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Merrien pleased, but Overall struggles

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Newham & Essex Beagles Lee Merrien declared himself satisfied with his performance in the men’s Olympic marathon, which ended on The Mall today.

But for Blackheath & Bromley member Scott Overall, the 26.2-mile race around the streets of his home city proved a chastening experience.

Merrien, 33, crossed the finish line in two hours 17 minutes, finishing nine minutes behind Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich in 30th place.

But 29-year-old Overall, of Sutton, faded badly in the latter stages and clocked 2:22.37 for 61st place.

Merrien was added the GB squad after an online campaign, having originally been overlooked by the selectors.

And he was delighted to repay that faith shown in him, saying: “I was really proud to put on the vest. People have said it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think I’m lucky to even witness these Games, let alone run in a home Olympics.

“It’s a real honour and I wanted to run well, to make it memorable for me. I didn’t want to just be a part of the occasion.

“I wanted a good performance to stick in the memory.”

Merrien was introduced to athletics while studying for a degree in coach education and sports performance at the University of Bath.

He holds regular group sessions back in his native Guernsey, where he is an ambassador for the charity MUG – Male Uprising in Guernsey – which tries to raise awareness of prostrate, testicular and bowel cancer.

He trained in a greenhouse as part of his preparations for the World Championships in Korea last year and admitted conditions were fairly similar.

He added: “I ran a bit faster in Daegu but arguably there wasn’t much difference temperature wise. It was not as humid and I wanted these conditions.

“They were more of a leveller and I equipped myself well in the heat. I knew it would get hotter as the race went on and it would be a bit of a factor in slowing things down.

“If it had been cooler, there were a lot of guys faster on paper, so it suited me in that sense.

“There were a few twists and turns on the course, and a few little rises, which breaks it up and makes it more challenging. When it’s straighter you can get into more of a rhythm.

“But I’m quite pleased with it. I would’ve liked to have been a bit further up and a bit faster, but I beat some good people today.”

Overall, meanwhile, was running in only his second ever marathon, having booked his place on the British team with a superb time of 2:10.55 on his debut in Berlin last year.

The Hammersmith-born Overall started running at the age of 14 while studying at Orleans Park School in Twickenham, and was a rival of a certain Mo Farah during their London Youth Games days.

Overall gained a scholarship to Butler University in the United States, where he won several titles and graduated in economics.

Chelsea fan Overall was best man at Farah’s wedding, and like his close friend has done much of his recent training on the other side of the Atlantic, in his case in Indiana and Arizona, while Farah has been in Oregon.

But he admitted he got his race tactics wrong, saying: “I didn’t respect the conditions enough.

“It was tough. My coach (Robert Chapman) and I spoke about trying to run evens with the conditions and 65:30 at halfway, I was feeling it was probably a bit quick.

“I really suffered on the last lap. In hindsight I should’ve gone out slower. There were guys who did that, a couple of Canadians, who were very slow through halfway.

“I think everybody struggled, but it’s one of those things really.

“I felt good in Berlin, I felt strong and it was all about the time. It wasn’t so hot as it was here, but I know there’s a lot more to come.

“The crowd were so loud, shouting and cheering for the British guys, and marathon is one of those tough events where you do all that training and then it’s not quite right on the day.

“But I’m pretty sure I can still run a decent marathon.”

Merrien was equally impressed with the support on the streets, as the athletes wound their way around a course specially designed by former 10,000m world record holder and London Marathon race director David Bedford.

Consisting of a 2.2-mile loop, followed by three eight-mile loops, it took competitors past just about every major London landmark.

Out of a field of 105 athletes, representing 68 nations, no fewer than 20 failed to finish, but Merrien said: “People had been talking about the support and saying ‘you’re going to love it’ and I really did.

“There were a couple of quiet spots along the way, but my ears were still ringing from the support. It was phenomenal and surpassed my expectations.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that and I’m glad I put in a decent performance.”

But with his Olympic journey now over, Merrien is looking forward to some quality time at home.

He added: “I will have a rest and spend time with my family.

“I missed my kids’ birthdays last week and my family have put up with a lot. I’ve had great support from them and today was about a dream becoming a reality.

“You hear about people making sacrifices, but hopefully I’ve put in a performance they are proud of too.”

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