On the run: Helen Davies ready to defend her Brighton Marathon title
PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 February 2018
Athletics writer Carl Marston talks to Helen Davies (nee Decker), Ipswich JAFFA’s former international marathon star who is running strongly again
Eight years ago, Helen Davies represented her country not once, but twice, over the marathon distance at major athletics championships.
Now she is back on the marathon trail, after starting a young family and returning to the 26.2-mile distance for the first time in five years, at Brighton last spring.
Davies (nee Decker) ran for Great Britain at the European Championships in Barcelona, in July of 2010, and just three months later was donning another international vest when proudly running for England at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.
She finished 19th in Barcelona in 2hrs 43mins 00secs, and completed the quickfire marathon double with a 2:49:24 clocking in Delhi, where she finished eighth.
But that wasn’t the height of her powers, because two years later Ipswich-based Davies set a cracking personal best of 2:34:11 at the 2012 London Marathon, only narrowly missing out on selection for the London Olympics of that year.
For good measure, she also recorded a half-marathon PB of 1:12:35 at the Bath Half-Marathon in the build-up to that London bonanza of 2012.
Since then, she has taken a back seat to start a young family with husband Gavin Davies, a fellow Ipswich JAFFA runner.
She has two sons, Kingsley (aged five) and Hector (aged three), who occupy most of her time, but the competitive running bug is still there.
That was reflected in her comeback marathon last year, when she won the Brighton Marathon in 2:42:37 (finishing 15th overall), and her recent victory at the Great Bentley Half-Marathon in Essex (1:15:51).
“I’m running better than I was at this time last year,” explained Davies.
“The fitness has always been there, but I was missing the strength and the conditioning.
“Before Brighton last year, I had done the mileage but not focused on the strength and conditioning, so I changed that last summer and identified my weaknesses.
“I have a personal trainer for an hour each week now, and I’m feeling a lot stronger.”
Davies’ personal trainer is Luke Read, the founder of Airborne Fit. She does a circuits/HIIT (high intensity interval training) class once a week at his gym in Brightwell, and she also coaches a running group for his clients once a week, Airborne Fit runners.
“Last year I tested the water again, in terms of marathon training, after a five-year break,” continued Davies.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system. I had kept running 10Ks and half-marathons, but it took time to adapt to marathon training again.
“I loved Brighton last year. It was a great day, and a great feeling to win the race after my five-year break.
“I did toy with the idea of doing the London Marathon this year, but I had such a good time at Brighton that I thought would go back again.
“I ran 2:42 at Brighton last year and so ideally I would love to get back under 2:40 this year.”
Now aged 38, Davies still potentially has a few good years of competitive running ahead of her, and her recent showing at the Great Bentley Half-Marathon (on February 4), where she finished 11th overall and first lady, proved that she is in good form.
Davies explained: “They were tough conditions at Great Bentley. I was not really looking forward to it, because I’m not a fan of the cold and there was a strong, biting wind, that can be hard on the muscles.
“Now I’m targeting the ‘Vitality Big Half’ in London (on March 4), which is an exciting new event. The organisers have pulled out all the stops for that one, by getting all the top Britons in the field, including Mo Farah.
“This will be a rare opportunity for me to race against other women – a rare treat. There should be a half-dozen or so women running with me at the same level, which should get a little extra out of me, whereas usually I’m quite isolated in the more local races.
“The (half-marathon) event starts at Tower Bridge and finishes in Greenwich, basically following some of the London Marathon course in reverse.
“I’ll be looking to get close to 75 minutes on the day,” said Davies, who is coached by JAFFA stalwart Clive Sparkes.
She added: “I did continue running during the period of my marathon break, and was doing 10Ks just six months after Hector was born.
“But I was never sure whether I would ever run a marathon again. But I’m feeling strong again now.”