The two runners will take to the streets of London in Mo Farah’s shadow this weekend.
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LONDON — While double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah has understandably grabbed the lion’s share of the fan and media attention in advance of Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon here, two of his compatriots, Scott Overall and Chris Thompson, also hope for successful finishes on The Mall. Thompson, the 2010 European Championships silver medalist at 10,000m, will be making his long-awaited debut at the distance.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, the pair explained how all the attention lavished on Farah had actually helped them prepare by keeping the pressure off of them. Moreover, the two Olympians had trained together—for the first time—in both the high altitude of Colorado Springs for five weeks then the lush greenery of Bushy Park in Teddington in southwest London.
“It’s been probably, than the other way, a massive help, because there’s no hiding that fact that him doing that, has made our participation—certainly mine being a debut—a lot less, kind of under the radar,” Thompson said. “We’ve been out to do our thing. It’s funny, because someone said to me yesterday, you must be sick about talking about, you know, expectations. And I said, ‘You know what? I got here Wednesday and that’s the first time it’s really popped up that much.’
“We can, in our own little world, do our thing.”
Overall, 31, and Thompson, 32, are coming at this event from two different starting points. In 2011, Overall ran a credible debut at the BMW Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:10:55. That performance clinched his 2012 Olympic Team spot, but since then he has struggled at the distance. In 2012, after pacing a British athlete group at the London Marathon, he finished 61st in the London Olympics (2:22:37), and was an unlucky 13th at the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan in December (2:14:15). Last year, he also failed to finish in London.
“I knew I was in shape to run under 2:12, because that was the [British] Olympic qualifying standard,” Overall said of his Berlin performance. “In a way it made every other marathon a little more difficult. I came into the Olympics, tried to run fast, rather than treat it as a championships race, running for position instead of running for time. I think I slightly over-trained for the Olympics.”
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Fukuoka was also a disappointment, compounded by his DNF at the London Marathon last year after running through the halfway point in 1:06:15.
“I came in with a little bit of an injury and probably shouldn’t have started,” Overall lamented.
Thompson, an accomplished track runner with personal bests of 13:11.51 and 27:27.36 for 5000m and 10,000m, respectively, had hoped to make his marathon debut sooner, but persistent injuries—including a back problem—kept him out of marathon training. He said this week he’s grateful to have had the support of Overall as a training partner and the experienced coaching of Alan Storey.
“Going into running the marathon my biggest worry was actually the training,” said Thompson, who said that his injuries had been “one thing after another. I was always a bit nervous about the training more than anything.”
In Overall, Thompson found both support and friendship. The two seemed like soldiers who had returned from a war to tell their tales and joke a bit about how painful some of their experiences were.
“It’s funny; I’ve had the odd little thing you’re going to get,” mused Thompson, who started to rub his stomach and switched his voice to mimic a child’s. “My tummy was a little bit sore at one point which…”
Overall cut him off with a laugh. “It’s so funny,” said Overall with glee.
“I gave it a week before I said anything,” Thompson retorted, playfully.
For Sunday’s race, the pair said that they would approach it with cautious optimism. Thompson, whom one odds-maker had at 200-to-1 to win, said that a 65-minute first half would suit him, and he could either speed up or back off from there. He does hope to run a fast marathon, but not this Sunday.
“At some point in my career I’d like not to go under 2:10, smash it,” Thompson said. “I’m realistic. That’s not something I’m trying to do straight away. You build towards that.”