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Athletes lament experience at London marathon

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Athletes competing at the London Marathon

One of the official pacers at the London Marathon has said she and fellow runners were treated “horrifically” during the race.

Liz Ayres was asked to run the course in 7.5 hours to aid participants.

She said runners were called “fat” and “slow” by contractors and volunteer marshals – and one woman received chemical burns from the clean-up operation that began around them.

Marathon organisers said they were “very sorry to hear” of her experience.

Like many other marathons, London asks volunteers to run at specific paces during the race as a timing aid for those participating.

This was the first year the London Marathon had recruited people to run at paces slower than six hours.

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Ms Ayres told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that organisers had intended to make the run “more inclusive”, with about 200 runners finishing the course at the same time or later than her.

But, she said, despite running at the requested speed, the clean-up operation had begun around her and other runners and they had been “told to hurry up”.

She added that abuse had also been directed towards them by official marathon representatives, such as cleaning contractors and marshals.

This included comments such as: “If you weren’t so fat, you could run,” and: “This is a race, not a walk.”
Image copyright Liz Ayres Image caption Liz Ayres says some runners wanted “to go home and quit”

Ms Ayres said she would “rather the race was cancelled than people being spoken to like that”.

“I had runners that were crying – ones saying they were going to go home and quit,” she said.

Those affected had been running for charities.

Some had been slower due to injuries, or not having been able to train due to family circumstances, Ms Ayres added.
Ms Ayres said similar issues had also been reported by other pacers ahead of her.

“The 6.5-hour pacer said she experienced this, too,” she said.

“If you look at the timings of people who finished, that means about 1,000 people were affected.

“That’s almost one in every 40 runners.”

Ms Ayres said runners on Tower Bridge had also had to “dodge round sewage collection lorries” and run through chemical spray used to clean the streets.

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Liz Ayres
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