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Virgin Money London Marathon: Our runners' stories

Georgie Fenn (Geography 2014-)

Georgie Fenn (Geography 2014-)

James Lewis

James Lewis (Aerospace Engineering 2015-)

Harry Collins (BSc 2009)

Harry Collins (BSc 2009)

13 May 2016

Huge congratulations to the five former and current Bristol students - Andrew, Georgie, Harry, James and Roshni - who completed the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon for the University's Cancer Research Fund on Sunday 24 April.

So far, the team has raised more than £11,500 between them for Bristol's Cancer Research Fund – to help scientists here at the University pioneer important research breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. Thank you!

We would also like to extend an extra special thank you to Andrew Burton (BA 1988) who has already raised nearly £6,000 and continues to support Bristol as he targets a 90-mile bike race in Italy in July!

Here, Georgie and Harry tell us their race-day stories.

Georgie Fenn (Geography 2014-)

'The London Marathon truly is a remarkable experience and I had such a fantastic day. The crowds were so encouraging all the way around which made the atmosphere electric, not to mention the quantity of runners of every ages and shapes all pulling together to take on 26.2 miles.

'Not only was I incredibly humbled to take part in such a huge fundraising event, but it was also great to run and know that every step I took would make a difference to such a good cause. Mile 22 was really hard for me, but knowing the charity would benefit from my effort really helped focus me and keep me going!

'I managed to beat my time from last year by just over 25 minutes and finished in 3:06, which made the day even more special. Considering all of this, and despite the blisters and slight leg injury, I certainly will look back on the day with huge fondness.'

Donate via Georgie's JustGiving page

James Lewis (Aerospace Engineering 2015-)

'The Virgin Money London Marathon was an amazing experience and I expect to be back again soon! All the donations and messages of support I had received before the event were a big help on the day, and the crowd was amazing from the start, especially the pop-up DJ blasting out the tunes from his balcony and all the people cheering my name throughout the race.

'The start was the most important part of the run as I had to keep my pace steady which isn't easy. As the race progressed, I soon found my groove and stumbled across the pace-makers for a 3:15 finish. This was great as it allowed me to to properly settle into the run and start to enjoy the atmosphere more. Just after Cutty Sark, I was able to see my parents cheering me on. At Tower Bridge my legs were feeling good so I started to move away from the pace-makers. I kept trying to hit the time goals I had set for each 5K and this really helped. Once I reached the hour-to-go mark everything seemed like it was going great!

'Running along Embankment was going well until about Mile 24. At this point things started to really hurt and I could feel my muscles were at their limit. Soon though, I was rounding the corner into The Mall and crossing the finishline. The feeling of finishing was completely surreal. All the training I’d put in had culminated in running 26.2 miles through London and I knew this was something I definitely want to do again.'

Donate via James' JustGiving page

Harry Collins (BSc 2009)

'Training for and competing in the marathon was without doubt one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. The challenge of running further and further while being able to monitor my progress was incredibly exciting. Indeed I think I spent more time thinking about/reading about/talking about running than I actually did running!

'As much as I enjoyed the running, without doubt the best part was being able to raise money for a course that I care dearly about. The challenge of fundraising and the buzz of knowing that each donation that you receive is making a difference is amazing and I am extremely proud to have been able to raise money for the fund.

'The actual race was really tough but the atmosphere was phenomenal. Having people screaming my name for 26 miles is not something that I've experienced before - I think we all felt like minor sport stars for a day! For me the three miles from 17 to 20 were the hardest, but once we turned for home after Canary Warf, I knew I was going to make it and was able to (kind of) enjoy the long straight run home to Westminster!'

Donate via Harry's JustGiving page

Andrew Burton (BA 1988)

'After three weeks of tapering, I approached the big day with increasingly feverish anticipation.  I was missing the training and ready for action!  Perhaps too ready, as on the morning of the race, buoyed by the support of family and friends, I became confident and decided to attack the first half of the race to aim for the better end of my 4:00 - 4:30 time target.

'By halfway, at Tower Hill, all was looking good as I crossed at just under 2:00, but as the long turn into the Docklands started to unwind the tiredness began to set in and I felt my pace dipping.  Coming into Canary Wharf was a boost - the streets there were lined with supporters and the Bristol vest emblazoned with my name provoked repeated shouts of ‘Come on Andy!’ (though I suspect there were a few Andys racing together at this point). 

'Leaving Canary Wharf after 18 or so miles was when the enormity of the distance of my first marathon sunk in.  The cold northerly wind seemed to pick up for the stretch on the elevated road section and as my legs were growing heavier, the hamstrings started to twinge with the first signs of cramp.  

'At Mile 21 the right hamstring said it had had enough and as I pulled up at the side to stretch it out, it spasmed.  Leaning against the barriers, I stretched it as best I could, gratefully consumed the last remaining contents of a bottle of water of the concerned spectator in front of me and then set-off again, gingerly at first and then assuming a steady, but reduced pace.  The next two miles through Limehouse were the worst.

'At Mile 23 I disappeared under the Blackfriars Underpass and found respite from the baying of the crowd.  Draining a drink (was it Lucozade or water? I cannot remember) while walking a section, I emerged from the tunnel reinvigorated for the final denouement.  I picked up the pace again, faster, shorter strides to avoid the recurrence of the hamstring trouble and began scouring the crowd for my friend Clive, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, who said he would watch ‘from the Embankment’.  Well, the Embankment was long and wide and I never saw Clive, but lifting my focus to the crowd and away from the increasing agony screaming in my legs, I was able to drive to the final section along St. James Park where my family were going to be.

'And so my earnest scouring of faces in the crowd continued as my legs screamed on.  Yet I reached the turn into Buckingham Palace and saw no sight of my family - where were they?!  Then the 4:30 pacer went past me - oh no! - I faced being outside my target range!!  So from somewhere deep came the roar, and those legs began a desperate attempt to pass the 4:30 pacer.  And then the family were there in the Grandstand on the Mall, cheering and on their feet.  We had only had two tickets (thank you Bristol!), but the attendant had let them all in, and with that my sprint to the line became fuel-injected, the 4:30 pacer was left for dust and I finished with 4:30:00 dead, resuming my position at the start four-and-half-hours ago, 10 metres in front of the 4:30 pacer.'

Donate via Andrew's SponsorMe page

Further information

The University of Bristol Cancer Research Fund awards pump-priming grants to help promising young cancer researchers get their ideas off the ground, supported by donations from alumni and friends. The fund also relies on the enthusiasm and stamina of alumni who apply to run the Virgin Money London Marathon. Since 2003, 58 runners have raised more than £160,000 for the fund – money that has helped scientists working in a broad range of areas, from examining new biomarkers in cancerous cells to improving patient support. 

If you'd like to support this vital work, you can either make a gift online or via the runners' individual fundraising pages:

Thank you for your support.