Endurance legend says British Olympic trials features a super-quick route which could potentially stage world record attempts let alone Tokyo qualifying performances
Dave Bedford, the former world 10,000m record-holder and ex-race director of the London Marathon, believes the course at Kew Gardens for the British Olympic Marathon and 20km Walks Trials is every bit as fast as the one used in Vienna when Eliud Kipchoge broke two hours for the marathon.
Doubts have been raised over whether athletes will be able to hit the Tokyo qualifying standards of 2:11:30 (men) and 2:29:30 (women) but Bedford insists the loop around the south-west London course is as quick as anything he has ever seen, including the loop in Vienna’s Hauptallee in 2019 when Kipchoge ran 1:59:41.
Bedford has been working on the Olympic trials event on Friday (March 26) in a technical capacity alongside his son and race director of the event, Tom. But he says he has not allowed this to cloud his judgement.
“I am biased, right. However, if I was a runner and I wanted to break a world record on the roads, I would see that course as absolutely perfect for it,” he told AW.
“In my mind, taking things out such as the weather, the course is as fast as any course I have ever seen. In my mind it’s equally as fast as the course that Eliud did his sub-two hours on.”
Bedford adds: “Frankly, if I wasn’t involved in the organisation of it and I saw it, I would say exactly the same thing.
“Could I be biased? Yes. Is my judgement on this biased? Absolutely not.”
Bedford says early versions of the course toward the end of 2020 involved slightly more turns. But they have largely been ironed out and the result is a circuit which athletes will do a dozen times and which includes one totally straight stretch that is almost a metric mile in length. In addition, the area is enclosed with trees to shelter runners from the wind.
“There is one short lap of 1600-odd metres and 12 laps of exactly 3333.3 metres,” Bedford explains. “I can’t remember any other race anywhere having that much luck (with the distance of the long lap).
“It was luck and (course measurer) Hugh Jones’ ability to properly understand the benefits of having a lap of 3333.3m which is of course you’ll always have your 5, 15, 25, 35km marks in one place and 10, 20, 30 and 40km marks in another place.
“So you only essentially need two timing mats for the splits rather than eight. And by doing this the course is significantly faster than the original one was. There’s one element which is a virtually 1.4km straight line.”
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Bedford says he would have relished running on this course as an athlete and the only downside is that there will be no fans.
“It would be wonderful but even better if you could have spectators in there. You’ve seen the stuff that Ben Pochee has done at Highgate (with the Night of the 10,000m PBs). We might have to watch walking on the daffodils, but in different circumstances the atmosphere around this course could be electric.”
Even with no spectators, Bedford believes that the fast course together with hopefully decent weather, modern shoes and the tantalising prospect of Olympic qualification means that we should see some good times.
On the shoes, he says: “I don’t believe people are cheating but there is some clear benefit of them wearing them.”
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Who is his money on? He reminds me slightly tongue-in-cheek that betting on athletics is banned under World Athletics rules and instead simply says we’re in for some exciting races with visitors to the live stream no doubt including a few nervous viewers.
“It’s an important event for the people doing it. And there will be some people who have qualified who have either decided not to take part and hope they stay lucky or are injured – and who knows how that will turn out – and I imagine they will be watching every second of it as well.”