Charlotte Purdue tells Ruth Jones why a spell of training down under has made her ready for a marathon debut in London
The race is on for a berth in the GB Olympic marathon team when some of the UK’s brightest distance running talent fight it out for a ticket to Rio at the Virgin Money London Marathon. Among them, young Aldershot runner Charlotte Purdue is keen to make her first race over the 26.2-mile distance a world class one.
With Sonia Samuels and Alyson Dixon already having secured the Rio qualifying time with strong performances in Berlin last September – recording times of 2:28:04 and 2:29.30 respectively – the Olympic trial race in the capital on Sunday (April 24) looks set to be the most fiercely competitive in years.
The British junior 10,000m record-holder is a fascinating debutante in London and she will be joined with the more experienced Samuels and Dixon, plus Freya Ross and Susan Partridge, the latter of whom missed the 2:31 qualifying time by an agonising 31 seconds in last year’s Chicago Marathon.
Purdue, who is often called the ‘pocket rocket’, boasts an impressive form book over a range of distances over the last decade. The 24-year-old was certainly one of the UK’s brightest young talents in her teenage years, regularly topping the UK rankings from 3000m on the track up to 10 miles on the road and representing Great Britain on 14 occasions in Europe as well as on a global level.
The 2010 European Junior cross country champion and 5000m silver medallist is not sitting on her laurels, however, and has spent the last year building up her strength, mileage, confidence and race experience over the longer distances to prepare her for the ultimate challenge ahead, including a long spell training in Australia under the watchful eye of her coach, Nic Bideau.
Recent performances over 5000m and 10,000m in America at Carlsbad and the heat of the Australian summer in the Zatopek 10, together with efforts over 10 miles in Portsmouth, a 15km race in Denmark and a strong half-marathon in Japan in December – she narrowly missed her 71:43 PB when she ran a 72:17 in the Yuki Arimori Cup half – signify her training is paying off for an attempt at the distance she has always been destined to run.
Then, last month, she ran 73:20 in the middle of a heavy training period at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff to place 33rd.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete explained: “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon since I started running, with regular V02 max tests pointing to the fact I am suited to the longer distances, so I’ve really just been waiting until I’m old enough.
“Last year I was unfortunate to get an injury the week before the Stanford 10,000m, and so Nic (Bideau) and I decided that I would aim for London in 2016 as a result.
“I know I am quite young to step up to the distance, but I’ve had a long stint of high volume training, and have – touch wood – been able to stay niggle free. I have an idea of what I am capable of and I am training with a specific time goal in mind.
“I am aiming for Rio. This being my first marathon, I am keen to see how I go at the new distance.”
The long spell in Australia alongside her Aldershot clubmates and Teddington training partners, Andy Vernon and Stephen Scullion, provided Purdue with a chance to knuckle down to some quality sessions, as well as the odd kangaroo sighting with her coach’s wife, Irish distance running legend, Sonia O’Sullivan.
“I am aiming for Rio. This being my first marathon, I am keen to see how I go at the new distance”
“Australia was great, I trained with Eloise Wellings (Australian long distance runner who has competed in three Commonwealth Games and London 2012), before Christmas, and then in January I met up with the group for an altitude camp in Falls Creek,” she said.
“As a result, I have been able to string together seven months of high mileage training, one of my biggest stints ever. An average week was around 110 miles, with two interval sessions and a long run.
“Training was always tough, but we had such a good group of athletes, there were always people to run with. I spent the last few weeks in Melbourne with Nic and Sonia at their beach house in Jan Juc, where I finally saw some kangaroos!”
The qualified personal trainer and pilates instructor is relishing her current status as a full-time athlete, allowing her to focus all her energy on marathon training.
“Ultimately Cardiff was a stepping stone to my main goal in London. I do, however, still feel like I have unfinished business on the track, in particular the 10,000m.
“I know I am quite young to move up to the marathon distance, so I will definitely be returning to shorter distances in the future. I am hoping that the marathon training has made me stronger and more resilient.”