Anthony Gaskell finished this year’s London Marathon in the fastest time ever recorded by anyone over 65, but it has since been revealed that he took a 10-mile short cut. Gaskell, a 69-year-old from the Wirral in Merseyside, completed the marathon in a mere three hours and five minutes to find himself in the record books. The OAP was due to receive a plaque marking his achievement but, six weeks after the event, it was uncovered that he took 10 miles off the course. Observers questioned how a previously unknown veteran could have performed with such distinction, and an enquiry revealed he completed the second half in under an hour – a time which would have obliterated that of the world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie. Gaskell was shown to have cut the course just after Tower Bridge, where he subsequently claimed he was injured after falling over a runner ahead of him who had tripped on a safety barrier. He has insisted he never claimed to have run the last part of the course and that he did not try to pass off the winning time as his own.
“I simply walked through a short cut to the end of the course where my belongings were waiting for me. I had no idea that anyone thought I’d won,” Gaskell told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t bother to check the website for the final standings because I knew I had dropped out.”
According to his electronic timing chip, worn by all runners, he completed the first 20km in just over two hours. There was then a gap in the chip readings before he crossed the 40km mark around 41 minutes later. Gaskell’s disqualification is good news for 66-year-old Colin Rathbone, who finished 38 seconds behind after completing the full 26 miles and 385 yards and will now receive the fastest pensioner’s plaque. Mr Rathbone, from Northwich in Cheshire, said: “I trained for the race for months, starting proper marathon training in January. I had to stop for a while with a bad chest infection in the winter but I got through it.
“Last year I came third in the over-65 race and I wanted to win this time. I finished in just over three hours, five minutes and thought I must have won. “It was the best time in 10 years. When I was told I had been beaten I thought, ‘What the heck do you have to do to win this thing? I’m elated that I did actually win. I do wonder what Mr Gaskell’s motivation was.”
While Mr Gaskell insists he is still a serious runner with the Wirral Athletics Club, it says he has no connection to it. General secretary Leo Carroll said: “Tony Gaskell has not been a paid-up member for at least 12 years.”
If you are thinking of competing in a marathon then by all means go for it. As Mr Rathbone has shown us anyone with determination and a reasonable lead in time whose body works reasonably well can do it. The key as with all these types of race is preparation preparation preparation. A proper marathon running schedule should take at least 3 months, 4 is better and 18 weeks is even better than that. It is essential not just to build up the fitness for an event like this but also the endurance and toughness needed to finish. It’s always a good idea to enlist professional help, even if it’s just for a few sessions to asses where you are and then get a programme designed specifically for you. At Diets Don’t Work we have lots of experience in getting even the most unlikely candidate over the line (have a look at Frances on our success stories page), so you might want to think of having a consultation with one of our personal traners in London and Berkshire.