Train strikes: Thousands disrupted as Midlands-based marathon runners travel to London

Competitors are expecting to run into havoc ahead of the race this weekend. Credit: PA

By ITV News Central Production Journalist Lara Davies

Rail strikes are expected to cause huge disruption this weekend as runners travel from the Midlands to the capital for the London Marathon.

The announcement that services will be severely disrupted on 1 and 5 October as part of a nationwide rail strike has meant some competitors have been forced to change transport plans and others have had to pull out altogether.

In a normal year, the most nerve-wracking part of running in one of the world's most prestigious races might be the training, or making it to the finish line.

This year, runners face another hurdle as rail unions have announced strike action on the weekend of the 26-mile race.

ASLEF - a union representing British rail workers - say they are striking for better pay and working conditions.

Cancelled services and reduced timetables means some Midlanders are finding it difficult to get to London for the big day.

Donna Lowery, from Wolverhampton, is frustrated by the strikes and says that they "aren't considering that this event is for charity".

She is representing Worldwide Cancer Research UK this year - running for her mum who passed away after battling Pancreatic Cancer in 2014 at age 60.

The whole family had to change their plans when they heard about the strike action, which has meant the whole thing has "cost a lot more".

Donna Lowery raced in the 2019 half marathon of behalf of her mum Credit: Donna Lowery

Mrs Lowery said: "I think what people are forgetting is that people are doing this for charity, and charities need this money.

"Because of the strikes, we are having to travel a day earlier, paying for an extra day at the hotel, that means an extra day's food as well, so it's sure to cost a lot more.

"To be honest, I was just hoping that either the the train strike would be called off, or the marathon would be cancelled.

"I feel I'm one of the lucky ones as I've spoken to some runners who have had to pull out altogether because they can't afford to go - obviously with the cost-of-living crisis as well."

Cameron Jessamine, from Leamington Spa, who is also taking part in his first marathon told ITV News Central: "There's probably around 50 people on the official London Marathon Facebook group that I'm on, who have had to defer their place in the race because of it.

"Mainly because there aren't the trains to travel down but also because of the new train times not fitting with hotel bookings and people just not being able to afford it now."

"I've changed my plans to drive down, but it's so frustrating because I just feel like they have targeted this weekend in particular."

Cameron is running the 26-mile race with thousands of others, with a broken toe Credit: Cameron Jessamine

"I did consider jogging down but it might be a bit far," the 22-year-old laughed.

Cameron originally had 20 friends and family going to London with him, but now there will only be 10.

"Most of them are travelling from Nottingham and as there isn't a train the day before they are getting on the first train to London on Sunday," he said.

"Those who can come are going to miss the start because that train doesn't get in in time."

Surprisingly, the trains aren't the biggest trouble for Cameron, whose London Marathon journey has been "something of a ride"

He found out six weeks ago that he would be running on behalf of the Alzheimer's Society and has spent most of his training time with a "big, broken toe".

He told ITV Central he broke his toe when getting out an ice bath and was told by the doctors not to run for six weeks - but was back up jogging two weeks later and still plans to tackle the 26-mile race.

In a statement Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: ‘We would much rather not be in this position. We don’t want to go on strike – withdrawing your labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort for this trade union – but the train companies have been determined to force our hand."

A DfT Spokesperson said,

“This weekend should have seen thousands travelling to London for the marathon. Instead their plans have been thrown into jeopardy and the charities that rely on this event to help fund their vital work will be left worrying about the impact on their finances. 

“Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation but all more strikes will do is punish the very people unions claim to stand up for and push passengers further away. We urge union bosses to reconsider this divisive action and instead work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”