Cross-country runner continues comeback by eyeing 2:40 for marathon debut in London
A year ago Emily Wicks was recovering from a collapsed lung which caused her to collapse mid-race at the 2011 European Cross-Country Championships in Slovenia.
What a difference 12 months can make. Now, fitter and more determined than ever, the 28-year-old is hoping to transfer her success from cross-country to the road when she makes her marathon debut in London on April 21.
After experiencing what she has, the 28-year-old could have been excused for taking her foot off the gas a little. But not only did she come back fighting to finish 33rd in the 2012 edition of the Euro Cross in Budapest, helping to secure team bronze, she’s stepped up her training and is targeting a very respectable 2:40 over the 26.2 miles.
“I’ll try not to put too much pressure on myself for my first one,” she told Athletics Weekly. “I’d love to go under 2:40, but I’m not sure how realistic that is.
“It really depends on the day and getting my pacing right, which might be quite a challenge because I’m used to running shorter races. But I’d love to go under 2:40 for my first one and then look to hopefully build on that in an autumn marathon.”
She admits that the hype and excitement that surrounds the London Marathon made it an easy decision when it came to picking her debut race, and that taking on such a challenge is a “logical step”.
“I think completing a marathon is a very big achievement, especially running hard over a marathon.
“For a lot of athletes, it’s almost a logical step as you get a bit older if you enjoy endurance work. Especially the London Marathon, I think it’s just something that everyone wants to be involved in, whether you’re watching or running. It’s the perfect choice for my first one, just to go and soak up all the atmosphere. Hopefully that will drag me round!”
Although Wicks is now clearly eager to get her marathon challenge underway, it’s not been an easy journey. The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete admits that the hardest part was not getting her body back to fitness after being hospitalised, but building back her confidence. Not that you’d know it from her performances, however – she’s already had a strong start to 2013, with second place at the McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge in January following her participation in the Great Edinburgh International two weeks before.
But it was November’s McCain UK Cross Challenge Series in Liverpool which doubled as the Euro Cross trials that Wicks says was the real turning point.
“I was pretty devastated,” says Wicks, recalling her debut Euro Cross experience. “It was for my first senior GB vest and it was just a complete disaster.
“I got back into training quite quickly after coming out of hospital but I lost a bit of confidence. I had a few other problems throughout the year so heading towards the trials at Liverpool, I really wasn’t expecting to make the team [for Budapest] at all.
“As the year went on and I started to race a bit better and my training was coming on, I put it behind me and started to get a bit more confident. Liverpool was a real boost for me. I realised that if I could make a team after everything that happened, then there can’t be too much wrong with me!”
And now the focus is London. Currently in week three of her marathon training, Wicks, who will be running in the mass field when she takes to the streets of the capital (“the elite field might have been a bit much for my first one!”), is open to what the future might hold.
“I’ve made a lot of improvements since Budapest,” she says. “The last month of training has gone really well and I think I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been, certainly a lot fitter than I was at the Europeans.
“I’m not too sure in terms of future plans. I’d like to carry on in the cross-country scene, maybe go to another European Cross or maybe a World Cross in the future, but this year I’m focusing on the marathon. Maybe in the future I’ll get into the elite women’s field.”
The next step for Wicks is this weekend’s Wokingham Half Marathon where she hopes to beat her PB of 75:09 set in Peterborough last October. Then she’s off to Club La Santa in Lanzarote at the end of February for a warm weather training camp and hopes to compete in the Inter Counties Championships for some speed work before the Whole Foods Kingston Breakfast Run on March 24 for a bash at marathon pace.
“Originally I think if things had gone well at the Europeans in 2011 I might have considered doing a marathon in 2012,” she adds. “Always in the back of my mind I thought I would do a marathon, but it was just about getting the timing right. Having achieved what I had been aiming for in cross-country so far, it feels like the right time to give it a go.”
» Emily will run a half marathon at the Whole Foods Kingston Breakfast Run on March 24 in preparation for the London Marathon. If you would like to take part in this run or any other Human Race events log on to www.humanrace.co.uk