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On his marathon debut in Berlin last month, Scott Overall caused a stir by running the fastest time by a British man in four years and now, the Londoner has his sights firmly set on Olympic glory next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 28-year-old only switched his attentions to the 26.2 mile distance back in May but his startling progress when finishing fifth in a world-class field in the German capital was a pleasant surprise for men’s distance running in the UK.
A former training partner to world 5,000m champion Mo Farah in their teenage years, the Blackheath and Bromley AC runner stormed to a 2:10.55 clocking to begin his marathon career at a promising twenty-fourth on the national all-time list and now, quite understandably, has strong Olympic aspirations:
“Now my target’s the Olympic marathon and I hope to find out if I’m selected in the first wave of selections in early December so I can plan ahead,” he explained.
“I hope the Olympics will be my next marathon and my focus there will be on a place not a time.
“The Olympic marathon might not be fast as it’s a championship race but I hope to get into 2:07 shape and make it into the top ten - the position is the important thing – anything can happen and I hope to be in contention.”
Guided by Arizona-based Robert Chapman, where Overall trains for only one or two months of the year with the Team Arizona Elite squad, the Butler University,
Indianapolis graduate is a former 5,000m track runner and his frustrations with both the event and terrain led him to change his direction in the sport:
“I switched to marathon training after training well at altitude in Flagstaff and running quite well in the half-marathon (63:21 in May),” he revealed.
“I had a conversation with Dave Bedford – the former World 10,000m record-holder - at the London Marathon about an attempt to get the Olympic qualifying time and so decided on Berlin and they funded me to go out there.
“My coach believed that I could do the distance and get a positive experience from it – we thought I was in shape to run 2:12 but running 2:10 on my debut and racing the last half all on my own was a surprise.”
Unusually, admitting to racing without a watch, Overall continued:
“I went in a bit naive but that was quite helpful as I didn’t know what to expect and nothing really went wrong apart from missing my drink at the 30km mark.
“I felt good the whole way – I reached half-way in 65:17 in twelfth position feeling relaxed and waited until 30km to push on and I passed lots of runners in the second half - it was a slow build up of fatigue and I only felt tired in the last 5km.”
Such an outstanding performance on his first attempt at the distance has led many to question why the athlete did not tackle the event before now but Overall insists:
“Maybe I could have done well in the marathon a year or two ago but then I would have been wondering about what I could have done on the track.
“And I may go back to the 5,000m on occasion as marathon running makes you stronger,” continued the 2009 UK champion, who has a best time of 13:28.33 from the 2008 season.
“I’ve got a good endurance base from years of training which is helping me - I’ve always ran 90-100miles a week so I haven’t changed much in training – my highest recently was 120miles, which isn’t as high as the best in the world.”
Next racing over only 6km in the National road relay championships in Birmingham this weekend, followed by the Bupa Great South Run ten-mile event in Portsmouth at the end of the month, Overall now has more time on his hands after giving up his part-time job in a running shop:
“I’ve given up my job as the London Marathon is now kindly supporting me up until the Olympics,” he explained.
“This will mean I will hopefully get away to Kenya and Font Romeu for more altitude training around March - it’s a great help as it will also give me more time for training and recovery.”
With the Olympic marathon on the streets of London only ten months away, Overall is planning a unique way to experience the course beforehand:
“It’s possible I may do some pace-making in the London marathon in April at around 2:08/9 pace to get the feel for it before the Games, as I’d really like to get my half-marathon time down next year,” he revealed.
“Longer term, I’d also like to have a bash at the British record – of 2:07.13 set by Steve Jones 25-years ago - in a big city marathon but hopefully by then Mo hasn’t taken it up by then!
“But first I have my club record – of 2:09.17 set by Mark Steinle nine years ago - to target.
“How many Olympic Games will I ever have on my doorstep? It will be really special for me and an amazing experience so I hope to get to the start-line healthy and ready.”