Positive debut for Pavey
Lee Merrien won the historic Jim Peters Trophy for the first British athlete to finish in today's Virgin London Marathon when finishing 14th in a lifetime best mark of 2:14:27, but it was debutante Jo Pavey who delivered the British performance of the day with an Olympic Games qualifying standard of 2:28:24.
Pavey, delighted at last to step up to the full marathon distance, had been loath to share her specific target time in the days leading up to the race, but was clear that a mark of sub-2:31:00 - UKA's required standard for this summer's IAAF World Championships in Daegu and an ‘A' standard for the London 2012 Olympic Games - was the very least she would accept.
As it happened, she found herself in the greatest women's race London Marathon has ever seen, with 22 athletes achieving times of 2:30 or lower led home world half marathon record holder Mary Keitany in an exceptional 2:19:19, the equal-fourth fastest time ever.
Pavey's own ambition couldn't be faulted as she passed through her opening 10km in 33:48, and hit half way in 1:12:28, at that point on course for a time inside 2:25.
"I would have liked to run a bit quicker but it was a debut run and the first part of it was to run the qualification time, so it's a solid debut," said Pavey, who suffered a stress fracture in her foot last year.
"Even though I really respect the distance I felt fine coming into the second half of the race and I was quite confident, but it really hit me at 18 miles and I just had to keep working. I really want to thank the London Marathon for helping me out when I was injured."
She slowed to 2:28 pace by 35km after recording her slowest 5km split of the race, but said she was motivated to keep going by the vociferous London crowd.
"The atmosphere was amazing out there and I feel so fortunate to have been able to make my debut on home soil with such brilliant support," she said. "It's a good place to start and I'm pleased. I learnt a lot, but I've still got a lot to learn."
Pavey's time placed her 19th overall as she led home a trio of British women inside the top 25 and under the Olympic Games ‘B' standard of 2:35.
Louise Damen, also making her debut, finished 22nd in 2:30:00, an impressive first outing for the 28-year-old English cross country champion who ran much of the race on her own.
"Training had gone really well and I knew if everything went perfectly I could run sub-2:30, but there's so much scope for things to go wrong over this distance," she said.
In fact, she had been forced to slow down in the early stages after a quick first 5km took her through in 17:11: "It was maybe a bit quick," she said. "I was running 5:35s rather than 5:40s, but I settled down."
It was a mature approach from the self-coached athlete who has enjoyed most of her success to date at cross country.
"I've waited a few years to step up to the marathon because I wanted to be physically and mentally really ready for it," she continued. "I took a slightly cautious approach to training because it was pointless to do the work, get injured and perhaps not make the start line. I know that I've got as lot to build on now which gives me confidence."
Scotland's Susan Partridge, a member of Britain's bronze medal winning team in the 2010 European Championships, reduced her lifetime best by over 90 seconds, finishing 25th in 2:34:13.
Merrien made his marathon debut in this event 12 months ago, and credits time spent at the UKA/London Marathon altitude camp, in Iten, Kenya, for his progress.
"Being in Kenya, where there are no distractions, and that has given me so much focus," said Merrien, who reduced his PB by over two minutes. "I knew I was in good shape and as a minimum I wanted to PB. My sessions have been better coming into London this year and I've put more into my overall preparations. It was good to repay UKA and London Marathon with a decent run, although I did want to go faster."
He was consistent however, and went off at 2:13 pace which he maintained, more or less, over the course of the race, passing through 10k in 31:37 and halfway in 1:06:37.
"The pacer did a great job," he continued. "There was a group of four (including fellow British athlete Dave Webb) and then at 19 miles I pushed on. The pacer came out at 20 and I started to pick off a few people off.
"I felt pretty strong but I was cautious too because you know so much can happen in the closing stages of a marathon. When I saw Andrew (Lemoncello) ahead of me it gave me more incentive to push on and finish first Brit."
Lemoncello, who also made his debut in London last year with a solid 2:13:40, was on target for 2:12 going through halfway in 65:51.
He suffered a stitch at 20 miles, recovered, cruised back into his stride, and at 35km was a minute clear of Merrien. But the pain struck again at 25 miles and this time was terminal.
"It was just about getting to the finish(at that point," he admitted, but in contrast to his lonely inauguration 12 months ago, it was a more enjoyable experience this time around for the US-based Scot who spent much of the race with Australia's Mike Shelley who went on to set a PB of 2:11:38.
"Running is so much easier when you're with someone else and the pace felt comfortable," said Lemoncello, who eventually finished a painful 15th in 2:15:24.
Dave Webb, who clocked 2:15:42 in Seville in early 2010, was on course to shatter that mark when passing through 25km and 30km in 1:18:49 and 1:34:48 respectively, but finished third Brit in 2:17:41 after falling off the pace in the latter stages of the race.
The British team for the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu will be announced this week.