4th October 2020
COCKRAM AND MELLOR ARE THE TOP BRITS AND WEIR TAKES SECOND
Natasha Cockram (coach: Tony Houchin; club: Micky Morris Racing Team) and Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon; Liverpool Harriers) were the top British finishers at the Virgin Money London Marathon. Meanwhile, Ben Connor (Derby) grabbed an Olympic qualifying standard on his debut over the 26.2 mile distance, and David Weir (Jenny Archer; Weir Archer Academy) was the highest placed finisher in the elite men’s wheelchair race in second place.
With Olympic qualifying standards to be achieved, there was plenty to play for at the London Marathon. Although, the event did not act as an Official Trial for Olympic Games selection for the British athletes.
There were two remarkable performances from Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon; Liverpool Harriers) and Ben Connor (Derby) in the elite men’s race as both ran inside the Olympic qualifying standard.
Mellor, who had already achieved the standard in Seville earlier this year, was the first British athlete across the line in the elite men’s race, while Connor thrilled on his marathon debut.
The pair were always the leading Britons throughout the contest, and at the halfway point, the duo and Charlie Hulson (Steve Vernon; Liverpool Harriers) went through in 1:05:18 with a projected finish time well inside the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:11:30.
As Hulson dropped off the pace, Connor and Mellor battled it out in the final six miles but with a couple of miles to go, the Liverpool Harrier extended his lead, coming home in 2:10:38 in 13th place overall. For Connor, despite visible signs of fatigue in the closing stages, he managed to hold on for an outstanding debut time of 2:11:20; 15th overall.
Josh Griffiths (Swansea) ran the best marathon of his career as he clocked a personal best of 2:13:11 to finish as the third Brit in the field. Chris Thompson (Alan Storey; Aldershot Farnham & District) followed in 2:13:32, while Hulson was the fifth British finisher in 2:13:34.
In a frantic finish to the contest, Shura Kitata (ETH) outsprinted Vincent Kipchumba (KEN) down the Mall to win in 2:05:41, while Sisay Lemma (KEN) was third in 2:05:45.
Earlier in the day, Natasha Cockram (Tony Houchin; Micky Morris Racing Team) was the first British finisher in the elite women’s race following a hard-working display in the wet conditions in central London, while Naomi Mitchell (Nick Anderson; Reading AC) secured a significant lifetime best.
Cockram was part of the leading group of Britons in the early stages of the contest, going through halfway just a couple of seconds down on Lily Partridge (Birchfield) but two miles later, she was the leading Brit as she sat behind the pacemaker, Eilish McColgan.
As Partridge and Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham & District) unfortunately withdrew from the race over the next few miles, Mitchell superbly manoeuvred through the field to move ahead of Cockram, and she was on target to set a significant personal best. As the final few miles unfolded, the latter pushed on again, moving away from Mitchell and crossed the line in a time of 2:33:19 with her compatriot just four seconds behind which was a PB by over four minutes. Their positions in the race overall were 13th and 14th respectively.
Tracy Barlow (Tom Craggs; Thames Valley) was the next British athlete home as she came through in 2:34:42 in 15th place while Tish Jones (Belgrave) followed in 2:36:25, one place behind.
The race was won by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei in 2:18:58, with Sara Hall (USA) and Ruth Chepngetich rounding out the top three in times of 2:22:01 and 2:22:05 respectively.
The men’s wheelchair race was a tight battle with a group of six athletes, including eight-time champion David Weir and Paralympic champion Marcel Hug, and multiple world champion on the track, Brent Lakatos (CAN), entering the final six miles with little separating them. The congestion had not eased as they headed into the final lap, preparing for a thrilling sprint finish.
As they turned into the home straight, Lakatos held the advantage with Weir taking the long way around Hug to mount his attack. As the Swiss athlete faded, it was between the Canadian and the Briton over the final few metres. However, it was the former who used all his sprinting prowess to pull away and make history as he secured his first London Marathon title in a time of 1:36:04.
In the women’s wheelchair race, Shelly Woods (Peter Wyman; Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde) – the sole British representative – did not finish following an early withdrawal. Nikita Den Boer (NED) was a surprise winner as she broke free from Manuela Schär (SUI) over the last few laps, as she won in 1:40:07.