Teamwork is key for Brits in London - update on the British men in Olympic Games contention

Benedict WhitbyTeamwork is key for British duo Benedict Whitby and Lee Merrien as they chase the Olympic qualifying time at the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday paced by Scott Overall, the one British man already selected for this summer’s Games.

For Whitby, a City of London police officer, it will be a familiar feeling to have Overall beside him.

“Scott is a training partner of mine and we trained together in the run up to Berlin,” explained Whitby, referring to the race where Overall ran 2:10:55, more than a minute inside the required time of 2:12.

“The outcome there was bittersweet for me,” added Whitby, who was disappointed to run 2:16:27. “Obviously Scott got the time and I didn’t, but it will be good to have him there on Sunday.”

Whitby, whose own lifetime best is 2:15:09, set in Florence in 2010, has absolute confidence in his friend’s ability to guide him and Merrien towards the mark.

“He’s getting used to running these distances now and has run a couple of brilliant half marathons. Having someone you know you can trust to hit 65:30 at half way will be great.”

Merrien also believes that Overall’s presence will help, in addition to the other athletes attempting to go sub-2:12. “There are others going out to run 2:11, so there will be no shortage of company,” he said. “We’ll be pushing each other on.”

Whitby lives and works full time in the capital and is familiar with the London course, often training along sections of the marathon route.

Merrien, who is based in Guernsey, may be less of a local but raced to a 2:14:27 personal best last year to finish first Briton. Both have reaped the benefits of attending UKA/London Marathon altitude training camps, most recently in Iten – the so-called ‘home of champions’ - in Kenya.

The pair won’t be alone in their quest for Olympic selection however, as a number of other British hopes will join them on the start line, including Andi Jones, a veteran of five London Marathons with a best of 2:15:20; Ben Moreau who set his PB of 2:16:46 in London two years ago; Anthony Ford and Martin Williams who have run 2:17:16 and 2:17:36 respectively; and debutant James Walsh, who has real potential.

“There are only ever a few places up for grabs [in the British team] and this is no different, although this year there is a bit more pressure with it being the Olympics,” said Merrien. “But pressure is good, because if people have that sense of character, then they’ll raise their game.”

It remains to be seen who raises their game the most on Sunday. Final selections for the British Olympic marathon team will be announced on Monday 23 April.

First reported by the Virgin London Marathon website.