Last month Quirky Races’ Chris interviewed Michelle Frost after spotting her completing The Big Half on stilts. (https://quirkyraces.com/2018/03/08/michelle-frost-skys-the-limit/) It was then that we found out she was using this as a warm up for a world record attempt at the London marathon. We were delighted to hear the news that Michelle was successful in that so we caught up with her for a follow up interview.
(Quirky Races) First of all, many congratulations once again on becoming the Guinness World Records holder, that was an amazing effort. You didn’t only break the world record, you absolutely smashed it! Am I right in saying the previous record was 6 hours 50 minutes so your time of 6:37:38 knocked over 12 minutes off? I remember you saying that you did 8 hours 25 mins last time too so that’s a huge improvement. Did the speed of your finishing time surprise you or were you expecting to go that fast?
(Michelle Frost) Yes smashed it! 6:50:02, now 6:37:38 and a drastic improvement on my PB. It definitely surprised me, I honestly didn’t know how well I’d do. I knew I could do the distance but did not know how fast! I knew I was in for a good chance after doing the half marathon in 3:15 but still knew anything could happen on the day.
(QR) I’m sure the heat effected everyone out there this year. I personally was so glad of the water stations every mile but were you able to get to the water bottles ok? I know you said to me previously that you can’t stand still while on the stilts so what was your strategy with fuelling?
(MF) It was very warm and I’m nearer the sun! It did get a bit hectic at the water stations with runners cutting in and out to get to water, especially where some started running out. It looked potentially difficult but it was ok on the day. If the marshals were next to the road one of them would run over and hand me a drink but if they were stuck behind fences they couldn’t but plenty of runners saw me gesturing and helped pass me a bottle. Runners were also encouraged to share any water they weren’t going to drink so I was also passed bottles at other points. Very grateful for this in the heat. I had originally planned to not drink too much so that I didn’t need to go to the toilet (this involves getting off the stilts, not any other weird and wonderful method!) but with the heat I just drank as I needed and it wasn’t a problem. I’d rather brave a toilet stop than dehydration!
(QR) I guess the on course showers didn’t really help you either as their height would have only reached your waist?
(MF) I avoided the showers as I didn’t want to get cut up by too many runners and I feared that the wet roads might be slippy. I discovered just before the marathon that the stilt feet were a lot more worn than I thought they were but I didn’t want to risk changing them just before the race so some stilt pedicures happened.
(QR) What other challenges did you encounter on course? Is congestion a real issue for you?
(MF) The congestion in general wasn’t too bad, it got worse near the end as runners slowed, but I was on a fairly steady pace being able to sneak past others from behind. Unfortunately I was knocked over at one point around mile 23 but luckily there was lots of helpful people who pulled me up and got me going again, bruises on my knees but no major damage.
I’d like to mention I had a fantastic support crew with me, not only organising themselves into teams to travel round and pop up almost every other mile along the course, but appear armed with sweets, cereal bars, fruit and any other kind of snack & might want. They were very coordinated passing messages between them so if I said to one group I wanted something, the next group would appear with it! They probably ran round just as much as me and I couldn’t have done it without them. As well as lots of other friends and family that popped up along the route to cheer me, it gave me such a boost to see familiar faces.
(QR) Was there a point where you knew that the record was in the bag or did you literally have to keep pushing right to the finish?
(MF) I didn’t know and I didn’t want to. I know I have a pretty steady pace that wouldn’t slow down too much, but if I needed to speed up that was unlikely to be possible. My support team kept me updated, but knowing if my pace just wasn’t quick enough I wouldn’t make it, I didn’t want to be disheartened. But when they knew I would do it, they let me know, but even then it was fairly close.
(QR) What were your emotions when coming down the mall for those final couple of hundred meters ten years on from your last London marathon knowing the world record was yours?
(MF) Fear mainly, from the last mile there were markers every 200m and the distance between them seemed to take forever and the clock was ticking down. It was showing near the record time and whilst I knew I needed to count the time I passed under the starting gantry, I knew it was close and that last stretch seemed to take forever until I finally saw the finish line.
(QR) Talk us though the record guidelines process once you finish. I know at London there is an official from Guinness there waiting and they actually have your certificate there ready and waiting don’t they?
(MF) Unlike last time (when I was quicker than expected and they were in a café having a drink and had to run across the park to get there to see my finish) they were ready and waiting. The certificate pictured with me at the finish is a generic one saying that you’ve achieved a record at the London Marathon 2018. I’m waiting to be able to claim my official certificate with my name and time and everything on. There wasn’t much at the finish, just well done & some pictures. At the start line we checked in with them and there were costume checks & measurements for those that needed them. I spoke to them about my timing chip as it didn’t work at the Big Half but I’d made some adjustments to help it sit more like it would on the top of a trainer, whilst being on the bottom of my stilt.
(QR) Was there much media attention for you and the other record breakers and have you received many requests for interviews etc. since?
(MF) Sadly not many, just lots of mentions online and stories about the records – particularly the one that did the fastest time as a film character. I was due to appear on This Morning the week before the marathon but unfortunately that got cancelled (as I was in the train station on my way there). There has been plenty of pictures shared of me online and friends of friends speaking about spotting ‘the Stilt Lady’ doing the marathon.
(QR) What’s next? Will it take you another ten years to return to the London marathon or will you be back sooner this time round?
(MF) I’m hoping that I’ll be another 10 years wiser but that didn’t happen this time so I’m sure won’t again! I’m hoping I’ll hold on to the record for at least a few years and that might stop me trying to claim it back but taking part in the London Marathon is such an amazing event I’ll always want to do it again in some way.
(QR) And finally, how much money have you managed to raise for MND?
(MF) So far I have raised £4500 which is so amazing to be able to know that’s supporting people affected by MND! I’d love to be able to hit £5000!
If you’d like to help Michelle reach that target you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-frost5