Neil Featherby: All eyes will be on the front at the London Marathon but don’t forget who else is competing
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Here we are just two days away from the big one….needless to say the London Marathon that is.
After weeks and months of what has fortunately been a pretty mild winter, thousands of people have now completed their preparations for Sunday's 26.2 mile jaunt round the streets of the capital.
At the front will be the very elite with eyes very much on Mo Farah and of course the world record holder Eliud Kipchoge who has an awesome best of 2:01:39 which is 3:32 quicker than Mo's best.
At the same time you can never ever dismiss any of the other Ethiopians and Kenyans taking part.
It would also be wrong to dismiss any athlete who makes up the elite field, but for years now the dominance at the front of most major marathons around the world have come from those who originate from East Africa.
Apart from Sir Mo, we should of course also be very much willing on our other home stars such as Calum Hawkins, Dewi Griffiths and Johnny Mellor who are likely to be amongst the second main group during the race. Andy Vernon, who will be making his marathon debut, could also potentially provide a surprise.
The likelihood is that the ladies race will also be similar to that of the men with the front of the field being dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians with last year's winner Vivian Cheruiyot needing to be at her very best if she is to retain her title what with being up against the likes of Mary Keitany who can boast a personal best of 2:17:01 recorded in a ladies only race.
Things also seem to be happening in Japan again too for which they have sent over a couple of ladies who I am sure will mix it with them early on if not during the later miles.
Whilst our top ladies Sonia Samuels, Charlotte Purdue, Lily Partridge and Tracey Barlow are at least 10 minutes slower on paper than the top six in the elite field, I do have a feeling that there may be some new personal bests from them come the end of the race.
I only ever ran in the London Marathon twice finishing in 2:20:47 in 1985 and 2:21:20 the following year.
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On that first occasion I loved every mile of it and was so focused it wasn't until I watched it back on TV that I realised I was ahead of some really top class athletes and as for famous landmarks, other than Tower Bridge, I was oblivious to them all including Buckingham Palace.
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I also got some decent tv coverage due to being just ahead of the multi world record holder and winner of many top marathons the great Ingrid Kristiansen who set a new ladies world marathon record that day of 2:21:06 which stood for just two days short of 13 years.
Apart from my 2:20 clocking, Norfolk also had three other athletes under 2:30 with Gregor Booth from Norwich and Kevin Meardon from Thetford both finishing in 2:23 and Gt Yarmouth's Martin Pigott finishing in 2:28.
At the head of the field was a superb duel with the previous year's winner and Olympic bronze medallist Charlie Spedding battling it out with Steve Jones who had set a new world record in his first marathon just six months earlier in Chicago.
I, like so many others, was in awe of them as they both epitomised what all us club runners would have loved to have aspired to and certainly led the way when it came to showing us exactly what hard work represented.
In 1986, and on the back of my highest ever training mileage when building up to a marathon, come race day, conditions really were not the best for running fast times as we battled against heavy rain and strong head winds all the way.
Just about everyone who was looking for a fast time including those at the very front of the race, finished well down on what had been planned and estimated prior to starting, in my case by more than three minutes.
I really was so very disappointed afterwards. However, the disappointment soon turned to joy when receiving an England call up just a couple of weeks later.
Anyway, enough of my looking back albeit that is all I can do nowadays. For this Sunday's 39th running of this magnificent race, we do of course have lots of people from our region heading to London this weekend for what will hopefully be a day which will also live in their memory banks for as long as my memories have lived with me.
Good luck to every single one of them and whether it be the likes of two of Norfolk's leading runners in Ash Harrell or Dom Blake or indeed one of those so very many recreational runners who are doing it for a personal cause or charity.
I sincerely wish each and every one of them the very best and I truly hope they have a fantastic run.
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