Jonny Hay is confident his old-school training methods will pay off during his marathon debut in London, writes Ruth Jones

In the battle to earn Olympic selection in the marathon, Jonny Hay has stepped up his training in preparation for the race of his life at the Virgin Money Giving London Marathon on Sunday (April 24).

The 24-year-old has made a name for himself on the country over the last few years, cementing his position as one of the country’s top endurance runners by winning the Southern and the English National titles, as well as posting a strong performance at Antrim, within weeks of notching up the fastest 20-mile time by a Brit in more than a decade at Bramley of 1:42:43.

If he clinches his goal of Rio selection over the 26.2-mile distance, it will be his greatest achievement to date – and he is confident that his old-school training methods will pay dividends on the day.

The Mick Woods-coached athlete will have to fight off the challenge of Scott Overall and Callum Hawkins, both set to run in the capital and already holding Olympic qualifying times, but also Aldershot, Farnham & District clubmate Chris Thompson.

So, in a similar way to Charlie Purdue, why has the 2011 European junior 5000m bronze medallist decided to take on the marathon so early in his running career?

He explains: “I decided to give it a shot after many discussions with various people over the last 12 months. I have also become slightly disheartened with the track, and feel like a new stimulus and challenge could jolt me back into the game.

“I see London as the British marathon championship and not a time trial, so my aim is to run it as such. I have a vague time in mind that I am preparing myself to be capable of running, but the main aim is to be in the top two British finishers, with the time a secondary goal.

“I believe we are looking at possibly the strongest British marathon field in more than 10 years, and I am very excited to give it my best effort.

“Training has been progressing well, and Bramley was the result of that. It was a shame, however, that it was not a more competitive field, as I had hoped to run a little quicker.”

“I have also become slightly disheartened with the track, and feel like a new stimulus and challenge could jolt me back into the game”

Hay juggles working part-time in a risk management firm in London with a demanding but “simple” training regime, which is put together by his long-time AFD coach, and former 2:11 marathoner Martin McCarthy.

He said: “Mick has always coached me to some extent since I first turned up at AFD 16 years ago – I have developed a lot under his guidance, and had a very fortunate junior career. I have, however, always had quite a large input into my training – even more so when I moved up to the University of Birmingham to study – and this is important as I have always trained better when I have wanted to do the session, compared to when I am forced to.

“That said, I truly believe I could not have achieved what I have under any other coach, as Mick has always motivated me, when at points my own motivation may have lacked lustre.

“Martin used to work closely with Mick until I was an under-17, and now he is helping me in a mentoring role, things have developed further.”

The four-time World Cross and six-time European Cross GB international is confident of a good result in the capital this month, but is keen to emphasise he is not done yet over the shorter distances.

“I am aiming to qualify for the Rio marathon,” he says, “and the dream like any athlete who has dedicated so much time to athletics is to medal at an Olympic Games – but as it is a slight unknown on a debut, the fallback is to recover, introduce more speed work, and run much faster over 5km and 10km.

“No matter if London goes completely to plan or not, I believe I will be the strongest I have ever been – speed has always been quite natural to me, so hopefully it won’t be beyond me to drop down in distance.”

» Read Ruth Jones’ full four-page interview with Jonny Hay in the April 7 ‘Rio trial’ edition of Athletics Weekly magazine, which is available to order here or access digitally here