Ms Aldridge will be returning to run this year’s race and has been encouraged by the response to last year’s events.

“It’s amazing,” she told the PA news agency. “(They) have shown that they have listened to the experiences of the back-of-the-pack runners and have looked creatively at solutions.

“The response I have had on social media since the emails went out has been amazing, with people thanking me for speaking out. The proof will come on the day but I’m hopeful.”

In particular Ms Aldridge was pleased with the DJ bus as well as the additional support offered, saying: “It gets really lonely out there when you are running for hours on your own.”

Liz Ayres, 46, from London, ran as a pacer in 2019, asked to run to a 7.5 hour finish while providing moral support to those around her.

Liz Ayres, who ran as a pacer during the 2019 London Marathon
Liz Ayres (Lizzie Butler/PA)

Ms Ayres told PA that she was “told to hurry up despite sticking to my official pace” and also said she was sprayed with chemicals and water as well as being nudged by clean-up teams’ vehicles.

She has since campaigned to give a voice to the runners around her, and said that the changes enacted by the race organisers meant that it “had been worth the fight.”

“They (the changes) are brilliant and fully address all the issues we raised,” she said.

“Everything that the front and mid pack receive as the norm will now be there for the back of the pack. All runners will be treated equally and that’s all we asked for.

“There’s still a lot of work in general to ensure the back of the pack are treated equally, but in this case London Marathon have got it right.”

Both Ms Aldridge and Ms Ayres said they were offered apology places for this year’s event after their experiences.

Hugh Brasher, event director for the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “We have worked very hard over the past months to put in place these plans that ensure that runners at the back of the pack have the best possible experience on the day.

“We’d like to thank the back of the pack runners from 2019 who shared their experiences with us and the working group that helped us come up with these ideas.”

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