Chris Thompson and Steph Davis qualify for Tokyo with marathon bests

Chris Thompson win 2021

Chris Thompson (handicap -5.8) and Steph Davies (handicap -1.6) produced personal best performances on their way to securing their marathon spots for Tokyo at the Müller British Athletics Marathon at Kew Gardens. Ben Connor (handicap -7.0) also secured his place with a second spot in the men's marathon, while Tom Bosworth sealed his second Olympic Games berth with a similar second place finish in the men's 20km race walk.

In the men’s marathon race Chris Thompson ran a perfectly judged race, staying off the mid-race pace and at one point languishing 35 seconds behind the lead group of Dewi Griffiths (handicap -5.4), Ben Connor and Mo Aadan (handicap -6.0) who were being led by the top-class pacing duo of Callum Hawkins (handicap -6.9) and Jake Smith (handicap -6.5).

Yet it was after the departure of the pace athletes, in between 30k and 35k when the evenly judged run by Thompson began to reap dividends. Reunited with the leading group at 35k, he then pushed on to establish a gap on Connor and Aadan, taking the bell for the final lap at 2:00.30.

The 39-year-old looked almost incredulous to be finding himself with a significant lead as he circled Kew Gardens, running well inside his previous marathon best and more importantly, inside the qualifying time for Tokyo, and he crossed the line in 2:10.50.

Thompson, who became a dad earlier this week, said: “This week has just knocked me for six. I have been trying to hold it together and I have just never felt so much emotion in all my life and I have always controlled it.

Chris’ interview on this link

In second place and securing the second automatic slot having previously achieved the qualifying time, Ben Connor finished in 2:12.06, 14 seconds ahead of marathon debutant Mo Aadan who ran an admirable first 26.2 mile distance finishing in 2:12.20 for third.

Connor added: “I am delighted, obviously I would have liked the win but delighted to have secured the spot. Job done, rest and recover now, get to do it all again in five months.

In the women’s race Steph Davis (handicap -1.6) put on a superlative performance to dominate after starting to ease away from the field having passed halfway in 74.06. She pushed on with the pacing team recording an impressive negative second half split of 73.10, crossing the line in 2:27.16 .

It was a bittersweet second for Natasha Cockram (handicap -0.7), whose 2:30.03 was some 33 seconds outside of the qualifying time but it was an impressive PB by some 46 seconds. Completing a hat trick of personal best performances, third spot went to Rosie Edwards (handicap -0.5) in 2:31.56.

"Anything can  happen in the marathon, you can't just know that this is going to be your day", said Davis, adding, "It was an amazing event today, flat course, the corners were fine, and I'm really happy to take the win and secure the spot and a small PB."

 “Phil (Kissi) and I work very closely as a team, I think I am a bit different to other marathon runners he’s coached before. I don’t do the high mileage, it’s just something I have never done. I do a lot of cross training but with Covid and the gyms being closed, I had to train at home. Doing 6/7 hours on the bike a week, and then my average was about 60/65miles through the week. So, the focus was on the big quality sessions and it’s always worked for us. We kind of replicated what I did for Valencia, and apart from Phil throwing in some extra-long hard sessions to test me and push me to that next level, that’s really helped to get me there and get me here today with that result.”

Behind the Olympic qualifiers there were many who ran qualifying times for the Commonwealth Games.

Home nation Commonwealth Games qualifying times:

Wales                         2:15:30/2:35:30

Scotland                    2:15:12/2:36:49,

England                     2:14:00/2:34:00

Northern Ireland       2:13:00/2:32:00

Mo Aadan, Dewi Griffiths, Josh Griffiths qualified in the men’s race and Natasha Cockram, Rosie Edwards, Rebecca Gentry, Clara Evans, and Sarah Inglis ran qualifying times too.

Northern Ireland already have three men with the qualifying time for the Commonwealth and Olympic Games with Loughborough based Kevin Seaward (2:10:08), Belfast based Paul Pollock (2:10:25) and US based Stephen Scullion with 2:09:49.

Some of the master athletes were outstanding with M40 runner, Andy Davies finishing in 2:15:50 and M45 runner Ian Leitch finishing in 2:17:26,  proving that age is no barrier.

Callum Wilkinson stormed to an overwhelming victory in the men’s 20km race walk trial. Almost immediately at the 6am start, Wilkinson was out on his own in an attempt to get the 81:00 Olympic qualifier and was on target at 5km but out on his own in the breezy and damp conditions he fell just over a minute short with a time of 82:47 and won the British title in the process.

While Wilkinson’s Tokyo appearance is dependent on a future qualifying time, Tom Bosworth already had the time and by finishing second he confirmed his place on the team for Tokyo. Bosworth was second in 86:24 with Guy Thomas third in 90:19.

Bosworth added: “Today’s race was not really a race for me, it was really really tough, having suffered with an injury over the last month.