23rd April 2017

Dixon repeats history with top Brit placing as Griffiths surprises

The 37th Virgin Money London Marathon saw a host of Britons post impressive personal bests as Aly Dixon held onto her title of British marathon champion to secure qualification for the British Athletics team at August’s IAAF World Championships, while Josh Griffiths ensured he will join Dixon as he broke away for something of a surprise victory in the English capital.

The women’s race, won by Kenya’s Mary Keitany in a women’s only world record of 2:17:01, saw 2016 Olympian Aly Dixon lead the crop of British women from the very start, as the 38-year-old went through 10km and 20km in 34:57 and 69:38 respectively to open up a 30 second gap on compatriot Charlotte Purdue (Nic Bideau).

As the kilometres crept on Purdue clawed back the gap, as less than 15 seconds separated the pair at 35km, but the Sunderland Stroller held her form and dug in deep to repeat her feat of finishing as the top Briton at the same race last year, with her finishing time of 2:29:06 a new personal best by some 24 seconds as she held on to her title of British marathon champion.

Post-race a delighted Dixon said:

“I might have been a little more sensible but I was feeling so good. The training has gone really well so I felt like I was in really good shape – you don’t get too many chances when it all comes together.

“I’m sure I gave some people a worry back home though. If you don’t try, you’ll never know; I’d rather leave the course knowing I’d given everything rather than looking back and regretting holding back.”

Behind Dixon, the fast finishing Purdue took a fantastic 15th place, posting 2:29:32 to shave over half a minute off her previous best run in Frankfurt last autumn on only her fourth attempt at 26.2 miles, with her British top-two finish seeing her claim the second automatic spot on the British team for the World Championships.

On the race, she said:

“To get a PB in what I consider to be my third marathon of the year – my first marathon was London last year on April 24 – shows that I’m getting better and learning with each one, so things are looking good.”

On her high-mileage training weeks in preparation for the race, she added:

“Training has been going so well, and, actually, I’m a little disappointed with the time – based on training I feel I should have put a quicker race together. I’m obviously so happy to have made the team, and hopefully come August I can bring that time down again.”

The third Brit over line was the highly-experienced marathoner Tracy Barlow (Nick Anderson) in a time of 2:30:42 as she followed her habit of successively lowering her lifetime best over the distance, with the Thames Valley athlete’s time considerably quicker than her previous quickest of 2:32:05.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey), as the five-time track Olympian withdrew from the race at the 16 mile point with cramp.

In the men’s field, a manic final couple of miles saw Swansea Harriers athlete and surprise package Josh Griffiths (self-coached) come through strongly to claim the title of British marathon champion and claim a spot for the marathon at August’s home World Championships for what will be his first British vest.

After being in the mix of the Brits for much of the race, at the 35km point Griffiths and Robbie Simpson ate up the substantial gap that Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) had built for himself shortly after previous British leader Tsegai Tewelde (John MacKay) withdrew from the race shortly after going through half-way in a swift 65:04.

Even more extraordinary was that this was Griffiths’ debut over the marathon, with his time of 2:14:49 comfortably within the 2:16:00 qualifying standard.

“I’m still not too sure how to put the race into words – it’s still sinking in,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, and given the likes of endurance athletes like Callum [Hawkins] and Andy [Butchart] coming through, I thought ‘why not?’ – I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. I ran a half marathon last month, and I knew from that that I was in good shape, but given that was my first attempt at the full distance, it couldn’t have gone much better.”

On what he considered to be his aim this morning, he added:

“The goal for me this morning was try and run the Welsh standard for the Commonwealth Games of 2:16:00 – obviously that is the same time as the qualifier for the World Championships, but the overall goal was to get that time in, but to come in the first two British athletes is just something that never crossed my mind at all – I can’t believe it.”

Simpson’s late surge alongside Griffiths saw him post 2:15:04, a best of 34 seconds, as he too booked his spot on the British Athletics team for the championships at The London Stadium in August.

Reflecting on the experience, a clearly delighted Simpson said:

“It has been a goal of mine [to qualify for the World Championships] so I am really happy to have made the team. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I am second Brit in the London Marathon. I don’t think a lot of people expected me to make the team, and maybe I didn’t think I could but I knew if I ran a good tactical race, I would have a chance. “

“I ran a lot of the time with Josh (Griffiths) today – I’ve actually known him for a while from mountain running [backgrounds] – we were together from about halfway and he was running very strongly. I know it is his first marathon and he is pretty young so I was not sure how he would do over the second half. He went past me in the last few miles and I was thinking, ‘woah, he’s flying’. I couldn’t quite hold on to him but I’m happy to be the second Briton home.”

Andrew Davies was the third Briton over the line in 2:15:11 for 16th place overall, seven seconds and one place back from Simpson.

Full results can be found via Results