Andy Davies is long past having kittens about running marathons, but puppies for his faithful dog, Scrappy, are another matter. Even so, the former Cymru Premier footballer tells Owen Morgan that anyone who doesn’t recognise just how competitive Welsh marathon running is at present is barking.
Floods, Covid and the pregnancy of his canine training partner have failed to put Andy Davies off his stride in the run up to Friday’s Olympic Marathon trials in London.
The 41-year-old from mid-Wales says he is in good shape heading to the Kew Gardens event despite a slightly different build up.
Davies prepared for the 2017 World Athletics Championships marathon in London by training around his Forden home with his terrier, Scrappy. But things have been slightly different this time around.
“She’s cut down on her miles in the last year or two,” Davies says of his terrier training buddy.
“She just had puppies, so she hasn’t done anything for a while now.
“I’ve been at my mum and dad’s farm for the last three months while lockdown’s been on, so when I go back, she’ll be coming out with me again.
“I’ll drag her out in the mornings! But we don’t go too far nowadays. Just the mile or two. She’s happy with that.
“It’s nice to have her company, especially early in the morning when no-one else is around. It’s nice to just get her out.”
Aside from Scrappy’s absence, there have been a couple of other challenges to overcome for Davies.
— Andrew Davies (@fellrunningandy) July 14, 2020
“Where I live, it floods quite a lot. So, I had to either go through it or change route once or twice.
“It keeps you on your toes a bit and your mind thinking which route to go. But yeah, apart from that it’s been pretty good.
“It’s been a really good block of training. It, kind of, all went to plan.”
Unlike track and field athletes, Covid-19 hasn’t really affected Davies, apart from a lack of track sessions.
“I’ve been quite fortunate, really, where I live. I’ve got good routes around here although I do usually go on the track building up for a marathon.
“I don’t think it’s affected me too much just doing the sessions on the road. We’ve got a few nice places to go. It’s worked out quite well, actually – I don’t have to go around the track all the time!”
Davies feels he is in the form to threaten his personal best of 2:14.36, which will in turn improve his own British M40 age group marathon record, which he set in Valencia in 2019.
“I’m in really good shape at the moment. I’ve been hitting some good splits and times in training. So, I don’t think it’d be too far off a PB.”
The Stockport Harrier will take his place amongst the cream of British marathon talent in the men’s race, alongside fellow Welsh athletes Dewi Griffiths and Josh Griffiths, both from Swansea Harriers.
The top two finishers, who also meet the Olympic qualification standard of 2:11.30, will book their places on the plane to Tokyo alongside Scottish athlete Callum Hawkins, who has been pre-selected.
Davies is realistic about his chances as far as Olympic qualification is concerned, but has plenty of other personal targets – including the qualifying time for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which would be his third having competed in Glasgow and on the Gold Coast.
“Being a realist, I’m not going get the Olympic time,” he admits. “I’m three minutes off that mark. Hopefully, with the Commonwealths just around the corner, if I can get close to a PB I’d be delighted. So 2:14.36 or anything under that, you know, it’d be a real good day.
“But if the conditions aren’t great, then if I can sneak under 2:15.30 for the Commonwealth qualifying time, that would be good as well.”
However, even gaining the Commonwealth Games qualifying time may not be enough to get Davies a place on the Welsh team in Birmingham with the likes of the Griffithses and Flintshire’s Charlie Hulson, who was forced out of the trial by injury, also in the mix.
Davies says: “It’s a bit daunting, but I can only do what I can do really and just hope something else happens – potentially Dewi might go for the 10,000, and Josh as well.
“You just never know and you’ve got the world champs and the European champs on around the same time. So maybe one of them might make that team instead.
“But being a proud Welshman, I’m not sure they would choose something like that. I know that potentially they’d rather run for Wales at the Commonwealth Games.
“And there’s Charlie Hulson to throw into the mix as well, so yeah, I’ve got my work cut out. But I’m just hoping that I can get one of the places.
“It’s incredible, really. I don’t think we’ve had a period like this where there have been four Welshman under 2:15 and potentially more just around the corner as well. So yeah, it is exciting times.
“I know I’m the fourth quickest but it’s nice when you see a fellow Welshman beat you in a way. And they’re getting quicker. The times are pretty impressive.
“It’s good to see because maybe four or five years ago, I was the quickest Welshman at like 2:18 – 2:19. But now I’m fourth quickest at 2:14.
“So yeah, the standards have definitely improved and not just through Wales. It’s Northern Ireland, Scotland and England as well. It’s exciting times.”
Although recognising his own Olympic ambitions may be limited, Davies believes his fellow Welshmen in Friday’s field have every chance, although they will face a formidable challenge from the likes of Derby’s Ben Connor, who already has the qualifying time and could run tactically to simply finish in the top two.
“My money’s on Dewi and Ben Connor,” says Davies. “Dewi is tough, as tough as nails. I’d like to say Josh would be around the corner somewhere not far off, too. But yeah, with Dewi’s pedigree and history you can’t really bet against him.
“And Ben only has to finish in the top two – I say only – but he can just sit back and see what everyone else does. So yeah, I can’t really see it going anywhere other than those two. But it’s the marathon. Anything can happen.”
Davies’s own ambitions aren’t limited to the marathon distance.
Thank you 👍 🏴 https://t.co/UqZyRepqRj
— Andrew Davies (@fellrunningandy) March 19, 2021
As well as having represented Great Britain at the World Athletics Championships in London, Davies has also worn the GB vest on the trails and in the mountains.
Davies participated in the 2016 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships held in Slovenia. He placed ninth in the men’s individual event, and second in the team event.
In 2018, Davies won the 35-39 age category at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships.
After Friday’s marathon, he is eyeing up a place on the GB team at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand in November of this year.
Davies said: “It isn’t set in stone yet. Because it depends if I need to do another marathon in the autumn. But, hopefully, I’ll be trying to get into that team.
“So, I’d probably go for the shorter one, but we’ll have to make plans after the marathon.”
Having run for Wales as a youngster, Davies switched to football in his early teens, playing semi-professionally for Caersws in the Welsh Premier League and latterly the Cymru Alliance.
Since returning to running in his early 30s, he has enjoyed huge success and isn’t planning on giving up any time soon while his times continue to improve.
“When I hit 32-33, I thought it’s time to concentrate on the running and yeah, it’s been good the last seven or eight years,” he says.
“You think ‘oh, this is it now, the last year’ or wherever, but things always seem to be progressing. So, it would be stupid to stop.
“So I’ll keep going until the body says no, I suppose. But you’ve got to try and make the most of it, really.
“It would be nice to get a few PBs over the shorter stuff as well. But yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see how things go – if there’s going to be any races to try and do it.”
Davies has managed all this while also working as a sports lecturer at Newtown College.
Not that his current crop of students would necessarily know about his exploits away from work since they have moved to on-line learning due to the pandemic.
“I tell them a little bit every now and again, but not too much, really. I don’t really have the chance when teaching them online these days.
We’re looking forward to the British Olympic marathon trials tomorrow, featuring plenty of our previous event winners and competitors! 🥇
— R4W 🏃 (@Run4Wales) March 25, 2021
“You’re doing the subject and that’s it really, so no, I don’t think any of them know about Friday, but perhaps I’ll send a message around just before.”
With the race being streamed live on the British Athletics website, what better practical online learning than watching your lecturer taking part in an Olympic trial?
- A total of 10 Welsh athletes are due to take part in Friday’s marathon and race walking trials.
- As well as the men’s race, the women’s marathon sees Cardiff’s Charlotte Arter and Clara Evans taking part alongside Micky Morris Racing Club’s Natasha Cockram and US-based Rosie Edwards.
- The women’s race walking trial features Cardiff’s Bethan Davies and Pembrokeshire’s Heather Lewis, while Tonbridge’s Guy Thomas goes in the men’s trial.
- The action starts at 6am with the race walking trials with the marathon trials starting at 8am.