11:29am Friday 20th April 2012
By Tom Pollak
Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club's former English cross country champion Dave Clarke heads a record 22 runners from the club competing in the Virgin London marathon on Sunday.
Clarke, who is one of only four athletes to have won the English senior men's cross country title three times, will be racing in the London event for the sixth time. Clarke, now 54, has had his build up to the event hampered by an Achilles tendon injury.
"I was going well and was pleased with my run in the Fleet half-marathon but I then lost a whole week's training," said Clarke, the English senior men's cross country champion in 1983, 1984 and 1988. Clarke, who won the Stockholm marathon in 1989 in 2 hours 13 minutes 34 seconds will be without the company of his wife, Francesca for the second time in the London.
"It's nice to have her there but when she's not running I can run my own race," he said. When she didn't run in 2010, Clarke posted his best London time of 2:45:58 to finish fifth in the men's over 50 category. He won his age category in the Fleet half-marathon last month and his performance is the fifth fastest by a British over 50-year-old this year.
"If I get round in under three hours I'll be happy," said Clarke, who was recently elected chairman of Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club. He chaired his first meeting on Monday. He was planning to train each day in the week up to the marathon with light run outs on Thursday and Friday.
David Grima, who helped his wife Claire to 14th place and a Hercules Wimbledon women’s club record of 2:49:20 in the women's championship last year, will be without her this time as she is expecting her second baby in July. Instead, after clocking 2:53:01 last year, he will be running with his younger brother Alex, who is making his marathon debut. Six other Hercules Wimbledon runners, former Surrey schools steeplechase champion Terry Savage, Sean Crummy, Louise Bendeus, Lisa Blythe-Wood, Ruth Clifton and Phil Glynn are also running marathons for the first time.
Paul Wignall, 58, and Frank Wood, 47, will be making their debuts in the Virgin London event. Wignall ran 2:51:06 in Edinburgh last year while Wood has completed four marathons in Nottingham and Stratford-on-Avon.
Dennis Williams, 66, has missed only one of the London marathons due to injury and will be competing in the event for the 31st time on Sunday. The youngest of the Hercules Wimbledon contingent in action will be Alex Urban, 26, who will also be competing in London for the first time after making his debut with a 2:48:00 performance in Brussels last year. Oldest of the Hercules Wimbledon contingent is Maurice Sharp, who is six months older than Williams, and is contesting the London event for the eighth time. His best marathon time of 2:30:57 was set in 1974.
Over 45 veteran Jeremy Purnell hopes to have recovered sufficiently from injury to accompany his wife Alison in Sunday's race. He made his marathon debut in London in 2010 while his wife followed in his footsteps last year. Stewart Bond, Tom Cheetham, Charles Hampden-Smith, Charles Lawrie, Peter Lee and Zoe Pike, who have previously run the London are competing again on Sunday.
Cheetham warmed up for London by running the Brighton marathon on Sunday where he was 177th in 3:11:44.
Two Hercules Wimbledon members are fulfilling other important roles in the event. Club president David Littlewood, who will be among the officials at the Olympics, will once again be refereeing the men's championship race. He has officiated at all 32 London marathons and refereed all but three of them. Meanwhile, ex-policeman Dave Betts will be one of the lead motorcyclists.
More than a dozen Hercules Wimbledon youngsters will be in action in the Virgin London mini-marathon over the final three miles of the full marathon course from Old Billingsgate to The Mall.
Hercules Wimbledon's senior men open their summer track programme when they compete in the Sward and Kinnaird Trophy meetings at Kingsmeadow Stadium on Saturday.
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