We spoke to Lily Partridge and Steph Twell ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon
Lily Partridge and Steph Twell are two of the UK’s biggest stars racing the Virgin Money London Marathon this Sunday. Lily, winner of this year’s Big Half and Antrim Coast half marathons, is seeking an Olympic qualifying time. Steph, winner of 2019’s Reading Half, made the move recently to the marathon distance from her middle-distance successes, and achieved a PB in Valencia in 2018 of 2.30.11. She, too, is looking to Tokyo in 2021.
Both women spoke about their training and their ambitions at a press conference held on 2nd October ahead of the marathon. Steph talked first about how training had been during lockdown. “The London Marathon has kept me optimistic and motivated in training,” she said. “It was hard having goals removed. But now that London is on, I’m just excited to be here and ready to race.”
When asked about how she feels about running a distance that she’s fairly new to, Steph said: “I feel there’s a lot to explore in this distance. It’s only my third marathon. But I always knew it was something that I’d turn to – I’ve always loved the long run, I love the training. So I’ve never been afraid of it. But I think that my middle distance experience can really complement my marathon training.”
Lily is just as enthusiastic about the marathon distance. “I love competing, it’s part of my personality,” she said, but she added that competitiveness didn’t have to mean comparisons: “Your past doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, you don’t need to compare yourself. The running community is an amazing one that gives a lot of support.”
Running the race this year will be a very different experience for the women, as Lily points out. “Having run London two times before, the fans are what make it. So it will be missed. But hopefully we can put on a good event and everyone can tune in with the virtual marathon as well.” Steph agrees that the fans will be missed: “That extra support on the final miles is great… we’ll need to carry that spirit with us.”
Training, and the race itself, has looked very different for the athletes in 2020. Steph said: “It’s my first female-only race, it is the British championships, and time [for the Olympics] also counts which is great. The difference has been how to manage your body in these times. There’s been a lack of physio and gym access, so I’ve had to learn about managing my intensities coming up to the marathon.”
All images courtesy of ©London Marathon Events
The route on Sunday is also very different, made up of a lapped course, but that hasn’t phased Lily at all. “I love laps!” she explained. “I like the route, it won’t change how I’ve prepped for it [even though] it’s the first time I’ve done a looped course on a marathon. I need to focus on an Olympic qualifying time. if I could get the same time as before then that would be great.”
When asked what time she was hoping for, Steph wouldn’t be drawn on specifics: “I’m here to race,” she said. “I hear the course is fast, I don’t want to limit myself. There’s a great opportunity out there.”
Another big change this year is the start time, with the women’s race getting underway at 7.15am. How are the athletes going to prepare for that? “I’m going to have to set more than one alarm!” said Steph. “It’s going to be a very short night’s sleep, I’m probably getting up at 4am.” But she said she was looking forward to watching the other races after she’d finished with her fellow athletes to “watch history being made”, referring to the potential world record attempt in the men’s race.
The women have been training in the London Marathon bubble hotel. What’s that been like? “It’s strange in the bubble,” said Lily. “But it just sums up everything about 2020, it’s all a bit odd. Everyone’s very respectful, we’ve all been tested and confident that the right protocols have been taken.”
In terms of advice for those of us running the virtual race, both women are encouraging. Steph said: “Remember that even if you’re going through a tough patch, someone else somewhere around the world is too! It’s amazing having our own start and finish lines, and I wish everyone the best wishes out there.” Lily agreed: “Obviously we’d prefer it if everyone was together, but for me personally, [it’s good] knowing that 45,000 other people are going through the same thing. We need to be grateful that our body is healthy enough to run 26 miles. It’s not often that you get to run 26 miles around your home town, and I’ll be thinking of you when it gets hard!”
Make sure you cheer on these two spectacular athletes in action on Sunday morning. For more info on the elite women, click here.