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Partridge aiming for happy memories from double date in the capital

If the next 10 weeks go according to plan for Lily Partridge, the 26-year-old will have propelled herself to the very forefront of female British distance running.

The Aldershot Farnham and District AC athlete is poised for a breakthrough few months on the roads as she lines up in first The Vitality Big Half on Sunday 4 March followed by her debut at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 22 April.

Partridge has already run the fastest half marathon time by a Brit this year when she won the Seville Half Marathon in January in 71 minutes and six seconds and will go into The Vitality Big Half – London’s brand new half marathon – as the favourite in a race that doubles as the British Championships and has a stacked home-grown field.

The Great Britain international will then return to the streets of the capital six weeks later for the small matter of her first ever Virgin Money London Marathon.  

Partridge is well known in athletics circles – she has represented her country on the track, road and country – but a brace of fine performances in the heart of London could see her burst out of her sport’s bubble and into the minds of the wider British public.

First stop is The Vitality Big Half when she will line up against a string of top-quality Brits all also preparing for spring marathons.

Partridge’s friend and club-mate Charlotte Purdue is also running the Virgin Money London Marathon while Sonia Samuels and Alyson Dixon are both running for England in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia.

“It’s going to be good,” said Partridge. “I think everyone will be at a similar stage in their marathon preparations and we all know each other well.

“It is nice to be going into the race as the favourite. It shows I’m in shape and my performance in Seville gave me confidence. The other girls are all fit and in good shape but Seville was a confidence booster.”

Partridge is the fastest woman in the field with her personal best (PB) of 70:31 coming in Reading nearly three years ago and though she is not targeting re-writing her own fastest time at The Big Half, she feels she is in shape to run faster than the 71:06 she ran in Seville earlier this year.

“I ran quite safe in Seville,” she said. “I held back a bit and then ran a quick last three miles and that was down to a lack of confidence. But I’m feeling confident now, I know I can go from a longer way out and finish strongly.”

The Vitality Big Half is the perfect warm-up for the Virgin Money London Marathon. The course will take place on much of the same roads as the first half of the marathon, starting by Tower Bridge, heading out towards Canary Wharf, looping back towards the City and crossing Tower Bridge before heading through Southwark and Lewisham before an iconic finish at Cutty Sark.

“I didn’t necessarily select The Big Half because it covers a lot of the London Marathon course,” said Partridge. “But it will give me the opportunity to suss a few things out and get a feel of what it will be like on London Marathon Race Day. The crowds for the London Marathon are always unbelievable and hopefully there will be a good turn-out for The Big Half, too.”

Once The Big Half is in the bag, Partridge will go back into training, steadily building up the miles in preparation for her London Marathon debut.

Though it will be her debut in London, Partridge dipped her toes into marathon running last year. She made her 26.2 mile debut in Seville where she finished fourth in 2:32:10 and then started her first Abbott World Marathon Major in Berlin last September where she was forced to drop out as disrupted preparations in the build-up came back to haunt her.

“I’ve learnt a lot from those two experiences,” Partridge said. “Seville gave me the confidence that I can run the marathon distance while in Berlin I was injured in the build-up and was always fighting for fitness as the race approached. I tried to force things and I learnt from that you can’t take any short cuts in marathon training.

My goal after Berlin was to come into London as fit as I could be and so far, touch wood, I am on track.”

The London Marathon has always been a dream for Partridge. She can remember being inspired as a child watching on television as Paula Radcliffe broke the world record in London in 2003 and she has always imagined running in front of the thousands of spectators who pour into the capital for the event and make the atmosphere so unique.

“London has always been the one for me,” she said. “It’s always been the race I’ve wanted to run and I’m excited to be getting the chance.

“I decided to make my marathon debut in Seville as it was a mixed race and I thought there would be more runners around me but always with a view to running London in 2018 and with it being a trial race for the European Championships this summer it has worked perfectly.”

As for her ambitions for the race, Partridge believes she can go a lot faster than the 2:32:10 she ran on debut.

“I don’t think I ran as fast as I could have done in Seville,” she said. “My training suggested I could have gone quicker but with it being my first marathon, I didn’t realise how hard it would be. But I’m fitter now than I was going into that race and I’ve still got 10 weeks to go until the race. I’d like to think I could run a big PB and I would like to see if I could get into the top 10 overall.”

With every marathon under her belt, Partridge is feeling more comfortable over the distance but she has made sure she has tapped into plenty of people for advice including two-time Olympic marathon runner Liz Yelling and someone she’ll be up against at both The Vitality Big Half and the Virgin Money London Marathon.

“Before my first marathon, I phoned Liz Yelling and asked her for advice on fuelling and I’ve spoken to a few of the other marathon girls including Charlie (Charlotte Purdue),” she said. “Charlie is 12 months ahead of me in marathon running and we grew up together at Aldershot so we talk on a regular basis. So I’m learning as I go and picking up tips here and there. It’s a learning process.”