Published 25th March 2021 by mymo
Few events have been gifted to athletics fans in a year of seemingly endless cancellations, but this Friday 26th March sees an athletics event like nothing we have seen before.
Selection for the British Olympic Marathon team usually comes down to the London Marathon, but as the event has now been postponed to the Autumn (October 3rd - post Olympic Games), British Athletics were forced to offer athletes an alternative way to prove their worth. Similar to the event offered to American athletes looking for selection, a one-off trial race is instead set to be run this Friday at Kew Gardens in Richmond, on a closed course with a field of invited athletes.
To date, 33 athletes are confirmed to run on Friday (17 male, 16 female) as they aim for Olympic Team GB selection as just one athlete, Callum Hawkins, has pre-selection confirmed. Athletes must fill the criteria of finishing in the top two (men) or top three (women) and in qualifying times of 2:11:30 and 2:29:30 respectively. Should these not be met on the day, selectors review the athletes who have run the qualifying time at a previous event within the qualification window.
It’s going to be rapid...
The course looks set to be flat and fast. While some onlookers were critical of the original planned course due to some tight turns, race director Tom Bedford has made several tweaks to ensure it’s rapid. You can view the course in timelapse here.
Speaking on the Marathon Talk podcast, Bedford described the 12-lap course as flat and sheltered with some long stretches of well-maintained paths for athletes to hit their top speed.
The 3333m laps include a drinks station where athletes will have their personal drinks handed to them by a nominated ‘plus one’ on the day. This method of feeding the athletes is just one Covid-secure measure being taken by Bedford and the hosting team from Richmond Runfest.
The course is also closed to the public, with just 250 people in attendance on the day including British Athletics, course management, race officials, athletes, managers and media. All will be lateral flow tested on the day of the event and masks will be worn by all including athletes right up until ten seconds before the start of the race.
In it to win it
The start is sure to be a spectacle as unlike in the London Marathon, all athletes are set to start together in a mixed race. The first fast pack of athletes is bound to break away quickly as they aim for 64:30 through half way, ably led by Callum Hawkins acting as pacemaker and said to be in good shape following a period of injury. Also on pace duty is Jake Smith in his first appearance since an outstanding performance at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland in October 2020 where he ran 60:31 to go third on the all-time list.
The only athlete in the field with the qualifying time is Ben Connor (PB 2:11:20) while many others have shown outstanding form recently including Dewi Griffiths (PB 2:09:49), back to racing strongly after a period of illness, and Chris Thompson (PB 2:11:19) who has not only experience but course knowledge as previous winner of the Richmond Runfest Marathon.
Others to watch include Tom Evans, best known for achievements in ultra running but showing promise with a half marathon PB of 63:14 in Poland, October 2020, and Mohamud Aadan running 62:41 in the World Half Marathon Championships 2020.
The women’s race will perhaps have the most fireworks. While some well-known marathon women who have previously run under the qualifying time are missing from the field including Charlotte Purdue, Steph Twell, Jess Piasecki and Samantha Harrison, the race looks wide open for others to have a crack. Lily Partridge (PB 2:29:24) is perhaps the most experienced in the field and has shown recent great form at the Welsh Athletics Elite 10,000. Sarah Inglis looks set to settle a score, coming agonisingly close to running the qualifying time in her marathon debut which escaped her by just 11 seconds (2:29:41 PB) at the Marathon Project event in December 2020. There are a few debutants in the field including Charlotte Arter and Becky Briggs, both known to be fierce competitors. Steph Davies is one to watch too with both experience and fast times (PB 2:27:40) in her favour.
Catch all the action LIVE on the British Athletics website and via the BBC Sport website at 8am on Friday 26th March.
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