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.