Belal Ahmed sliced more than a minute off his previous best time for the distance when he led Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club’s 25-strong contingent home in Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon from Blackheath to The Mall, writes Tom Pollak.

Ahmed clearly benefitted from a week’s altitude training in Morocco as he finished seventh out of a record more than 42549 runners to lead Hercules Wimbledon to a record-breaking second place in the championship team event. Ahmed knew he was in for a good time as he reached the half-way point near Tower Bridge in one hour nine minutes 29 seconds. However, he slowed during the second half of the race to cross the finishing line in The Mall in 2:21:40, a big improvement on his previous best of 2:23:11 set in finishing 37th in the Berlin marathon, over a much flatter course, in September last year. It was also much faster than his previous best London time of 2:29:57 in 2016.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Not far behind Ahmed was his Hercules Wimbledon clubmate Richard McDowell, running nine days after his 40th birthday, who finished 10th, also in a lifetime best of 2:23:08. He also clearly benefitted from a week’s altitude training in India. It eclipsed his previous best of 2:26:49 set in winning the Bournemouth marathon last October and took almost six minutes off his previous best London time of 2:27:56 last year.

Third Hercules Wimbledon finisher was Dimos Evangelidis who was 34th in 2:26:13, his fastest marathon since 2016 when he clocked a lifetime best of 2:25:48 in finishing fourth in Manchester. However, it was much faster than his previous best London time of 2:27:39 in finishing 14th in last year’s London race. Evangelides was also fourth over 40 finisher.

Adam Blythe, making his debut in a Hercules Wimbledon vest, chopped more than eight minutes off his previous best marathon time in finishing 54th in 2:28:08 in only his fourth marathon. It improved on his 2:36:53 set in finishing sixth in Bournemouth last October. Tom Buckley, running in only his second marathon, was 178th in 2:34:26, a massive improvement of more than seven minutes on his debut marathon appearance in winning the Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare race last May in 2:41:56.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Husband and wife Dave and Claire Grima, running London together for the ninth time, had each other in their sights for most of the 26 miles 385 yards course. Claire reached the half-way point 62 seconds ahead of Dave who then closed the gap during the second half of the race to finish just four seconds behind his wife in 2:40:42. Claire, who completed her 13th London marathon in 2:40:38, was the top women’s veteran over 40 finisher for the second year in again finishing eighth in the women's championship.

Over 50 veteran Tom Cheetham running his 17th consecutive London and 87th marathon headed towards his target of 100 marathons in finishing in just outside three hours. Oldest Hercules Wimbledon runner, Maurice Sharp, running a week before his 74th birthday, was 39th in the over 70 category in 4:27:05. Down the field Hercules Wimbledon’s Hannah Fernando had a torrid time during the second half of the race. She completed the first half in 1:46:10 but then really struggled as she took more than three hours to reach the finish in outside five hours.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Hercules Wimbledon also had 23 youngsters in the mini marathon over the final three miles of the marathon course starting at Old Billingsgate. Highest placed runner was Ellen Weir, representing Merton, who was fifth out of 173 runners in the girls under 15 race in 17:59 with Georgie Clarke, representing Wandsworth, 19th in 18:48. Lulu Weisz and Millie Thorpe, also running for Merton, were 25th and 36th in 19:05 and 19:28, respectively.

Fastest Hercules Wimbledon runner in the boy’s races was Hector Revill who was 40th out of 147 runners in the under 17 race in 16:37. Hans Hinde was 32nd out of 180 runners in the under 13 race in 18:30 with Thomas Beare 44th 10 seconds later.

This weekend, Hercules Wimbledon’s youngsters are competing in their opening Ebbisham League meeting at the David Weir Leisure Centre, Carshalton, on Saturday, starting at 1pm. Next Wednesday, the senior men and women open their Roesnheim League programme at Battersea Park at 6.30pm.