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Chris Thompson at Tokyo 2020 Marathon

Tokyo reflections after a Games like no other

runABC writer Alan Newman's Tokyo takeaway

The men's marathon brought the athletics to a conclusion last night (8 August) in the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a Games like no other in history. runABC news writer Alan Newman had another late night in front of the TV to witness the greatest 26.2-mile runner of all time defend his Rio 2016 title and cement his 'GOAT' status. 

Despite moving the races to Sapporo – more than 500 miles north of Tokyo – to seek kinder conditions, the marathon made uncomfortable viewing as so many athletes succumbed to the intense heat and humidity. A total of 30 world-class men failed to finish in the wake of Eliud Kipchoge's 2:08:28 masterclass in endurance running – the first person to defend an Olympic marathon title in 40 years.

Unfortunately, the extraordinary attrition rate included Team GB athletes Callum Hawkins and Ben Connor. Hawkins left the course in a wheelchair with an ankle injury just before 30K and Connor dropped out soon after, with heat exhaustion. 

It was left to the surprise British Trial winner Chris Thompson (Aldershot) to defy his 40 years to move steadily through the field for 39th (2:21:29) on his Olympic Marathon debut. His telling assessment: "I tried to respect the second half and I think I did that but that last six to eight miles was one of the emotionally toughest things I’ve done running-wise". 

The previous night's sleep depriver was the women's marathon – thankfully brought forward an hour to avoid the worst of the torrid conditions – with 15 more DNFs and a thrilling climax for the medals between Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir (2:27:20); world record holder Brigid Kosgei (Kenya, 2:27:36) and Molly Siedel (USA, 2:27:46). 

Happily, all three of the British entrants battled through to the finish, led by Clapham Chasers' Stephanie Davis (39th, 2:36:33) followed by Aldershot's Steph Twell (68th, 2:53:26) and Jess Piasecki, of Stockport Harriers (71st, 2:55:39). GB trial winner Davis said: "The last 400m felt like the longest ever. My legs were like they were running in circles!"

Saturday's programme featured the men's 1500m final and a brilliant bronze for Josh Kerr (Edinburgh, 3:29.05) who went second on the all-time rankings behind Sir Mo Farah. Kerr, who only scraped through the heats as a fastest loser, missed silver by four-hundredths of a second and was a mere 0.24s outside Farah's British record.

However, national records were set by two of our female middle-distance stars. Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill, 3:54.50) improved her own record to claim a superb silver in the 1500m and 19-year-old Keely Hodgkinson (Leigh Harriers) broke Dame Kelly Holmes' 800m record, that was actually seven years older than her, seizing another silver in a stunning 1:55.88.

Despite these astonishing medal-winning performances, our contributor's highlight came earlier in the week when the unsung Lizzie Bird (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) became the first ever British woman to reach the 3000m steeplechase final, finishing ninth in a new British record 9:19.74 – smashing her own time by over three seconds on the biggest possible stage.

All the athletics results can be found on the Tokyo 2020 website

Image shared by Chris Thompson via Twitter

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