Roger Griffin’s London Marathons

My father was a lifelong amateur runner. He began taking part in the London Marathon when he was aged 60, and ran it on eleven occasions; this was to have been the sole topic of this page, however he actually did much more running than that — so this page’s scope is expanded to cover some of his other runs too.

Last modified on 2023 October 4

[PHOTO: Roger Griffin after the 1996 LM: 50kB]

Above: Roger in The Mall after completing his first London Marathon, on 21 April 1996. He looks so fresh as if he has scarcely run at all! Although he came in just on 3h30m, he had been aiming for 3h20m but (as my contemporary diary records it) seems put out by not having managed to maintain his planned pace all the way to the end; during my phonecall with him that night I had to try and cheer him up over it.

From a 2014 email: The first time I did it, in 1996, I *thought* I could run 7:30 a mile, and did so for two hours, but then I absolutely couldn’t keep it up, and the last part became *very* difficult because I had not admitted soon enough that I would have to slow down!

Roger’s marathon-running

This page was born from the data in the table below, which were originally the fruit of a data-gathering exercise shortly after Roger’s death in order that we could establish how many London Marathons he had run; such data were not kept methodically kept — except in his head — so some detective work had been required.

In addition to these London Marathons, Roger ran in just two other marathon races, so far as we know: the Potteries Marathon in Stoke-on-Trent, on Sunday 20 June 1999 (on a hilly course, he clocked what was then his PB of 3h29m, which he would better only in the following year’s London); and the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham on Sunday 11 September 2005 (3h42m).

[PHOTO: Roger running in the 2002 London Marathon: 38kB]

Above: Roger at Westferry Circus during his 2002 London Marathon. I had discovered in 2000 that this was a good vantage-point through relative absence of crowds, meaning there was space and time for Roger to pull over briefly if he wanted to.

The Otmoor Challenge

Roger took part in at least 10 instances of The Otmoor Challenge, between 1992 and 2007 inclusive; it takes place annually in June a few miles to the north-east of Oxford, and comprises a 13-mile somewhat hilly route. From the partial results I can find, he achieved 1h31m in 1996, 1h36m in 1999, 1h31m again in 2001, 1h40m in 2003, 1h41m in 2005, and 1h44m in 2006.

[PHOTO: Souvenir mugs: 37kB]

Above: Roger’s collection of souvenir mugs from the Otmoor Challenge.

Roger’s other runs and races, and the Boundary Run

Roger was also the ‘first finisher’ in the 1966 (sic) Cambridge Boundary Run, an annual marathon-distance jog around the perimeter of the City of Cambridge in which he partook on (he reckoned) 16 occasions [this was up to April 2004, and we know he ran it in at least 2006 too]; but at the time this was not regarded as a race. However, the fact that Roger, an ‘unknown’, finished ahead of everyone else — including Scottish International runner Alasdair Heron who had claimed beforehand that I shall be leading! — did cause its organising club the Hare & Hounds to make sure some of its members ran in it thereafter to ensure they ‘won’ it! Roger tells the details of this story in a 2004 email of personal reminiscences which has been saved for interest here.

[Roger’s diary, Monday 7 March 1966: Boundary run in afternoon; was first back in field of 104.]

He took part in various other events and races, including (at one day’s notice) the Bury 20 in Bury St. Edmunds on Saturday 27 February 1999 (completed in 2h33m), the Grunty Fen Marathon in at least 2006, as well as several sponsored runs:

Training runs

[PHOTO: Roger crossing the finish line: 56kB]

Above: Training pays off! This is the moment that Roger set his all-time Personal Best, on 16 April 2000 at his second London Marathon.

Naturally, this page has a tendency to focus on the competitive events and public-facing accomplishments of Roger’s running. But in order to achieve those, a considerable amount of training was required. In actual fact, Roger loved running purely for its own sake, and rarely ‘forced himself’ to go out if the weather or his mood discouraged it. He also relied somewhat upon natural talent, and did not work as hard on training as the experts would imply that a Marathon entrant ought to do.

His favourite route (about 8 miles) was from St. John’s College, across Midsummer Common and beside the River Cam through Ditton Meadows to Baits Bite Lock, crossing the river there to return on the western side. An extended version of this run, to Clayhithe, he did quite often too. When seeking a more vigorous training he would sometimes run to Ely or to Huntingdon, each of the order of 20 miles away.

We know that he also sometimes ran to Royston; he sought out other destinations of interest from time to time, such as this example from October 2007 when he emailed me with an account of his long-sought achievement of reaching Rivey Hill, Linton.

Cambridge University Hare & Hounds

Roger mostly ran alone, right from his school days. But in late 1995 or soon after, he joined his University’s running club, the Hare & Hounds. He subsequently admitted in 2004 that he had been rather stupid not to join it until after I was 60!. He ran with them, typically on the Sunday ‘easy runs’, the ‘tea runs’, and sometimes in competitive events such as the Chariots of Fire races. An email from 2005 refers to (among other running activities) how he was in devastating form and got his C-team ahead of the B-team!

Roger also led runners one-quarter of his age on midnight runs to Grantchester under the light of the full moon!

Roger’s London Marathon results

Roger started and finished 11 London Marathons.

[PHOTO: Roger running at the Embankment: 54kB]

Above: Roger nearing the completion of his tenth London Marathon, in 2011. I was positioned on Waterloo Bridge (with about 500 other people vying for the same vantage-point), and although Roger is apparently waving to me from the Embankment he could of course not see me among the throng — but had remembered to wave as if seeing me anyway!

Year # Age (years) Race Time Comments Reference/Proof
1996 1 60 3h30m05s Disappointed, as he was aiming for 3h20m. Travelling to OHP early next day. personalised results-sheet from Champion Chip
1997 61 Injured
1998 62 Injured
1999 63 Was not selected in the ballot; went observing at the DAO; ran 3h29m PB in the Potteries Marathon instead.
2000 2 64 3h24m36s Personal Best. “Only ran it once before”; was aiming for 3h28m to beat his PB, but had factored in a one-minute walk per mile for the final 6 miles, but in the end forced himself to keep going and so made up 4 mins extra. I accompanied him from & to Cambridge. “3h24m32s” on “running records” post-it note, but “3h24m36s” on official result slip
2001 65 On a cruise
2002 3 66 3h30m42s 15th in category M65 official result slip
2003 4 67 3h36m04s Trains from Cambridge were disrupted, had to run to the start as starting-gun was fired. official result slip (but ‘gun time’ of 3h38m39s). See this cutting from the front page of the next day’s Cambridge Evening News, ‘Fellow polishes off fourth marathon’.
2004 68 Leg injury
2005 69 In Sinai; also, clocked 3h42m in the Robin Hood Marathon to restore his ‘good for age’ qualification and thus regain automatic entry to next year’s London.
2006 5 70 3h33m10s 2nd in category M70 official result slip
2007 6 71 3h39m12s 2nd in category M70 official result slip
2008 7 72 3h43m44s Finished just ahead of Gordon Ramsay (see photo!) official result slip
2009 8 73 3h49m04s “My eighth” LM; “tore calf muscle at mile 8”, 3rd in M70 Results output from LM website
2010 9 74 3h57m08s “Despite gammy leg”, read 1st lesson in Chapel afterwards Results output from LM Website
2011 10 75 3h53m25s 4th in M70, no worse than 2nd in fictitious category “M75”; I drove him from Cambridge Results output from LM Website
2012 76 Withdrew with calf-injury. “had run it in each of the last 6 years, since I was 70”
2013 77 Withdrew — cardiologist advice — atrial fibrillation
2014 11 78 4h48m10s Despite injury. Told everyone at Excel “I’ll be 80 next year”! Results output from LM Website
2015 79 “I do not feel up to it this year”
2016 80 “Did not run” / “did not register on any of the previous 4 days”
[PHOTO: Signing on for the 2014 Marathon: 42kB]

Above: I accompanied Roger to the Excel Exhibition Centre in Docklands on the Friday before his last London Marathon, in April 2014. Ever the competitor, he had deliberately avoided having a haircut so that his white hair would be more visible; and although he was aged 78, he would be 79 in August of that year. So, to everyone he met (including Bruce Tulloh and 1983 winner Mike Gratton, with both of whom he’d trained in The Algarve, Portugal, and to whom he introduced me), he claimed, I’ll be 80 next year, which was both perfectly true, and intentionally misleading!

[PHOTO: After the 2014 Marathon: 31kB]

Below: As late as Wednesday night before the race he was on the verge of not starting because of having developed a bad knee overnight. But in the end, despite his injury, and despite having to walk quite a bit of this race, he finished well within 5 hours — but grumbled about it being his Personal Worst!