The stage was set and the time was now for Chris O’Brien as he had chosen the Abingdon Marathon as the destination in his quest to complete his first sub 3 hour marathon.

He’d had some pretty close calls before, running a 3:03 at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival last year and rather frustratingly, missing the 3 hour mark by just 29 seconds at Manchester in April this year.

That near miss didn’t stop him though and if anything, may have made him more determined to succeed next time. He was leaving nothing to chance in the build up to the Abingdon Marathon and he had been training extremely hard.

He’d completed the Maidenhead Half Marathon in under 1 hour 25 minutes, 40 miles at the Endure 24 hour race and run back-to-back half marathons distance runs, both in under 1 hour 30. The second of the two was the very hilly Winchester Half.

Despite his good form coming into the race, Chris knew he’d need to be at his best to achieve his sub 3 so there was a lot of pressure as he entered the start pens. The conditions were quite blustery as well which would add to the enormity of the task.

Chris O’Brien was going for his first ever sub 3 hour marathon at Abingdon in Oxfordshire

He felt strong for the first half of the race, managing to latch onto group which lessened the effect of the wind somewhat. He reached the half way point in 1:27:45, so all was going well up till that point. He knew he’d drop off a bit after but hoped he’d be able to hold it together.

The group dispersed after 16 miles leaving Chris on his own to battle the last 10 miles. He then felt the wind a lot more and that, coupled with the accumulating tiredness, began to take its toll on him.

Chris has his game face on as he works his way through the town centre in search of that elusive sub 3

He had a particularly bad section between miles 22 and 25 and after that point he knew his target time could easily slide away. He had to dig deep for the last mile or so. He was so determined and focused to hit the benchmark that he left it all out there.

Somehow, he still managed to find the strength to put in a sprint finish to take a place right on the line though. He was exhausted but delighted to see that he’s finally broken that sub 3 barrier, finishing in a time of 2:59:04. That put him in 78th place, out of 751 finishers.

Another BAC athlete chasing a PB was Adrian Townsend. Adrian hadn’t had the best of luck in his two previous marathons. He failed to make the start line at London earlier in the year due to nerve damage and at Brighton the previous year he was forced to pull out due to tendonitis.

Adrian Townsend was due some good fortune after injuries had prevented him from succeeding in his previous two marathon opportunities

His previous best was 3 hours 15 minutes at Paris so that was the target to beat. Fortunately, this time everything went well for Adrian and he crossed the line in a superb time of 3:10:10. This gave him a shiny new PB put him in 163rd position on the day.

As a veteran of many previous marathons, Simon Way was in his element when it came to the Abingdon Marathon. He’d slightly strained some ankle ligaments the Tuesday before that race and hadn’t ran at all since then so that was a bit of a worry. Fortunately though, that didn’t affect him during the race, although it did mess with his head a bit in the build up.

He ended up running almost the entire race on his own, having to accept the slight loss of pace on some of the more windy sections of the course. Simon was aiming for sub 2:45 finish, but found himself drifting slightly off the pace toward the latter stages of the race.

Simon makes his Way through the town centre at Abingdon as he chases a sub 2:45 finish

A friend of his then caught him up strongly inside the last mile. That gave Simon the kick up the backside that he needed to pick up the pace and finish strongly. When he saw the race clock with about 50 metres to go he had 15 seconds left to get the line.

It was a dramatic end to a gruelling race but he did it, crossing the line in 2:44:55. This put him in a very impressive 19th place overall. He was really pleased as he didn’t think he’d see the championship start at the London Marathon again, due to the sciatica issues he’s been suffering with. A sub 2:45 marathon qualifies for a championship entry at the VLM.

He has been hampered significantly by sciatica over the last couple of years, with the pain often bringing him to a standstill at the 7 mile point in any run he did. He only manages to keep it at bay now by doing daily stretching and regular core workouts.

Simon travelled up to Oxfordshire with Sanjai Sharma, who was looking to put his woes from the London Marathon earlier in the year behind. Sanjai had hid race wrecked by cramp in the final stages and was very disappointed with the time he ended up with as a result.

The Abingdon Marathon presented the perfect opportunity to put those demons behind him and he was determined to do just that. He was feeling good throughout the majority of race and remained disciplined enough to run at his pace and not get too carried away.

For the last 8 miles, Sanjai found himself running with Hilary Mott of Cheltenham and County Harriers. She was the first lady and as it panned out, was just too strong for Sanjai at the end.

Sanjai Sharma approaches the grandstand finish after a lap around the track at Tilsley Park

Although he really had a dig in throughout the latter stages of the race, Sanjai had an excellent run, crossing the line in 30th place with a time of 2:50:12. This was a great result for Sanjai and was just the boost he needed to put the events of the VLM firmly behind him.