A trio of British marathon greats gathered near the capital’s Tower Bridge to reminisce about their careers and reveal their thoughts on Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon at an official press conference this afternoon.
Women’s world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, men’s British record holder, Steve Jones and the last British male winner of the race, Eamonn Martin spoke to a fascinated audience during an insightful occasion.
Radcliffe, the 2005 world champion and record holder with an astonishing 2:15.5 clocking from her 2003 London victory, revealed her thoughts on double Olympic and world 5,00m and 10,000m champion, Mo Farah’s chances on his debut over the 26.2-mile distance:
“Mo’s in very good shape coming into the race – the race will be extremely tough but why not test yourself if you can compete against the very best, he knows he is capable of winning.
“There will be unanswered questions in his mind about how he will take to the marathon, you never really know until you get out there.
“You’ve got to look at all of the little details that can make a difference – you have to put the work in as there are no short-cuts.”
The 40-year-old mother of two recalled her early marathon days, explaining:
“I felt I had nothing to lose in my first marathon and I gained confidence with each one.
“You have to be mentally strong to attack it. I came into London in 2003 a year after loving my debut there and I knew I could beat the world record.
“It’s a fast course and with a huge advantage of having the extra special London crowd. I kept under world record target pace and had a few tough spots but it was great to capitalise on my form and break the record.
“At the time, I thought I was invincible and that the purple patch would last forever so I’m glad I ran as hard as I could on the day.”
The three-time world cross-country champion, who is based in Monaco offered her thoughts on the women’s race on Sunday:
“I think Dibaba (Tirunesha, Ethiopia’s three-time Olympic and five-time world champion)’s coming in very well prepared.
“There’s a lot of focus on the men’s race but the women’s is a very strong field and it will be a fast race, too.
“I think there’s three or four capable of running under 2:20, it’s just a question of whether Dibaba can translate her form from the track.”
Having battled injury in recent years, Radcliffe maintained her desire to return to the race herself:
“I was barely running this time last year – it felt like a pipe-dream to come back to racing but now, my foot’s improving – who knows whether I’ll be able to run as fast again as I’d like, though.
“The foot’s improving so I’m working hard and trying to be patient – I’m being cautious and listening to it. I’m certainly a lot more hopeful than I was four or five months ago.”
Former world record holder and current British record holder, Steve Jones meanwhile, spoke of his belief that Farah will take his 2:07.13 national mark:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he shattered the record and even won, he can get my record without doubt,” the Welshman revealed.
“It’s a surprise the record’s lasted this long – why, I don’t know but I’m also glad I still have it as it’s my connection to the sport.”
The 58-year-old Colorado-based Jones set his finest mark when storming to victory in the Chicago marathon in 1985, just a few months after winning the London event.
“Mo has confidence in his training and will take that into the race,” he continued.
“I had no fear myself – I always tried to dominate and was never afraid, I had 15-years of 100-miles per week behind me.
“Our training is miles apart – Mo’s approach is so scientific and it works for him, he pushes himself to the limit.
“When I set the record, the pace wasn’t much different to what these guys do today. It wasn’t about how fast I ran, my motivation was to beat my biggest rival, Rob de Castella (the Australian 1983 world champion).”
Also with New York marathon win under his best, Jones finished by saying:
“I’m not running much at the moment but I’ll never say never about returning to the London race.”
1993 winner, Martin took the London honours on his debut at the distance and hopes to see Farah replace him as the last British male winner of the event:
“I’m surprised I’m still the last British winner – my performance is history to me and I don’t like that it’s not moved on, we need it to happen again,” the 55-year-old stated.
“If I were Mo, I wouldn’t be doing it yet but he knows his own mind. He’s incredibly versatile, running his 1500m best (3:28.81 European record) only last year and he’s great on the track but there’s no hiding place in the marathon, there’s lots of great athletes against him.
“It’s do-able (winning the race) – with Mo’s quality, why do a smaller marathon? If you’re going to have a good day, you may as well do it on the big stage.
“He’s capable of winning but a lot can go wrong – we’ll learn a lot about Mo from the 30km point of the race. He has all the tools to do well.”
The 1990 Commonwealth 10,000m champion and 1995 New York marathon winner continued:
“I did my first marathon at 34 as I enjoyed racing on the track so much but when I saw there were no more improvements to be made, I thought of London as an opportunity and preparing for it excited me, it gave my running more impetus, doing something different.
“26-miles was the unknown but running was what I did and so I looked at it like that.”
On a possible return to the race which brought him his happy memories, Martin insisted:
“I won’t run it again – I have too many niggles and problems so I accept it.
“I ran the British masters record (2:17.22) here in 1999 at aged 40 but I’ve no interest in hobbling round.”