Athletics: Martin sets out on the road to riches: Marathon man's victory spoils

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THERE was little doubt about who was the most obviously delighted person in London on Sunday. The sight of an athlete whom he had coached for 12 years coming home to win the London Marathon at his first attempt at the distance was one which had a convulsive effect upon the body of Mel Batty, somewhat stouter now than when he held the world record for 10 miles in 1964.

Eamonn Martin's victory was only one half of a treasured double for Batty, who proceeded to Wembley to see his team, Arsenal, beat Sheffield Wednesday in the Coca-Cola Cup final. Before he left he exclaimed: 'If Arsenal can win this afternoon, I'll be walking on the River Thames. In fact, I might drink it.' The Thames Barrier authorities would be well advised to check their levels.

Martin is a different character to his coach - 'I'm the batty one,' says Batty - and he was quietly thrilled by the result which has opened up rich prospects, in all senses of the phrase, for the last years of his career.

At 34, with his last major achievement, winning the Commonwealth 10,000 metres title, three years behind him, Martin entered Sunday's race without a shoe contract - his former sponsors, Brooks, had offered him half what he had been getting - and with an appearance fee of dollars 20,000 (pounds 14,200) that was by no means the largest on offer to a British runner, even discounting Liz McColgan.

The case is altered. As a major marathon winner, Martin is in a position to talk in terms of a pounds 50,000 contract. He earned about pounds 58,000 in total for his day's work - a third of what McColgan earned for her third place, but a highly desirable result for a man who earns perhaps half that annually as a full-time testing engineer with the Ford Motor Company, and whose wife delivered her third child, Eamonn Martin Jnr, on Thursday.

Batty said yesterday that any negotiations for Martin to defend his London title would start at six figures; conservatively Martin could earn pounds 350,000 over the next five years. But as far as the summer goes he hopes to be selected automatically at 10,000m for Britain in the Europa Cup and the world championships.

Inevitably, Martin was asked if Sunday's success would change him as a person. 'No,' he replied. 'Nothing ever has done. Nothing ever will do.' Barring serious injury, Martin prearranged daily sessions with a physiotherapist this week. He intends to represent his club, Basildon AC, in the National Road Relay, taking one of the long legs. Throughout a career that began 20 years ago with the English schools cross-country title, he has epitomised the good club man.

'I just feel sometimes that I've got a spirit to run,' he said. 'I've always looked on myself as the greatest fun runner in the country.' You would be haETHER write errorrd pushed to find anyone who disagrees.