GREAT EASTERN RUN
Great Eastern Run - Half-marathon ‘novices’ finish first and second
It was one surprise after another as the drama of the 2017 Perkins Great Eastern Run unfolded on Sunday.
First of all we witnessed two half-marathon ‘novices’ finish first and second, next we discovered that the first local to finish was a runner who’d been plagued by illness all year, and finally the red-hot favourite to win the women’s race failed to complete the 13.1 mile course.
Army man Tom Evans, a 25 year-old captain serving with the Welsh Guards based at Pirbright, took the honours in a time of 68mins 40secs.
But, looking at the pre-race formbook, he was not expected to be among the frontrunners.
He had after all only run the distance once before, clocking a modest 73:45 in the Barns Green Half-Marathon in Sussex last year.
Yet smashing his personal best (PB) by over five minutes to win the race was no big deal for a man still finding his feet in the sport.
The former England Under 17 rugby player from Lewes in Sussex said: “I just don’t know what I’m capable of yet. I only started running properly in April and to be perfectly honest I don’t know what my best distance is. It’s too early to say what I’ll be best at.
“I see myself as an ultra distance racer really and I think the shortest distance I’ll do will be the marathon.
“I was only using the Great Eastern Run to get in some speedwork ahead of the Frankfurt Marathon which I’ll be doing in three weeks time.
“Conditions were great, the course was nice and flat and the support was good. I saw a couple of Army mates out there and I really enjoyed myself.”
Evans has already made a big impression on the ultradistance scene and that could well be where his future lies when he leaves the Army in January to become a full-time professional athlete.
In April he took part in the Marathon des Sables multistage ultra marathon and finished third in an event that bills itself as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.
It involves traversing 250k (156 miles) across the Sahara Desert in Morocco over six days, carrying everything you need for the journey in temperatures of up to 50C.
And that third place was the highest for a Briton since the race was first run in 1986.
Evans is also tackling another 250k event in Costa Rica in February and then in May it’s the 2018 Trail World Championships in Spain.
Runner-up William Strangeway stayed with Evans for about 12 miles but when the soldier kicked, the Lincoln Wellington runner couldn’t respond. He eventually finished in 68:57 and he too was having only his second outing over the distance.
“I’d only done one halfmarathon and that was on the coast at Cleethorpes and it was very wet and windy,” he said.
“Today conditions were ideal and I smashed my PB by about four minutes. But I’m a track and field man really. I normally only do 800m and 1500m races.”
Third-placed Ben Livesey (70:29) from Notts AC and the RAF came into the race with the fastest PB of 64:40.
“But I did that back in 2013,” he stressed. “I’m 39 years-old now and I was just pleased to be involved at the head of the race for a while. The three of us were together for seven miles but then I dropped off the pace. Tom did all the work early on.”
First local runner home was Steve Robinson from Peterborough Athletic Club and that was another surprise, certainly to him.
The 34 year-old phsyiotherapist from RAF Wittering claimed seventh place in 72:31 in a rare 2017 outing.
“I only entered at the last minute. I’ve been ill so much this year. I’ve hardly raced at all,” he said. “Nothing specific - just tired all the time. I think it’s having kids - they wear you out.”
And there was yet another surprise in the ladies race.
Kenyan ace Caroline Nyaguthi was red-hot favourite but pulled up injured after 12 miles.
That left the way clear for 22 year-old Cambridge & Coleridge runner Georgina Schwiening to finish as leading lady. She was 32nd overall in 75:26.
Second female was Hayley Kuter of Salford Harriers (76th in 79:01) and third Hayley Munn from Northampton Road Runners (79th in 79:08).
Main picture: Tom Evans leads at the halfway mark from William Strangeway and Ben Livesey. Top right: Evans crosses the line. Bottom right: The 1-2-3.