RRW: With London In the Fall, Boston Marathon Was Perfect Fit for Charlotte Purdue

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BOSTON (15-Apr) — The TCS London Marathon has been very good to Charlotte Purdue.  The adidas-sponsored Englishwoman began her marathon career there in 2016 (2:32:48), ran it again in 2017 (2:29:23) and 2019 (2:25:38), then again last fall when she set a huge personal best of 2:23:26.  That performance made her the third-fastest British woman of all time behind only Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi, and gave her qualifying marks for the 2022 World Athletics Championships, Commonwealth Games, and European Athletics Championships.

The decision by the London Marathon organizers to hold the race in October again this year gave Purdue a clear path to try a different marathon this spring, and Boston had always struck her fancy.

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“I’ve always wanted to run Boston,” Purdue told Race Results Weekly in an interview here today.  Speaking through a pink face mask in a vast hotel ballroom she continued: “It’s been on my bucket list for ages and, obviously, it usually clashes with London the same week.  So, it’s always hard for me to choose another marathon over London because London’s always a qualifier, usually as well, for the Olympics or something for us.  This year was the perfect opportunity when I saw London was again in October.  I immediately said to my coach, I want to run Boston.”

That coach is Australian Nic Bideau who happens to be married to Irish distancing running legend Sonia O’Sullivan.  During her NCAA career O’Sullivan competed for Villanova University, about a 30-minute drive north and west of Philadelphia.  O’Sullivan loved running in, and around Villanova, so that’s where Purdue decided to set up her training camp for Boston.

“She knew the area really well,” Purdue said of O’Sullivan.  “She said it’s good for hills, there’s good running on the bike paths.  She told us to go there.  My other coach, (Australian Olympian) Collis Birmingham, he’s over here and he’s been with me for three weeks.  It’s been really great, actually.”

As part of her training, Purdue competed in two races.  She paced at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in Japan on March 13, and covered 30 km in 1:41:42 (2:23 marathon pace).  Only a week later –and surely on tired legs– the 30 year-old ran the United Airlines NYC Half in 1:09:57, good for sixth place.  She said she began to feel her marathon strength coming, despite doing all of her training at sea level, and that her final three weeks of preparation were particularly good.

“Last year before London I stayed at sea level the whole time,” Purdue explained.  “I feel like it works for me.”

Although Purdue would be a medal contender at either the Commonwealth Games Marathon (where she would represent England) or the European Athletics Championships (where she would represent Great Britain), she decided to run the World Athletics Championships Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, in July, instead, surely the most competitive of the three.  She said that running Boston fit well with that choice, and that she feels particularly motivated after dropping out of the 2019 World Athletics Championships Marathon in Doha.

“Obviously the World Championships is a great honor to represent G.B.,” Purdue said, with obvious pride.  She added: “So for me, the world champs didn’t go so well for me in Doha because in 2019 I dropped out because of the heat.  So I really wanted to go back to a world championships and show that I can still run well for Great Britain, and improve on my 13th place from 2017 (when the race was held in London).”

For Monday’s race here, Purdue isn’t intimidated by the hilly course or the lack of pacemakers.  She could not suppress smiling as she imagined herself running under championship conditions from Hopkinton to Boston, throwing time to the wind and just running for place.

“I’m excited to run,” Purdue gushed.  “I feel like I’m just going to treat it like a world champs, like just race and see what happens in the race, not look at my watch, not go for a time, try to finish as high up as I can.  I think that makes it exciting, really, because I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Women have competed official at Boston since 1972, and a British woman has never won the race.  The last British man to claim victory in Boston was Geoff Smith, an Englishman, who won in 1984 and 1985.

Although Purdue is committed to the World Athletics Championships, she still hopes to run London again this year, assuming she comes through the race in Eugene without injury or excessive fatigue.  The TCS London Marathon –which is scheduled for Sunday, October, 2– will always hold a special place in her heart.

“London is in October, and I always want to run London Marathon,” she said.  “Hopefully, I’ll be running there.  Going back to London is something I’m always drawn to.  It’s hard for me to turn it down, really.  If I feel good after World Champs I’d one hundred percent like to run London again.”

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