BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
For Terry Macey, living less than 500 metres from the start line meant there was no chance of escaping the first-ever London Marathon held on Sunday March 29, 1981. But the Blackheath resident would not have expected to still be running at the age of 71 in the global sporting event.
Due to the Covid-19 global outbreak the 40th race, which was due to take place on April 26, was moved back to October 4. It became apparent that one of the world’s biggest mass-participation races, with around 40,000 runners, could not take place.
Eventually, a decision was made for all the runners eligible to take part in a ‘virtual race’ with the 26.2 miles able to be run anytime on the day in as many segments as needed, and all entries for the original 2020 event given the chance to defer to 2021, 2022 or 2023.
The only runners who will be running officially on the course are the elite athletes who will race in a bio-secure closed-loop circuit around St James’s Park, finishing on The Mall, without spectators, after they were granted special permission by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) under strict guidelines.
The achievement of having run all previous 39 editions has seen solicitor Macey continue to be a member of the exclusive ‘Ever Presents’ club, a group originally set up with 46 runners in 1996 who had run every marathon up until then, and which now has dwindled to just 10.
They were recognised earlier this year with a ‘Spirit of The London Marathon Award’ at the London Marathon Events Limited office in Borough by Brasher.
Macey has to run the virtual edition to keep up his ‘ever-present’ status.
“I will start at about seven in the morning,” said Macey. “I will run to the traditional starting point, then follow the route to Woolwich and then to Greenwich. I will then go into Greenwich Park and do laps.”
What are your early memories of running?
“I’ve always run – cross-country at school, running in my army boots with the Territorial Army. Then, when I started working as a solicitor, I would run as a wind-down after work. I ran with Blackheath Harriers for quite a bit too, they were a terrific club.”
Why did you decide to enter the first edition?
“I think I read about it in the South London Press. I remember it being debated for quite a while, because the founders John Disley and Chris Brasher ran in the New York Marathon two years before and they came back full of enthusiasm.
“As I was already running – and with the first London Marathon coming right past my door – 400-500 metres from the start – there was very little chance I wouldn’t enter, as long as I could get a place. I was right up for it.”
Where did you live then?
“In Blackheath, where I still live and work. I started my solicitor’s practice in 1976 on Shooters Hill Road. I’ve been running around the park and the heath since 1976.”
How did you prepare for your first the London Marathon?
“I had never run the marathon distance before, but I was regularly doing a five or six mile wind-down in the evening. However, 26.2 miles was a bit of a step up, but I had plenty of time to do a few long runs and was very keen to do it. I did a couple of 15-milers and a half marathon race in training.”
What are your memories of the first one and what has changed?
“It was quite exciting in Blackheath as the barriers came up and roads were closed. The route was different to what it is now. We went through Southwark Park, over the cobbles at the Tower of London and finished on Constitution Hill.
“The real change that we’ve noticed is the Isle of Dogs. In 1981 it was completely deserted and derelict – and we ran quicker. We don’t go through Woolwich town centre but training-wise you do – that’s obviously completely different these days. Greenwich hasn’t changed much, which is terrific, but what has changed is that the Naval College has opened up and you can now walk or run through it.
“The other big change had been the supporters. In 1981 there weren’t all the supporters we get now. You may have had somebody leaning against every other lamppost giving us a bit of a clap. But it’s incredible the difference with all the people now.”
The Virgin Money London Marathon has many iconic landmarks along its route, especially in South London, do you use them to plot your course?
“Yes, you have marks on the route because it’s a good focus when you’re running. The first real marker for me is the roundabout by the Woolwich Ferry at about three miles, I’m conscious of that, so I think about that.
“My friends are marshals at the Blackwall Tunnel approach, which is at around five miles, so I’m looking forward to seeing them next. Then it’s Greenwich where I used to have a lot of friends who were marshals.
“After that, even though Surrey Quays is nice, it’s starting to get less comfortable and a bit tough. You get to Tower Bridge, but that’s the hard one as you come over and see the professionals going the other way to you, but I enjoy watching them anyway.
“I often have a friend at 17 miles, so that pushes me on, as after then it’s a real tough one to get back to Tower Bridge. But once you come back to it, it’s a nice loop straight to the finish.”
How does your body hold up? Have you had any major injuries or been close to not participating in, or completing, a marathon?
“Injuries are a big issue. There’s been lots of small injuries like little muscle tears in your calf, for instance, but you can run through those.
“One of the trickier injuries I had was when I had an ankle twist in the woods that got infected somehow. A local doctor who worked for Charlton Athletic at the time very kindly gave me a fairly deep injection that was a painkiller and steroid which resolved it and I could run on that, otherwise I would have been limping.
“In 2011 I was sparring in a local boxing gym – Gumshield in Eltham – and I broke my cruciate ligament. That was pretty painful at the time and it made my lower leg rather loose from my upper leg.
“I booked an appointment at Blackheath Hospital with Dr Kumar to repair it and when I was there, I told him I intended to do the marathon, so asked if he could operate afterwards. He said as it was completely torn, I wasn’t going to damage it anymore, so I did the marathon and the following week he repaired it extremely well. I’ve been running on it, without problem, for the last nine years.
What is it you like about running?
“The mental and physical sides. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to wind down after work like everybody else, so to get on my running kit takes three minutes, and then I’m out of the door. Work is behind me, I’m thinking about breathing, knee lift, running efficiency.
“Running has just been part of life really and continues to be. When I was running a lot, I did feel an addiction so much so that if I didn’t run, I would feel out of sorts. I would feel irritable, I would feel guilty. This was daily and now I think that it was marginally unhealthy. I don’t feel like that now.
“I run with my family a lot, I’ve run with my son Derek many times, he’s very keen on half marathons. My daughter is keen too – I’ve done three marathons with her, twice in London and once in Chicago. My daughter’s partner James overtook me at 20 miles in London once and I couldn’t catch him, but he made sure from about 100 metres behind me that I knew he was passing me.
“We all go out running together, not such great distances these days, three or four miles. It’s their own choice and they’ve made their own way.
“My daughter prepares breakfast at my house for quite a few people on the morning of the marathon. Some marshals come from the five mile point, and they get everything; sausage, bacon and eggs, but not for me, I’m on porridge, toast and banana”.
Running is now a multi-billion global industry and subculture, what do you think about that?
“It’s brilliant. There are things I greatly admire. Firstly, parkruns – we have the Greenwich Park Run in Avery Hill Park every Saturday morning and I run with them a bit. People enjoy it so much as there’s no pressure and you’re just conscious of how much everyone is improving. It’s terrific.
“The other thing that I think is wonderful is the number of women who are running, including those who run and train on their own. It’s really empowering. In 1981 running was very much a male ‘macho’ thing, but now there are almost as many female runners as male in the marathon.
When you look back at all your marathons is there one thing you’ve learnt about yourself?
“There are many things to learn from running. Firstly, you recognise that you have strengths and you have weaknesses. In running you’re often at the point where you feel weak and you realise your own vulnerability. It’s all on a knife-edge more or less.
“You learn persistence, you learn the importance of support, you learn about listening to your body and you learn about keeping a balance.”
Photos: Virgin Money London Marathon
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