Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Mike Gratton on the Marathon (April 2018)

I talked to Mike Gratton of Invicta AC; at the London Marathon Exhibition, the day before the 2018 London Marathon. (The 38th).
Mike is the man who set up ‘2.09 Events the Sporting Holiday Company’
He is still as keen now as he ever was to enjoy running, for its own sake.
In 2016 he was first ‘Over 60’ runner in two 10k’s & 2 Park Runs and a half-marathon but had international success as a younger runner.

Take the London Marathon for a start.
In 1982 he was 3rd in 2:12:30 (The year he got the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia in 2:12:06) in 1983 he was 1st in 2.09:43. He ran 2:17:24 in 1984; 1985- 2:14:35 and in 1988 - 2:19:41.

Have you noticed a tremendous change in the atmosphere since those early years?
“Not really. It has got bigger. Essentially it is the same event.”

Do you think because  people like the Kenyans come in at the front and, are doing things like sub 2’4’s, that it makes it a little more difficult at times, for a British runner because, they are usually alone now and not got people around them in the main parts of the race?
‘That is for them to sort out really. If the British runners are all going to be around 2:15, which is what they are then, they need to be moving up to 2:8-2:9, which was where we were then, they will be with people. There will be packs of people running at those speeds. It is for the runners to sort it out. It has moved on to 2:4 they have got to move with it; In fact they have gone the other way, they have gone backwards. You can’t blame the race for that. People aren’t running to the standard required.

‘Don’t you feel if a person does run around 2:12 they are on their own? ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea?
“Not really. It can be done. In 1982 I was third in 2:12, there was nobody around me but there were big gaps behind then. The fact is the sport has moved on, the standards are higher and they are being left in the middle because, they have not improved. In fact they have got worse.”

Surely there are opportunities for them to run faster.
“I don’t really understand why they are not.

Callum Hawkins & Dewi Griffiths- and a few people are starting to make it a move forward again, hopefully its historic that there is progress but, I can’t  really understand why the sport went backwards. At the early part of the century there was a point when actually Paula Radcliffe set the World record (2:15:25 in 2003) and was the fastest British runner overall which is crazy.’

‘In the 80’s Hugh Jones, myself, Steve Jones, Charlie Spedding, Eamonn Martin; all those people were right at the front of the race and, until quite recently there had been nobody running those times. They had been running 2:13, 14 or 15. I don’t understand why they have gone that way, why it has gone backwards. It is improving though. I know Callum Hawkins had a disaster in the Commonwealth but, he is a quality runner, Dewi Griffiths as well. There seems to be one or two others around who look like they are going to run 2:9 or 2:10 but if that happens we have got 4 or 5 people, then  they will bridge the gap themselves. There will be a group of British runners running fast.’

(When talking with Mike here at the’2:09 stand’, about the London the day before the London) I pointed  out Mo Farah was talking about beating the British record of 2:7.  
He should have been thinking in other terms I would have thought?
“I am not sure that he really wants to say ‘I want to win this race, because it would put a lot of pressure on him. I think he played the media game a little bit. He is saying the British record is his target but I think, in his mind, he has got to be thinking about winning it, certainly being right up the front. I would think his time would be around 2:5 (Mike certainly was almost hitting a bulls eye as he ran 2:6).

“It was amazing he was able to beat the Kenyans and Ethiopians in the major Championship track races?
“I don’t know. I think it proves it is doable, with the right training it can definitely happen. I am not sure that he is fully suited to the marathon though. His physiology seems to be more suited to 1500 to 10,000 but above half marathon; it will be interesting to see how he is towards the end of the race because, he has a better chance of winning without pacemakers in the race. He is a very good racer and has got a racing brain and he knows how to compete with people. The way the race would be run--. It would probably go out at World record speed. It is playing into the hands of the fast marathon boys, not the people who are good racers. ‘
‘I was in Boston last week and the whole race was turned upside down by the weather. It just proves that, with no pacemakers, you would get a different result. People learn how to race properly rather than just go for fast times.’
‘I know London wants to have World records here and Berlin does as well.’

The interesting thing about you was, you did some very good track work for the marathon whether, that is lacking now or not in the build up to the marathon?
 “I am around good athletes all the time; they are doing the right training.
The front end of the race has moved away so far, mentally they can’t focus with the challenge really. When I ran 2:9 I was about a minute behind Robert de Castella’s World record but now you run 2:9, you would be 7 minutes behind the World record. That is the big difference mentally. Until a few people start running, as they have in Tokyo in Japan and US a little bit--- They have got to be running 2:5, and they are getting closer to the front.”’

What track work for the marathon?
“In the winter 25 x 400. It is not unusual Steve Jones and Eamonn Martin were doing that. You train as a 10k runner but with high mileage, that was what we did. The Kenyans are not doing anything different to that but, what they are doing slightly different is, that with longer long runs closer to marathon speed.
That would be the big difference now with our training.
The Tergets', Gebreselassie and Kipchoge’s own people, are on the track doing intervals.”

Alastair Aitken

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