Britons begin the Olympic journey
This Sunday's Virgin London Marathon (25 April 2010) marks the start of an Olympic journey that Andrew Lemoncello hopes will bring him back to the capital in 2012.
The debutant, who lines up alongside his UK compatriot Dan Robinson, a comparative veteran of the event with five London starts since 2000, believes his career has been building to this point.
"I've always seen myself as a marathon runner as I feel more comfortable over the longer distances," he said. "Last year was a transition year but over the build-up I feel that my training has gone quite smoothly. Greg [his coach Greg McMillan] is good enough to adapt things when we need to."
Lemoncello, based at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA), arrived safely into the UK 10 days ago, well before the volcanic eruption, and travelled by train into London from Scotland on Wednesday. Robinson - who reduced his marathon best to an impressive 2:12:14 in 2009 - had an equally straightforward journey, joking that changing trains at Swindon was the most arduous part of his two-hour train ride from Stroud.
Robinson has enjoyed a period of consistent training, in spite of tough weather conditions during the UK winter, and believes he's reached a similar vein of form to that which saw him lower his lifetime best by nearly a minute in Amsterdam last year.
Lemoncello, without the same experience to draw on, has taken strength from his consistently high training mileage and the inspired performance of his training partner, Brett Gotcher, who clocked the fourth fastest ever US debut (2:10:36) in Houston earlier this year.
"That was really good for me," said Lemoncello, who paced Gotcher to 15 miles. "I'd come off the European cross country season with a bad race and it was fantastic to take Brett through to 15 miles at that pace. It was a good starting point for me. I knew that if I could maintain 4.55s (per mile) over that distance in January then I could progress through to the full distance over the next three months. It was such an inspiration to watch him knock out a great marathon on his first attempt - he's really set the bar."
While success is relative, both athletes are targeting fast times. Robinson, who is aiming for this summer's European Championships in Barcelona, is looking to lower his best to nearer 2:10, a mark, he says, that will make him competitive in European terms. "Time-wise it's hard to say what success really is," he explained. "2:12 is good - faster is very good."
Lemoncello, perhaps with reason on his debut, is less forthcoming. "My plan was to run London this year so I could target five marathons before 2012," he says of his long term objectives. "I'm looking at spring and autumn marathons. It'll be good to see how my body reacts to different levels of training, different race tactics, and new experiences."
Although there was uncertainty earlier in the week regarding the arrival of the international elite runners, both athletes agreed that their individual race plans had never altered. "It did cross my mind briefly [that I could finish higher up the field than expected]," said Robinson, "but I know what I'm capable of and I know what I'm going out there to do."
"You want to stick to your own game plan," added Lemoncello. "You'd rather have everyone else in the race. Just knowing that we'll have guys in the field who set off at world record pace - that's what makes this event so exciting."