Leeds man endures bad patch after missing energy drinks but still goes No.3 on the UK all-time rankings with 2:08:07
With Emile Cairess running a fine debut of 2:08:07 and Phil Sesemann, Mo Farah and Chris Thompson making the top 10 in the men’s race on Sunday, it was a good day for British marathon running.
Eamonn Martin’s proud record of being the last British man to win in London has lasted 30 years and doesn’t look like being beaten anytime soon. The gulf between the world’s best – in the shape of Sunday’s 2:01:25 winner Kelvin Kiptum – and the leading domestic challengers is intimidatingly large. Still, progress was made at the 2023 event with Cairess going No.3 on the UK all-time rankings behind Farah and Steve Jones, while Sesemann improved his best by two minutes.
Cairess, 25, believes he can run faster in his next marathon in Valencia at the end of this year too. He was disappointed not to run sub-2:08 in London after running out of gas in the later stages. Missing his drinks at 10km and 30km did not help. His dream goal, meanwhile, was an ambitious sub-2:07 run.
“I felt really good until about 38km and then the wheels came off big time and the last two miles was a real struggle,” he said. “I think I pushed a little too hard between 30-35km.
“I felt good at that stage and because Mo was with me I wanted to create a little gap, but I was a bit naïve as it came back to bite me. I should have maintained the pace a bit more evenly and I could have run well inside 2:08 if I’d been more patient.”
Cairess looked pretty fresh in his post-race interview with AW but he said that looks were deceiving. “I’m in a world of trouble,” he smiled. “My muscles are absolutely knackered.”
He added: “It was a bit of a death march to the finish.”
He was bombarded with questions from journalists about beating Farah but Cairess handled them patiently and told AW: “I was just treating him as another competitor. I was just trying to beat him in the same way I would try to beat anyone else.”
Cairess was paced by Maru Teferi, an Israeli runner who has won European marathon silver and triumphed in Fukuoka last year. He said Teferi’s help was superb, but what will he change ahead of his next marathon? “I’d strap some gels to my bottles as I missed a couple of bottles. I missed them at 10km and 30km. I had a spare gel early in the race but didn’t have one at 30km.”
Cairess began being guided by coach Renato Canova 12 months ago and the Italian was almost certainly watching the event unfold on television at home. “He’s coached athletes right to the top of the sport and it’s my ambition to get there one day,” Cairess said.
The Leeds man will probably take to the track this summer but considers himself a fully fledged marathon runner now. “I feel like a marathon runner in my mentality and physiology,” he said.
Cairess’s training partner Sesemann is just as committed to 26.2 miles and Sunday was his fourth such event in 18 months. “I ran a two-minute PB and it’s what I’ve felt I’ve been capable of doing. I negative splitted the marathon too,” said Sesemann after his 2:10:23.
Sesemann out-kicked world 1500m champion Jake Wightman in an indoor 3000m in January and here found himself out-sprinting Farah in the closing metres. “He was there and a good character to aim for and the support on the roadside was amazing so I thought I really have to try to get him,” Sesemann smiled.
Phil Sesemann on his 2min PB and out-kicking Mo Farah at the #LondonMarathon
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) April 23, 2023
“Training had gone really apart, apart from the taper, which is horrible. So I was really pleased to feel good today,” he added.
On his friend Cairess, the part-time junior doctor said: “For a debut it’s really good running but after training with him I know he’s been more than capable of that time.”
For Farah it was his last marathon and the multiple global track champion and British marathon record-holder spoke only once to the media post-race during a press conference hosted by Tim Hutchings. The 40-year-old looked a little chastened after his 2:10:25 but he lived up to his old motto of “go hard or go home” by blasting through 10km in 29:53 (almost a minute quicker than his 10km in Gabon two weeks earlier) and through halfway as lead Brit in 63:38 before hanging on grittily in the second half of the race when dropping out must have been a temptation.
It was also a UK M40 record for Farah in his final competitive outing over 26.2 miles.
Farah will race again in the Great Manchester 10km and, in his final competition of all, the Great North Run half-marathon. Even more of an evergreen runner is Thompson, who finished looking relatively fresh in 2:11:50 and was immediately speculating about his next marathon aged 42.
The popular veteran runner looked visibly emotional in the final stages and he agreed, choking up briefly when he was quizzed about it. “I forgot how there are people in London the whole way – for 26 miles of cheering. There were so many people shouting “Thommo” or “Chris”. I feel like I’m on borrowed time and feel so lucky to still be doing it and working hard and being able to do it. I was tearing up inside.”
Chris Thompson emotional after a solid 2:11:50 aged 42 at #LondonMarathon
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) April 23, 2023
Thompson wears his heart on his sleeve and added: “I ran the race well for the fitness that I was in so I had room at the end for an emotional response. I’d like to have run 2:10 – it would have been awesome – but I’m pleased as I had such a funky build up experimenting with lots of things so we didn’t know what to expect really.”
What did he mean by “funky”? “Just different types of training, really. I went to altitude and did some shorter runs there with faster bits for example. Next time I think I’ll train more aggressively in certain areas,” he added, as the elusive quest for the perfect marathon continues.
Behind Thompson, Luke Caldwell was next Brit home in 2:13:29 followed by Weynay Ghebrsilasie with 2:15:41 and Ben Connor and Ross Braden who both clocked 2:15:47, whereas Alex Leprêtre ran an excellent 2:15:01 from the mass start.
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