Stephanie Davis reaches Olympics less than three years after first marathon

  • Glaswegian part-timer set for Tokyo after personal best at Kew
  • 39-year-old Chris Thompson books place with win in men’s race

Stephanie Davis, a part-time athlete who ran her first marathon less than three years ago, will represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games after blitzing the field at the long-distance trials at Kew Gardens in London.

Davis finished with a time of 2hr 27 mins 16 sec, almost three minutes clear of second-placed Natasha Cockram at the specially convened race, the first time a one-off trial for the Olympic marathon has taken place since 1980.

It was a personal best for the 30-year-old, who only began racing competitively in 2018 after joining the Clapham Chasers in south London. It also fell well within the 2:29.30 Olympic qualifying standard for Tokyo.

Davis finished her first marathon in a time of 2:41 and has continued to outdo herself with each race, with a 2:32 in the London Marathon of 2019 – despite running with a hip injury and from the massed start – and 2:27.40 in Valencia in December of that year. Friday’s trial was her first full marathon since then, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

The Glaswegian continues to maintain a career in finance, with a senior role at the asset management company Lazard. Last year she gave an insight into how she maintained a training regime despite holding down a job. She said she ran 60-70 miles a week, around half the level of many elite athletes, but added: “I also do a lot of cross-training, including swimming and going on the elliptical, and cycle to work every day.”

In the men’s qualifying event there were emotional scenes as Chris Thompson secured a place at the Games at the age of 39. Thompson, who turns 40 next month, also recorded a personal best with a time of 2:10.50. After coming from behind, he surged clear in the final laps of the race around the historic botanical gardens. The 2012 Olympian finished more than a minute clear of second-placed Ben Connor, who had already qualified for the Games.

Chris Thompson celebrates as he wins the men’s marathon race at Kew.
Chris Thompson celebrates as he wins the men’s marathon race at Kew. Photograph: Tom Dulat/British Athletics/Getty Images

“I don’t know how I’ve done it – I’m 39 for crying out loud – this doesn’t happen,” said an overwhelmed Thompson. “This sounds bad but I knew it with two laps to go and I was trying to control my emotions then.

“After 30 minutes I realised I had worked the course out and I realised you can’t keep pressing like this. I just entered my own little mind palace and thought: ‘This is the rhythm I need.’ I feel like someone is going to tell me this didn’t happen.”

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Kew also hosted an early-morning trial for the 20km walk. Callum Wilkinson said he was “disappointed, gutted and embarrassed” to miss the Olympic qualifying standard of 81 minutes after winning in 82:47. Tom Bosworth, who finished sixth at the Rio Games in 2016, came second and already has the required time for Tokyo.


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

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