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Britain’s top finisher in the 2010 Virgin London marathon Andrew Lemoncello reaped the rewards of years of hard graft in America last weekend and is now looking forward to his championship debut over the 26.2 mile distance this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
For 27-year-old Lemoncello, stepping up to the marathon this year was a ‘calling’ of sorts. After years of dedication only to be left disappointed by his results in his first love; the steeplechase, the Scottish runner decided to swap the barriers for the miles with immediate success.
Originally from Fife but now based in Flagstaff, Arizona, Lemoncello took advantage of a tired world-class field following the recent airline chaos to place an unprecedented eighth in the British capital in a time of 2:13.40.
With his debut being one of the most eagerly anticipated by a Brit for a few years, Lemoncello lived up to the pressure by exceeding expectations; apart from his own that is:
“I'm frustrated," Lemoncello explained after taking on arguably the world’s finest marathon field.
Coached by Greg McMillan, the new British number one had been hoping for a time closer to 2:10, but learning the event and setting a credible benchmark for the future was the main priority.
The tall runner went through the half-way mark in 65:27 but felt the pace-makers did not do their job accurately: "I wasn't looking around at all because I had the numbers in my head. I knew what I wanted to run, but you trust the pacers, and to realise you're 10 seconds off the pace so early on is just so frustrating.
"It wasn't so much difficult, but it was hard to focus. Running on my own from 11 miles was just too much - it was basically a 15-mile tempo on my own in the wind."
Averaging 135-miles per week in the three months prior to London; with his highest training week reaching 152-miles, Lemoncello certainly had logged the miles in the bank to warrant a strong performance.
Indeed, he has now set his sights on his second marathon at the European Championships in Barcelona this coming July:
"Yes, I'm now planning to do the European Championships marathon," Lemoncello said soon after London. "My plan had always been to race 10,000m at the Europeans, followed by an autumn marathon, but now I think, ‘Why not?'
Sponsored by Mizuno, Lemoncello continued on his decision to run in the continental championships: "I've done a lot of training and I don't feel any different today than after a long Sunday run, so physically I have no problems at all. I also want to run in a race - in a pack - so yes, that's now my plan."
His lifestyle, too, is evidently conducive to achieving top results. Training in a year-round mild climate with the Adidas-sponsored McMillan Elite group, Lemoncello has top medical and facility access in addition to Irish half-marathon record-holder Martin Fagan as one of his many top distance-running training partners.
Being able to combine part-time work in a sushi restaurant with training as a full-time athlete also allows the Scot to focus on achieving his athletic dreams of competing in 2012; though his time is presently being taking up by preparations for his forthcoming wedding this autumn and the building of his dream home.
Such is Lemoncello’s resolve to represent Britain proudly, he has turned down the chance to run for the USA despite owning an American passport and also the opportunity of a modelling career. He has even recently been baptised as a Catholic, as it is his faith which helps him through the arduous training runs and sessions.
Indeed, Lemoncello has come a long way in the past year since tackling the longer distances. As a teen, he took a plethora of national junior and under23 medals over the ‘chase and 5000m before accepting a scholarship to the States in 2005.
During his three years at Florida State University, Lemoncello reduced his personal bests on the track and each summer, returned to the UK to win the British senior steeplechase crown.
Though his 2008 Olympic qualifying time of 8:22.95 for the 3,000m steeplechase was the fastest by a Brit for 14-years, it was placing 12th and 10th, respectively in the heats of the 2007 World Championships and the Beijing Olympics that prompted the move up in distance for Lemoncello.
A few months after finishing 79th and 29th, respectively in the World and European cross-country Championships, Lemoncello’s bold bid paid off with a 27:57 clocking for 10km on the roads and 61:52 for the half-marathon – going number twelve on the British all-time lists in the process.
Twenty-sixth place in the World half-marathon Championships in Birmingham six-months ago followed, ahead of swift road runs in the US and Japan earlier this year, but it was his performance in London that was the real eye-opener and perhaps just the beginning of much more to come for Britain’s new top marathon man.