“At the recent British Olympic Marathon Trials in Kew Gardens, 39 year old Chris Thompson secured his place for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympic Games in what was probably the most memorable athletic moments in the last 12 months at least. He crossed the line in such jubilant celebration and enigmatic style in 2:10:52 to take the win.”
Chris ‘Thommo’ Thompson is the man of the moment, and it’s not the first time. He is a much-loved and respected figure in athletics having been around in distance running for many years and approaching affectionately what we called the ‘twilight’ of his career, in this weeks’ show.
Thompson is a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and in front of the cameras. He is charismatic, open, honest. Most of all he is relatable. As he stormed his way down the final 100m straight at the British Olympic Marathon Trials on March 26th, it really felt like the athletics world was behind him. While his reception was quieter due to the closed course and lack of spectators under Covid restrictions, those lucky enough to stand at the Finish line heard a lion’s raw come from Chris as he grabbed the tape, safe in the knowledge he had won the trial in the time he needed to go to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Perhaps it was the intimate nature of the race that meant all present felt a connection to Chris as the moment sunk in and he took himself away from the cameras for a private moment and some very happy tears.
“I regret I didn’t take the full 30 seconds I had in the bag to walk over the line” comments Chris on his Marathon Talk interview, episode 580.
Like any marathon journey, the build up was not without bumps in the road. Aside from the lack of build-up races and general disruption faced by all in the last 12 months, Thompson also became a first-time dad some four days prior to the trial race, and sustained a freak injury to his hand which was crushed by a removal van just nine weeks before the event. Thompson inevitably missed training through the accident which required him to have a metal plate inserted into his hand.
On the arrival of his baby son, Thompson comments on the understandable fatigue and the life changing experience of seeing his wife Jemma give birth to their new son Theo in the same week as his outstanding marathon trial achievement.
His tenacity and dogged determination to keep racing while others have retired is perhaps what got Chris to run the race he needed in order to produce his ticket to this summer’s Olympics. He showed with patience and a definite “running his own race” approach that at age 39 and arriving at V40 status this weekend (April 17) that he still has what it takes when it matters.
In previous races, Thompson said he would often “run hard until (you’re) tired, then hang on and carry on”, while at the Olympic Trials in Kew Gardens he instead used a more spiritual connection, telling Martin Yelling,
“I’ve learned to listen to my body, and connect my mind and body together”, to which Martin replied,
“That takes real experience”
Athletics fans will long remember Thompson hanging back before producing a surge at around the 30k point of the race as he trusted his own rhythm and pace, and knew exactly when to switch his mind into race mode. Thompson would later tell assembled press that he was in his own, he called, ‘mind palace’.
The unpredictable nature of living through Covid has left Thommo feeling ready to adapt and face anything as he looks ahead to the next few months of preparation for Tokyo.
He told Martin Yelling,
“I’ve got a very refreshed and assertive way of racing and functioning and I’m looking forward to applying that to the Olympic stage.
Whatever is delivered could really inspire the World and be a tonic for them”
Thanks to Chris Thompson for taking the time to speak to Marathon Talk so openly.
“It’s just surreal to be able to talk about a moment like that because I get to relive it, and get the goosebumps, and let it carry on”
Chris Thompson’s interview with Martin Yelling features in Marathon Talk episode 580, out now.
Anji Andrews for Marathon Talk
Photo by Anji Andrews for Marathon Talk