The Wallsend Harrier making a green and gold splash – Sam Charlton

Once again on Parliament Hill, amongst a sea of familiar vests, one made its way to the front. The green and gold of Wallsend, a distinctive undershirt beneath and a 20-year-old quickly making his mark.

Sam Charlton has established himself as one of Britain’s most exciting prospects, winning English Schools, Inter County and National titles in 2019 and going onto being a record breaker on the road.

On Saturday in the National Junior Men’s race he came fourth.

Sam Charlton leading the Junior Men’s race at the English National XC 2022 – Credit Mark Hookway

Foundations in football

When you think of Wallsend, most conjure the junior football club, Wallsend Boys Club where Peter Beardsley, Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick first learnt their trade.

Charlton was no different, playing for the club as a youngster and his introduction into athletics was a touch of fortune. He told us:

“At the time I was playing for them at around U8s to U10s. I did the Junior Great North run for charity as part of the club by chance. There was a lad on my team who was doing it, he was ill on the day and said do you want to use my number?”

Charlton entered the U11s race, finished 65th and said he loved the experience of racing against people his own age. Despite continuing with the football it was enough to tempt him back.  

52nd as an U13, 46th the next year, in 2016 Charlton came ninth as an U15.

At this point Wallsend realized they might have a bit of a talent, even if they couldn’t have anticipated the degree to which that would prove true.

Sam Charlton racing at Watford in 2021 – Credit: Mark Hookway

Representing the North-East

Paddy Dinsmore, Sam’s first coach was the first to spot it, setting the centre-midfielder a plan and weening him away from football.

Paddy is one in a number of good people from the North-East for whom Sam is keen to place credit. Another is Bill McGuirk, former head of the English Cross-Country Association, one of Wallsend’s first founders and a giant in Tyneside running and beyond.

“It’s a really good feeling when we get to represent them guys because they’re the one that have pushed us up to that top level and just believed in us when selecting to represent teams whether it’s the Inter-counties, Northumberland Schools, whatever. They’ve given us that belief that we could go and achieve something.”

Taking each step at a time

Reassuringly for any athlete reading this, success takes many different forms and one of the first fond memories Charlton has is his first English Schools in 2017.

“I think I was 126th. At the time I was over the moon with that because the way it was told to me is that you’re 126th in the country for your age. That sounded like a huge deal and it still is because there’s thousands of kids that go out to their school events. It was quite exciting at the time.”

That result goes down as Charlton’s worst English Schools performance. The next year he came sixth before winning it as a first year Senior Boy in 2019.

Sam Charlton winning the 2019 English National U17s – Credit: Mark Hookway

Dealing with the pressure

With such a rapid rise, you’d expect some pressure, going from not even knowing your competitors to being the guy everyone wants to beat.

Charlton, however, has largely seen each step as an opportunity rather than a potential stumbling block.

Whilst he admits moments where it has weighed on him, generally he’s maintained that outlook, seeing every race as an opportunity to showcase the green and gold.

Sam Charlton finishing 4th at the English National Junior Mens 2022 – Credit: Mark Hookway

A British record

One occasion where that wasn’t possible is one of Charlton’s best races to date. Racing the Abbey Dash in October, Charlton adorned the purple of Leeds Beckett, making his debut over the 10k distance.

Jon Gascoyne’s 1991 British U20 record of 29.35 had withstood almost 30 years of record attempts.

“When I got to 5k and saw the clock on the lead car and saw 14.39, I was doing the maths in my head thinking I’ve overcooked this a bit. I’ve messed this race up and gone through too fast. But then I kept building into the race and everyone told us before the race you’ll get to 7k and you’ll usually get that bite and really struggle at that point.

I got to that and I was waiting and waiting for that bite to happen and it never came. I didn’t really understand what was going on. This doesn’t really feel right, I just feel like I’m getting stronger and stronger.

Seeing the clock when I turned the corner for the finishing straight. I was looking ahead trying to see what it was and it was still in the 28s. The clock must be wrong. I’ve crossed the line and I’ve seen 29.20 odd and I was having to double check that the time was right and I was double checking with people that the course was definitely the right distance because obviously the year before it had been short.”

The course wasn’t and Charlton had taken 18 seconds off the junior record, finishing fourth in a stacked field.

Nudging that ceiling higher

We’ve seen countless examples of juniors who’ve achieved similar feats and then failed to make the next grade, but there seems little to indicate that will be the case for Charlton.

Under the patient tutelage of Helen Clitheroe, his biggest week ever is a modest 59 miles and the Wallsend man averages between 50 and 55 miles with three quality sessions.  It’s much less than many of his training partners at the Leeds Talent Hub and without putting too much emphasis on it, Charlton believes it will be one day useful for his progression.

“There are some guys who are already on really high mileage at my age and don’t really have many more places to go with their training. For example a lot of the five k, ten k guys in their peak they’re probably running 100-miles a week. There’s 40 more miles I’ve got to build upon in my training to get to that level.

I think she’s (Helen’s) quite excited to see where she can take my training to. Of course I’m really  excited for that too because I think that will make a big difference as well.”

Sam Charlton winning at the BMC Grand Prix 800m – Credit: Mark Hookway

British 5k record attempt

Just a few weeks ago at the Podium Under the Lights, Charlton came within two seconds of the 5k record, running 13.56 for fourth.

It wasn’t even a record he still thought he was eligible for but has since learnt that he has until August. On 12 March at Podium he will give it another go.

“I think it would be silly not to be aiming at that. I’m only two seconds off. I think it’s definitely within my reach. The BUCS was only six days before that race and it took me five of those days to actually pull myself around because that mud really drained my legs.

I was getting a bit worried that week of how it was going to affect the 5k. I was just having to do everything I could. I’m not very good at keeping on top of my stretching and stuff like that but last week I was on it because I knew I had to. My easy runs were at 7.30s when normally they’re at 7 minutes. I thought I’ve got to do everything I can just to recover my legs.

To be honest on the day they felt good but they didn’t feel as good as I know they can do and I think that was down to having that race still in my legs a bit so I think that just gives us extra positives for that next race on 12th March at Podium.

I just hope the conditions are good. It’s Podium, there are always top athletes there to drag you round so hopefully we can find that two seconds somehow.”

Two more seconds for an athlete who has made giant leaps over the last few years. On 12th March look out for the green and gold, showcasing the North East on a national level once more.

Full interview

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Featured image – Mark Hookway

English National Cross-Country Champs Preview 2022

The English National Cross-Country Championships returns to Parliament Hill for the first time since 2018. That day Adam Hickey prevailed for the men with Phoebe Law taking the women’s title.

With the effects of Storm Eunice leaving Parliament Hill a mudbath, it promises to be a war of attrition over 12k for the Senior Men and 8k for the Senior Women.

Defending champs

Calum Johnson won in Wollaton Park in 2020 in similarly difficult conditions and back in December said he was ‘100% going back’ to defend his title. He told us:

“I’m not doing it because I have to defend the title, I’m doing it because I love the National cross. I love the atmosphere, everything about it. I grew up watching that race so I always found it inspiring. Winning it last year meant so much to me and everyone’s seen that in the photos.

I won’t be there because I feel I have to defend the title, I’m gonna be there because I want to be there.”

Calum’s latest outing came after suffering COVID over Christmas where he finished 17th at the Northern Ireland Invitational. A month later, free from illness he may be the event’s dark horse.

Calum Johnson at the British Cross Challenge – 8th

On the women’s side Anna Emilie Moller won in 2020, despite not actually ever competing for GB or England. The runner-up that day was Jess Judd, with third place Bronwen Owen of Leeds City. Owen makes this year’s start line but Judd is not on the entries list.

The men’s favourite

Emile Cairess has to start as favourite and comes into the race after a stint at altitude in Kenya. Whilst training out there he participated in a stacked Kenyan race, part of the World Athletics Cross Tour and finished in 41st. Having tied Mo Farah’s British record over 10k on the roads he looks to be potentially a class above the rest of the field, but this is cross.

Emile Cairess on his way to 2nd place in the 2019 National – Credit: Mark Hookway

The women’s favourites

On paper the women’s race would be more open but by virtue of their wins at the Southerns, Northerns and Midlands respectively, Jess Gibbon, Eleanor Bolton and Katie Holt appear to be the early favourites. Both Gibbon and Holt won by good margins.

Jess Gibbon winning the Southerns in 2022 – Credit: Mark Hookway

Bolton was fourth in the most recent Northern Ireland International, first English woman ahead of Gibbon in 7th. Holt did not race but was 9th in the recent Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Elgoibar, the first British woman.

The men’s contenders

Andy Coley-Maud’s last appearance at Parliament Hill saw him take the runner’s up spot in 2018. Since then, he is unbeaten across five subsequent cross appearances and ran bravely to win his second Southerns title in late January. At the later end of his career he would be a popular winner.

Hugo Milner has really reached a new level over the last year and was unlucky not to make the Euro-Cross team. He was 4th in Northern Ireland and acquitted himself well in finished 9th in the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Eigobar.  

Milner wearing the Derby vest at the British Cross Challenge – Credit: Mark Hookway

The man who finished second behind Milner at the Northerns was Nigel Martin. The Sale Harriers man will be there or thereabouts.

Alexander Leprêtre is clearly in decent form having finished 3rd to run 13:55 in the Podium Under the Lights.

Zak Mahamed won in Northern Ireland and was second at the Bucs Cross-Country. He will compete and will be inspired by the presence of his brother Mahamed, a previous national winner in 2019. Together they lead what looks to be a very strong Southampton side.

Zak Mahamed on his was to winning the U20 title in 2020 – Credit: Mark Hookway

Joe Steward and Linton Taylor chased home Johnson for second and third the last time this race was run and will hope to make the step up this time. Steward hasn’t raced since his national runners-up spot but is listed on the entries, while Taylor has been in Kenya training alongside Cairess.

Olympic triathlon silver medalist Alex Yee is listed on the entries for Kent AC but it would be surprise to see him there.

Doug Musson deserves mention by virtue of his impressive win at the Midlands Champs.

Two-time winner of the U20’s race, Ellis Cross is listed amongst a strong Aldershot, Farnham and District. Having raced infrequently of late he could surprise a few and has previously stated his career ambition to one-day win a senior national.

The women’s contenders

Lauren Heyes may have finished 4th in the Northerns but in finishing 9th at the British Cross Challenge she’s shown good pedigree this cross-season. She’s on the start list for Hallamshire Harriers.

Lauren Heyes – finishing 9th at the 2021 Cross Challenge – Credit: Mark Hookway

Nicole Taylor is currently nursing a slight injury but won the Sussex Champs in early January. Her best national was a 12th place in 2019. Fellow Tonbridge athlete Lucy Reid won the Kent equivalent and was one place behind Taylor in 13th in 2019.

Nicole Taylor – English Cross 2020 – Credit: Mark Hookway

Sophie Tarver was second behind Bolton in the Northerns and finished 13th in Elgoibar. That day Alexandra Millard finished in 10th though she competes in the Junior race.

Pippa Woolven finished 11th and is on the entry list for the Seniors. Woolven finished 2nd in the 2019 National and maybe a dark horse for this year’s title.

Amelia Quirk is also on the entries list though looks set to compete at the British Indoors.

Past winners in the field

Adam Hickey has fond memories of Parliament Hill, having won in 2018 and is entered though he has raced infrequently of late.

Ben Connor, a winner in 2017 is also listed though there are some doubts as to whether, given his marathon schedule, he will tow the start line.

Tips

Matt Seddon, Co-host of the Sunday Plodcast: Emile Cairess

Keith Scofield, Organiser Friday Night Under the Lights: Mahamed Mahamed, Jess Gibbon

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Featured image: National Cross 2020 Senior Women’s Race – Credit: Mark Hookway

Euro Cross 2021 Preview – The Seniors

The 27th edition of the European Cross Country Champs takes place in Fingal, Dublin this Sunday 12th December. It’s the competition’s second trip to Ireland and first since 2009.

Here’s our Euro Cross 2021 preview.

The Women’s Race

Yasemin Can heads to Fingal hoping to make it an unprecedented five individual titles in a row. Can was eighth in the Olympic 5,000m final in July.

There are some suggestions this may be her biggest challenge yet. The former Kenyan finished in 11th, almost 90 seconds down from race winner Norah Jeruto in November’s Cross of Italica, though she will take some solace that she was the first European.

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Only one other woman in history has won two in a row and she will be on the startline on Sunday. Fionnuala McCormack won in 2011 and 2012 and is racing just seven days after running 2.23.57 in the Valencia Marathon.

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A more likely Irish assault looks likely to come from Michelle Finn, who led from gun to tape in November’s Irish Cross Country Champs and told Cathal Dennehy she believes she’s getting faster at 32. For that article click here.

Meraf Bahta (Sweden) comes in strong cross form, having won in Tilburg ahead of Jip Vasterburg (Netherlands) and was second in the Great Manchester Run over 10k.

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Final worthy mentions go to Selamawit Teferi (Israel) who was tenth in the Olympic 5000m and Jess Judd who dominated the Great Britain trials race. Judd herself has won individual medals in both the U20 (2014 Silver) and U23 races (2017 bronze). She could be in contention for a first senior medal.

The former junior champions

Konstanze Klosterhalfen leads a strong German team. Her last appearance was a silver in the U23 race in 2017 (she was just 20 at the time) and she is a previous U20 winner (2015 & 2016). The German was eighth in the Olympic 10,000m final and for my money is one of the favourites.

Anna Emilie Moller won the U23 title in Lisbon in 2019, the same year she was 15th in the senior race at the World Cross. The Dane also won in 2018 and is a class act on her day. That said, she’s rarely competed this year and failed to progress past the heats of the Steeplechase in Tokyo.

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The men’s race

Now to our men’s 2021 Euro Cross preview.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen forgoes his eligibility for the U23 race to test himself in the Seniors. The Olympic 1500m champ and four time Euro U20 XC winner will start a huge favourite in Ireland.

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His brother Filip is one of two former winners in the race, having won in Tilburg in 2018. The siblings may hope to sweep the front two.

Aras Kaya (Turkey) is the other former champ, having won in 2016 but there are little suggestions he is in anything approaching that form.

A stacked Spanish squad

A better challenge looks likely to come from Spain with Abdessamad Oukhelfen appearing the best of the bunch. Oukhelfen was third in San Sebastian and 5th at the Cross de Atapuerca. On both occasions he was the first European beating Adel Mechaal and Carlos Mayo respectively. Another Spaniard to watch is Nassim Hassaous, who was 4th in the Cross International de Soria. Spain look strong for the team title.

The dark horses?

Jimmy Gressier has fond memories of these champs, winning the U23 race three times in a row between 2017 and 2019. He was fourth to Ingebrigtsen in the 2016 U20 race. The Frenchman won his national champs easily in November.

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Jonas Raess (Switzerland) was an impressive winner in Tilburg in November, where he edged out Mike Foppen (Netherlands only Euro Senior men’s entry).

Others to watch include Hiko Tonosa of Ireland and Jack Rowe of Great Britain. Both won their trials races impressively. Andrew Butchart (5th in 2019) may also be running himself into some decent form, having finished second in Liverpool behind Rowe.

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NCAA XC – The Brit Rankings

Charles Hicks led home the British interest but there were plenty of other good performances across the board. If yesterday taught us anything it’s just how stacked the NCAA is. All athletes’ most recent UK club is in brackets.

The Women

  • Bella Williams – 51 (20:07.0) – Utah (Lincoln Wellington)
  • Ellie Leather – 109 (20.33.7) – Cincinnati (Westbury)
  • Phoebe Anderson – 124 (20.38.3) – Columbia (Herne Hill)
  • Shannon Flockhart – 160 (20.51.6) – Providence (Cambridge and Coleridge)
  • Katy Ann McDonald – 163 (20.52.5)- Louisiana State (Blackheath and Bromley)
  • Julie Paternain – 171 (20.56.2) – Arkansas (Cambridge and Coleridge)
  • Stephanie Moss – 190 (21.07.9) – Oklahoma State (Sale Harriers)
  • Caitlin Wosika (21.39.7) – Rice (Team Bath)

The Men

  • Charles Hicks – 4 (28.47.2) – Stanford (Shaftesbury Barnet)
  • Scott Beattie – 58 (29.45.2) – Tulsa (Morpeth)
  • Rory Leonard – 79 (30.02.0) – Oklahoma State (Morpeth)
  • Isaac Akers – 86 (30.05.2) – Tulsa (Corby)
  • Adam Fogg – 139 (30.30.7) – Drake (Coventry)
  • George Duggan – 149 (30.35.1) – Portland (Tonbridge)
  • Logan Rees – 230 (31.52.8) – Boise State (Fife)
  • Charles Wheeler – DNS – Wisconsin-Madison (MK Distance Project)

Featured image “File:2016 NCAA DI West Region XC Championships 4029 (30646999010).jpg” by jenaragon94 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Brits to Watch – NCAA XC

The NCAA Cross Country Division 1 has a rich tradition of British runners making their mark. This year is no different. Here’s this years ones to watch. The race will be shown live on BT Sport 2 in the UK from 3pm Saturday 20th November.

The Men

Scott Beattie – Tulsa – 3rd Midwest Regional

Alongside Charles Hicks Britain’s best individual hope. The Morpeth athlete ran 28.41 earlier in the summer over 10,000m. He is coached by Mike Bateman.

Adam Fogg – Drake- 4th Midwest Regional

Brit-Aussie Adam Fogg won the most recent Podium 5k in Barrowford (13.45). He is formerly of Coventry.

Rory Leonard – Oklahoma State – 15th Midwest Regional

13.50 over 5,000 earlier this year, the Morpeth man will be gunning for the team title.

Isaac Akers – Tulsa – 23rd Midwest Regional

13.47 over 5,000 in a Watford BMC earlier this summer, the Corby man is coached by Bill Boyd.

Charles Hicks – Stanford – 2nd West Regionals

US based for most of his life, Hicks is formerly of Shaftesbury Barnet. 14th in this event earlier this year he will be going for a top ten finish. Hicks ran 27.47 to finish seventh in the NCAA Div 1 10,000m final this summer.

Logan Rees – Boise State – 18th West Regionals (Individual Qualifier)

An individual qualifier Rees has impressed on the cross. Coached by Ron Morrison he is a Fife athlete.

George Duggan – Portland – 32nd West Regionals

Duggan of Tonbridge finished 14th in the 2018 English National. In the UK he is a Mark Hookway man.

Charles Wheeler – Wisconsin-Madison – 32nd Great Lakes Regional

The MK Distance Project athlete ran 7.58 indoors over 3,000m. In the UK he is coached by James Bennett.

The Women

Ellie Leather – Cincinnatti – 14th Great Lakes Regional – Individual qualifier

Previously of Fresno, Leather is a former Westbury athlete coached by Jason Michael. 16.40 over 5,000 this summer.

Stephanie Moss – Oklahoma State 39th Midwest Regional

Coached by Trevor Painter, the Sale Harriers athlete ran 4.24.57 over 1500m earlier this year.

Bella Williams – Utah – 15th Mountain Regionals

33.17 over 10,000m in April, Williams is a Lincoln Wellington athlete coached by Rob Lewis.

Phoebe Anderson – Columbia – 6th North East Regional (Individual Qualifier)

16.18 over 5,000m in Sport City in August the Herne Hill athlete is coached by Wayne Vinton. Seventh in the Euro U20 Champs over 5,000m

Shannon Flockhart – Providence – 10th Northeast Regionals

Cambridge and Coleridge’s Flockhart was ninth in both the 2019 and 2020 U20 English National XC. She is coached by Mark Vile.

Katy-Ann McDonald – Louisiana State – 6th South Central Regionals (Individual Qualifier)

From Blackheath and Bromley, McDonald ran 2.01.67 for 800m in May. Coached by Adijat Mumunie.

Caitlin Wosika – Rice University – 13th South Central Regionals

A Team Bath athlete coached by Adrian Clover, Wosika has a 4.38 1,500m best.

Julia Paternain – Arkansas – 24th South Central Regionals

Paternain ran 16.00 for 5,000m in 2019 and is a Cambridge and Coleridge athlete. She has worked with Mark Vile.

Featured image “File:2016 NCAA DI Pre-National XC Invitational 3286 (30277597972).jpg” by jenaragon94 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Athletics Craziest World Records (5-1)

10-6 caused some controversy so it is with some trepidation that we release the top five craziest world records in Athletics. Here they are.

5. Karsten Warholm – Tokyo – August 2021

For almost 29 years Kevin Young’s 1992 mark of 46.78 stood untested. One of the greatest world records in history it is perhaps the American who has valid cause for a place on this list.

On 1st July 2021 that mark finally fell, Karsten Warholm nudging the record lower by eight hundredths of a second. That enough was outstanding but by the measure of what came next it was pedestrian.

In Tokyo on August 3rd Warholm and Rai Benjamin went toe-to-toe for Olympic gold. Stride by stride heading into the final 40 metres Warholm was the one to edge it. With it he decimated his own world record and became the first man under 46 seconds (45.94). Behind him Rai Benjamin (46.17), himself over half a second beneath the previous mark, with Alison Dos Santos (46.72) also running faster than Young’s mark.

The greatest hurdles race in history, it perhaps has cause to be higher up the list.

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4. Yulimar Rojas – Tokyo – August 2021

Yulimar Rojas is the sports most dominant triple jumper. It is a fact made all the more astounding by the fact she started her career as a high jumper.

The Colombian came to Tokyo knowing that a world record was within her grasp and she had many hoping she would do it.

Inessa Kravets jumped 15.50m in the 1995 Gothenburg World Champs, the same competition in which the men’s world record was set. Her world title triumph and subsequent Olympic gold reveal that was no fluke but it was not without some scepticism. The Ukranian was banned twice in her career for performance enhancing drugs.

In May Rojas got within seven centimetres of the mark, two better than her previous best from 2019 and in Tokyo she took lift off. 15.67 metres Rojas now possesses five of the six biggest jumps in history and looks set to rewrite those records some more. Rojas has just turned 26.

3. Anita Wlodarczyk – Tampere – August 2016

No athlete to have ever lived can claim the levels of dominance of Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland. The three-time Olympic champ has broken the world record on four separate occasions.

Wlodarczyk’s 82.98m best from Tampere is truly otherworldly sitting over 2.5m ahead of the next best athlete.

With fifteen of the sixteen best throws in history Wlodarczyk is more than worthy of her place at number three of athletics craziest records.

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2. Usain Bolt – Berlin – August 2009

You could make a case that Bolt’s 200m world record was just as worthy but it is his 100m performance from Berlin that takes our place.

Everyone knew Bolt was special. Beijing had shown us that but it was Berlin that made things silly. 9.58 seconds, eleven hundredths of a second quicker than any other man in history. To make things even more ludicrous it is a wider margin than his 200m world record (0.07 seconds).

Sparking debates of whether Bolt would be the first man under 9.50 seconds, Bolt would never run faster.

You’d hard pressed to find many who think his record will fall anytime soon.

1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee – Seoul – September 1988

Top of our list is a record that may well last half a century or more. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s performance would make her compete in three of the events as an individual.

  • 100m Hurdles – 12.69s – Would have finished 5th in the Tokyo Olympic Final (1172 Points)
  • High Jump – 1.86m (1054)
  • Shot Put – 15.80m (915)
  • 200m – 22.56s – Would have finished 8th in the Tokyo Olympic 200m Final (1123)
  • Long Jump – 7.27m – Would have won gold in the Tokyo Olympic Long Jump final (1264 – Heptathlon highest score ever for a single event)
  • Javelin – 45.66m (776)
  • 800m – 2.08.51 (987)
  • 7291 Points

Joyner-Kersee stands over 250 points above the next best in history, Carolina Kluft (7032), and has the top six scores in history.

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London Marathon 2021 – Elite Women’s Preview

Sunday 3rd October will see some of the finest athletes on planet earth take to the streets of London. We preview the field for the London Marathon Elite Women, see if stats can predict the winner and give our predictions for who will take the London crown.

For our elite men’s preview click here.

How fast is the London marathon for elite women?

Based on winning times since 2007 there isn’t a quicker world marathon major in women’s marathon running. London takes the title and has been on average 24 seconds quicker than Berlin.

WomenBerlinBostonChicagoLondonNew York Tokyo
Average Winning Time Since 200702:20:5602:27:1202:22:5202:20:3202:23:0002:25:08

Who is in the elite women field for the 2021 London Marathon?

The 2021 London marathon field for the elite women is as follows:

AthleteCountryPersonal Best (and where they ran it)
Brigid KosgeiKenya02:14:04 WR (Chicago 2019)
Roza DerejeEthiopia02:18:30 (Valencia 2019)
Birhane DibabaEthiopia02:18:35 (Tokyo 2020)
Joyciline JepkosgeiKenya02:18:40 (Valencia 2020)
Valary JemeliKenya02:19:10 (Frankfurt 2019)
Degitu AzimerawEthiopia02:19:26 (Amsterdam 2019)
Zeineba YimerEthiopia02:19:28 (Valencia 2019)
Tigist GirmaEthiopia02:19:52 (Amsterdam 2019)
Ashete BekereEthiopia02:20:14 (Berlin 2019)
Alemu MegertuEthiopia02:21:10 (Frankfurt 2019)
Sinead DiverAustralia02:24:11 (London 2019)
Allie KiefferUSA02:28:12 (New York 2018)
Moira StewartovaCzech Republic02:29:28 (May 2021)

Is it possible to predict the elite women’s London Marathon winner for 2021?

Picking a winner based on patterns is difficult for the women with a few statistical surprises over the years. This is unlike the men where a few parameters seems to have decided a select few who are capable of winning.

YearAthlete Winning TimePersonal Best pre-race Best performance in Two Years Pre-Race
2020Brigid Kosgei2.18.582.14.04 (Chicago, 2019)2.14.04 (Chicago, 2019)
2019Brigid Kosgei2.18.202.18.35 (Chicago, 2018)2.18.35 (Chicago, 2018)
2018Vivian Cheruiyot2.18.312.23.35 (Frankfurt, 2017)2.23.35 (Frankfurt, 2017)
2017Mary Keitany2.17.012.18.37 (London, 2012)2.23.40 (London 2015)
2016Jemima Sumgong2.22.582.20.41 (Boston, 2014)2.20.41 (Boston, 2014)
2015Tigist Tufa2.23.222.21.52 (Shanghai, 2014)2.21.52 (Shanghai, 2014)
2014Edna Kiplagat2.20.212.19.50 (London, 2012)2.19.50 (London, 2012)
2013Priscah Jeptoo2.20.152.20.14 (London, 2012)2.20.14 (London, 2012)
2012Mary Keitany2.18.372.19.19 (London, 2011)2.19.19 (London, 2011)
2011Mary Keitany2.19.192.29.01 (New York, 2010)2.29.01 (New York, 2010)
2010Aselefech Mergia2.22.382.25.02 (Paris, 2009)2.25.02 (Paris, 2009)
2009Irina Mikitenko2.22.112.19.19 (Berlin, 2008)2.19.19 (Berlin, 2008)
2008Irina Mikitenko2.24.142.24.51 (Berlin 2007)2.24.51 (Berlin 2007)
2007Zhou Chunxiu2.20.382.19.51 (Seoul, 2006)2.19.51 (Seoul, 2006)

The winner will have to run under 2.25

Every previous winner has done so by running below 2.25 with Irina Mikitenko’s 2.24.14 the slowest in the last 14 editions. Six of the fourteen and each of the last four have seen sub 2.20 clockings.

Is a previous fast personal best an indicator for London glory?

Usually yes but the women’s field has yielded some pretty interesting exceptions. Half of the winners have gone into the race with personal bests below 2.20 with all but two of the rest having sub 2.25 clockings prior to the race. More often than not London winners have run fast elsewhere before.

The first exception is Aselefech Mergia in 2010, who had run 2.25.02 the previous year. Mergia was third through the line in London but was upgraded after doping violations from Liliya Shobukhova and Inga Abitova, both of Russia. Shobukhova herself had a 2.25.56 personal best prior to the race.

Mary Keitany, not for the first time, is the notable exception. Keitany came into the 2011 edition with one marathon under her belt, a 2.29.01 clocking to finish third in the 2010 New York City Marathon. She was also the fastest women in history over the half-marathon at the time with 1.05.50 in winning the 2011 Ras-Al-Khaimah half. Such a feat is mind-boggling to think in a pre-super-shoe era. Keitany’s 2011 win therefore did not come totally out of the blue.

The Kenyan’s 2.19.19 in 2011 made her the joint fourth fastest women in history at the time.

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Is recent form an indicator for London?

Every past winner has come to London with some clear form. Aselefech Mergia, despite only running 2.25.02, came to London with a bronze medal from the World Championships in Berlin the previous year. Keitany we have discussed.

The next slowest in terms of times run in the two years prior to the race is Irina Mikitenko‘s first win in 2008. The German went on to post one of the fastest marathon times in history (fourth all time when she won in Berlin later that year, 2.19.19) but hadn’t yet had a clear breakthrough. London in 2008 was her second marathon after a 2.24.51 debut to finish second in Berlin in 2007.

The next slowest in terms of form is Vivian Cheruiyot whose 2018 win came in only her second year as a marathoner. It is difficult to argue against the credentials of the Kenyan star who was less than two years on from 5,000 gold in Rio. Her two previous marathon had been fourth in London in 2017 (2.23.50) and a win in Frankfurt later that year (2.23.35).

Surprise winners rarely, if ever, win the London Marathon.

Who are the favourites in the elite women field for the 2021 London Marathon?

Ten different women, all from Ethiopia and Kenya all can count themselves as in with a shot of London glory but some have stronger chances than most.

In the absence of Peres Jepchirchir, Brigid Kosgei is a clear favourite and will look for her third London crown. The marathon world record holder won silver in Tokyo and is the defending champ from 2020. That she ran 2.18.58 in such difficult conditions last year shows just how good Brigid Kosgei is. The biggest challenge may be how she has recovered just eight weeks on from her Olympic marathon.

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For my money Joyciline Jepkosgei may be the second favourite. Jepkosgei recently showed form to win the Berlin Half Marathon in August (1.05.16) and was second in Valencia at the end of 2020 (2.18.40). The Kenyan has not yet raced a marathon this year but will head into the race with confidence.

Roza Dereje will head up the Ethiopian challenge. Dereje was fourth in Tokyo (2020) in her first marathon since winning in Valencia in late 2019 (2.18.30). Dereje finished third in London in 2019 in 2.20.51 and was second in Chicago in 2018 (2.21.18).

Compatriot Birhane Dibaba is a great marathon runner on her day but has been inconsistent of late. Her 2.18.35 came in finishing second to Lornah Salpeter in Tokyo in 2020 but she has since come ninth in Valencia (2.23.50). Dibaba failed to finish in the Olympic Marathon in Sapporo in August. She was ninth on her last visit to London in 2019 (2.25.04) and won Tokyo in 2018 (2.19.51).

The outsiders for the women’s title?

Valary Jemeli at her best is difficult to beat, a fact she showed in winning Frankfurt in autumn 2019 (2.19.10). The Kenyan has not, however, been at the level since. 10th in London last year (2.28.18) she was third in Prague earlier this year (2.22.39) and only 22nd in Eldoret in June (2.39.09).

Degitu Azimeraw is yet to race in 2021 but finished fifth in Valencia at the end of 2020 (2.19.56). The Ethiopian won in Amsterdam in 2019 (2.19.26) and is my one to watch. Aged just twenty-two she is yet to put a foot wrong in two appearances at the marathon.

Zeineba Yimer got the nod for the third Tokyo Olympic slot for Ethiopia and nudged Azimeraw into fifth in Valencia (2.19.54). She failed to finish in Tokyo perhaps with half an eye on an autumn marathon. Fourth in the World Half Marathon champs last year (1.05.39) her personal best comes from Valencia in 2019 (2.19.28). Like Azimeraw, Yimer is young at twenty-three and has all the signs of consistent progression to indicate she will challenge for years to come.

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Those in with a chance?

Tigist Girma will need some improvement to find herself in title contention but has experience of winning big city marathons. A winner in Guangzhou in 2018 she has won in Beirut (2017) and Ottowa (2019). Her personal best comes in finishing second to Azimeraw in the 2019 Amsterdam marathon (2.19.52).

Fourth placer in London from 2020 (2.22.51) Ashete Bekeru is yet to race in 2021 but won Berlin in 2019 (2.20.14). That day in 2019 she beat Mare Dibaba and could be in the mix for a second World Marathon major this time round.

The final female who may have her eyes on the top prize is former Rome marathon winner Alemu Megertu. Her 2.21.10 best comes from finishing second in Frankfurt in 2019. Her last outing was a 2.24.23 clocking in finishing fifth in London last year.

Our predictions

Kenya has a great tradition in the women’s elite field. I see little reason why that won’t continue on 3rd October.

  1. Brigid Kosgei
  2. Joyciline Kepkosgei
  3. Roza Dereje

Like our preview of the field for the elite women at London marathon 2021? Feel free to share and spread the love!

Featured image “London Marathon – Edna Kiplagat” by Winniepix is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Tokyo previews – Women’s High Jump

Mariya Lasitskene may be appearing under a neutral flag but millions of Russians will be hoping to see her crowned Olympic champion for the first time. To do so she will have to beat a host of challengers all of whom are jumping higher than they ever have before. Here’s our women’s high jump preview for Tokyo.

Schedule

Thursday 5 August 01:10 UK Time (Qualification) Sautrday 7th August 11:35 UK Time (Final)

2021 Highest Jumps

2021 RankingsHeight (m)AthleteCountry 
12.03Yaroslava MahuchikhUkraine
22.02Vashti CunninghamUSA
32.01Nicola McDermottAustralia
42Nadezhda DubovitskayaKazakhstan
42Mariya LasitskeneRussia Olympic Committee
61.97Svetlana RadzivilUzbekistan
61.97Salome LangSwitzerland
61.97Marija Vuković Montenegro
910 different athletes

British interest

Morgan Lake continues to lead the British charge but is now being hard pushed by another Brit in Emily Borthwick. They have jumped 1.96m (indoors) and 1.93m respectively this year. Lake was sixth in the 2017 World Champs and fourth in the 2018 World Indoors. She will need to jump somewhere around two metres to contend the medals. Both should have final ambitions.

The favourites

Mariya Lasitskene has won the last three consecutive world championships. She was denied the opportunity to compete at Rio due to Russia’s ban but is an authorised neutral athlete this time round. Ruth Batia won that Rio competition for Spain in 1.97m, a height Lasitskene exceeded (2.00m) just weeks before Rio took place. Lasitskene has shown some signs of vulnerability, finished fourth in the Gateshead Diamond league (albeit in terrible conditions) and could only clear 1.80m in Dessau. That said she jumped 2.00m on 14th July in Finland and seems to be rounding into form nicely. At her best she is the fifth best of all time (2.06m).

For the Russian, there is a Ukranian that has announced herself at the most inopportune of times. Yaroslava Mahuchikh is still only nineteen but won silver in Doha behind Lasitskene, jumping 2.04m having just turned eighteen. She won in Stockholm, jumping 2.03m and has only lost once this year in Dessau to her compatriot Iryna Gerashchenko (they both jumped 1.92 but Iryna won on countback).

Second in Stockholm was Nicola McDermott of Australia who will be in contention by virtue of having twice jumped 2 metres or over this year. Stockholm is her sole appearance this year outside Australia and she is undefeated in her home country. Aged twenty-four, this is her first season as a true championship contender.

The greatest gold medal threat outside Europe comes from Vashti Cunningham who has cleared 2.02m this year, won all her competitions and importantly cleared 1.96m on five out of six occassions. Such consistently will put right in the mix. She is the bronze medalist from Doha.

Nadezhda Dubovitskaya hasn’t jumped outside her native Kazakhstan but her 2.00m clearance there puts the twenty-three year old in medal contention. Finally look out for her compatrior Kristina Ovchinnikova (1.96m) who has just turned twenty and Iryna Gerashenko by virtue of the Ukrainian’s Dessau win and 1.99m best.

Our medal predictions

  1. Mariya Lasitskene
  2. Yaroslava Mahuchikh
  3. Vashti Cunningham

Records

WR: 2.09m Stefka Kostadinova (1987)

OR: 2.06m Yelena Slesarenko (2004 Athens)

Featured image “File:Mariya Lasitskene, saut en hauteur, ANA (Russie) (36180454900).jpg” by Samuel Blanck is marked with CC0 1.0