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Marathon Top Eight for Merrien

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Lee Merrien

 

01 August 2010

On the final day of competition from the European Championships in Barcelona, the Aviva Great Britain & Northern Ireland men’s marathon team kicked off with a creditable performance in a grueling race that climaxed under the unrelenting midday sun.

And as the kilometer markers ticked by on the four lap course, it became clear that the athletes who were leading were simply suffering less than those behind them.

Top British finisher and proving himself to be a dab hand at the marathon distance was former 1500m man Lee Merrien (Coach: John Nuttall) who performed with the experience of a seasoned international - beginning conservatively and using the halfway marker as his signal to turn up the effort.

Improving his position from outside the top 30 during the first half, he moved to 22nd after the halfway point, through to 11th by 31km before storming the top 10 by 40k, and finishing a superb 8th in what was only his second marathon race.

“I don’t think the 1500m speedwork helped with that,” he joked. “But I am really, really pleased with that. It was beyond my expectations.”

“It was a bit touch and go over the last couple of kilometres as I had to stop just after 40km with cramp in my hamstring. I had to slow down – I felt good but the worry of the cramp kicking in made it a messy last 10km.

“Luckily I stopped for about 10 seconds and got going again. I lost one place because of it, but I’m over the moon with that eighth. It’s a bit emotional.

“I think I’ve moved up to the marathon at the right time with London only a couple of years away. It’s about timing it right – I was still a 1500m runner less than five years ago, and moved to 5km, but the marathon training has really suited me down to the ground so now it’s onwards and upwards!”

Following close behind Merrien was 28 year old Dave Webb (Bud Baldaro/Sian Webb), whose PB of 2:15.42 in Seville set in February this year would not have done too much to prepare him for the heat on the course for a summer Barcelona marathon.

Making a similar progression to Merrien, he picked off places in the field during the second half, and eventually crossed the line in 16th after holding 12th at one stage.

“I struggled the last 10km, I had quite a bad stomach from quite early on and I just couldn’t stomach any liquid and ran out of gas,” he said.

“With about 12km to go I was looking ahead and thinking a top ten could be on the cards, but then I started to struggle and over the last 2km, it was about trying to run in a straight line – it was getting to that point!

“Having said all that it was a great experience – the crowd were fantastic and it has given me a real appetite for more.”

The championship experience of Dan Robinson (Chris Frapwell) meant the 35 year old Stroud athlete was able to perform solidly, and with positions of 29th at halfway and 23rd at 31km, his eventual finishing position of 19th meant he had once again run his usual considered marathon strategy with a strong second half.

 “Feeling pretty battered and bloodied a bit at the moment,” he smiled. “It was a solid run from me – I’m not pleased with that – but in these conditions it’s ok. I’m so pleased for Lee, he’s been at altitude for five weeks and the sacrifices he’s made – to come eighth is a fantastic achievement for him I’m really pleased,” said the reigning Commonwealth bronze medalist.

“As far as I’m concerned it was solid enough – it was brutal out there. I suffered on the last lap but then most people did – it was just ‘get to the finish’ by then. I’m pleased for my teammates – but for me it’s about seeing how I recover and take it from there.

“I think experience does help – this is similar to Osaka and Beijing, and that probably helped a bit.”

For both Ben Moreau (Nick Anderson) and Martin Williams (Bud Baldaro) the race was a baptism of fire in championship marathon running,  as they crossed the line in 24th and 28th positions respectively, but both reported taking great lessons from their time wearing the GB & NI vest in action today:

Moreau said: “Pleased - I’m please with that – from 17 or 18 miles it was horrible – I knew I was slowing and it was a case of ‘Right… Finish!’ I was still going past the odd person, and people were dying in the second half – it wasn’t just me.

“It was a case of countdown the miles, countdown the kilometers, find people in the crown, count down the corners and every drinks station to keep my mind on it.

“It still felt alright, I always thought I would finish but in truth that last out and back I thought was never going to end! It was so hot and then you turn and it’s there again. On the finish line I stopped and I thought I’m not sure I can stand up anymore!

“I’m pleased. 2:27 is not a great time, but it was hot, I was fourth Brit and I know what it’s like now to run a championship marathon in 30 degrees and I’ve learnt from it so if I do another championship I know what it’s like. Although, right now I’m just happy it’s over!”

Williams said: “It’s weird, I felt great and then at halfway started to push on, but then it comes over you in a few seconds and you’re in survival mode. It literally happened after halfway and then was all through the third lap.

“I could see all the British guys were ahead but by then it was a case of ‘just get round now, just get round now’ – you want to live to fight another day.

“It’s been a brilliant occasion and it’s great to be a part of this – it’s just a shame I couldn’t be more in there – I enjoyed it nonetheless and I’m just proud to put on the British vest.”

Finally Andi Jones (Bob Merrell) was unfortunate to suffer badly in the conditions, and despite a hugely positive start, faded during the first 15-20k, and was forced to drop out just past the halfway point with heat exhaustion. However the seasoned marathon runner will surely be back to his best soon.

The GB team, running the incorporated European Marathon Cup were fifth, with Spain taking a popular victory in front of the home crowd, although the overall race victory went to Switzerland’s Viktor Rothlin, who ran away from the field during the second half to take the line in 2:15.31.