IT’S not the losing that gets you down, Iwan Thomas admits. It’s hearing about it.
The Welshman, now aged 39, remains the UK record holder over 400 metres, dating back to a pomp in which he won Olympic, world and European medals. These days, however, he restricts his athletics involvement to being a trackside compere at major events as well as running long distances for fun.
His latest engagement comes tomorrow when he competes in the Edinburgh Marathon for the first time. With a best of just under four hours, he will be far from the podium when the race concludes in Musselburgh. “It’s weird because a lot of people think you’re a runner, so you can run,” he recounts. “At the London Marathon a couple of years ago, I had a guy saying to me at mile 21, when I was really struggling, ‘what happened to you? You used to be an awesome runner.’ It was so horrible.”
He has accepted his fallibility with good grace. In London last month, he took ill mid-race and had to stagger to the end, his dignity barely intact. “I had to find a toilet very quickly,” he reveals. “So I just want to finish and enjoy the experience.”
There will be some of that carefree factor in Glasgow next summer, he predicts. Thomas first went to a Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994 as a raw teenager, ill-prepared but eager to impress. It proved the ideal testing ground for more competitive tests ahead.
“Four years later, I was the champion and the confidence I got from the previous Games really pushed me on,” said Thomas. “I’m still the last home nation athlete to take that title but I’m hoping someone can step up next year. I’m sure Scotland will put on a fantastic Games. It’s an amazing competition and in some events, especially in the sprints, it will be harder to win than a European title.”
The Edinburgh title, claim the marathon organisers, will be a tougher catch than ever, with the race’s elevation to IAAF Bronze status requiring a greater depth among the elite field. Having a course that is considered to be one of the world’s quickest is a definite lure.
Ukrainian Olympian Ivan Babaryka is the fastest in the field with his best of 2:11:48 but he will face a strong challenge from Wondimnew Melkamu of Ethiopia, while the women’s race is set to have its first African victor with Kenyan pair Risper Kimaiyo and Emily Chepkorir likely to square off. The Great Britain international Andi Jones is the prime home contender.
Thomas – running for Macmillan Cancer Support – has ruled himself out. “People think I should be taking this seriously,” he adds. “But I really am not.”