Britain’s best marathoners and race walkers will assemble in Kew Gardens in London on Friday, March 26, for the Muller British Athletics marathon and 20km race walk trials, seeking to secure their places at the Tokyo Olympics in July. It will be the first time in 40 years that the British Olympic marathon trial has been held in its own dedicated race in a similar way to the US Olympic trials, as from 1983 the trials have been part of the London Marathon. Here’s what to look out for on trials race day.
What’s the course like?
The marathon runners will run one small lap followed by 12 longer ones, appropriately enough passing Kew’s Japanese gardens a dozen times, and will finish in front the gardens' famous Palm House. The closed course will be sheltered and flat, and race organisers have worked to smooth out some of the corners, with one straight being almost a mile in length. Pacemakers will be used to make sure the pace is quick in the first 30km, in order to meet Olympic qualifying times of 2:11:30 (men) and 2:29:30 (women) the athletes who have not already recorded them need.
Who’s running in the Olympic trials marathon?
In the men’s marathon, with Callum Hawkins having been pre-selected, the first two men across the line in sub-2:11:30 will automatically be selected for the Tokyo team. Hawkins will actually still be running in the trials, but as a pacemaker.
The leading contenders are Ben Connor, who was the second Brit home in the Virgin Money London Marathon last October. He has the qualifying time already so doesn’t need to break it at the trials. Welshman Dewi Griffiths, meanwhile, has a sub-2:10 PB from 2017. Look out also for ultrarunner Tom Evans, running a shorter distance than those he is commonly used to, while it might be the last chance to qualify for a major championships for veteran 10K and marathon runner Chris Thompson.
Olympic hopeful Jonny Mellor, the first British athlete home in October’s Virgin Money London Marathon, was a late withdrawal from the trials due to a freak injury, but he could still be picked if one or both of the top male finishers fail to hit the qualifying time.
In the women’s race, British half-marathon champion Lily Partridge will be looking to make her first Olympics, while Steph Davis has a PB of 2:27:40 from late 2019. Natasha Cockram and Naomi Mitchell, meanwhile, were the top two British finishers in October’s London Marathon.
Notable absentees from the women’s race are Jess Piasecki, who ran 2:25:28 to win the Florence Marathon in 2019, and fellow 2:25 marathoner Charlotte Purdue, who dropped out of the trials with only just over a week to go. Both women are comfortably inside the qualifying time, and so could still make the team for Tokyo if the top two female finishers fail to make the Olympic qualifying time.
When do the Olympic trials races start?
The 20km race walk sets off at 6am, with the marathon starting at 8am, both on Friday 26 March. The men and women in both races will start at the same time.
What’s the weather going to be like?
The current outlook is looking favourable, with cool, sunny conditions and a gentle breeze forecast, with temperatures of around eight to nine degrees Celsius.
How can I watch the Olympic trials?
Unfortunately, spectators will not be allowed inside Kew Gardens on race day, but the races will be streamed on the British Athletics YouTube channel, starting at 6am for the race walk and 8am for the marathon. The race will also be available on BBC iPlayer.
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