A stacked field of British and international runners will race over 13.1 miles in London this weekend.
Mo Farah, Charlotte Arter and Charlotte Purdue are the fastest on recent form ahead of The Vitality Big Half in London on Sunday (March 10), but the associated British Half Marathon Championships will ensure a fierce fight for podium positions.
European marathon record holder Farah will almost certainly be touted as the favourite for the men’s British title. However, last year’s Big Half champion will have to work hard to hold off stiff competition from Kenyans and former London Marathon winners, Daniel Wanjiru and Wilson Kipsang for the overall win.
Farah clocked 61:40 to win last year’s race, finishing three seconds ahead of Wanjiru. While the British record holder’s 59:22 half marathon best proves his mettle over the 13.1m distance, Kipsang’s half marathon and marathon bests of 58:59 and 2:03:13 means he will not have an easy ride.
Arter, who finished third last year in the inaugural Big Half, is the quickest female Brit in the field after her Welsh half marathon record-breaking run in Barcelona, where she ran a superb 69:40.
The 2018’s European Cross Country Championships’ seventh placer is a talent across the board and should not be ruled out for the overall title.
Reigning women’s winner Purdue ran a PB of 69:46 at the recent Marugame Half Marathon in Japan, notching up the UK’s 10th fastest all-time clocking in the process.
The Aldershot ‘pocket rocket’ has made a name for herself over the marathon distance, and with a 2:29:23 PB to her name alongside recent short fast speed over the country at the Australian World Cross Country trials, she is always an exciting prospect in any race.
Challengers for top spots in the men’s race
Seven times Welsh Cross Country champion Dewi Griffiths is in great form, and will be high on confidence following his 61:44 to finish eighth at the Houston Half Marathon in January.
The Swansea ace’s 61:33 half marathon best is matched only by his superb 2:09:49 marathon PB from 2017. It has been great to see Griffiths return to his best following a number of injury woes which now seem well behind him.
Soon to be marathon debutant Andy Vernon has great pedigree over the 10 mile and half marathon distances, and with PBs of 47:29 and 62:46 to his name he is certainly one to watch from a British perspective.
Having recently transferred his attention from the track and country to the roads, it will be exciting to see what the Aldershot star can do in London on Sunday and in next month’s marathon.
Jonny Mellor’s fourth place and 13:46 at the Armagh 5k highlights what this 62:23 half marathon athlete is capable of – both speed and endurance.
Fifth at last year’s Big Half, the Liverpool Harrier has a great history in Vitality events, having won the 2019 Liverpool Half and finishing fifth in the London 10,000m.
Multi-major championship performer Chris Thompson’s 61:00 half marathon best ranks as the fourth fastest of all time in the UK.
The 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist and winner of last year’s Great South in a UK record 46:56 is an inspiration to all athletes to never give up. He may now be classed as a veteran but when Thompson is firing on all cylinders he is one of Britain’s best half marathon hopes.
Ireland’s Mick Clohisey’s 64:25 PB certainly looks like it could be significantly revised amongst strong opposition in the English capital on Sunday.
The Irish marathon champion’s best of 2:14:55 over 26.2 miles came at last year’s Seville Marathon off a limited build up, so who knows what the Raheny Shamrock athlete can do following a more favourable training block.
Jack Gray is officially debuting over the distance but, as many in the sport will know, he unofficially won last year’s Cambridge Half Marathon in controversial circumstances.
The popular Cambridge & Coleridge athlete ran the race using his colleague’s number (he contacted the organisers to let them know before the event but unfortunately the message wasn’t picked up in time), and, against his own expectations, he won in a debut 66 minute time.
This year’s Midlands Cross Country champion has been in mercurial form ever since, finishing sixth at the English National less than two weeks after posting 13:52 at the Armagh 5k.
Britain’s women fighting for podium positions
Purdue’s Aldershot club mates and fellow marathon runners Lily Partridge and Steph Twell will surely present a steely challenge that will have British athletics fans on the edge of their seats as the exciting battle unfolds on Sunday.
Partridge was second at last year’s Big Half, and comes into this year’s race with a 70:31 PB in her armoury. While she may not be in quite that form this weekend, her recent top 10 finish at the Barcelona Half should have boosted the determined young AFD ace.
RELATED: How I train: Lily Partridge
Twell will almost certainly annihilate her 71:56 PB that dates way back to 2010 when she runs in her first Big Half marathon on Sunday.
She made her marathon debut last year at the Valencia Marathon in a superb 2:30:11, and that PB combined with her recent victories in the Armagh 5k and Scottish National Cross Country proves the two time Olympian’s incredible range.
“I’ve varied my distance leading up to this race, mainly to test my different tools so I’ve dropped down to three kilometres but also have been working hard on the hills and the mud over the Scottish cross-country and I really feel like that benefits me to be prepared for whatever is thrown at me,” said Twell.
“I think the race will be a really tough race. Charlotte Purdue ran a fantastic time of 69:46 out in Japan and Charlotte Arter has run 69:40 which are spectacular times for British females over this distance. My PB is a little bit off that and I’m hoping to be holding on to the coat-tails on them if I can.”
One of the UK’s fastest of all time over the half marathon distance, Gemma Steel is therefore the quickest Brit on paper thanks to her incredible 68:13 PB from 2014.
The Charnwood AC ace has struggled to hit the same form in recent years, but if her trademark grit and determination to fulfil her clear potential in every race she contests is on display on Sunday she cannot be discounted for a podium position.
Thames Valley’s Tracy Barlow is another speed demon to watch, the consistently excellent GB marathoner recently clocking up a 72:26 result in the Barcelona Half.
Barlow’s 72:15 PB places her well up in the field if she runs her best.
Also running well and gunning for top finishing positions will be Sonia Samuels and Dani Nimmock. Sale Harriers’ Samuels finished just ahead of Barlow in Barcelona in a new PB of 72:19, proof that the V35 has no intentions of slowing down.
City of Norwich’s Nimmock was 10th in last year’s Big Half in a PB 74:13, highlighting the smiley England international’s ability to perform at her best when it really matters.
Finally, Birchfield Harriers’ relatively new kid on the block, Hayley Carruthers, could upset the form books once again on Sunday.
Carruthers was the second British athlete to cross the line in last year’s London Marathon masses field when she sliced an incredible 36 minutes off her previous best to record a then PB of 2:47:47.
She has since gone on to significantly revise that with a storming 2:36:48 in Toronto when running for England.
The 25 year-old also finished ahead of Lily Partridge and Charlotte Purdue when she clocked a 74:46 PB at last year’s Great North Run.
Start time and how to watch
The elite men’s and women’s races start at 9.00am and live coverage will be on the BBC Red Button and BBC website from 8.45am.
Are you a fan of Fast Running? Then please support us. For as little as the price of a monthly magazine you can support Fast Running – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.