Stubbington 10k helps fill Olympic-sized void for star Thomas

The start of the Gosport Half Marathon race as James Baker, wearing 85, hits the front early on. Picture: Neil Marshall

Baker’s perfect timing with Gosport triumph

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CLIMBING out of bed first thing on an icy Sunday morning in January can be a challenge for anyone.

But to pull on the trainers to tackle a road race in the snow takes a special kind of motivation.

Iwan Thomas, left, with his running buddy David Hawkins after finishing the Stubbington 10k

Iwan Thomas, left, with his running buddy David Hawkins after finishing the Stubbington 10k

Even for a former Olympic athlete.

Iwan Thomas was among the Stubbington 10k runners who braved the freezing conditions, looking to shake off some of the post-Christmas cobwebs.

You may think that after standing on the medal rostrum at the greatest sporting show on earth, local races might prove a bit of an anticlimax.

Not so for Thomas, who won an Olympic silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, in the 4x400m relay.

Far from it, in fact.

These kind of events are crucial in helping fill the void created when he retired from top class sport.

‘I miss the competition,’ Thomas told The News.

‘I loved being an athlete but obviously I am retired now, so I do these events to keep fit.

‘When I’m at home I do my local park run on a Saturday and get one training run in during the week.

‘I really enjoyed the Stubbington race.

‘I’ve been training a little bit but am not in amazing shape.

‘It was good to get out there, even though it was freezing.

‘This was my first race of 2013 so it felt good.’

Whenever he turns out at local events, Thomas, often seen on television these days as a presenter on sporting shows, is quickly marked out as a scalp to take.

But after finishing the Stubbington Green Runners’ event in a time of 43mins 37secs, the 39-year-old, who will be running his fifth London Marathon in 2013, pointed out that longer runs don’t come naturally to him.

He said: ‘I have got the London Marathon this year so I have to keep myself ticking over.

‘It will be my fifth time but I don’t like the training. I find it quite boring out on the road. That’s the one negative thing.

‘People love to beat me but I am not a long-distance runner.

‘As a former sprinter, distance running is quite a challenge for me so, in many ways, I am coming from a worse position than other runners really.’

As with all such local events, it is the organisers and the band of volunteers who are the real heroes.

They turned out in force in the snow to help the runners and get the race on, when many events across the country fell victim to the weather.

Thomas added: ‘We have to give a big thanks to the marshals.

‘They were fantastic. They give up their time and can be standing out in the cold for quite a long time.

‘The course was excellent and the race was really well organised.

‘Nobody told me there was any hills! But I’d definitely do it again.’