FLORA LONDON MARATHON REPORT (written for England Athletics 04/08).
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of marathon running in London, the twenty-seventh Flora London marathon celebrated with two of England’s finest distance stars; Liz Yelling and Dan Robinson both running personal bests to book their Olympic spots for Beijing later this summer.
Yelling; the 33 year-old Bedford and County runner, capitalised on her outstanding recent form that includes 15th place in the World cross-country Championships, by scorching away to a 2:28.33 clocking; thus obliterating her personal best by over two minutes in the process.
"I'm delighted to break the two-and-a-half hour barrier," explained Yelling, who finished three places and 45-seconds ahead of second Brit; Hayley Haining of Kilbrachan.
Both figured in the leading group at six miles but it was Yelling; the Athens Olympic marathon 25th-placer, who risked going with the international pack, whilst Haining took a more cautious approach and fell away behind the leading pack.
"Before the race I had my own plan but decided to go with the field as the early pace wasn't so fast," said Yelling. “I'm not sure I ran the best tactical race but I decided to just race and see how much I had. There was a lot of pressure, and it was just a case of trying to keep it in perspective and not let it get to me."
Reflecting on the tussle to join the Beijing pre-selected Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi, Yelling added, "It really was hard work between 13 and 18 miles and looking back I could see Hayley in the distance. It was becoming hard work but then I looked back and saw Hayle
y which gave me a big kick up the bottom.”
“I told myself if Hayley is going to get this, I'm going to make her work for it and if she does she will deserve it. It made me pick up and run faster but the last six miles were really hard."
Haining also set an impressive PB of 2.29.18 in finishing 12th and admitted after her sighting of Yelling, it did occur to her to that there was still the possibility of closing down a gap which wasn't too large in the closing stages.
"At 18 miles I could see her and we were getting closer. But there was still a long way to go so I decided to sit tight and be conservative," said the full-time veterinary pathologist at Glasgow University.
"At 19 miles I was going into a roundabout as she was coming off it and we just looked at one another. But I'm delighted with breaking 2hr 30min and my performance."
Other Brits to impress included Britsol’s Lucy Hasell in 15th with 2:40:31, Scot Susan Partridge (2:4140) in 17th, Telford’s Kim Fawke (2:42:08) in 18th, Sale’s Amy
Whitehead (2:45:38) in 19th and AFD’s Andrea Woodvine (2:45:49) in 20th position.
Yelling, Hasell and Fawke took the England Athletics Championships gold, silver and bronze medals, whilst Reading Road Runners took team gold, ahead of St Albans Striders and Belgrave Harriers.
Robinson ran a fine time of 2:13.11 - more than 40 seconds better than his previous best - to finish in 12th place, just behind Olympic champion Stefano Baldini and increase his Beijing aspirations.
The 33 year-old Stroud runner spoke of his delight at missing it with the global elite; "I'm quite satisfied, I can only do my best. It's mind-boggling when the leaders are running 2:05 but my job was to finish top Brit, to run a PB if possible and try to confirm my Olympic place which I think I've done, so it's a case of job done."
Thomas Abyu faded in the final stages after being leading Brit for the early part of the race and came home in 2.15.50. The Salford runner had hoped to improve on his spectacular 2:10.37 from last year’s Dublin marathon, when his Olympic dreams were dashed following the news of the race being held on an uncertified course; but had struggled of late, following a untimely bout of flu.
Other domestic highlight included Leigh Harriers’ Pete Riley’s 2:18:21 for 18th place, Swaledale’s Tony Lambert (2:18:40) in 19th and Cardiff’s Richie Gardiner (2:20:28) in 21st position.
Robinson, Abyu and Riley took the England Athletics Championships gold, silver and bronze medals; and Leeds City AC took the team honours, ahead of Thames Hare and Hounds and Winchester and District AC.
The top English athletes from this year’s race will be considered for selection to represent England in the Toronto marathon on the 19th of October, against the USA and Mexico.