On Friday morning at 8am in Kew Gardens, Great Britain’s marathon and 20k race walk Olympic hopefuls will line up for the Team GB Olympic Trials.
In the past, the London Marathon has been the place that elite British marathon runners had to prove themselves. They had global competitors and the support of around 750,000 spectators and 40,000+ participants to spur them on.
This time they will have just the organisers, some coaches and Kew staff around as they cover the 12 and a bit laps of a 3.3km looped course. For those who took part in the elite only version of the London Marathon last year there are some similarities (hopefully not the weather) but this is still going to be a very different kind of experience that which most of these runners have ever experienced.
How to qualify for the Olympics
In order to qualify automatically for the GB Olympic marathon squad, the runners must have the qualifying time (2:11:30 & 2:29:30) and be one of the first two finishers. If they already have the qualifying time from another race within the qualifying period and finish top two, that would also guarantee a place.
There is a third place on each squad which is at the discretion of British Athletic, though for the men’s team that’s already taken buy Callum Hawkins.
So, Lateral Flow tests allowing, let’s take a look at those who we expect to be toeing the line:
Charlotte Arter (Cardiff AAC)
HM PB 69:40
After having to withdraw from pacing duties at the Elite London Marathon last year, this is Arter’s first experience of the full 26.2.
Hailing from Cumbria but representing Wales, she was the parkrun women’s world record holder (15:49) until recently and has excellent credentials over shorter distances.
With a half marathon PB of 69:40 and some really good training in the bank (with Clara Evans alongside) she will definitely be one to watch. Arter has completed an eight week marathon build up and told Fast Running she is “happy with how the training’s gone. I haven’t done any crazy mileage, just had some consistent training”.
Without any big city marathons to compare the experience to Arter is focussing on just “clipping off the laps. I want to enjoy the experience… it’s going to be a PB whatever I run!” However, she’s not shirking and aims “to stick with the Olympic pace for as long as possible”.
While her base speed is a lot faster than the rest of us, your first marathon is always a huge unknown and Arter is no different – “I have no idea what I’ll be thinking on the start line” but “at the end I’ll probably be thankful it’s all over! Hopefully I’ll want to do another one. Then food, shower and downtime. So really – elite or not elite – we all want the same thing at the end of a marathon!
Arter is supported by Welsh Athletics and London Marathon Events. Coached by Chris Jones.
Tracy Barlow (Thames Valley)
PB 2:30:42 London, April 2017
After working her way down from a 3:52:59 marathon in 2011 Barlow put in the work and brought that time down consistently. 2020 saw Barlow run a HM PB in Barcelona (72:12) and a 10 mile PB in Preston (58:25).
With recent Major Championships experience from World and European Champs and a die-hard attitude, as evidenced by her London Marathon 2020 performance of 2:34:42 when many others dropped out, Barlow will be interesting to watch in what will be a tactical race. Tracy’s 15th place at the 2018 European Championship makes her the most recent highest British finisher in a major championship marathon.
Coached by Tom Craggs.
Becky Briggs (City of Hull)
HM PB of 72:54 Antrim Coast Half Marathon, 2020.
Still in the U23 category, she’ll be a youngster in the pack. Briggs says that training has been going well – “I’ve completed sessions I never thought I could, it’s been so different to anything I’ve ever done before“.
Though the laps of the course might be daunting, Briggs has been putting in plenty of laps of Bushy park for her training and is hoping that will help. When asked what her goal is she said “ to finish and do myself, my coach, my parents, and the distance justice!”
Saysky Athlete. Coached by Geoff Watkin.
Natasha Cockram (Micky Morris Racing Team)
PB 2:30:49 Dublin, 2019
Cockram knocked it out of the park when she won the Elite London Marathon last year in a time of 2:33:19, which could have equated to a faster time in better conditions. She also set her Half Marathon PB of 75:27 last year in Llanelli so is clearly building good form. She is the Welsh Record holder for the marathon.
Supported by London Marathon Events Coached by Tony Houchin.
Stephanie Davis (Clapham Chasers)
PB 2:27:40 Valencia, 2019 (Olympic qualifying time)
Having already run the qualifying time, if Davis finishes top two then she’s guaranteed a spot on the Olympic squad.
Born in Glasgow and now living in London working for and supported by Lazard Asset Management, she ran her first full marathon in 2018 (Berlin, 2:41:18) which she followed with a 2:32:18 off the mass start at London Marathon in April 2019. She is part of the scottishathletics Marathon Project targeting the Commonwealth Games, Birmingham in 2022.
PB 2:40:49 Frankfurt, 2018
HM PB 72:24 Las Vegas, Jan 2021
Edwards’ training has been going well, with the athlete feeling she has become “more consistent with marathon pace and with my longer sessions as the block progressed, so that was a big stepping stone for me”.
While solo training has been a hard grind “long term I think it helped me”. She’s looking forward to seeing where she measures up against some of the top British runners and has been practicing looped training runs to prepare for the course. Asked about her goals for the big day, Edwards told Fast Running “I want to be involved in the race, especially the second half and place as highly as possible. I’m also aiming for the Commonwealth Games standard”.
Coached by Robert Hawkins.
Clara Evans (Cardiff)
PB of 2:46:03 London, April 2017
HM PB 72:21 Antrim Coastal Half Marathon, 2020
Technically coming out of retirement apparently, Evans hasn’t run a marathon since 2017 but has been training for a while with Charlotte Arter. The Welsh international ran a sub 33 10k PB on the track this year so her speed is clearly on the up.
“I’ve been happy with the long runs and the long sessions. I’m extremely grateful that I got a taster race to (the 10k) to check form and I’m extremely happy with where I am. I’d have loved to have got in an altitude block for this race in Kenya but obviously the global situation has made that difficult”
Evans also commented that she’s “looking forward to catching up with the other top British girls” – they must normally see each other quite a lot on the circuit so this will be a chance for friendship (and rivalries) to be rekindled.
Evans feels “the course looks very nice. The only down side is that it’s not a course that’s been run before and I sometimes feel like you never really know how fast a course in until someone has been there and done it”.
Her aim is to run the commonwealth games selection standard and get a benchmark for that early, because there are plenty of fast Welsh ladies chasing the target. Her boyfriend Paul is on pacing duties at the race.
Coached by Chris Jones.
Becs Gentry (Peloton)
PB 2:37:01 New York Marathon, Nov 2019
The Peloton(tread) queen has stated in instagram posts that she is targeting an Olympic spot and is likely to be taking a pop at 2:30 after dropping to her PB of 2:37 from 2:53 in Feb the same year. Her training is a little different to the standard way of doing things because of her work-day duties but there’s no doubt there’s plenty of talent in there ready to be unleashed.
Annabel Gummow (Winchester)
HM PB of 74:50 Watford, Oct 2020
It looks like Gummow was tuning up to race a marathon in 2020 as she ran Hillingdon 20, a standard London Marathon tuneup race that takes place in March, in 2:00:35 last year. The former GB international has been running well over the longer distances and is an exciting prospect for the 26.2 mile distance.
Coached by Christopher Wooldridge
Sarah Inglis (Lothian Running Club)
Scottish Inglis lives and trains in Vancouver, CA and looks to be in great form after placing 9th and running a 2:29:41 PB at the Marathon Project race in Chandler AZ, USA in Dec 2020. Only 11 seconds off the qualifying mark in Arizona so certiainly capable of a hitting the fast time needed.
That Arizona result is also particularly relevant as it was also a looped course with no public allowed to support. Inglis has been happy with her progress after the last build and has been getting used to even bigger volume sessions.
The Scot’s only negative from this build? “it’s been shorter as I’ve had to recover from my last race in Dec”. Inglis, like the rest of us is excited about the field. “it’s so open and that’s why I think that at 30k+ there is still going to be lots of girls fighting for those two spots”. Her goal, in case it wasn’t obvious is to get one of those spots!
Supported by London Marathon Events. Asics athlete. Coached by Mark Bomba.
Tish Jones (Belgrave Harriers)
PB 2:31:00 London, 2019
Ran 2:36:35 in the elite only London Marathon last year and her 2:31 PB is from the previous year. Was due to complete in the World Champs in Doha, but unfortunately had to pull out with a leg injury. As with most, it’s difficult to tell current form but the marathoner always brings her best on race day and will be another who could surprise.
Supported by London Marathon Events. Adidas athlete. Coached by Geoff Watkin
Naomi Mitchell (Reading AC)
PB 2:33:23 London (elite only), Oct 2020
Based in Reading as an accountant for KPMG, after plugging away around the high 2:XX’s for a few years Mitchell’s breakthrough race was Frankfurt 2019 when she ran 2:37 which she attributes in no small part to a lack of GPS.
Mitchell has been “really pleased with the consistency of my training…I’ve been able to build mileage as well as the amount of marathon pace work compared to last year” though like many of the other entrants (and us), she’s not enjoyed the cold winter training!
Mitchell is looking forward to making the most of the quality women’s field “to work well of one another for some fast PBs”. Of her goals, she says, “I always set a few different ones, depending on how I feel as the race gets going. I’d love to slash my PB and target the qualifying time”.
Coached by Nick Anderson
Lily Partridge (Birchfield Harriers)
PB 2:29:24 London, 2018
Partridge looks to be back in good shape recently. She won the Antrim Coastal Marathon (71:36) and the Vitality Big Half (70:50) last year but DNF’d at the elite only London Marathon in cold weather conditions. Some injury issues over recent years have seen difficulties over the marathon distance, so we’ve not seen a real benchmark for her for a while. However, the recent half and a track 10k suggest she’s in form.
Her PB is from *that* hot year in London so it’s potentially worth a bit more and she’s one of the most experienced runners on the startline. You would expect Partridge to be int he mix for top two spots for most, if not all, of the race.
Supported by London Marathon Events. Adidas Athlete. Coached by Alan Storey.
Charlotte Taylor-Green (Clevedon)
PB 2:36:54 Dublin, Oct 2019
Taylor-Green’s PB came 5 years after running her previous marathon which she finished in 3:20. She set a 5k PB in 2020 but is pretty new to marathon training. The Clevedon athlete is “pleased with how my body has adapted to endurance training, along with the mental toughness of training solo for so long”.
Like many of the athletes she wishes she’s had better access to facilities over the last year but Instagram suggests she’s been doing what she can in her home ‘gym’. The last time Taylor-Green ran in a British Champs it was in 2017 for the 3000m steeplechase so it’ll be exciting to see what happens.
She’s not particularly excited about the turns and wisely notes that there’s a chance the women suffer from “getting overtaken by the men – I hope we don’t get pushed out of the way”. Given that she still classes herself as a novice at marathoning, she says her goal is any improvement on her previous best.
Coached by James Thie