British Race Preview: Farah leads UK charge with Euro places up for grabs
All eyes will be on Sir Mo Farah on Sunday 22 April as he strives to end Britain’s 25-year drought in the London Marathon men’s race and break Steve Jones’s 33-year-old British record.
Four years ago Farah made his marathon debut in London amid high expectations and, despite finishing ‘only’ eighth, came home with an English record of 2:08:21 and the second fastest time in British marathon history.
Now with his glittering track career behind him, the quadruple Olympic champion will be looking to make his mark on the roads in the company of some of the greatest marathon runners of all time.
It remains to be seen whether Farah can live with the speed of the world record-chasing east Africans and become the first British men’s winner since Eamonn Martin in 1993, but the 35-year-old will certainly have Jones’s 1985 UK mark of 2:07:13 in his sights and possibly even the new European all-time best of 2:05:48.
“I am thrilled to be starting this new chapter in my career with the London Marathon,” said Farah. “The London Marathon is my home race and it is so special to me.
“When I decided to concentrate solely on the roads from 2018 I knew that I wanted this to be my first marathon. The London Marathon has been a great supporter of me over the years. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was running the Mini Marathon and in my early years the London Marathon provided me with crucial funding support.”
Farah has already shown good form this year, beating reigning London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru to win the Vitality Big Half in early March. Now British-based with Paula Radcliffe’s husband, Gary Lough, as his new coach, Farah will be hoping to convert that half marathon form into full marathon success.
He will not be the only Briton on show, of course, as four other men and three women will set off from Greenwich among the elite fields in pursuit of places on Britain’s marathon team at this summer’s European Championships.
Tsegai Tewelde and Jonny Mellor have both achieved the men’s qualification time of 2:16:00 but will need to be among the top two Britons across the line to guarantee their places in Berlin. Mellor lowered his best by four minutes to 2:12:57 when he was 10th at the Berlin Marathon last September, while Tewelde ran for Britain at the Rio Olympics after a breakthrough performance at the 2016 London Marathon.
They will be shadowed by debutant Matthew Clowes and Aaron Scott, who chopped almost 90 seconds off his personal best last year to finish 24th in 2:17:50.
Charlotte Purdue was all set to head the British women’s field but the 26-year-old has been forced to pull out with a stress fracture in her femur after running at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia two weeks ago.
Purdue has already beaten the women’s qualification standard of 2:36:00 but her place could be under threat if Tracy Barlow or Lily Partridge can rise to the challenge in her absence and reproduce the form they showed in 2017.
Barlow was 16th overall in last year’s race in 2:30:42 and ran for Britain at the World Championships in London last summer, while Partridge clocked 2:32:10 to place fourth in Seville last spring.
Rebecca Murray will be the unknown package in the women’s line-up. The 23-year-old makes her full marathon debut after finishing 10th at the Great North Run half marathon last September.
Coached by Radcliffe’s former guide, Alex Stanton, she certainly has a strong background having won British universities titles at 5000m, 10,000m and cross country in recent years.
See page 63 of the 2018 Media Guide for details of the European Championships selection criteria.