The Marathon and Race Walk test events, the first events in London 2012 sports testing programme, have taken place in Central London and first opinions suggest that only minor adjustments will be necessary, mainly for the wheelchair athletes at the Paralympics.
The events focused on the timing and technology elements of operations, as well as ensuring race management and logistics are on course ahead of next year’s Games.
Three wheelchair athletes and 50 club runners from across London were invited to take part in the Marathon event, including 52-year-old Chris Finill of Harrow Athletics Club. Chris has run in every single London Marathon and his fellow runners decided that, rather than have a sprint down The Mall at the end of the race, they would acknowledge his outstanding achievement by letting him cross the finish line first.
Chris said of his win: ‘It was a nice gesture which I really appreciated. It is a fantastic course with so many central London landmarks. Having a looped course means that it will be a very tactical race in 2012, as you know what the course is going to be like when you approach it for the second and third time.
‘It may not be fast, no Olympic Marathon course is, it is the medals that count, but it means it will be tactical because you have an opportunity to size up the course during the laps. It was an honour to run on the Olympic course, and I will be watching with great interest next year.’
Debbie Jevans, Director of Sport at the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: ‘We are very pleased with the way things worked at our first test event. We were specifically looking at athletes on the course and things like how the wheelchair athletes were able to turn. We were looking at all the timing, scoring and technology arrangements which worked well.
The feedback we got from the runners was very encouraging, they loved the course. We will be looking at the turns again for the wheelchair athletes. After all the planning it is good to see events actually happening and taking shape.’
The Race Walk test event, which was the 2011 UK Athletics 20km Senior and Junior 10km Race Walking Championships, also took place and involved 75 walkers. Joanna Jackson of Great Britain won the senior women’s 20km race in a time of 1:31:50, while Wang Zhen of China won the men’s 20km race in 1:24:24. The junior races were won by Britain’s Heather Lewis and Jamie Higgins.