Thursday, 10 April 2014

British Marathon Greats Reminisce Ahead of London Marathon

A trio of British marathon greats gathered near the capital’s Tower Bridge to reminisce about their careers and reveal their thoughts on Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon at an official press conference this afternoon.

Women’s world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, men’s British record holder, Steve Jones and the last British male winner of the race, Eamonn Martin spoke to a fascinated audience during an insightful occasion.

Radcliffe, the 2005 world champion and record holder with an astonishing 2:15.5 clocking from her 2003 London victory, revealed her thoughts on double Olympic and world 5,00m and 10,000m champion, Mo Farah’s chances on his debut over the 26.2-mile distance:

“Mo’s in very good shape coming into the race – the race will be extremely tough but why not test yourself if you can compete against the very best, he knows he is capable of winning.

“There will be unanswered questions in his mind about how he will take to the marathon, you never really know until you get out there.

“You’ve got to look at all of the little details that can make a difference – you have to put the work in as there are no short-cuts.”

The 40-year-old mother of two recalled her early marathon days, explaining:

“I felt I had nothing to lose in my first marathon and I gained confidence with each one.

“You have to be mentally strong to attack it. I came into London in 2003 a year after loving my debut there
and I knew I could beat the world record.

“It’s a fast course and with a huge advantage of having the extra special London crowd. I kept under world record target pace and had a few tough spots but it was great to capitalise on my form and break the record.

“At the time, I thought I was invincible and that the purple patch would last forever so I’m glad I ran as hard as I could on the day.”

The three-time world cross-country champion, who is based in Monaco offered her thoughts on the women’s race on Sunday:

“I think Dibaba (Tirunesha, Ethiopia’s three-time Olympic and five-time world champion)’s coming in very well prepared.

“There’s a lot of focus on the men’s race but the women’s is a very strong field and it will be a fast race, too.

“I think there’s three or four capable of running under 2:20, it’s just a question of whether Dibaba can translate her form from the track.”

Having battled injury in recent years, Radcliffe maintained her desire to return to the race herself:

“I was barely running this time last year – it felt like a pipe-dream to come back to racing but now, my foot’s improving - who knows whether I’ll be able to run as fast again as I’d like, though.

“The foot’s improving so I’m working hard and trying to be patient – I’m being cautious and listening to it. I’m certainly a lot more hopeful than I was four or five months ago.”

Former world record holder and current British record holder, Steve Jones meanwhile, spoke of his belief that Farah will take his 2:07.13 national mark:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he shattered the record and even won, he can get my record without doubt,” the Welshman revealed.

“It’s a surprise the record’s lasted this long – why, I don’t know but I’m also glad I still have it as it’s my connection to the sport.”

The 58-year-old Colorado-based Jones set his finest mark when storming to victory in the Chicago marathon in 1985, just a few months after winning the London event.

“Mo has confidence in his training and will take that into the race,” he continued.

“I had no fear myself – I always tried to dominate and was never afraid, I had 15-years of 100-miles per week behind me.

“Our training is miles apart – Mo’s approach is so scientific and it works for him, he pushes himself to the limit.

“When I set the record, the pace wasn’t much different to what these guys do today. It wasn’t about how fast I ran, my motivation was to beat my biggest rival, Rob de Castella (the Australian 1983 world champion).”

Also with New York marathon win under his best, Jones finished by saying:

“I’m not running much at the moment but I’ll never say never about returning to the London race.”

1993 winner, Martin took the London honours on his debut at the distance and hopes to see Farah replace him as the last British male winner of the event:

“I’m surprised I’m still the last British winner – my performance is history to me and I don’t like that it’s not moved on, we need it to happen again,” the 55-year-old stated.

“If I were Mo, I wouldn’t be doing it yet but he knows his own mind. He’s incredibly versatile, running his 1500m best (3:28.81 European record) only last year and he’s great on the track but there’s no hiding place in the marathon, there’s lots of great athletes against him.

“It’s do-able (winning the race) - with Mo’s quality, why do a smaller marathon? If you’re going to have a good day, you may as well do it on the big stage.

“He’s capable of winning but a lot can go wrong – we’ll learn a lot about Mo from the 30km point of the race. He has all the tools to do well.”

The 1990 Commonwealth 10,000m champion and 1995 New York marathon winner continued:

“I did my first marathon at 34 as I enjoyed racing on the track so much but when I saw there were no more improvements to be made, I thought of London as an opportunity and preparing for it excited me, it gave my running more impetus, doing something different.

“26-miles was the unknown but running was what I did and so I looked at it like that.”

On a possible return to the race which brought him his happy memories, Martin insisted:

“I won’t run it again – I have too many niggles and problems so I accept it.

“I ran the British masters record (2:17.22) here in 1999 at aged 40 but I’ve no interest in hobbling round.”

Thompson and Overall Follow Farah as Top British Interest in London

Training partners, Chris Thompson and Scott Overall spoke of their route to Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon at the official press conference near the capital’s Tower Bridge this afternoon.

The duo - guided by Alan Storey in South-West London - enter the event from very different angles, with Thompson making his much-anticipated 26.2-mile debut as Overall seeks to cement his early marathon promise.

With double Olympic and world 5,000m and 10,000m champion, Mo Farah also making his debut in the event as he chases victory and the 2:07.13 British record, Thompson and Overall have been quietly going about their business and are confident of strong performances at the weekend:

“I feel training’s gone as well as it could and I’ve had less hiccups than I thought I would,” 32-year-old Thompson explained.

“Whatever happens, I don’t think I would have changed much of the training going into the race.

“I have ambitions in the marathon beyond this weekend but I have to be realistic about what I can achieve in the first one.

“I’m treating it like me versus the event, as it’s my debut so the aim’s to have another go and hopefully, the experience will drive me to continue.”

31-year-old Overall added:

“I came into London last year with a bit of an injury but this time, training’s gone well with my new training partner so we’ll see how it goes.”

Thompson, the European 10,000m silver medallist in 2010, has enjoyed success on the roads with recent top-ten position at the New York half and the Great North Run, and he broke the course record at the adidas Silverstone half marathon this March with 65:08 despite strong winds.

Additionally coached by Mark Rowlands in the US, the injury-plagued Thompson continued:

“Going into my first marathon, it’s a big worry to be able to train without injury.

“I hoped to run a marathon in 2013 after the Olympics but injuries got in the way so I was nervous about the training.

“I’ve had some stomach problems but physically, I’m feeling good – marathon training’s about volume and threshold running, it has helped me to stay injury-free by staying away from the real speed-work.”

Having run 2:10.55 on debut at the distance in Berlin in 2011, Overall has since endured mixed fortunes with 61st position in the 2012 Olympic marathon and dropped out of the 2013 race after 25km with a knee injury.

A former training partner of Farah’s – like Thompson – he recently won the Mizuno Reading half marathon in 64:44 and revealed:

“I went into Berlin with a bit of naivety as it was the unknown, but it went well and I was selected for the Olympics off the back of it.

“It has made every marathon from then on a bit difficult, though. In the Olympics, I tried to focus on position rather than time but I over-trained before it.

“I want to get back on track with a solid performance – hopefully a personal best.”

Having joined alliances back in the autumn, the pair were complimentary of their training partnership en route to the London race:

“Working with Scott - with the experience and time he has under his belt - has been good,” Thompson declared.

Meanwhile, Overall added:

“I did a lot of my training alone in previous marathons and got stale so then I changed coach and joined Chris.

“We went to Colorado (for high altitude training) for five weeks and Chris taught me to eat salad. It’s nice to have someone there for the long miles and the sessions.”

Both intend to tackle the track in the summer season, with Thompson aiming for a swift 10,000m and Overall returning to the surface for the first time in several years.

As the trial race for the European 10,000m championship in Zurich this August is only four weeks away, the duo may have continental marathon berths in mind as the the 2:15.30 qualifying time is within reach – alternatively, spots on England’s Commonwealth Games team in Glasgow this July may be a possibility.

With the British interest fully focused on Farah in the lead up to the race and on Sunday, Thompson explained:

“It’s been a massive help – there’s no hiding from the fact that he’s doing it so it’s put my debut less under the radar.

“There’s lots of expectation and attention on him so we’re in our own little world so it’s been good.”

Meanwhile, in the women’s race, British hopes lie with Amy Whitehead and Emma Stepto, who have worked their way up from the mass field in recent years to claim their places among the marathon’s elite.

A former junior cross country international, Whitehead returned to national attention in 2011 when she was the first woman to finish from the mass field, a performance which re-started her injury-hit career.

The Sale Harrier then ran a personal best of 2:33:44 in 2012 and last year ranked third in the UK courtesy of her 2:34:14 London clocking, which was good enough for 13th place - her highest finish in five appearances.

42-year-old Stepto finished fourth in the mass field on her London debut two years ago to finish 30th overall.

The Cornish athlete went on to finish ninth in Toronto later that year, and eighth in Amsterdam last autumn, lowering her best by nearly eight minutes to 2:35:05.

That made her the third fastest British veteran in history behind running legends Priscilla Welch and Joyce Smith, and the quickest over-40s runner for 36 years - not bad for a woman who only took up running in her 30’s.

Having broken Welch's British vets' 5000m record last summer, Stepto now has her sights set on her over 40s marathon mark of 2:26:51.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Farah in Confident Mood Ahead of Marathon Test in London

On the track, he has won almost every major championship title on offer but the marathon distance remains an unknown quantity for Mo Farah, as he makes his 26.2-mile debut in a real baptism of fire in Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon.

Speaking at the official pre-race press conference near the capital’s Tower Bridge, the double Olympic and World 5,000m and 10,000m champion appeared in a relaxed mood and spoke confidently about his chances on his eagerly anticipated introduction to the event:

“The Virgin Money London Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world, I’ve been really looking forward to it racing it since I was a kid,” Farah explained.

“I’ve achieved a lot on the track but I wanted to test myself in the marathon.”

Despite harbouring the immense pressure from British fans to succeed on home turf and to continue his dominance of the distance-running world, the 31-year-old revealed his intentions without hesitation:

“My main target’s to go after the British record (2:07.13 held by Steve Jones from 1985) then see what else could happen, if I could go any faster and where I can finish.

“Whatever happens, it’s a great field. Every race is a risk (to my reputation) – I want to win but I’m not guaranteed to win.”

Indeed, with the field boasting most of the world’s greatest marathon runners in history, Farah still hopes to become the first British male winner of the race for 21-years and joked about the strength of his opposition:

“I want to thank Dave Bedford (the elite athlete coordinator and head of international relations) for making it
an easy race for me!” he jested.

“I’m straight in at the deep end but that’s what world champions do. I respect the distance and I want to test myself as that’s what makes a real champion.”

Having run the 2013 event to the halfway mark as a test, many are relieved to see the London-raised runner in healthy and confident form following a fall in last month’s New York City half marathon.

“Training’s gone reasonably well, it wasn’t smooth all of the time but hiccups are part of it so overall, it’s gone well,” Farah insisted.

“I felt fine after New York – it was hard mentally and physically as I was so tired from giving 110% after the fall. I was really feeling it and seeing stars but I’m glad it happened there and not here.

“I didn’t miss any training, I just had a few scratches. It’s completely different preparing for the track to the road, it’s such a long way. It’s all about finding out if I’ll be any good at the distance or not.”

With the three-time Olympic and six-time World champion, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia recently transferring his track pedigree over to the marathon event with success in Paris last weekend courtesy of a 2:05.04 debut, Farah is in a positive frame of mind:

“I’d like to congratulate Bekele on his good marathon run – it gives me confidence that if he can do it, I can even in the toughest field ever,” he said.

Having only returned from a stint of high-altitude training in Kenya the previous evening, the US-based athlete continued:

“I honestly don’t know what they (his rivals) are thinking, I only know what I’m thinking.

“I’m just going to go with the group, try to be patient and not waste too much energy early on.”