By Owen Morgan
Welsh Athletes will be heading to London’s Kew Gardens next Friday hoping their budding Olympic hopes burst into bloom at the Great Britain marathon and race-walking trials.
Ten Welsh runners and walkers will be taking part in the Great Britain Olympic trials on a closed loop circuit around the famous London attraction early next Friday morning.
The women’s marathon trial will feature a debut over the distance for Cardiff athlete Charlotte Arter.
The parkrun world record holder will be joined by Cardiff Athletics club-mate Clara Evans, who has a marathon personal best of 2:46.03.
United States based Rosie Edwards, who has a PB of 2:40.49, will also travel for the trial, which will feature the nation’s top marathon runners.
Edwards is in good form having run a half-marathon personal best of 72:24 at the Las Vegas Gold Half Marathon in January.
The fastest Welsh woman taking part is Micky Morris Racing club’s Natasha Cockram.
The Gwent athlete has a PB of 2:30.49, which is just outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:29.30.
A closed loop course in London should hold no fears for Cockram, who won the British title at the Virgin Money London Elite Marathon, which was held within St James’s Park last October.
A top two place inside the qualifying standard this time around in London would clinch a place on the plane to Tokyo.
Steph Davis, of Clapham Chasers, is the fastest in the 17-strong women’s field having run inside the Olympic qualifying standard, posting a time of 2:27.40 in Valencia in 2019.
The Welsh challenge in the men’s race will be led by Swansea Harrier Dewi Griffiths.
The seven-time Welsh cross country champion has a fastest time over the distance of 2:09.49 – well inside the qualifying standard of 2:11.30 – clocked outside of the qualifying period.
Griffiths’ time was set on his marathon debut back in 2017. He has since suffered a series of injuries and illness, but appears to be in good form having run 28:45.72 over 10,000m on the track in Newport earlier this month.
Joining his Swansea clubmate and namesake will be Josh Griffiths who clocked a personal best of 2:13.11 at the Virgin Money London Elite Marathon in October.
Griffiths has plenty of positive memories of competing in London, including taking part in the 2017 World Athletics Championships marathon in the city, where he was joined on the GB team by fellow Welshman Andy Davies, who will also feature in the trial.
Davies, has a best time of 2:14.36 – the British M40 marathon record – which he set in Valencia in 2019.
There was to have been a fourth Welsh runner in the men’s field, but Charlie Hulson was forced to withdraw after suffering a stress fracture.
However, there will be an additional Welsh-based competitor in the shape of England international Matt Clowes, of Cardiff Athletics.
With Scotland’s Callum Hawkins having been pre-selected, the first two men across the line in sub-2:11:30 will automatically be selected for the Tokyo team.
The marathon runners, who set off at 8am, will run one small lap followed by 12 longer ones, appropriately enough passing Kew’s Japanese gardens a dozen times, and will finish in front the gardens’ famous Palm House.
The closed course will be sheltered and flat, and race organisers have worked to smooth out some of the corners, with one straight being almost a mile in length. Pacemakers will be used to make sure the pace is quick in the first 30km.
It is the first time for 40 years that a British Olympic marathon trial has been staged as a standalone race in a similar style to the US Olympic trials. The last one was Milton Keynes in 1980 and since then the London Marathon itself has acted as the trial event.
The race-walking trials, which will be held on the same course, get under way at 6am and feature three Welsh competitors.
Among the favourites in the women’s race will be Bethan Davies, of Cardiff Athletics, and Pembrokeshire Harrier Heather Lewis.
The two Welsh Commonwealth Games athletes have won an array of British titles between them and will be among the favourites for the trials, although neither has achieved the qualifying standard of 1:31.00.
Lewis has a best of 1:34.49, set at the World Athletics trials in Leeds back in 2019, while Davies has a best of 1:31.53 set in Switzerland in 2018.
The men’s race will feature Guy Thomas, of Tonbrdge AC, who has a PB of 1:28.38. The favourite will be Tom Bosworth, who was sixth in the Olympic Games 20km five years ago in Rio and has a best of 1:19:38 compared to the men’s qualifying standard of 1:21:00.
Spectators will not be allowed inside Kew Gardens on race day, but the races will be streamed on the British Athletics website.