My Trip Across the Pond: the 2021 London Marathon

by Alyssa Risko

In 2019 I applied to the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon lottery to run the 2020 London Marathon. Unfortunately, I was not one of the lucky ones drawn. A few weeks later, I received an email from Abbott World Marathon Majors telling me I had qualified for the inaugural Wanda Age Graded Championship which was being hosted at the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (for runners 40 and older)! At first, I thought it was some kind of joke, but I quickly registered, emailed my husband, Kevin, to say we were going to London, and started my training with my coach, Karen Bertasso Hughes. About one week later, my good friend, Meg Versteegen, who ran Berlin with me, called to tell me she had been invited to participate in the Wanda Age Graded Championship as well.

After months of training, COVID-19 reared its ugly head and London was postponed until the Fall (for elite runners only) and then rescheduled to October 2021 for all runners. We adjusted the training schedule and started preparing for the 2021 race.

                                                   Meg and Alyssa

Training went well and I was ready for the trip! On the Monday before leaving, Kevin and I had to take the requisite PCR tests in order to fly two days later. On Tuesday evening, I received my negative result and on Wednesday morning, the day of our flight, Kevin received a positive result while having no symptoms and feeling totally fine. Kevin could not travel with me and took another test the next day, which came back negative on the day of the marathon. This set the tone for three very stressful days. This meant my friend Meg and I were traveling to the UK alone, and Kevin would miss being at the event. He’s never missed a marathon. Truth be told, the scariest part was Meg and me traveling alone, as the two of us tend to get lost, take wrong turns while running, and talk too much without paying attention to the route. Just ask our run squad!! This may have happened in New Hampshire this summer while running a relay race!!! Don’t worry - it wasn’t for long and we still placed first!

Meg and I flew to D.C. and almost missed our connection to London - thankfully they held the plane! We landed Thursday morning and started more COVID testing - two lateral flow tests and another PCR test to return to the US.

On Sunday we took the tube to the start and headed to our corrals. The race started and was absolutely amazing. The energy of the crowds of spectators was fantastic! Meg, aka fast Meg, ran by me at mile 5 and said hello, and then we began our next 21.2 miles to the finish. I have personally been trying to break 3:40:08 since 2018 at the NYC Marathon! I did a lot of tempo workouts throughout my training and a lot of swearing, but it paid off as I had a personal best of 3:34:46 in this race. Meg ran 3:18, even after twisting her ankle on a full water bottle on the course. The crowds were amazing, the sites were fantastic and there were countless runners in costumes! You finish this race with Buckingham Palace at your back and there is nothing like it.

Posted by her husband Kevin on Facebook:

She did it. Alyssa completed the London England marathon with a personal best time of 3:34:47. That's 6 minutes faster than her best time in the NY Marathon in 2018. London was delayed for 30 months due to Covid but she stayed focused and determined to get it done. That leaves only the Tokyo marathon to complete the six world marathons. I owe a huge heap of gratitude to her trip mate Meg Versteegan as I was unable to go as I tested positive for Covid the day of our flight. (I have no symptoms feel fine). Alyssa you are amazing and I love you lots.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Boston Marathon, TCS London Marathon, BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, TCS New York City Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon.

Since Alyssa has run all but one of these events, the Tokyo Marathon, I asked her the following questions:

What is your favorite of the five?

Although I just ran the London Marathon, it is my second favorite to NYC! No major can beat NYC’s spectators and music in my opinion.

What was your hardest one?

I would have to say Boston was the hardest as I ran that in 2018 in that awful rain, wind and cold!

Berlin supposedly has the flattest course making it easy for records. Is that true?

While Berlin was fast, I did not care for it as in 2019 they allowed more runners in and I found their streets to be too narrow for the field size!

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