Chris Thompson finished 54th as the marathon brought the athletics programme at Tokyo 2020 to a close.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete, who so memorably won the Olympic trial race in March to secure an appearance at his second Games at the age of 40, suffered with the conditions as did many of the athletes. Despite the 7am start time, the thermometer read 26C and 80% humidity and it rose to 28C by the time Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge retained his title in 2:08:38. Thompson ran 2:21:29 - more than 10 minutes off the PB he ran earlier this year. He said:
“I tried to respect the second half and I think I did that, but that last six to eight miles was one of the emotionally toughest things I’ve done running-wise.
You go through a lifetime of emotions in two hours, you really go to some weird places, and you feel like you can’t do it. I’m really proud I got to the end. There was a couple of times where I felt like I could barely lift my legs, and you’re still staring down the barrel of five miles to go, 25 minutes to half an hour, and you can barely bring your leg up. That’s the first time I’ve felt that so-called wall. I went through about five or six walls where I felt like I hit something.”
He said dehydration and sugar depletion played their part in not making it a pleasant experience but he endured to become one of only 76 finishers out of the field of 106. “I say there’s no way that I wasn’t going to finish, there were times when I was telling myself you have to finish, but there were times when I was thinking ‘I physically can’t.’”
The other English athlete, Ben Connor (Derby; Steve Vernon), similarly struggled and dropped out just after 30km. He had reached halfway in just outside 69 minutes but then slowed. “Obviously it was hot, but my legs just couldn’t run, I don’t know what it was,” he said. “It was really humid. “I did everything I could in terms of taking on water, but I’m not sure, 25k my legs just went, and once they go in a marathon there’s no way of bringing them back unfortunately. No matter how hard you try. I think I got to 30, 32, I can’t remember.”
The event represented the only athletics on the final day of the Games with the track and field in the stadium having finished yesterday. In total, the British team clocked up six medals and were eighth on the placings table, which awards points for top-eight finishers. As well as playing a part in the medals for both sprint relay squads (men - silver; women - bronze), English athletes made the podium in the 800m with Keeley Hodgkinson (Leigh; Trevor Painter) and pole vault with Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn; Scott Simpson).
To all the athletes, and their loved ones, the coaches, officials, volunteers, clubs, and schools – thank you for the part you have played in the journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and helping to inspire the next generation.
We now look forward to the Tokyo Paralympics and the thrill, excitement and emotion these Games will bring.