Robinson the Marathon man is out to revive a British tradition, and keep up with the Kenyans

At the start of the week it looked like there might be the kind of one-off opportunity knocking for Britain's long-suffering marathon men that the Czech tennis player Jan Kodes exploited at Wimbledon in 1973.

Back then, the little-known Kodes snatched the opportunity to win the men's title at the All England club, with 13 of the world's top 16 – Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Co – absent because of a dispute between the recently formed Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Lawn Tennis Federation. Thirty-seven years on, as the clock ticked down to the 2010 London Marathon and the European skies were closed to traffic, Dan Robinson and Andrew Lemoncello were the only members of the 18-strong elite men's field safely on British soil in readiness for tomorrow's big race.

Robinson, a Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist, is from Horsley in Gloucestershire. Lemoncello, an Olympic steeplechaser who will be making his marathon debut tomorrow, is from St Andrews and has been training on the Fife coast for the past fortnight, though he now happens to be based at Flagstaff in Arizona. Perhaps the fallout from the Icelandic volcano was part of a cunning plan to restore the glory days of home success at the sharp end of the annual running jamboree in the English capital. The last British win in the men's race was achieved by Eamonn Martin in 1993. The last British one-two dates back to 1985, when Steve Jones overhauled Charlie Spedding after having to make an emergency stop with four miles to go. That year, in fact, there was a British one-two-three, with Allister Hutton, a Scot, following home Jones, a Welshman, and Spedding, an Englishman.

Sadly, the prospect of a repeat tomorrow has receded from the bounds of probability. The East African speed merchants had all made it to England by yesterday – among them Sammy Wanjiru, the Olympic marathon champion and 2009 London winner; Abel Kirui, the reigning world marathon champion; and Duncan Kibet, the second-fastest marathon man of all time, courtesy of the 2hr 4min 27sec he clocked in Rotterdam last year. The three Kenyans were at the race headquarters in the shadow of Tower Bridge yesterday morning, talking about the possibility of breaking Haile Gebrselassie's world record – a staggering 2:03:59 – and about the emergency airlift that cost the London Marathon organisers a cool £110,000 to transport them from Nairobi (via Djibouti, Luxor and Madrid) by private jet.

Sitting in a quiet corner, Robinson laughed as he outlined his journey to London. "Two hours on the train," he said. "Stroud to Paddington. Change at Swindon." He chuckled again at the thought that he might have been in with a chance of pinching the first home win in the men's race for 17 years. "That would have been great," he said, "but it was never a realistic prospect. The organisers were always going to get a lot of the overseas athletes here."

Rather than victory, Robinson's target is the clock. His plan is to set off conservatively and finish strongly enough to improve the personal best set in Amsterdam last November, 2:12:14 – and possibly to sneak into the top 10, which he did with his ninth-placed finish in 2007. In effect, the fastest Briton in the field will be running a different race to Wanjiru, Kirui, and Kibet, but in relative terms Robinson is as much of a marathon success story as the high-speed East African trio.

The Kenyans are all products of the great distance-running hotbed of the Rift Valley. Robinson lives and trains in the sleepy south Cotswold countryside immortalised by Laurie Lee in Cider With Rosie. A part-time PE teacher and father of two (his wife, Jess, gave birth to Max three weeks ago, a brother for 19-month-old Jasper), he runs for Stroud and District Athletics Club and lives in the Nailsworth Valley – like the Slad Valley, Lee's celebrated home patch, one of the Five Valleys of Stroud.

"Yeah, it does feel like a different world," Robinson pondered. "The Five Valleys are rather different to the Rift Valley. I'm under no illusions where my time puts me. Two hours 12 minutes is a solid time for a Briton but it's not a world-class time. These guys are running 2:04, 2:05. That's phenomenal running."

Much has been made of the decline of British men's distance running since the days of Jones and Spedding, but amid the gloom the emergence of Dan, the Gloucestershire marathon man, has been an inspirational shaft of light. He only took up running at the age of 24, hitting the treadmill at his local gym to lose weight after four years of university life. At 35, he is a veteran of two Olympic marathons (he finished 23rd in Athens in 2004 and 24th in Beijing in 2008) and the Commonwealth bronze he won in Melbourne in 2006 makes him Britain's only major championship medal-winning marathon man in the past 16 years.

"I guess you could call it a relative success," Robinson mused. "But when Eamonn Martin won here in 1993 he ran 2:10:50. I'd love to run 2:10:50 on Sunday but I'd still be a mile behind the winner. We're a long way from Brits on the podium in London – British men, that is. On the women's side, Mara Yamauchi's got a great chance. On the men's side, we're a fair way off."

Front Runners


1. Sammy Wanjiru (Kenya)

The first Kenyan to win the Olympic marathon, courtesy of a blistering run in Beijing. Won in London last year and starts favourite.

2. Tsegay Kebede (Ethiopia)

Finished strongly to take the bronze medal in the Beijing Olympic marathon and was runner-up to Wanjiru in London last year.

3. Duncan Kibet (Kenya)

The second fastest marathon man of all time, having clocked 2:04:27. Turns 32 tomorrow.


1. Irina Mikitenko (Germany)

Won in London in 2008 and 2009 and now seeking to become the second woman to take three in a row, after her fellow German Katrin Dorre.

2. Mara Yamauchi (Britain)

Second to Mikitenko last year. The big question is how much her marathon journey to London has taken out of her.

3. Bai Xue (China)

Making her London debut. The youngest ever winner of the World Championship marathon, aged 20, in Berlin last August.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star