GB Marathon Trials: Chris Thompson ( 2:10:52 PB ) and Steph Davis (2:27.16 PB) wins Muller British Marathon Olympic Trials!

3 weeks ago
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Chris Thompson, photo by Getty Images

Chris Thompson won the Muller British Olympic Marathon Trials, in 2:10:52 PB at the age of 39. Chris is nearing the end of an amazing career.

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Steph Davis, photo by Getty Images

Steph Davis won the Muller British Olympic Trials, in 2:27.16 PB, at age of 30. Steph can run much faster.

GB Marathon Trials

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2021 Muller British Olympic Trials photo by Getty Images

Normally the Great Britain marathon trials take place as part of the London Marathon. But with London postponing the marathon to the Fall this year because of COVID, a different arrangement had to be made. For the first time in 40 years, the marathon trials were a freestanding, elite-only event and with no spectators allowed. They were held in the idyllic Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, a suburb of London. The course was 12 laps of the park. The only drawback was that the park opened to the public at 11.00am meaning that the 20K walks championship had to start at 6.00am and the marathons at 8.00am. The requirements to book a place in the GB team for Tokyo varied from event to event and will be explained separately.

Men’s Marathon

With Callum Hawkins having been preselected there were two places up for grabs. For automatic selection, an athlete needed to finish in the first two places and have the Olympic qualifying standard. In the field of 17 runners three had previously run under the Olympic standard of 2:11.30. To complicate matters there were two athletes who were not in the field – Derek Hawkins and Jonny Mellor – who already had the qualifying standard and who might have been selected if the first two finishers did not achieve the Olympic standard. Mo Farah is seeking selection for the Olympics as a track athlete, not for the marathon.

The results were:

1 Chris Thompson 2:10.52 PR

2 Ben Connor 2:12.06

3 Mo Aadan 2:12.20

Thompson – who is 39 – finished inside the Olympic standard and Ben Connor, in second place, already had the Olympic standard. The fastest runner in the race, Dewi Morris (PR 2:09.49) was fourth and missed out on the Olympic selection. Third place was an excellent performance for Mo Aadan, running his first marathon. Tokyo will be Thompson’s second Olympics, having run the 10,000 in London 2012.

Thompson ran a perfectly judged race, staying off the mid-race pace and at one point languishing 35 seconds behind the lead group of Dewi Griffiths Ben Connor and Mo Aadan who were being led by the top-class pacing duo of Callum Hawkins and Jake Smith. Yet it was after the departure of the pace athletes, in between 30k and 35k when the evenly judged run by Thompson began to reap dividends. Reunited with the leading group at 35k, he then pushed on to establish a gap on Connor and Aadan, taking the bell for the final lap at 2:00.30.

Thompson, whose wife [former Olympic athlete Jemma Simpson] had a baby this week, said afterward: “This week has just knocked me for six. I have been trying to hold it together and I have just never felt so much emotion in all my life and I have always controlled it. I just said don’t cramp on that last lap, because everything fell into place in the last couple of laps. After 30mins I released, I worked the course out and worked out you can’t keep pushing like this, the turns and everything were just building up and I thought I need to check back because these guys need to be in really good shape to keep this going. I checked back and I just thought, an hour and a half, I have either messed this up royally or it’s going to turn around very quickly. I kept saying to myself, stay on course for the time and see what happens. I was in dreamland, the last to laps I was like ‘I am going, nothing is stopping me now.

“This sounds bad but I knew I had it with 2 laps to go, and I was starting to control my emotions then because I knew I had timed it right. I entered my own little mind space of ‘this is just the rhythm I need for me’. If they stay gone, then good luck to them, just execute my own race and the other thing I kept telling myself, just stayed inside the time and you still have a chance. To be honest, a one-point, worst-case scenario, if you are the third Brit with the time, you still have got a chance. Or fourth Brit, because I think three ahead, but they came back to me very quickly once the pacemakers dropped out. I was running on cloud nine, the last two laps just…I feel like someone’s going to tell me this didn’t happen. Seriously, I am 39! This doesn’t happen, last night my wife said ‘finish it off and in my head, I thought I am going to leave everything out there. I thought if we pull this off, I don’t know how we have done it. This is not like me”.

Ben Connor, who was second, said:I am delighted, obviously I would have liked the win but delighted to have secured the spot. Job done, rest and recover now, get to do it all again in 5months. I came into it as a race more than anything, as I didn’t have to worry about the time. I knew it was quick. Tommo obviously paced it a lot better. He decided to drop off a little bit but then come through stronger and not run the pace the whole race. Smart racing from him. Glad to hang on me at the end. It hasn’t quite sunk in that I am going to Tokyo yet, but I am sure it will do. I will have a bottle of wine tonight and let it sink in and enjoy it. Be nice if we could go to the pub [bars are still closed in the UK] but I will have to wait a couple of weeks to celebrate”.

Women’s Marathon

1 Stephanie Davis 2:27.16 PR

2 Natasha Cockram 2:30.03 PR

3 Rosie Edwards 2:31.56 PR

With no preselected athletes, the women’s trial guaranteed a place for the first two finishers if they had the qualifying time of 2:29.30 with a third-place at the discretion of the selectors. Again, there were absentees who had previously run under the Olympic standard – Jess Piasecki, Lily Partridge, Charlotte Purdue, and Steph Twell. Davis, who had previously achieved the Olympic standard, did so again in the trial. Cockram, who finished second, does not have the standard.

Davies put on a superlative performance to dominate after starting to split away from the field having passed halfway in 74.06. She pushed on with the pacing team, recording an impressive negative second-half split of 73.10, eventually crossing the line in 2:27.16 – a PR by 24 seconds and 2 mins and 14 secs inside the Tokyo qualifying mark.

It was a bittersweet second for Natasha Cockram whose 2:30.03 was some 43 seconds outside of the qualifying time but it was an impressive PR by some 46 seconds. Completing a hat trick of personal best performances, the third spot went to Rosie Edwards (in 2:31.56) – almost nine minutes inside her previous best performance over the marathon distance.

Davies said:Anything can happen in the marathon, you can’t just know that this is going to be your day. I felt good out there, particularly during the second half, so a big thanks Josh the pacer for continuing on; that was a huge help, especially down this straight, it was a bit windier. I really noticed that on the last lap when I was on my own. It was an amazing event today, flat course, the corners were fine and I am really happy to take the win and secure that spot and a small PR.

“Phil Kissi (her coach) and I work very closely as a team, I think I am a bit different to other marathon runners he’s coached before. I don’t do the high mileage, it’s just something I have never done. I do a lot of cross-training but with covid and the gyms being closed, I had to train at home. Doing 6/7 hours on the bike a week, and then my average was about 60/65miles through the week. So the focus was on the big quality sessions and it’s always worked for us. We kind of replicated what I did for Valencia, and apart from Phil throwing in some extra-long hard sessions to test me and push me to that next level, that’s really helped to get me there and get me here today with that result”.

It was an excellent event in lovely surroundings that still leaves the selectors with decisions to make in the women’s event.

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