London Marathon Preview

On 4th of October 2020 the eyes of the world running community will be set on St James’s Park, London. The London Marathon will be celebrating its 40th edition albeit it will be a very different marathon with the event taking place without the championship, good for age and the masses. Due to the ongoing covid-19 restrictions the event will take the form of nineteen and a half laps around St James’ Park for a select elite field.

It’s the battle of the greatest marathon runners in the world that will draw the biggest attention. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge is known for his ‘unofficial’ sub 2 marathon but his official PB stands at 2:01:39. He will finally be lining up against another running great in Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele who has a PB of 2:01:41. It will be intriguing to see whether there is any attempt at pushing towards the 2 hour barrier or whether it is a tactical affair.

The women’s race is equally stacked with marathon world record holder and last year’s winner Brigid Kosgei battling it out against 2019 world Marathon Champion and fellow Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich. They have personal bests of 2:14:04 and 2:17:08 respectively.

It is fantastic to see a strong domestic line-up in the race too including some of Wales’ best marathon runners. Perhaps we should be thanking Dan Nash for that! Listen to him speaking on the Marathon Talk podcast to learn why.

The ladies race commences very early at 7.15am and Natasha Cockram of Micky Morris Racing Team will be lining up. Former University of Tulsa athlete Natasha broke the 21 year old Welsh marathon record last year with a fantastic time of 2:30:49 to finish 5th at the Dublin Marathon. Natasha ran a half marathon PB of 75:25 at the start of the year in Llanelli shortly before lockdown. She spoke to Running Review Cymru following the race about her decision to relocate to Norfolk and concentrate on her running career.  We are very much looking forward to see her returning to racing and attempting to achieve the Olympic standard and reducing the Welsh record further. Welsh athlete Charlotte Arter will be pace making on the day.

Natasha Cockram – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

The men’s race kicks off at a more civil 10.15 and will include a number of Welsh athletes. It should be a great battle between Charlie Hulson of Liverpool  and Josh Griffiths of Swansea Harriers with only seconds separating their personal bests of 2:14:22 and 2:14:25 respectively. Charlie and Josh lie just outside the Welsh marathon all-time top 10 list:

Source – Power of 10

This will be Charlie’s first time in London and only his 2nd marathon attempt following his impressive 2:14:25 debut at Valencia last year. The New Balance athlete recently completed the Cheshire half marathon in 65:52 with his teammates as a final preparation for the marathon.

Swansea athlete Josh is in fine form having recently broken his half marathon PB at the Antrim Half Marathon in 63:08. The Welsh and GB international surprised the UK domestic scene at his debut Marathon in London back in 2017 after he started in the Championship race to go on to finish first Brit and 13th overall to gain automatic selection for the World Championships (also in London).

Josh Griffiths winning the 2019 Porthcawl 10k – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

Josh spoke to running Running Review Cymru recently about the marathon build up and the race itself:

‘Training has gone as well as it could have given the conditions. Having no track access hasn’t been easy but there are worse problems to have! Not having access to massage or any support like that hasn’t been an issue as I never have access to that anyway. I’ve managed to run my highest ever weekly and total mileage in the build-up this time, probably due to the lack of other races, so having that sort of focus all on one event has been good.

Racing will be a bit strange with no crowd but in terms of the elite race I don’t think it’ll be too different. Of course I love having 40,000 other runners there but the elite field always breaks away after about 400m anyway and after that it’s just small groups so I don’t think that will be too different. As for the laps, yeah that is obviously different to a normal London but it’s still 26.2 Miles.

Being a part of such a great field is a real honour, it’s part of the reason I train every day to get the chance to go up against these type of guys, I won’t see much of them after the gun goes off but it’s still a great experience. I’ll be more focused on my own race and trying to achieve my own goals’

Both Josh and Charlie appear to have prepared well and we are excited to see how they perform.

Another Welsh athlete lining up is Cardiff AAC’s long distance specialist Dan Nash. The current bronze medallist from the 50 KM 2019 World Championship finds himself on the start line after  contacting London Virgin Marathon on twitter asking them to consider adding himself and others to expand the domestic field. It’s great to see that London Marathon HQ thought it was a good idea and we hope that they get good coverage on the day.

Dan Nash at the Welsh Road Relays – Photo Credit Paul Stillman

Dan has a PB of 2:18:51 from Brighton last year but there are good signs that he will significantly lower this at London. The Cardiff Met PhD exercise physiology student has been using his scientific knowledge to assist his training as well as training in small loops of Bute Park, Cardiff to simulate the lapped race conditions at London.  Dan spoke to Running Review Cymru ahead of the event:

“With just a few days to go, the excitement is really building! I am one of those runners who loves to race, and I’ve really been missing that adrenaline-rush over the last few months. Having said that, the lockdown actually worked out quite well for me. I picked up an injury after setting a PB at The Big Half in March and couldn’t run for 7 weeks. Normally after an injury, I’m always in a rush to get fit for the next race. However, with all the races being wiped from the calendar, I really took my time to build my training back up. This seems to have paid dividends, as I have managed to put together a really consistent block of training and I’m feeling in the best shape of my life!

My overwhelming feeling going into the race is gratefulness. While so many other runners are continuing to have their races cancelled, I have somehow managed to fluke my way into the highest profile race in the world! Am I really going to be standing alongside the likes of Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele on the start line?! Whatever happens on the day, I’m sure I’ll have some amazing memories of what will be a very unique race.

Dan will feel at home as he is joined with his fellow Cardiff AAC teammate and England International Josh Lunn in the race itself whilst Matt Clowes and Jake Smith also of Cardiff AAC will be on pace making duties.  

Welsh marathon running is exceptionally strong at the moment with four guys running 2.14 marathons last year. One of these, Swansea Harriers’ Dewi Griffiths was originally scheduled to run London but unfortunately had to withdraw due to a niggle. Hopefully he will be back competing soon to try and push for Olympic qualification. V40 British Record holder Andrew Davies has decided to give London a miss to concentrate on mountain running. It would be great to see all of our great marathon runners together in one race. Wrexham Marathon 2021 perhaps?

We would like to wish them all good luck and we cannot wait to see how they all get on. If you wish to watch the races unfold there will be live BBC coverage.

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