Good conditions, high quality elite fields and several months of preparation for the IAAF Gold Label race Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2018 resulted in the England team setting three new personal bests and a superb return to form by the most senior member of the team.
Helen Davies (Ipswich Jaffa RC) jumped up the UK 2018 marathon rankings into 3rd place following two excellent performances on Canadian soil. Davies, a 39 year-old mother of two, produced her second fastest marathon all time to race her way to 8th place and a time of 2:35:11. Davies - who first ran for England in Toronto in 2009 - perfectly demonstrated that despite it being close to a decade since her England debut, taking time out to raise a family need not be a barrier to improving form in long distance endurance events.
The race was won by Mimi Belete of Bahrain in a new course record of 2:22:28. There was a superb run by Australia’s Jessica Trengrove in 4th place finishing in 2:25:58 and the first Canadian home was Kinsey Middleton in 7th place and 2:32:09.
Davies ran much of the race on her own whilst her compatriot Hayley Carruthers had the company of a small pack of Canadian women to work with throughout the race. The 25-year-old, who has only been running seriously for 18 months, showed just how quickly a breakthrough can happen. She made her marathon debut in Manchester in 2017 running 3:22:58 and then in the heat of London in the Spring showed promise with a 2:47:47. A strong run at the Great North Run last month, where she finished first English athlete in a time of 74:46 demonstrated her marathon preparations were going well and she proved that to be the case on Sunday where she seemed to get stronger and stronger throughout the race, eventually crossing the line in 2:36:47, a 10 minute personal best!
Thrilled to be wearing the England vest for the first time a delighted Carruthers said after the race,
“I can’t thank England Athletics enough for the opportunity to go to Toronto. It feels like a dream come true and I’m so glad that all my hard work has paid off.”
The Men’s race won by Kenya’s Benson Kipruto in 2:07:24. Canada’s Cameron Levins was 4th in 2:09:24 just ahead of New Zealand’s Jake Robinson in 2:09:51.
24-year-old Henry Pearce who earlier in the year had attempted to make his debut in London failed to finish in the extreme conditions that day, however he demonstrated why the selectors believed he had potential by finishing in an impressive debut time of 2:19:22 and 14th place. A slow start to the men’s race and one he ran much of on his own meant that the 2:17 he had hoped for slipped away a little, but nonetheless this was an excellent performance for a first full marathon.
It was personal best as well for team-mate James Westlake who has only in the last 12 months left his first sporting love of football behind him to concentrate seriously on the marathon. Westlake had been hoping for a sub 2:20 performance, but an untimely injury set back meant he had to adjust his final preparations in the build-up to Toronto and his race day goals, so to come away with a personal best of 2:23:05 despite less than ideal preparation was a fantastic effort.
Team Coach Mick Woods said of the England team’s performances, “The men’s race was not especially fast from the start and big gaps quickly opened up. Westlake, Pearce and Davies all ran much of the race on their own and a strong head wind towards the final stages of the race challenged the runners. However, these were four really strong performances by the team and you couldn’t fault their efforts. The set up at the Toronto provides a great opportunity for English athletes and there is no doubt they will have gained a great deal from the experience of competing here.”
8th – 2:35:11 - Helen Davies (club: Ipswich Jaffa RC, coach: Clive Sparkes)
11th – 2:36:47 - Hayley Carruthers (club: Rotherham Harriers & AC, coach: Gary Warhurst)
14th – 2:19:22 - Henry Pearce (club: Tonbridge AC, coach: Alan Storey)
18th – 2:23:05 - James Westlake (club: Crawley AC, coach: Allison Benton)
This coming weekend four more English marathon runners head to Frankfurt with similar ambitions to run fast times. Dani Nimmock, Matt Sharp, Steven Bayton and Aaron Scott will be making their final preparations this week.
The decision by England Athletics to send athletes to both Frankfurt and Toronto is part of the England Athletics Marathon Programmes which aims to raise standards in the event, with one of the goals being to see 20 women inside 2:40 and 20 men inside 2:20 by 2022.
Nick Anderson who leads on England Athletics’ Marathon Development work said, “These performances are a tremendous credit to each of the athletes as well as their coaches and the others involved in supporting them. We are delighted that this autumn we have been able to select teams for both the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Frankfurt Marathon. These results highlight the value of these representative opportunities - how athletes can benefit and make the most of them to progress their performance level.
“I wish all the athletes competing in Frankfurt every success.
“We have more marathon development work planned for this winter and look forward to seeing English athletes and their coaches building on results such as these.”
You can find more about our endurance development work at www.englandathletics.org/coach-development-endurance.