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Emile Cairess




Confident Cairess in form to defend his GB crown

Britain’s leading men go toe-to-toe as they bid for Olympic selection. 

British champion Emile Cairess believes he’s in the form of his life as he looks to defend his UK title at the 2024 TCS London Marathon on Sunday.

The 26-year-old produced an eye-catching debut in the British capital 12 months ago when he ran 2:08:07 to finish sixth overall, taking the national crown and placing him third on the British all-time marathon list behind Sir Mo Farah and Steve Jones.

A year on from that breakthrough run, the Yorkshireman claims he’s in better shape than ever with another 12 months hard training behind him and the goal of Olympic selection up for grabs.

“I’ve done everything I wanted to do in training so I’m hoping to do well and progress from last year,” he said on Friday [19 April]. “I learned a lot from last year’s race, but the most important thing was about having patience – even when you feel good at 30K.

“This time I have a full year of training for the marathon behind me, rather than just 12 weeks, so I’m happy to show what I’ve got at the weekend.

“The goal is to make progress bit by bit so I can get near to the front of these big races.”

With two GB team spots available, the next big race for Cairess after London could well be the Olympic Games this summer when he hopes to join his training partner, Phil Sesemann, who sealed a Paris place running 2:08:04 in Seville in February.

While that pushed Cairess down a notch on the UK rankings, it serves as inspiration ahead of his second London outing in two days’ time.

“It was great to see him run 2:08:04,” said Cairess. “I’ve been training with him for nine years so I knew we were both in good shape.

“It’s inspiring. And to go with him to Paris would be really special.”

The Leeds City runner won’t be taking anything for granted, however, as no fewer than 23 British men will join him on the elite Start Line, including Southampton’s Mahamed Mahamed, who clocked 2:08:42 in Valencia last December, Scotland’s two-times world fourth placer Callum Hawkins, who ran 2:08:14 in London five years ago, and former world indoor medallist Marc Scott, who makes a highly anticipated debut over 26.2 miles.

After three injury-ravaged years, Hawkins admits his chances of selection are slim this time, while Scott has high hopes of running inside the qualifying standard of 2:08:10 despite “a few ups and downs” on his marathon journey so far.

“It’s been a ride to get here,” said the Yorkshire-born 30-year-old. “But I’m here, I’m happy and I’m healthy. I’m glad to be on the Start Line on Sunday to see what happens.

“The main goal is definitely to knock out that Olympic standard,” he added. “British marathon running is going from strength to strength so hopefully we can get another two on the qualifying list on Sunday.

“It was great to see Phil get that time. I hope we can emulate it and have the same success.”

Scott is already an experienced international runner, with three outdoor World Championships and the Tokyo Olympic Games under his belt, while he is the second-fastest Briton ever behind Farah at 5000m and 10,000m on the track, and the fifth quickest at the half marathon.

Yet he admits to feeling a touch of pre-race anxiety ahead of his first foray over the full distance.

“It is nerve-wracking because it’s an unknown for me, it’s a new distance,” he said. “I’ve prepared well and believe I’m in shape but that doesn’t take away the nerves.”

For Hawkins, who twice came close to a world medal and was within 2K of the Commonwealth title in 2018, the stakes are somewhat lower in 2024 as he makes a long-delayed return after some “pretty tough years”.

He explained: “After the Tokyo Olympics I had surgery on my ankle, and since then it’s been stress reaction after stress reaction. Even preparation for this has not been plain sailing. I was injured at the end of last year and then broke a collarbone, so I’m just happy to be on the Start Line.

“My aim now is just to go out and enjoy it, to enjoy being fit and able to run because it feels like a miracle.”