Clara Evans

Clara Evans. Pic: Owen Morgan.

Clara Evans Ran A Sensational Spanish Marathon And Now Dreams Of Paris In The Summertime And An Olympic Games


By Owen Morgan

An unexpected Welsh marathon record has put Clara Evans in the running for a place at next year’s Paris Olympics.

The Pontypridd Roadents athlete went into the Valencia Marathon earlier this month hoping to catch the Great Britain selectors’ eye for next summer’s European Athletics Championships in Rome.

But a massive four-minute-plus personal best of 2:25.01 – the seventh fastest ever time by a Briton – means Evans now has the qualifying standard for the greatest sporting show on Earth.

With four British women already having achieved the standard, Evans faces a waiting game until the GB team is announced next April.

Clara Evans

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JULY 30: Clara Evans of Wales crosses the finish line during the Women’s Marathon at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Victoria Square, Birmingham City Centre on July 30, 2022, in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

An awful lot of running will be done between now and then with other athletes likely to enter the equation for the three places up for grabs.

But, for now, she is delighted to be in the conversation surrounding who will be lining up in Great Britain vests outside the historic Hotel De Ville in Paris on August 11 – the final day of the games.

Evans, whose previous best marathon time before Valencia was 2:29.24, told Dai Sport: “It’s surreal. It wasn’t really in the plan to run the qualifying time because I didn’t think I could do it.

“There’s the European Championships next year, that was my aim after this marathon – to try and make that Europeans team in the half marathon there.

“But to run the Olympic time is pretty amazing. I didn’t think I was going to do it this time around. I thought, if I was going do it, it’d be for the Olympics after next. I really surprised myself.”

Clara Evans Is Wales’ Fastest Female Marathon Runner

Evans is currently the fourth ranked Briton on time this year behind Calli Thackery, Charlotte Purdue and Rose Harvey.

Asked whether she would try to improve her time again before the selectors make their final Olympic decision in April next year, Evans said: “I won’t run another marathon before the deadline, that’s me done.

“Some people have asked whether I’ll run again. But no, I just don’t think I can recover and then come back to the same standard, it will be a rush.”

However, that doesn’t mean she has given up hope of an Olympic place.

Clara Evans and Verity Ockenden Make GB Team For World Road Running Championships

Evans added: “A lot can happen, people can pick up injuries or illnesses, and, obviously I don’t want that to happen, but we’ve seen it in selections for previous championships for the marathon, so there’s that possibility. I’ll just wait and see what happens. If I get the opportunity, I’ll take it.

“If not, I ran a great time, a massive PB, so I can’t be disappointed. It’s a win either way I think. I’ve just got to wait and see.

“It would be amazing (to go to the Olympics). It’s the pinnacle of the sport, isn’t it? It’s what everybody dreams of, even if it’s a wild dream. I don’t think you can really put it into words. It would just be incredible – a life changing experience.

“I just need to get back racing at full fitness and show that I’m fit. Then, maybe if some of the other girls aren’t quite in peak fitness, I can prove that I am and that might go in my favour.

“I’ll get back into a training block now. And I’m going to do a couple of 10Ks in the new year and then a half marathon to hopefully qualify me for the Europeans.”

Clara Evans in cross country action at the Cardiff Cross Challenge.

Running the Olympic qualifying time wasn’t the only benefit from Evans’ remarkable PB performance on the streets of Valencia. It also shattered the Welsh record of 2:26.14 set by Natasha Cockram at the same event 12 months before.

Evans, who finished ninth representing Wales at last year’s Commonwealth Games marathon in Birmingham, said: “I wasn’t thinking about a Welsh record because my PB was only 2:29.

“Going into the race I thought, ‘if I have a really good day, I might be able to get a 2:27 – just break that 2:28 barrier. So, it wasn’t really in the plan. It was an extra bonus to get the Welsh record.

“Obviously, most of the girls were trying to get the Olympic time and the pacer was going through (halfway) in 73 minutes, which is sub 2:26. The next pacing group was slower than my PB.

“So, I decided I should just go with the 73 group. I sat on the group and felt good, and then pushed on towards the end. I guess it was kind of lucky,” said the modest Evans.

“I didn’t really look at my watch while I was running but I did look at the halfway split and I went through I think in 72:58 and thought, ‘oh, that’s good’!

“I didn’t really look again until I ran off the off the group and thought ‘I must be doing all right if I’m ahead of 73 pace group. I seem to be doing fine. Just carry on’.

“I looked at my watch at 40k. But by then you’re deep into a marathon and I was trying to do some quick maths to work out my finishing time and I was like ‘I think it’s going to be about 2:25’!

“But I didn’t really trust my maths at this point in the race – it could have been way off! Maths isn’t my strong point at the best of times, but especially not when I’ve been running for two hours!

“Then we got to about 400m to go and I was like, ‘oh, okay. I’m actually going to do this. There’s no way I can mess this up now’!

“It took me by surprise, but I think that’s quite nice, because you haven’t got the pressure of ‘oh my gosh, I’m actually running really fast. I need to keep going’!”

Thanks to Evans’ performance, the Welsh marathon record has now been slashed by more than six-and-a-half minutes in the past four years

Susan Tooby’s record of 2:31.33 set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics had survived for 31 years until Cockram broke it in Dublin in October of 2019.

The Mickey Morris Racing Team athlete improved her own record to 2:30.03 at the Olympic Trials at Kew Gardens in 2021, before obliterating it in Valencia last December. Now the record has fallen again.

Asked whether Wales was experiencing something of a golden era in women’s marathon running, Evans said: “We’ve definitely got a lot of strength at the moment.

“And I guess we push each other on because if Natasha breaks the record then I want to go faster.

“And I guess now that I’ve broken it, she’s motivated to get it back. It helps push us on, helps us make Welsh teams, GB teams, and run faster PBs, so I guess it’s a blessing.”

Dutch courage: Clara Evans smashed her marathon best to move second on Welsh all-time list in Rotterdam clocking a European qualifying time in process.

The 30-year-old continues to combine her impressive progression as an international athlete with her full-time job as a transport planner in Cardiff.

At the start of the year, her achievements attracted the welcome support of sportswear giant Asics.

“I don’t have any financial backing, it’s just kit sponsorship,” says Evans. “Hopefully, that will change now I’ve run that time!

“It makes a real difference though and Asics have a house in Font Romeu (in the French Pyrenees) for altitude training. Their athletes can go there and stay there for free while training.

“They provide massage and physio when you’re away so that really helps. It’s just really great to have. I only signed with them at the start of the year but it’s great to have a really supportive brand behind you.

“It’s nice not having the stress of thinking, ‘I’ve got a race coming up, I need to get a new pair of shoes’. You can just get what you need.

“You’re not wearing your trainers into the ground because you can’t afford a new pair. Their support really makes a massive difference.”

Evans is happy with the current balance between her day job and continuing her sporting career but concedes she would consider becoming a full-time athlete if the opportunity arose.

“I like the routine I have,” she says. “I think it’s a good distraction. If you are a full-time athlete and things aren’t going well it’s quite hard to disconnect and put your feelings aside. You’re always thinking about it.

“But as soon as I’ve finished my morning run, I know I can go to work and I switch off. Nobody I work with really cares about running so no one really talks about it.

“It’s nice to run to switch off from work and it’s nice to work to switch off from running. It works both ways, it’s nice.”

However, Evans adds: “If I got the opportunity, I would definitely take it because I think it’s something that you can’t turn down – being a full-time athlete.

“If you want to go on training camps, you can just go. You don’t have to think about ‘do I have enough annual leave or whatever’.

“So that aspect I imagine would be absolutely lovely. But then I guess if you get injured and you’re a full-time athlete, that’s hard because you’re not actually doing anything. Whereas if you’ve still got the distraction of working it’s good.

“Obviously when you finish your athletics career, you’ve got all the skills to go back into the working world or, you can carry on your career even if you take a career break.

“I think it’s good to have a career even if you do go full time because you’ve got those skills to fall back on posts athletics.”

For now, Evans is happy with her lot, especially in the wake of her brilliant performance in Spain.

“They are long days,” she concedes when asked about combining work with training. “But since COVID I generally work from home and don’t go in that often.

“That has made a difference time wise because I’m not commuting, so I can run in that time. I enjoy the work I do and it’s rewarding.

“In the marathon block, it was probably about 100 miles, sometimes a little bit more, but probably on average about 100. But now I’m not currently training for a marathon it’ll probably only be about 80. So that’s quite nice.

“Now, because we’re only running 80 miles a week, it feels like you’re not really doing anything. I’ve got loads of free time!”

Evans might as well make the most of the free time – it may well be in short supply if she finds herself in Rome or Paris next summer.


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