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Flora London Marathon report updated

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As the temperature climbed towards 25° Celsius, David Weir and Shelly Woods completed a home country winning double in the wheelchair races while Mara Yamauchi and Liz Yelling set the hottest pace of the GB ‘foot soldiers’ in the Flora London Marathon on Sunday 22 April.

 

Yamauchi summed-up: “We’ve got two men in the first 10 and two women in the first 10. Surely it shows that British marathon running is improving.”

 

The thermometer climbed from 14.1° (with 55% humidity) at the start of the women’s race to 16.3° (49% humidity) after an hour, 18.6° (43%) after two hours … and 20.5° after three hours, when the later-starting men’s race was reaching its testing phases.

 

But the hotter it got, the harder the foremost GB duo ran – with Yelling one of the few elite athletes in the race to register a personal best.

 

Following them down the roads, Dan Robinson and Andi Jones took top-10 places in the men’s race, surviving where much better-known athletes stalled in the heat.

 

And both Weir and Woods counted these successes among their best-yet performances as they prepare for the ultimate aim, the Paralympics at London 2012.

 

Women’s race

 

On the day London’s spectators got another awesome foretaste of how successfully China is preparing its athletes for the Beijing Olympics, the home cheer was provided by Mara Yamauchi (Harrow AC) and Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC) defying the heat to beat the elite qualifying standard of 2 hours 31 minutes for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

 

Despite not finding the fast group in which she hoped to run, Yamauchi transformed the loneliness of the long-distance runner into a lovely enough experience to finish sixth in 2:25:41 while Yelling lowered her PB to 2:30:44 for a great eighth place.

 

They both ran disciplined races, steadfastly ignoring the temptations to set off too quickly as the packed crowd generated the kind of frenzied atmosphere for which the world’s biggest foot race is renowned.

 

At the head of affairs, demonstrating this is the best as well as the biggest, Asian champion Chunxiu Zhou broke away in the 23rd mile and finished so powerfully to become China’s first winner in London that she built an advantage of 1 minute 7 seconds over the runner-up, the renowned Gete Wame (Ethiopia). Zhou’s winning time of 2:20:38 was just 43 seconds shy of her best yet. The consistent Constantina Tomescu-Dita (Romania) was third in 2:23:55 and Salina Kosgei (Kenya) fourth in 2:24:13 as the World Cross Country Champion Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands) faded in the closing stages to fifth in 2:24:46.

 

And then came Britain’s second-fastest ever female – Yamauchi, who clocked 2:25:13 on this course 12 months ago. Today she spent longer than ever in her life running on her own yet went through 5km in 16:34, 10km in 33:43, 15km in 50:48, 20km in 1:08:01, halfway in 1:11:44 in eighth place, 25km in 1:25:06, past Adere and Benita Johnson (who was to finish seventh in 2:29:47) into sixth place through 30km in 1:42:23, 35km in 1:59:56, 40km in 2:17:45.

 

She said: “I was pleased to come sixth again because I think it was a really good field – better than last year. And I was pleased to get close to my PB. I was not that pleased to run the whole thing on my own … but I suppose it was good for my discipline.

 

“The heat didn’t bother me at all which, given I want to run the Worlds in Osaka, is a good sign. The temperature will be 35°C and the humidity between 90 and 100% even though the race will start at 7am.

 

“I really wanted to do a quicker time today – about 2:23 – and I don’t know why I couldn’t run quicker. I went through halfway around 71:45 which was about the right speed and in my training I’ve been trying to prepare to run well in the second half. I felt quite good in the last 10km but somehow I couldn’t run faster.

 

“I shall have to go away and think how to run a faster marathon. It will probably involve getting my 10k and half marathon times down.”

 

Yelling was through 5km in 16:50, 10km in 34:07, 15km in 51:39, 20km in 1:09:45, halfway in 1:13:34 in ninth place, 25km in 1:27:29, 30km in 1:45:31, 35km in 2:04:04 in eighth place having overtaken the fading Adere, 40km in 2:22:47.

 

Despite her PB and high placing, Yelling said: “I’m disappointed. I really thought I could do sub-2:30. I thought 2:28 would be achievable today. I didn’t anticipate the weather being as bad as it was. Although I didn’t feel the heat, I drank a lot more than usual – I took at least a sip every mile – but I still think I didn’t drink enough.

 

“My calves were cramping. People are saying that’s why a lot of runners dropped out. I had a nightmare a fortnight ago because my calf went into a spasm. I phoned Zara Hyde Peters [the Director of Athletics Performance at UK Athletics] and she was very, very good. She arranged for me to see Dr Bruce Hamilton. And physios Mark Booth and Mark Buckingham has been invaluable over the last couple of weeks. In addition Martin [her husband] has given me a massage every day for the last two weeks just to get me to the line.”

 

Why didn’t she mention this pre-race? “Because I didn’t want it to be an excuse. I didn’t want people to think, ‘Aah, Liz has had a tough time’ I just wanted to get on that start line equal with everyone else.”

 

Husband Martin had promised her a ‘champion’s dinner’ if she ran a PB – and, in truth, both earned the slap-up meal the hard way. Martin was forced to drop out at 18 miles when his quads tightened up.

 

Kathy Butler (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Windsor AC), who ran 2:28:39 in Chicago last year to register a World Championships qualifying time, went through 5km in 16:51, 10km in 34:25, 15km in 52:02, 20km in 1:09:48, halfway in 1:13:38 in 10th place, 25 km in 1:27:42, 30km in 1:47:10 in 11th place (she was overtaken by European 10,000m champion Inga Abitova) but then joined the growing number of athletes to step off the course.

 

Butler, who had done much of her training in snow at her USA base, said: “I think it must have been the heat. All of a sudden I went from 5:40 miles and passing people to 6:10 and wondering what was happening. I wasn’t sweating very well. It’s been quite cold where I’ve been. Not that it was super-hot here – just warmer than I’ve been used to.”

 

Men’s race

 

With Jon Brown a non-starter because of illness that confined him to his hotel bed on Saturday and Sunday, Dan Robinson led the valiant battle of Brits to beat the World Championships elite qualifying time of 2:12:00.

 

He progressed through 5km in 15:25, 10km in 31:12, 15km in 47:12, 20km in 1:03:12, halfway in 1:06:37, 25km in 1:18:59, 30km in 1:35:01, 40km 1:51:11 and 40km in 2:07:11 before finishing ninth in 2:14:14.

 

The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, who has a best of 2:13:53, found himself running most of the last 20 miles on his own as huge gaps opened quicker than the temperature climbed.

 

He said: “In the conditions and the way the race unfolded, I am fairly pleased.  I was completely on my own from 10k when I lost my pacemaker.  I was hoping he would take me to halfway or maybe to 15 miles, but he dropped away at 10k.

 

“I genuinely feel I am in 2:11/2:12 shape, so am a little disappointed. I’m first Brit, 2:14 is solid enough, but you only get so many chances at the marathon.  I wanted to be at halfway at 66 and build from there.”

 

It was the 32 year-old’s first big city marathon, as opposed to championship races, in three years and he found the experience different. 

 

“It perhaps doesn’t suit me as well.  Here it is all about times.  Where a championship can be in August in tough conditions on tough courses where it’s all about positions.  You don’t have to be a sub 2:10 marathon runner to contend at championships.

 

“I will now take a couple of weeks off and, if selected for Osaka, I will decide whether to do the World Championships.”

 

To emphasise the huge gaps, Robinson was followed home by mountain running international Andi Jones (Salford Harriers), who was 10th in 2:17:49, a PB by 3 seconds. He went through 5km in 15:47, 10km in 32:14, 20km in 1:04:36, halfway in 1:07:57, 25km in 1:20:18, 30km in 1:36:31, 35km in 1:53:10 and 40km in 2:10:13.

 

It was one of those rare days when both beat legends such as Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia), one of many to suffer to such an extent that they did not finish.

 

Even so, the roll of honour in front of the British duo was as awesome as the sprint finish that settled the race: Martin Lel (Kenya), first and second in 2005 and 2006, won again in 2:07:41; Abderrahim Goumri (Morocco) was second on his debut at the distance in 2:07:44; last year’s winner Felix Limo (Kenya) had to settle for third in 2:07:47; double World Champion Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) was fourth in 2:07:54; consistently successful Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) was fifth in 2:07:56. Then came world marathon record holder Paul Tergat (Kenya), sixth in 2:08:06, newcomer to the distance Ryan Hall (USA) in 2:08:24, and New York Marathon winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos (Brazil) in 2:08:37.

 

Among the thousands of charity runners, UK Athletics Performance Coach John Nuttall finished in 2:57:26 – off only 15 miles a week of training – having decided only last Tuesday to accept a late, late entry to raise funds for the rehabilitation of Karen Harewood, the 800m star who shattered a femur at last month’s European Indoor Championships.

 

UK Athletics insurance will ensure that Harewood’s medical and physiotherapy bills are all paid, whilst her ‘protected’ place on the World Class Performance Plan will ensure rehab support and a small stipend. Nuttall and her training partners at Loughborough are acutely aware, however, that she will need all the help she can get to overcome injuries that were akin to her being in a car crash.

 

Nuttall said: “I ran it all though the last two miles felt like a public flogging. Not  bad for lack of prep!”

 

Anyone wishing to support Nuttall for his efforts can email pledges to him via the UKA administrator at Loughborough HPC, Sue Clarke, who can be contacted at sclarke@ukathletics.org.uk

 

Wheelchair race

 

David Weir sprinted to a thrilling victory in 1:30:49, a single second ahead of Australia’s Kurt Fearnley – and rated it: “Probably my best win ever.”

 

The 27-year-old from South London cited “personal reasons” and problems in training for this third London win being his best.

 

He explained: “I was so disappointed to be beaten by three minutes in Los Angeles. Then I got ill three weeks ago. So this is definitely my best win for a long time.”

 

The multi-talented Weir – whose scope for success covers almost as many distances as the legendary Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson – added:

 

Looking to the near future – with major competitions coming up in Manchester, Switzerland, USA and Canada on the way to Osaka – he said: “This is an important year. I have to sit down with my coach and make a decision about what gold medal(s) I’m going to aim for in Beijing next year.”

 

And London 2012? “I will be there! It’s the goal of my career.”

 

The same goes for 20-year-old Shelly Woods, who scored an emphatic victory over world champion and record holder Francesca Porcellato (Italy) in a women’s wheelchair race that lack quantity but not quality.

 

Woods, who won in 1:50:40, said: “I’ve dreamt of winning this race. It’s brilliant! I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint finish so I went out hard and pushed the pace on. I knew Francesca would be stalking me. It’s fantastic to beat her.”

 

Mini Marathons

 

European Junior Cross Country Champion Steph Twell (Aldershot Farnham and District AC) was thrilled to be among the winners of the age-group races for the second time in her burgeoning career.

 

The 17-year-old – who was set off on the race by Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s senior men’s European Cross Country Champion Mo Farah, explained: “It’s extra special because it’s my last chance to run in this event. The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s given me the incentive to come back and run the marathon as a senior.”

 

Even though she broke the UK Junior Women’s half marathon record earlier this month, there’ll be plenty of races before Twell tackles 26.2 miles. She’s currently still peaking at 1500m, 3000m and 5000m.

 

For more details of the great London occasion, please go to http://live.london-marathon.co.uk/2007