Slow London Marathon runners ‘called fat by contractors cleaning up around them’

Slow London Marathon runners were called 'fat' by contractors who sprayed them with cleaning fluid as they ran, it is claimed.

Liz Ayres was an official pacer at the event on Sunday and was asked to run the course in 7.5 hours to help those taking part.

But she claims her group was treated appalling by contractors and volunteer marshals.

She told BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme 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.

She said the abuse included comments such as: "If you weren't so fat, you could run," and "this is a race, not a walk."

Marathon organisers have said they are "very sorry to hear" of her experience.

"I had runners that were crying – ones saying they were going to go home and quit," Liz told the programme.

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

"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."

Liz also shared her experience on Facebook , in a post that's been shared more than 3,000 times.

In the post, she said: "Before I was even 5k in to the race, I was being told to move to pavements!!

"The sweeper car had overtaken us at mile 1 and were claiming that I was moving at a slower pace than 17 minute miles.

"I was so annoyed because we had not long started and I knew I was pacing a little faster than the 17.09 that I should have done as the small group I started with were OK about upping the pace to around 16-16.30 so we could bank a few minutes for the loo or to hug supporters at Cutty Sark.

"I contacted Runner's World to send me a screenshot of my tracking to prove they were incorrect."

She then claims that by mile three, there was no sign of a water station as it had been packed away but thankfully her friends were able to help her with supplies.

The next few miles, Liz claims, were the same – with no water stations and the street sweepers cleaning the streets around them and making unpleasant comments.

She then says they were blocked from continuing through over Tower Bridge, where most runners get their 'epic' marathon shots- by several sewage collection lorries.

Between miles 13 and 18, she says her group was sprayed with cleaning fluid and water and she even claims that one kept nudging her with his vehicle – until spectators insisted he stop.

The group was checked over by St John's Ambulance volunteers for chemical burns and one member, Sarah Benjafield-Clarke, told the BBC that her GP had said a blister she'd developed had turned into a chemical burn.

Liz then claims at mile 22, she was told the finish was closing at 6.40pm- 20 minutes earlier than stated.

She eventually finished the race in 7 hours and 28 minutes.

She continued, in her post: "I spent 26.2 miles being the only support for too many runners yesterday and I'm angry.

"I volunteered to be at the back of the pack because it really is a lonely and unforgiving place to be but at the back of VLM is horrific.

"My heart breaks for every runner over seven hours who had absolutely none of the world renowned experience.

"I paced Oxford Half last October and had no sweeper constantly harassing me, I wasn't bullied by clean up crew and I was literally the last person on the route encouraging two inspirational ladies who were limping at my side.

"Well done to everyone who ran yesterday, especially those of you who fought hard for your medal!"

London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher said: "We work hard to provide the best possible experience for every runner in the London Marathon and we were very sorry to hear about the experience of Elizabeth and a small number of other runners on Sunday.

"A senior member of our team called Elizabeth yesterday to find out more and we are now looking into this in detail as part of a full investigation.

"We'll be talking to the people involved to find out what happened and we'll also be contacting the runners who were in the group being paced by Elizabeth."

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