20th April 2018


A host of Britain’s best road runners have set out their stall ahead of this weekend’s Virgin Money London Marathon, which acts as important trial for the summer’s biggest event.

The London Marathon doubles as the British Championships and trials for the European Championships, which are set to be held on the streets of Berlin on August 12.

Mo Farah (Gary Lough) leads the British charge but is not putting himself in contention for Berlin leaving Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) to head up those gunning for European selection.

Tracy Barlow (Nick Anderson) and Lily Partridge (Alan Storey) are the top British women heading into the 26.2-mile challenge, which is predicted to be the hottest London Marathon record.

Mellor has the qualifying time courtesy of his 2:12:57 hours from the Berlin Marathon in September and simply needs to make the top two for automatic selection for the Europeans.

Tsegai Tewelde (John MacKay) is the same after his 2:14:45 in Beirut in November while Aaron Scott (Anderson), Matthew Clowes and Henry Pearce, the latter two on their 26.2-mile debuts, are in the elite race and hunting 2:16:00.

“Berlin gave me the belief that I can be a marathon runner, before that I ran 2:16 [in Frankfurt in 2015] and I had a bad run in London last year running 2:18. I didn’t respect the hydration and getting fuel in during the race,” said Mellor.

“Even though it is my fourth marathon on Sunday I still think I am learning a lot about the sport. Berlin gave me the confidence that I can be a marathon runner and I learnt a lot from London last year.

“I enjoy the change from training for the track. I don’t feel my track career is over, I still want to go back to the track depending on what happens on Sunday. I would like to race on the track this summer.”

Both Barlow and Partridge as well as Louise Damen are chasing the European qualification standard of 2:36:00 in the women’s race, in addition to finishing in the top two to secure an automatic ticket to Berlin.

Barlow was disappointed with her last race in London, the IAAF World Championships back in August where she was 43rd in 2:41:03, and is ready to put the record straight back in the capital.

“I have unfinished business after the World Championships. Sub 2:30:00 is my main goal and improving on that last marathon,” said Barlow, who was 16th in the 2017 London Marathon in 2:30:42.

“I have been doing more marathon specific work, doing long runs at marathon pace and making sure I am hitting my targets and if not seeing what I need to change in training to get better.

“I like it warmer and I have been out in Portugal warm-weather training, even if I did get back a couple of weeks ago. I did two blocks of ten days in Portugal and it was up into the 20s and I did some training sessions in the afternoon.”

With Charlotte Purdue (Nick Bideau) having withdrawn from the race, Rebecca Murray (Alex Stanton) completes the British women in the elite race, making her marathon debut.

Like Mellor, Partridge – who ran 2:32:10 in Seville last year – spent time in Murcia, Spain preparing for London and is fully expecting to shave over two minutes off that personal best from 2017.

“I am not going to lie, I would be disappointed if I ran outside 2:30:00. I am in good shape and I have been training for faster than that time and m training is a lot more focussed on what I want to achieve on the roads,” she said.

“I think it is scheduled to be 15 degrees at race start, so I don’t think it [the weather] will have a massive impact. I just have to make sure I stay hydrated and take on enough fuel on the way around and try and stay as cool as possible. As long as it stays below 20 degrees, I don’t think it will have that much of an impact.”

Meanwhile Farah, concentrating fully on the marathon after a glittering track career, is targeting Steve Jones’ British record of 2:07:13 as a minimum on his return to the roads in London.

“I have learned a lot since I made my marathon debut in London in 2014. I understand the marathon more, so I will go after the British record and see what I’m capable of. My aim on Sunday is to respect the other guys and get on with the race,” said Farah.

“When things are great, that’s the time to find a new challenge, something to get you motivated and get you up in the morning. And running the marathon is something I’ve always wanted to do. Having a new challenge has made me feel more relaxed. You have to enjoy what you do, otherwise what’s the point? I’m enjoying my running now more than ever.”