8th August 2021


Chris Thompson battled the heat in Sapporo to finish 54th in the men’s marathon in his first Olympic appearance over 42.2km.

The 40-year-old qualified for Tokyo 2020 in March with an emotional win at the Müller British Athletics Marathon and 20 km Walk Trials at Kew Gardens just five days after becoming a father to baby Theo.

Thompson (coach: Alan Storey, club: Aldershot Farnham and District) ran 2:21:29 in blistering humidity but compatriots Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins, Kilbarchan) and Ben Connor (Steve Vernon, Derby) were unable to finish the race.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge became just the third person to defend an Olympic marathon title, and the first in over 40 years to achieve the feat, after storming home in 2:08:38, one minute and 20 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger.

It had looked like Kipchoge’s teammate Lawrence Cherono would be the one to take silver and make it another Kenyan 1-2 after Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei came first and second in the women’s race yesterday.

But Dutch runner Abdi Nageeye kicked and went past him on the home straight while visibly ushering his training partner Bashir Abdi of Belgium to follow suit.

Abdi obliged and took bronze behind Nageeye with Cherono forced to settle for fourth among the chasing group on a sweltering Sunday, which saw 30 competitors pull up short of the finish line.

Both marathons and the walking races were moved over 500 miles north of Tokyo to Sapporo amid fears surrounding the summer heat but temperatures still topped 27°C.

Thompson, who finished 25th behind gold medallist Mo Farah in the men’s 10,000m on Super Saturday at London 2012, said: “The sun never felt like it was on you but it was deceptive. I tried to respect the second half and I think I did that but that last six to eight miles was one of the emotionally toughest things I’ve done running-wise.

“You go through a lifetime of emotions in two hours, you really go to some weird places, and you feel like you can’t do it. I’m really proud I got to the end.

“There was a couple of times where I felt like I could barely lift my legs, and you’re still staring down the barrel of five miles to go, 25 minutes to half an hour, and you can barely bring your leg up. That’s the first time I’ve felt that so-called wall. I went through about five or six walls where I felt like I hit something.

“On reflection I think it was dehydration and complete sugar depletion. I was yo-yoing in and out, I think I got things slightly wrong, which is fine, you don’t always get it right and there were enough athletes that didn’t finish today.

“I say there’s no way that I wasn’t going to finish, there were times when I was telling myself you have to finish, but there were times when I was thinking I physically can’t.

“The first half was spot on, perfect, I felt really good between halfway and about 30k, felt really good. Then I literally turned a corner and that was it. With about seven miles to go I just bombed out suddenly. Then I was just on the rollercoaster of emotion of thinking I can’t finish.”

Hawkins had finished ninth at Rio 2016 but Scotland’s top marathon runner succumbed to an ankle injury in the final athletics event of the delayed Games.

“I found the conditions okay. I didn’t struggle too much with the conditions, it was warm and you could feel it, but it was my ankle that I’ve been dealing with for the past year that went,” he explained.

“I kept getting slower and couldn’t put any power through my ankle. I probably went through a bit of a bad patch at 18, 19km, and then from there my ankle just got worse and worse.

“I would’ve just ended up hurting it more and being back where I was last year, and I can’t do another year like that. It’s just been a really bad year for me, to be honest.

“My ankle, and then when I get that fixed in the last six weeks, I’ve only managed to finish like two sessions. I don’t know what happened, whether it was illness or a bad reaction to something, but it’s been a tough year.”

Connor revealed his legs went in the heat but was proud to have represented Team GB at his first Olympics.

He said: “Obviously it was hot, but my legs just couldn’t run, I don’t know what it was. It was really humid.

“I did everything I could in terms of taking on water, but I’m not sure, 25k my legs just went, and once they go in a marathon there’s no way of bringing them back unfortunately. No matter how hard you try. I think I got to 30, 32, I can’t remember.

“I kept the same pace, going out at around 68 minutes for the half marathon, which was fine. I didn’t feel like we were jogging at that point but I felt okay, and then 20 minutes later it felt like I hit a wall which was weird.

“I hit the wall at 25. I can’t say I went out too quick, because I went out quite steady. It’s just one of those days but it’s a shame it’s at the Olympics. It’s just hard.

“It’s just the marathon, no matter where it is it’s brutal, whether it’s the Olympics or a local marathon back in the UK, it’s still 26 miles.

“I need to take a break and then decide what I do in terms of racing and stuff. I definitely need a break – it’s been three marathons in 10 months now. It’s not ideal but it is what it is and I’m proud to be here.”