Stephanie Davis reaches Olympics less than three years after first marathon

Sport

Stephanie Davis, a part-time athlete who ran her first marathon less than three years ago, will represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games after blitzing the field at the long-distance trials at Kew Gardens in London.

Davis finished with a time of 2hr 27 mins 16 sec, almost three minutes clear of second-placed Natasha Cockram at the specially convened race, the first time a one-off trial for the Olympic marathon has taken place since 1980.

It was a personal best for the 30-year-old, who only began racing competitively in 2018 after joining the Clapham Chasers in south London. It also fell well within the 2:29.30 Olympic qualifying standard for Tokyo.

Davis finished her first marathon in a time of 2:41 and has continued to outdo herself with each race, with a 2:32 in the London Marathon of 2019 – despite running with a hip injury and from the massed start – and 2:27.40 in Valencia in December of that year. Friday’s trial was her first full marathon since then, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

The Glaswegian continues to maintain a career in finance, with a senior role at the asset management company Lazard. Last year she gave an insight into how she maintained a training regime despite holding down a job. She said she ran 60-70 miles a week, around half the level of many elite athletes, but added: “I also do a lot of cross-training, including swimming and going on the elliptical, and cycle to work every day.”

In the men’s qualifying event there were emotional scenes as Chris Thompson secured a place at the Games at the age of 39. Thompson, who turns 40 next month, also recorded a personal best with a time of 2:10.50. After coming from behind, he surged clear in the final laps of the race around the historic botanical gardens. The 2012 Olympian finished more than a minute clear of second-placed Ben Connor, who had already qualified for the Games.

“I don’t know how I’ve done it – I’m 39 for crying out loud – this doesn’t happen,” said an overwhelmed Thompson. “This sounds bad but I knew it with two laps to go and I was trying to control my emotions then.

“After 30 minutes I realised I had worked the course out and I realised you can’t keep pressing like this. I just entered my own little mind palace and thought: ‘This is the rhythm I need.’ I feel like someone is going to tell me this didn’t happen.”

Kew also hosted an early-morning trial for the 20km walk. Callum Wilkinson said he was “disappointed, gutted and embarrassed” to miss the Olympic qualifying standard of 81 minutes after winning in 82:47. Tom Bosworth, who finished sixth at the Rio Games in 2016, came second and already has the required time for Tokyo.