British race report: Griffiths delivers shock of the day to secure selection
Unknown club runner Josh Griffiths produced the shock of the day at the Virgin Money London Marathon this morning when he ran the race of his life to finish first Briton and clinch a place at this summer’s World Championships.
The 23-year old Swansea Harrier, running his first-ever marathon, worked his way through from the Championship start to finish in 2:14:49, ahead of 11 British men who had set off from the elite start.
“It was really nice passing people and not being passed,” he said. “I had the Welsh Commonwealth Games qualifying standard in my head so I planned to go off at that pace and see if I could hold it. I felt good and I was catching people all the way through.”
Griffiths was certainly under the radar ahead of the event. He clocked a 65:18 personal best to win Llanelli Waterside Half Marathon in March, but his international experience to date has been on the mountains rather than the road.
Griffiths went off cautiously, but eventually caught a small group, including British favourites Scott Overall and Chris Thompson – plus Scotland’s Robbie Simpson – just before half way near Tower Bridge.
By mile 18 only Griffiths and Simpson remained in contention for the two available places on the British team, and over the last few miles the Swansea man worked hard to finish inside the World Championship qualifying standard of 2:16.
Simpson, from Deeside Runners, is also an accomplished international mountain runner, and he earned his first GB marathon vest with a 2:15:04 PB, while Andrew Davies took more than a minute from his best in 2:15:11.
The women’s race was won by Sunderland Strollers’ Alyson Dixon who brilliantly defended the British Championship title she won 12 months ago with a 2:29:06 lifetime best for 14th overall.
Dixon, alongside Charlotte Purdue in second (2:29:23), earned automatic selection for the Worlds, while Tracy Barlow is also likely to make the team after finishing as third Briton in 2:30:42.
“I knew I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” said Dixon. “I ran the first 10k with the group and I felt relaxed, but after that I was on my own. One of the pacemakers was driving me on. She said: ‘Here, here, come on, let’s catch’, and wanted me to stick with her.
“I’d have loved a sub-2:29 but I’m happy with a personal best.”
In second, Purdue also clocked a PB after running with the pacemakers until half way then pushing on to close the gap to Dixon.
“The way training has gone I thought I could have gone quicker, but I’m happy because it’s a real stepping stone for me,” she said. “I’ve run three marathons in the last year and I’ve improved my time at each one, but there’s still so much I can do to progress.”
Thames Valley’s Barlow improved the best she set at the Frankfurt Marathon last October and has given herself a fighting chance of World Championship selection.
“I was aiming for sub-2:30 but I slowed in the second half,” she said. “There was a big pack of us for the first few miles but gradually people started to drop off.
“I had to make the decision to fall back to Sue (Susan Partridge) and Jo (Jo Pavey) or push on and chase Aly. I was stuck in no-man’s-land, but I held on.”
Pavey had made no secret of her aim for a top two place, but she was forced to drop out at 16 miles.
“I’m bitterly disappointed,” she said. “It was always a bit of a gamble running today because I’ve had so much illness in the build up and I was a bit in the dark about how I would feel.
“My training has been consistent, so I just wanted to give it a go, but it wasn’t to be on the day. My congratulations go to Aly, Charlotte and Tracy and I still hope there’s a chance for me to qualify for the World Championships in a different event.”