Historic 600th race awaits 77-year-old woman, who has run most London marathons
A runner who has run more London Marathons than any other woman plans to complete her 600th marathon later this year.
Gina Little, 77, who lives in Greenwich, has raced the London event 37 times since she was inspired after seeing the second race pass its way in 1982.
She chose to mark her 600th marathon at the Richmond Runfest on September 11 as a celebration with her club, Plumstead Runners, all dressed in special t-shirts.
“I wanted my running club to be part of it. We have a coach who is rising,” she told the PA news agency.
Ms Little said she had always been active and was inspired to try a marathon after seeing the London runners go by.
“I didn’t know anything about the first one. I only saw the second one as it passes the top of my road,” she said.
“I saw the Frenchman with a tray, a bottle of wine and a glass, and I thought ‘how can he do that?'”
Ms Little said she was very nervous ahead of her first London Marathon: “I ran with my friend the whole way. We just enjoyed the crowds, took our time, went to pubs to use the toilets. No Portaloos at the time.
“I just tried to take it all in, crossing Westminster Bridge at the end of the marathon was very emotional with a lot of tears.”
She added: “We were just going to do one. Then I caught the bug, I guess.
She clocked a personal best of three hours and 26 minutes in 1993 and now usually finishes in four hours and 30 to 40 minutes.
Her achievement was recently recognized with a Spirit of the London Marathon award and Ms Little said she was ‘gasp’ to be awarded the accolade, adding: ‘I have been very lucky because I have been so good at my age.
While many are hoping for an elusive polling place for the heavily oversubscribed London Marathon or running for charity, the fastest runners in every age category can apply for a good age place.
She added: “I’ve always been involved in it.
“When I wasn’t running, I was helping out at a drinks station. Once I helped out at the elite station.
She has also run the Berlin Marathon more than 30 times but it has come closer to the London race since the latter was moved to October due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected to return to its usual spring slot in 2023.
“Last year I had to do Berlin one week and London the next,” she said.
“This year, it’s the same. I also have Chicago the following week. Chicago is always October.
“Chicago is my sixth major, so obviously I want to do that.”
There is a special medal for those who complete the six Abbott World Marathon Majors – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
The married mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five also belongs to the Global 100 Marathon Club which meets at races and wears special vests.
Ms Little said she has met some interesting people through running, adding: ‘I never go to a run where I don’t know anyone, which is really nice.
Running marathons and ultramarathons has taken her to 46 countries and 22 islands, including places like Hawaii and New Zealand.
“I’ve seen the world and seen the country,” she says.
“When I got to 500 I thought that would be it. I don’t think there will be a 700th.
She downplayed her exploits, saying, “I’m not very fast. When you do 10 km, you have to run hard all the way. I just like to be comfortable.
Ms Little, who is 1.5 meters (5ft), said being light and “not very tall” was an advantage for running and avoiding injury.
“Because I do so many marathons, I don’t have to train as much,” she said.
“I don’t do a lot of long runs because I do so many marathons.”
Asked if she ever struggled to walk 26.2 miles, Ms Little, who is retired after working for Greenwich Council for 36 years, said: ‘I’ve always managed to get through. People just expect me to actually do it.
But the runner postponed her 599th marathon, which was due to take place in Hever Castle, Kent, on Sunday July 3, to avoid aggravating a foot problem. She hopes to find another marathon to run before 9/11.
His advice for those training for their first TCS London Marathon on October 2 is “just don’t add too many miles too quickly. If you do 10 a week, then do 11. And rest between long runs.”
“Get into half marathons or something to find out what it’s like to run with people, it’s totally different running in a race than running alone.”
She said crowd noise can help in the final stages when you’re tired, but added: “I don’t run by my name. Everyone calls your name and you don’t know if you know them or not.
“If someone calls my name, I know it’s someone I know.
“Enjoy it, don’t think about the weather, just think about running and soaking up the atmosphere. The atmosphere is amazing.
“Relax and enjoy, you might never do it again. You might not be as lucky as me. It’s just the luck of the draw.