There is so much to cover this week, I will simply get straight to it!

Manchester Marvels

It is the first weekend of April, which can only mean one thing – spring marathon season is very much upon us! It certainly started with a bang thanks to the Therme Manchester Marathon.

Acting as a trials race for this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and European Championships in Munich, a host of athletes headed to Manchester in search of selection and automatic qualification – and it is fair to say they excelled at the task in hand.

Briggs claims stunning win

The women’s race provided the standout performance of the day as 22 year old Becky Briggs took the win in 2:29:06 (2:29:04 chip), a five minute improvement on her PB in just her third marathon. That time moves her to 20th on the British all-time rankings and is also under the standard for July’s World Championships (the squad for which has already been announced).

There were lifetime bests for Naomi Mitchell (2:30:54) and Georgina Schwiening (2:31:37, 2:31:35 chip) for second and third respectively, with both running inside the European and Commonwealth standards. Fresh off a 71:53 PB at the Wokingham Half Marathon in February, Reading athlete Naomi took two and a half minutes off her 2020 best having led for much of the race, whilst Georgina improved on her three-year old PB by almost four minutes.

In fourth, Sonia Samuels (2:32:32, 2:32:30 chip) also went under the Commonwealth Games standard having run at the Games in both 2014 and 2018. This time put her 3rd on the UK all time V40 rankings.

Behind, there were excellent performances for Chloe Richardson and Anna Bracegirdle, last year’s race winner, with both crossing the line in under 2:35. The top-ten was rounded out by Heather Seaward, Emma Styles, Sophie Wood and Gladys Ganiel.

Mellor produces dominant display

There were some equally impressive performances in the men’s race, with Jonny Mellor looking certain to make his major championship debut thanks to his 2:10:46 win. After injury has derailed his attempts to represent Great Britain in the past, it will be great to see the Stockport athlete get his much-deserved moment.

Behind him was an impressive marathon debut for Ross Millington, his 2:11:38 (2:11:37 chip) performance seeing him comfortably inside the European and Commonwealth standards. An excellent week for Steve Vernon with two of his athletes taking the top-two spots on the podium just days after the Team New Balance Manchester coach was announced as British Athletics’ World Class Programme Endurance Manager.

The podium was completed by Kevin Seaward, who set off for Manchester aiming for the Northern Irish Commonwealth standard (2:13:00); his 2:11:54 seeing his target more than successfully met.

Australian Ed Goddard finished fourth (2:13:45), with another debutant next across the line in the form of Andrew Heyes (2:13:53, 2:13:52 chip) hitting ensuring an automatic selection for either the Commonwealth Games or European Championships.

The top-ten was rounded out by Nigel Martin and Dan Nash both finishing in sub-2:16, ahead of Frank Baddick (2:16:20) and Ronnie Richmond (2:16:59). The top-quality running displayed is evident by the fact that a total of 20 British men crossed the line in under 2:20.

There is plenty to cheer about from the morning’s races, but it would be remis not to mention Tommy Hughes, who at 62 set a new World V60 Record with 2:30:05, and Omar Ahmed, who started the day on pacing duties (going through halfway in 66:05) before continuing to make his marathon debut in 2:33:29.

Brits in Berlin

Again, it would not ordinarily be that an event such as the Berlin Half Marathon features towards the top of a round up, but it played host to two standout performances from Samantha Harrison and Clara Evans who finished in fifth and eighth respectively.

Samantha’s 68:12 is a step-change PB for the Charnwood athlete that moves her from fifteenth to seventh on the all-time rankings and follows an equally impressive outing at the Trafford 10k last month. Clara’s 70:17 is an equally impressive time that cuts two minutes off her previous best as she make strides towards a spot in the Welsh Commonwealth Games team.

Longer Distances in Perth

Moving to Scotland now and the Self Transcendence 100k and 50k Ultra Races held on a looped course in North Inch Park in Perth. The races incorporated both the Anglo Celtic Plate competition and British Championships, whilst also acting as key trial races for British selection for the IAU World Championships in Berlin in August.

There were new course records set in both 100k races, with Jo Murphy (7:41:12) improving the previous best by almost 19 minutes in finishing ahead of Samantha Amend (7:48:39) and Caroline Turner (7:51:53). Clapham Chasers’ Matt Dickinson (6:39:34) took the men’s title ahead of Jason Kelly (6:42:23) and Ollie Garrod (6:46:50) in a race that saw the top twelve athletes separated by less than two minutes at the halfway point.

It was Fast Running’s own Robbie Britton who took the honours and British trial win over 50k, his 2:57:17 seeing him finish over 20 minutes ahead of second placed Martin Heggie (3:19:04) and Billy Gibson (3:23:40). Amanda Woodrow (3:47:40) took the female title in front of Sarah Sawyer (3:53:26) and Helen Falconer (4:07:11).

Speedy in the States

The Stanford Invitational has grown a reputation as an early-season hotbed for championship qualifying standard performances, and Saturday saw a host of Brits move to the Californian track in search of fast times.

They included Jenny Nesbitt who continued her excellent start to 2022 with 15:24.59 for 5000m. That time may be five seconds shy of her lifetime best set indoors in Cardiff earlier this year, but it is her best time outdoors and her second run under the 15:30 barrier that she chased in numerous races last season. Behind her, there was a PB for Charlotte Arter in fifth (15:30.35).

One athlete who did not have far to travel was Charles Hicks, who in racing on his home (university) track improved his 5000m PB to 13:24.58, a time inside the Commonwealth Games standard but agonisingly half a second shy of the European standard. Behind him, there was a good run for Jonathan Shields (13:38.56).

Doubling the number of laps were Scott Beattie and Matt Leach, who completed 25 laps in 28:19.90 and 28:37.04 respectively. Brighton’s Beth Kidger did the same, finishing third in 33:01.14. There was a strong British representation over 1500m also thanks to James Heneghan (3:42.43), Finley McLear (3:43.45) and Jeremy Dempsey (3:43.49). Finally, and to the water jumps, where Jonathan Hopkins crossed the line second in the 3000mSC with a good season opener of 8:34.78.

Stanford wasn’t hosting the only meet of the weekend, though, with Adam Moore racing over 1500m (3:44.93) at the Oregon Hayward Premiere, and lifetime bests for Katy-Ann McDonald (4:17:66) and Daniel Joyce (3:50.70) over 1500m at the Battle on the Bayou in Louisiana.

Australia Also

It is not often I would mention the Australian Championships; however, one race in Sydney on Saturday caught my eye as Calli Thackery smashed her 5000m best with 15:09.08. Originally slated to do the marathon trial in Manchester her time was a near half a minute improvement on her previous best, moves her to 20th on the British all-time rankings, is the fastest time by a Brit this year and is just inside the World Championships qualifying standard.

Maybe she will follow in her father Carl’s footsteps in gaining a World Championships vest come July.

Back to Blighty

Deep breath, as this weekend has seen a plethora of races join Manchester in providing competitive opportunities across the country. These include the Reading Half Marathon, where lifetime bests provided James Connor (65:58) and Kate Drew (74:36) with victories ahead of Ed Bovington (66:45) / Neil Kevern (66:59) and Sarah Webster (77:24) / Hayley Munn (77:54) respectively. These times are provisional with finalised results not published as I write this.

It was a busy Sunday morning in Essex, with races taking place over 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles and 10km. The Essex Half Marathon titles were taken home by Russell McGavock (70:07) and Jennifer Lovelock (87:14), whilst it was Darcie Hey (38:12) and Matthew Ronayne (36:33) doing the same in the Essex 10k. Finally, over the longest distance and Essex Marathon which went to Matthew Cooper (2:34:55) and Rebecca White (3:23:28).

Moving south to the coast and the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, where the two podiums were populated by Lauren Baker Little (86:26), Diana Leggott (88:23) and Agnieszka Loeff (92:40) and Rob McTaggart (73:02), Lee Wilkins (75:32) and Andy Leggott (76:04). The associated Bournemouth Bay 10k was won by Kevin Walker (38:45) and Emily Hilliar (40:07).

It was an equally busy day at Goodwood Motor Circuit and the Running Grand Prix with races across a number of distances. It was James Baker (2:26:37) and Miyuki Okubo (3:13:34) who crossed the line first over the marathon, with Rebecca Pearson (87:30) and Daniel Moll-Morgan (76:21) doing the same in the half marathon.

Andrew McCaskill (32:52) finished over two minutes ahead of the rest of the entrants in the 10k, the results for which have V50 athlete Sam Walker as the fastest female (35:23), although since she has a 5k best this year of 25:47 this year I am going to assume this to be an error and Lucy Lavender (36:28), who has featured in the Fast Running Parkrun Top 10 this year, was actually first. The 5k went to Issy Vickery (23:11) and Michael Daly (16:02).

Starting and finishing in Barnsdale Wood, the Rutland Spring Half Marathon provided Dan Hardy (79:20) and Caroline Woods (95:24) with race wins on an undulating and mixed terrain course. Moving back to the south and the Taunton Marathon, which saw Adam Holland (2:34:36) and Alice Smith (3:14:55) cross the line first, with Gill Pearson (82:41) and Tom Merson (67:06) the first finishers in the Taunton Half Marathon.

10k, You Say?

Roman Banias (34:17) and Finola Watkins (41:39) made the most of a crisp sunny morning in Central London to win The Regent’s Park 10k. A shout out also to by fellow transport planner and former colleague Tom Gardner, who finished sixth in a PB (38:01).

Wednesday’s RunThrough Chase The Moon at Battersea Park demonstrated the continued enthusiasm for racing at the fast venue, with the 10k going to Martha Owen (37:35) and Aran Davidson (31:59), the former finishing over four minutes ahead of second placer Olivia Eskell.

Honours in the 5k were taken by Oscar Subuh-Symons (15:02) and Olivia Desborough (17:41).
Mike Toft (34:06) and Belinda Houghton (38:39) left the Fleetwood Spring 10k as race winners, whilst it was two V40 athletes who crossed the finish line first at the Alder Hey Children’s Charity 10k at Haydock Park Racecourse in the form of Lisa Gawthorne (39:45) and Chris Livesey (32:24).

The Whitchurch 10K went to Jacob Cann (32:08) and Rachael Handley (41:02).
Finally, I’ll end this section not quite with a 10k but the more unusual Hornsea Third Marathon, which was won by Robert Sparkes (47:02) and Venika Moverley (54:10).

Best Abroad

I’ll end this week with a quick visit to some of the other mass events taking place across Europe. At the Prague Half Marathon, Richard Deathe (77:09) and Caroline Mayers (88:22) were the quickest Brits in races won by Kenyans Keneth Kiprop Renju (59:28) and Nesphine Jepleting (66:57) respectively.

Staying in European capitals but moving to France and the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon, a race popular with British athletes looking for a fast time thanks to its convenient travel connections. It hosted another fast edition, with Kenya’s Judith Jeptum (2:19:48) and Ethiopian Deso Gelmisa (2:05:07) taking wins. The home crowd had something to smile about as Morhad Amdouni bettered the French marathon record, set back in 2003, by over a minute (2:05:22). Unfortunately, the results do not allow one to search by country.
Phew. I feel like I’ve now run one of the many races mentioned above