17 April 2011
Lee Merrien (coach: John Nuttall) won the historic Jim Peters Trophy for the first British athlete to finish in today’s Virgin London Marathon when finishing 14th in a lifetime best mark of 2:14:27, but it was debutant Jo Pavey (coach: Gavin Pavey) who delivered the British performance of the day with an Olympic Games qualifying standard of 2:28:24.
Pavey, delighted at last to step up to the full marathon distance, had been loath to share her specific target time in the days leading up to the race, but was clear that a mark of sub-2:31 - UKA’s required standard for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Daegu and an ‘A’ standard for the London 2012 Olympic Games - was the very least she would accept.
As it happened, she found herself in the greatest women’s race London Marathon has ever seen with 22 athletes achieving times of 2:30 or lower, led home my half marathon World Record holder Mary Keitany in an exceptional 2:19:19, the fourth-equal fastest time ever recorded over the distance.
Pavey’s own ambition couldn’t be faulted as she passed through her opening 10km in 33:48, going onto halfway in 1:12:28 which was still on course for a time inside 2:25.
“I really want to thank London Marathon for helping me out when I was injured,” said Pavey, who suffered a stress fracture to her foot last year. “I would have liked to run a bit quicker but it was a debut run and the first part of it was to run the qualification time, so it’s a solid debut.
“Even though I really respect the distance I felt fine coming into the second half of the race and I was quite confident, but it really hit me at 18 miles and I just had to keep working.”
She had slowed to just inside 2:28 pace by 35km and had recorded her slowest 5km split of the race, but was motivated to keep going by the vociferous London crowd. “The atmosphere was amazing out there and I feel so fortunate to have been able to make my debut on home soil with such brilliant support,” she said. “It’s a good place to start and I’m pleased. I learnt a lot, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Pavey’s time of 2:28:24 placed her 19th overall and led home a trio of British women inside the top 25, but also, more importantly, inside the Olympic Games ‘B’ standard of 2:35, also UKA’s team standard for Daegu.
Louise Damen (self-coached), also on her debut, followed in 22nd in 2:30:00, an impressive first outing for the 28-year-old English National Cross Country champion who ran much of the race on her own.
“Training had gone really well and I knew that if everything went perfectly I could run sub-2:30, but there’s so much scope for things to go wrong over this distance,” she admitted.
In fact, she had been forced to slow down in the early stages after a quick first 5km took her through in 17:11: “It was maybe a bit quick,” she said; “I was running 5:35s rather than 5:40s, but I settled down.”
It was a mature approach from the self-coached athlete who has enjoyed the majority of her career success to date over cross country.
“I’ve waited a few years to step up to the marathon because I wanted to be physically and mentally really ready for it,” she continued. “I took a slightly cautious approach to training because it was pointless to do the work, get injured and perhaps not make the start line. I know that I’ve got as lot to build on now which gives me confidence.”
Scotland’s Susan Partridge (coach: John Montgomery), a member of Great Britain’s bronze medal winning Marathon Team Cup in the 2010 European Championships, reduced her lifetime best by over 90 seconds to finish 25th in 2:34:13 and complete the sub-2:35 trio.
In the men’s race, Guernsey’s Lee Merrien, who made his marathon debut in this event 12 months ago, credits UKA and London Marathon with much of his progress having spent significant periods of time training in Iten, Kenya, at the UKA/London Marathon Altitude Training Camp, and admits he was better prepared this time around.
“Being in Kenya, where there are no distractions, has given me so much focus,” said Merrien, who reduced his PB by over two minutes. “I knew I was in good shape and as a minimum I wanted to PB. My sessions have been better coming into London this year and I’ve put more into my overall preparations. It was good to repay UKA and London Marathon with a decent run, although I did want to go faster.”
He was consistent however, and went off at 2:13 pace which he maintained, more or less, over the course of the race, passing through 10km in 31:37 and halfway in 1:06:37.
“The pacer did a great job,” he continued. “There was a group of four (including fellow British athlete Dave Webb) and then at 19 miles I pushed on. The pacer came out at 20 and I started to pick off a few people off.
“I felt pretty strong but I was cautious too because you know so much can happen in the closing stages of a marathon. When I saw Andrew (Andrew Lemoncello) ahead of me it gave me more incentive to push on and finish first Brit.”
Lemoncello (coach: Greg McMillan), who also made his debut over 26.2 miles in London last year and clocked a solid 2:13:40, was on target for 2:12 when going through halfway in 1:05:51.
He suffered a stitch at 20 miles but recovered and cruised back into his stride; indeed, at 35km he was a minute clear of Merrien and going strong, but the pain struck again at 25 miles and this time was terminal: “It was just about getting to the finish (at that point),” he admitted, but in contrast to his lonely inauguration 12 months ago, it was a more enjoyable experience this time around for the US-based Scot who spent much of the race in company of Australia’s Mike Shelley who went on to PB with a time of 2:11:38: “Running is so much easier when you’re with someone else and the pace felt comfortable,” he said. He finished in 2:15:24.
Dave Webb (coach: Bud Baldaro), who clocked 2:15:42 in Seville in early 2010, was on course to shatter that mark when passing through 25km and 30km in 1:18:49 and 1:34:48 respectively, but finished third Brit in 2:17:41 after falling off the pace in the latter stages of the race.
For more information check out the Virgin London Marathon website at: www.virginlondonmarathon.com
The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the 2011 IAAF World Championship Marathon in Daegu will be announced this week.