Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club’s Richard McDowell continued his preparations for next month’s Virgin Money London marathon with a convincing victory in the Hampton Court half-marathon over half the distance, writes Tom Pollak.

He turns 40 the week before London and feels it is his best chance for a podium finish in the Greenwich to The Mall 26.2 miles race. “I’ve been working pretty hard with that in mind stepping up my training considerably averaging just over 100 miles per week this year,” said McDowell.

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Hampton Court proved an attractive option as it was only half-an-hour away from his South-West London home and the organisers offered him a free entry.

The pancake flat course ran along the Thames towpath with the finish on grass in Hampton Court Park. That combined with 15 mph winds meant McDowell moderated his 69 minutes target although in the end he wasn’t far off.

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Only a couple of the 3500 runners were with him for the opening six kilometres along the Thames towpath to Kingston Bridge but once the leaders turned to run back to Hampton Court they faced a stiff headwind and McDowell found he was on his own as his rivals fell away. “I was keen to have company to share the work, but the pace was a bit too hot for my compatriot and I felt that I’d be quicker alone, so it was a solo effort for the remainder,” he said.

After crossing Hampton Court bridge to run along a section of the towpath for the second time, McDowell had the benefit of a “most welcome” tailwind. He was on course for his target time but knew the last few miles would be testing. The combination of the slippery grass and muddy surface combined with a stiff headwind made it hard work over the final four kilometres in Hampton Court Park. “My pace didn’t drop quite as much as I feared, but I did slip just outside the 69 minute goal without much left in the tank”, he reflected.

However, his efforts in testing conditions took six minutes off his previous best half-marathon time and he is hopeful it will convert to a 2:23:00 marathon on April 28th, which would be a three minute improvement on his time in Bournemouth last year.

One of his final tests before London will be the Orion 15 miles cross country race in Epping Forest on March 30th where he hopes to make it third time lucky after finishing runner-up in the past two years.

Not far away, Zoe Pike warmed up for London by posting her best time for the distance since 2012 in the Perseverance Richmond half-marathon. She was second in the women’s race and top over 45 finisher in 87:53.

Hercules Wimbledon’s marathon running couple David and Claire Grima showed they are in the best form of their lives in the Reading half-marathon on Sunday. Both are once again competing in London. Claire posted a lifetime best of 77:07 improving on the 78:26 she clocked in Wokingham last year. She was the top woman over 40 finisher. David finished ahead of her in 75:08 in 81st position out of more than 8000 runners to improve on the 77:19 he clocked in the same event in 2015.

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Best of half-a-dozen Hercules Wimbledon runners in action was Jonny Cornish who finished 18th in 68:03. This coming weekend, he will be in action for Hercules Wimbledon in the South of England 12-stage road relay championship at Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Hercules Wimbledon’s Georgie Clarke helped London win team bronze medals when she finished 67th out of 341 runners in the English schools championships intermediate girls race in Leeds last Saturday. She was the fourth London finisher. Millie Doyle was 191st out of 357 runners in the junior girls race, also representing London.

Two other Hercules Wimbledon runners were competing for Surrey. Ellen Weir was 111th out of 341 runners in the intermediate girls race while Lauren Armitage was 232nd out of 353 runners in the junior girls race.

Hercules Wimbledon had a trio of parkrun winners on Saturday. Joe Toomey completed a hat-trick of wins when he headed home a 432-strong field on Wimbledon Common in 17:38 finishing 16 seconds ahead of clubmate David Lewin. Albans Fery was second woman finisher in 22:01. A total of 17 Hercules Wimbledon runners took part.

Gina Galbraith was top woman finisher in Kingston in 18:08, her best time for the course. She was fifth overall out of 301 runners. Justin Reid led in a 350-strong field in Highbury Fields, North London, in 18:16.

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A trio of Hercules Wimbledon athletes are in action in the World Masters indoor championships in Torun, Poland, starting on Saturday. Anna Garner competes in the women’s over 60 1500 and 3000 metres, Alison Murray is one of just six competitors in the women’s over 50 pole vault, while Dominic Bokor-Ingram runs in the men’s over 50 400 and 800 metres.