European best for Triumphant Southend – 2014 World Marathon Challenge
The 2014 World Marathon Challenge returned to North London’s Lee Valley Athletics Centre. The event like no other sees school children from all over the world run in relay teams from as far afield as India, Canada and Kenya competing to beat the world marathon record, while raising awareness and money for vulnerable children across the globe.
The 2014 event saw 5 teams taking part with UK and European record holders Thomas Tallis School (London) who set a best of 1 hour, 51 minutes and 39 seconds in 2013. Joining them again this year at Lee Valley Athletics Centre were Southend Girls' and Boys' High School, Barnhill Community High, Ark Academy and South Coast based Dorothy Stringer High School.
The 2013 UK and European best (01:51:39) set by Thomas Tallis was bettered by Southend Girls' and Boys' school with a new mark of 01.49.43. This was no surprise to the P.E. staff leading the charge from Southend as preparations had begun for this event since the 1st of September when the pupils returned to the new school year undertaking many sessions of interval running over 200 metres along with baton practice. It was clear to see that athletics is a large part of the P.E. curriculum at this school and that the World Marathon Challenge is a core part of the events calendar prior to the start of the cross country season. The new UK and European mark posted raised the Southend School to the summit of the world rankings (01.10.14). Last year’s London winner Thomas Tallis finished second behind Southend with a very respectable 01:57.35 to place in third spot on the world rankings (01.10.14).
There were introductory speeches by Chris Carter; Chairman of the Amateur Athletics Association and Chris Jones CEO of England Athletics getting the event underway. Chris Jones expressed the importance of the event, which creates a pathway from schools to local clubs. “It’s a fantastic event as promoting running in schools is imperative if we are going to realize the next generation of endurance champions. All the great champions of the past have enjoyed success from within the school system. Running is fundamental to most sports but importantly helps all to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.”
The England Athletics chief continued: “Links between schools and clubs are important as hopefully when a youngster displays a level of talent they will be identified and will be encourage to join a local athletics club.”
George Bunner MBE and founder of the ‘World Marathon Challenge’ was present at the Lee Valley ‘flagship’ event and expressed delight with the continued growth of the event even though 2014 has seen the movement run without a sponsor. Bunner said: “We don’t have a sponsor this year and fortunately have the support of the AAAs of England and England Athletics. We don’t discourage the organisers to look for support but this event can be run at very very low cost making it easy for all to take part.”
George Bunner made reference to the ease of hosting the events in poorer nations in Africa who use a patch a of land which can be just 100m dirt track at times. Sportcity, Manchester saw Helsby High clock an impressive 01:54:59 for second spot on the global rankings.