Is it really possible?

Following on from the annual "I didn't get into VLM, it's soooo difficult" theads, I was wondering how possible the good for age entry is for a below average runner like me.

Several people had replied on the threads that all you have to do is train harder and get the GFA but is this really possible? Is eveyone capable of the times as long as they train enough?

I'll use myself as an example although I'm not about to try it (I'll keep entering the ballot, after all, filling in a form once a year really isn't as arduous as some seem to find it).

I am 30 so SF category. I have been running for 2 years and been a member of a running club for a year.

I run 4 times a week and swim once or twice.

The longest distance I have run is 14 miles, the longest race a half marathon.

I am getting better and managed a run of 19 races where I got a PB in each one over lots of different distance so I AM improving.


5k 26.09

4m 33.16

10k 54.39

half 2:15 (although doing another one in 3 weeks and hoping to get 7-10 mins off that)


As I said, I don't want a training plan, I was just using myself as an example. I can't see how I could go from where I am now to a sub 3 marathon. Is it really possible??



  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    Why do you have to do a sub 3 marathon?  I think the fastest category is 18-39 Male which is 3.10.

    What is GFA time you are trying to achieve.

    I have gone from non-runner (keen rugby player) to GFA 3.07 in just over 3 years of running so its not impossible to late starters. I didn`t take up running until after my 31st Birthday.

  • I did just check the VLM website. Not sure where I for sub 3 from, must have made it up!

    For me, a GFA time would be sub 3.50. No where near as fast as I thought.

    I'm not trying to achieve this, I haven't even run a marathon. I'm just interested in whether everyone is capable of achieving this with some hard training and patience of if there are some people who will never get there.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    If you put your mind to it and work reasonably hard then 3.50 seems vey attainable.

  • I think there will be a small proportion of people who will never be able to achieve a GFA time, because of some congenital problem, or physical impairment. For the remainder I think it's possible, but what varies is the amount of effort needed to make your body adapt to the training. I'm sure some people could run a GFA time straight out of the blocks, whilst for others, even with supreme dedication it will take years, because their body adapts more slowly to the training. It's a continuum, and you won't know where you sit along this line until you try, which is half the fun.

  • I believe the ladies times are a lot more acheivable than the guys.


    A GFA is just so close for me (3:50 vs my best of 3.56) - If I could  just shift half a stone I am sure I could do it.  I still live in hope that Ironman training will help improve my running.  It has taken me many years of hard work to get a paltry sub 4 however.

  • The targets for females runners are easy to meet, not so for rthe men. Though of course men tend to run faster than women anyway.

    I don't know what the wava would be, maybe compare that to see if the times are comprable.

    I guess as everyone points out, it's good for age, not avarage for age so it should take hard work and training.

    I'm at the top end in age terms and the fast end in time terms so I personally found it easy.

    Age 18 - 49 3.15 - 3.50
  • Womens sub 3:50 for a 30 yo is wava equivalent of about 58%

    Men's sub 3:10 for a 30 yo bloke is wava equivalent of about 68%

    Big difference

  • I'm a relative novice and still at the stage where every race is a pb, so maybe a bit cocky, but I would like to think I could achieve gfa if I put the effort in.

    Ms D did it a couple of years ago which would provide additional motivation for me.
  • London Marathons GFA times.

    Age %
    18 68%
    39 68%
    40 67%
    59 77%
    60 72%
    64 75%

    Age %
    18 61%
    35 60%
    49 67%
    50 65%
    54 67%
    55 64%
    59 66%

  • it's a kind of weighted average, allowing for age, to allow comparisons between runners of different ages.

  • what i don't understand is why there is a lower threshold for females (it's printed 3:15 to 3:50)

    Do they differenciate between female runners who have qualifying times either side of 3:15?

  • Sub 3.15 is championship as opposed to "good" for age

  • ok, newbie question, what's championship?

  • I usually hate it when people casually state fast times and say "any" person of a certain age can hit them "with years of the right serious training", as it's that last quoted line that's the hard bit!

    However, the London GFA are pretty achievable. As per Piers' table, women don't have to get above 67% WAVA when 70-80% is considered "regional class". The men have to get all the way up to 77%, which is approaching 80%, considered "national class".

    There's a huge difference between GFA and Championship though. 3:10 v 2:45 for a man. You can also get a sub 1hr 15 to get in that way. They don't do an equivalent GFA half marathon option, as the amount of men getting a say, sub 1hr 30 half would be huge 

  • If you are a woman the "championship" race is started 30 minutes before the main race (so that the women can't be paced by men). You get treated a bit like a VIP. However it can be very lonely at the back of the ladies championship race and probably demoralising as the leading men zip past you at about 20 mile mark

  • ah ok, thanks for the info. didn't really know about championship standard before. i guess it's a way to bridge the gap between elites and good amateurs.

  • I know I'll get flamed but sub 3:15 for a woman is nowhere near elite, it's a good club runners time approx 70% on the wava standards.

    That's why I have recommended that women who are only just championship standard don't do it at VLM as it's a lonely race, you run virtually the whole race literally on your own.

  • Surely using the wava percentage scores they could set a GFA time for each age category for both men and women that would be fair, 65% for example.
  • The GFA and championship times for both genders and age groups are all set to fill quotas. If the women's times were set as harsh as the men's the numbers would drop hugely, which would cause a big imbalance.

    However, when you check the current world records, it's men  2:03 v women 2:15.

    So 12mins difference at the very top, yet women are afforded 30mins more than men for the championship start, and even more for the GFA.

    That 2:15 was run by Paula Radliffe in 2003, and noone has come within 2mins and 55ish secs since, in 9 years. If that had been a Chinese woman, or a different nationality with a history of doping, I think the media would have been all over it, suggesting all sorts.

    Compare it to other long lasting world records, like the 1500 and 3k for women, both set by Chinese athletes. Noone has come close to the times in 20years! Yet the runner involved never failed a drugs test.  Instead she underwent incredible training and took on wacky substances like "turtle blood", yet the stain of doubt is always on her as China were found gulity of other doping at the time, along with her own coach!

    Back on the marathon, I know a 2:42 woman. Now that's pretty fast, probably top 15 in the country for women.

    However, she's still a good 20mins off elite pace. So wouldn't start along side them, so would have the lonely run Piers suggests.

  • Otter wrote (see)
    Surely using the wava percentage scores they could set a GFA time for each age category for both men and women that would be fair, 65% for example.

    Set it too low, and too many men will qualify.

    Set it too high, and not enough women will qualify.

    It's on quotas, so the scores have to be more weighted in favour of women.

  • Otter,

    There's a problem for VLM, the vast majority of endurance runners are middle aged men. If they set the "good" for age at 65% you would fill the event with 40 yo blokes like me!

    VLM don't want that, they want first time charadee runners and sub 35 yo women.

    If they set the good for age at 70% which is a true "good" standard there would be alot fewer women.

    VLM is a marketing and money making exercise; it stopped being an athletics event year's ago.

  • I thought good for age for an under 40 was sub 2:45 - When I was running marathons and a non vet it was sub 2:40!! missed it by a minute in 1989!!! 3 hours is still for me the benchmark =but the post above sums it - apart from the elite it is not an athletic event just a fun run for charity runners - (sorry)

  • Can't believe that Grendel, surely that's the championship start you're thinking about.

  • Stevie - I think Grendel is probably right. I have only qualified for GFA times recently, I certainly didnt get any automatic entry for times of 2:48/2:51/2:52 in the 80s/90s.

    Championship qualifying was probably more like 2:20 then.

  • All i can say in that case is thank fudge i wasn't running in those days  image

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Even though the VLM does appear to have evolved into a fund raising carnival, the GFA qualification does at least allow some participants the possibility of believing they are actually in a road race. 

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    The London Marathon is a ''proper race'' in more respects than some people appreciate.  As well as being a very nice pay day for a few elites, it's also the England Athletics championship race, and the Southern Athletics Association championship.  I didn't even know about the final one myself until a bunch of medals finally came through the post a few weeks ago, since our club came 2nd.  image

  • It's too withering an attack on London to say it's only a proper race for elites.

    Championship start runners aren't elites, and you can't tell me that guys who ar sub 2hr 45 aren't taking part in an athletic event!

    You probably wouldn't tell guys after sub 3 hours that they're just in a glorified fun run either image

  • London Marathon not a "proper race" .............hhhhhmmmmmm What's the definition of a proper race!!!

    6 of the 10 fastest marathon times in my category this year were set at London (MV55) according to RunBritain rankings.

    The worlds best runners are competing with you in the same race.

    It is one of the 5 World Marathon Majors.

    Hundreds of thousands of supporters cheering you all the way.

    Certainly feels like a race to me - but whether it feels like a race is probably got more to do with the individual than the race.

    It was my first marathon at 50 only having been running for about a year. I have done it six out of the last 7 years and pb'ed 5 times - if only I'd known I wasn't in a proper race!!!

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