Thousands join international stars to take on Silverstone half-marathon challenge

Library photograph of last year's event
Library photograph of last year's event

Jade Jones smashed her own course record on Sunday as she won the women’s wheelchair race at the 14th adidas Silverstone Half Marathon.

Jones finished in 58:55, with Mel Nicholls second in 58:56. Both women took more than three minutes off Jones’s course record of 62:09, which she set here in 2013.

In the men’s wheelchair race David Weir took the win in 46:53, while in the mass race Michael Aldridge and Nicki Nealon were the winners in the men’s and women’s events, finishing in 73:07 and 83:00 respectively.

Jones was delighted with her third victory in four years, saying after the race: “I’m very happy with that time. I knew it would be quicker than normal as the weather was a bit better than last year. I felt pretty good going round.

“I’m still coming back from injury so it’s nice to know that the training is going well,” said the 20-year-old. “I’m still in quite a heavy block of training so I didn’t expect my time to be so quick.

“I was on my own for nine or 10 miles then Mel suddenly crept up on me. It’s always good having someone pushing you on.”

Ahead of Jones, David Weir was first across the Finish Line, clinching his fifth consecutive victory to win in a time of 46:53 – a little outside his course record of 45:20, which he set here in 2012.

Weir’s win was never in any doubt: the six-time Paralympic gold medallist led from start to finish in a race that he has dominated in recent years.

“This race is great for clearing out the cobwebs after a winter of training,” Weir said after crossing the line. “I feel great – my speed and endurance are good and I felt stronger out there than I did last year.

“Usually when it’s cold and windy the first six miles hurt but they didn’t today so that shows I’m in good shape.

“The year I broke the course record I was lucky with the weather – it was 16C and there was hardly any wind. I thought it might be like that today but the conditions were deceiving. You didn’t feel the wind at the start but out on the course it was really windy.

Weir will target his seventh win at the London Marathon on Sunday 24 April as he builds up to the Rio Paralympics in September.

“I’m focusing on the next few races rather thank thinking about Rio,” said Weir. “I want to do well at the Lisbon Half Marathon next week then I’ll think about the Boston and London Marathons. I’m taking it one race at a time.

After winning the 2015 Berlin Marathon back in September in a new personal best time of 1:27:36, Weir acknowledged that he’ll need to change his tactics if he’s to take his seventh win in London next month.

“To win in London I’ll need to be more aggressive and race like I did in Berlin. I pushed hard and managed to split up the pack. Maybe that’s the way I need to race in London; believe in my ability and not worry about everyone else, let them worry about me.

“Since getting the PB in Berlin I feel like I have a lot more confidence. It’s driven me to train a bit harder this winter and target that seventh win in London.”

Behind the wheelchair athletes, 6,755 runners crossed the Start Line, set on their way by Becky Doyle, founder of the charity Liam’s Smiles. Doyle set up the charity with her husband Colin – former Birmingham City FC goalkeeper – to raise awareness after their son Liam was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis aged just seven weeks old in July 2010.

After dropping the chequered flag, Doyle joined the masses of runners crossing the Start Line for the 13.1-mile challenge. Like many of the runners who took part in the race, Doyle was completing the run as part of her training for this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 24 April, when she’ll be running and fundraising for Liam’s Smiles.

Making the most of the bright, sunny conditions at the world-famous race track was Michael Aldridge of Wootton Road Runners who was first across the Finish Line in a time of 73:07. The 42-year-old was running in memory of his friend Graham Mutton.

“I haven’t done a half marathon for two or three years, but I came back to the distance to do this race for a good friend of mine who passed away, so this is in memory of Graham Mutton. This is an emotional win today; I was doing it for him, so I’m very happy.”

The first woman to finish was Nicki Nealon of Huncote Harriers in 83:00. “It was surprisingly windy – the last mile was really hard work – but apart from that I absolutely loved it. There was loads of support from the crowds all the way round and it was great to hear all the bands around the course.”

Top Five Men (wheelchair race)

1. David Weir (Weir Archer Academy) 46:53

2. Charles Smith (Weir Archer Academy) 52:19

3. Ben Rowlings (Coventry Godiva Harriers) 56:07

4. Will Smith (City of Norwich AC) 56:50

5. Dillon Labrooy (Weir Archer Academy) 58:04

Top Two Women (wheelchair race)

1. Jade Jones (New Markse Harriers) 58:55

2. Mel Nicholls, 58:56

Top Five Men

1. Michael John Aldridge (Wootton Road Runners) 73:06

2. Dominic Kiralyfi (Hercules & Wimbledon) 73:18

3. Timmy Davies (Leeds City AC) 75:02

4. Ross Christie (Gateshead Harriers) 75:13

5. Stephen Green (Marshall Milton Keynes Athletics) 76:02

Top Five Women

1. Nicki Nealon (Huncote Harriers) 83:00

2. Marie Louise Shirley (Colchester Harriers) 86:19

3. Rhian Martin (Burnham Joggers) 86:46

4. Alexandra Longton (Hillingdon AC) 86:57

5. Sally Baker, 87:04