The 40th Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday, 26 April 2020 may have assembled the best elite field in history but the battle of Britain will be equally captivating as domestic stars go head to head in the fight for Tokyo 2020 Olympic places.
Last year was memorable for the progress made by British women in the longest Olympic running event. Four ladies moved into the top ten all-time marathon list with phenomenal Olympic qualifying performances (sub-2:29:30) and all four are entered for London.
Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District) is the defending British champion from London 2019 (2:25:38) – third fastest ever by a British athlete at that time. However, Jess Piasecki ran 2:25:29 to win Florence Marathon in November and the Stockport Harrier now sits above Purdue and behind Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi in the UK rankings.
The task in London is a simple one – finish in the top two places among GB athletes and you are on the plane to Tokyo. The third spot for Team GB will be decided by the selectors, with London providing the perfect battle ground.
Two more talented distance runners made an impact on the rankings last year. Steph Twell (AF&D, 2:26:40) was eighth at Frankfurt in October and last month Steph Davis (Clapham Chasers) ran 2:27:40 for a near five minute PB at Valencia – the ninth fastest UK all time.
Aware of the scale of the task ahead, Purdue said: “My aim is to defend my British title and hopefully make my first Olympic Games. It’s definitely not going to be easy with the strength in British women’s marathon running at the moment. But I think that is a good thing and I’m happy for it to be a hard race and a hard battle.”
Meanwhile, the British men's field has no hot favourite but unlike the women has no pre-qualified entrants. The Olympic standard is 2:11:30 and that will be the target with Doha World Championships marathon fourth-placer Callum Hawkins, of Kilbarchan, pre-selected.
Dewi Griffiths (Swansea, 2:09:49) owns the fastest time but his best was set at Frankfurt in 2017. Chris Thompson (AF&D, 2:11:19) has also run quicker than the Olympic qualifying mark but his PB came in London six years ago. Of course, one huge name missing is that of Sir Mo Farah, who has announced his intention to go for gold in the 10,000m in Tokyo.
Image of Charlotte Purdue courtesy Virgin Money London Marathon