Stephanie Davis targets Olympics less than two years after first marathon

• Runner’s 2:27.40 time reached Olympic qualifying standard
• Davis ran first marathon in September 2018

Stephanie Davis started taking running seriously only two years ago, raced in her first marathon in September 2018 and fits in training with a full‑time job. But the 29-year-old is now targeting an unlikely Olympic spot after being confirmed in the women’s elite field for the London Marathon.

And who would dare bet against her? After all, in December Davis ran the ninth fastest marathon by a British woman – her time of 2hr 27min 40sec not only improving her personal best by five minutes but making her one of only four GB athletes with the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:29. The final step before booking the sporting trip of a lifetime is to finish among the top two Britons in London.

“It has still not sunk in because it has all come so quickly,” Davis said. “My coach tends to give me mini‑motivational pep talks before and after training sessions. I haven’t had an international vest yet but with the Olympics just a few months away I can’t avoid the target.”

Davis ran for the University of Edinburgh and continued to stay fit when she moved to London but it was only when she joined her local club, Clapham Chasers, that she started training more seriously.

Her coach, Philip Krissi, encouraged her to run her first marathon in 2018, which she finished in 2:41, despite racing conservatively because she feared she would “get to six miles to go, hit a wall and die”. When she followed it up by running the London Marathon last year in 2:32, despite a hip injury in the buildup, she knew she was capable of more.

Even so, this April will mark the first time she has started in an elite field rather than with the masses. “It will be a whole new learning curve but I am a very competitive person, which is what brought me that 2:27 in Valencia.

“I thought beforehand that going under 2:30 was possible, so I got into a group where the pacer was meant to be doing 2:29-2:30. However, he went too fast and we were 50 seconds quicker at halfway but I was just really determined not to be dropped.”

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Unlike many of her rivals, Davis will not be heading away for altitude training – and says she runs only 60-70 miles a week, around half that of many elite athletes, to avoid injury. “But I also do a lot of cross-training, including swimming and going on the elliptical, and cycle to work every day.”

Davis also credits her employer, Lazard Asset Management, with allowing her to work flexibly so she can train in the morning and evening.

Her friends are also coming round to having a potential Olympic athlete in their midst, too. “For a while they were like: ‘Oh, she’s got so boring, she doesn’t want to come out any more and goes to bed early every night.’ But now they totally get it.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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