Suffolk athlete Wattleworth wins debut marathon at San Diego

Suffolk athlete Bradley Wattleworth, in action on the track in America. He won the recent San Diego

Suffolk athlete Bradley Wattleworth, in action on the track in America. He won the recent San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon - Credit: Archant

Suffolk athlete Bradley Wattleworth celebrated his debut at the marathon distance with a remarkable victory, at the San Diego Marathon, and in a mouth-watering time of 2hrs 25mins 50secs.

Flashback: a 17-year-old Bradley Wattleworth, pictured in 2013 receiving his medal from Ipswich Mayo

Flashback: a 17-year-old Bradley Wattleworth, pictured in 2013 receiving his medal from Ipswich Mayor Hamil Clarke, at the Ipswich Half-Marathon. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Wattleworth has been based in America over the last couple of years, complementing his University studies with some competitive running, mainly over distances from 3K up to 10K.

In fact, the 23-year-old former member of Ipswich Harriers had rarely gone beyond 15 miles, in any training session, and had only once run a half-marathon.

Moreover, that half-marathon experience was a distant six years ago, when he was still at school - he was a 17-year-old pupil at Farlingaye High School when he ran the Ipswich Half-Marathon.

For the record, Wattleworth finished that 13.1-mile challenge in 1hr 18mins 13secs, claiming fifth spot and first under-20. He was more than six minutes behind the winner that day, back in 2013.

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Speed on six years and Wattleworth took the decision to run his first marathon, despite a lack of heavy marathon mileage, on the California coast in the San Diego 'Rock 'n' Roll' Marathon.

He was hoping to beat 2hrs 30mins, but in the end he exceeded even his own expectations to celebrate an outright win by more than three minutes.

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"San Diego was my first marathon. I was based in the Chicago area, so it was about a three-hour flight, but the race fitted in well with my schedule, and my track racing at university," said Wattleworth.

"It's rare for a marathon to take place at this time of the year, in June or July. Usually they are in the spring or autumn, but this one was on my trajectory.

"I didn't really know what to expect, having raced in 5K and 10K events in the weeks leading up to the marathon. I used them as a gauge of what I might be capable of. I had a rough idea of trying to get under 2hrs 30mins, but 10K is less than a quarter of the distance of a marathon, so it was all new to me.

"My longest runs in training had been 15 or 16 miles, so I hadn't really done the proper marathon training. The only time I went over 16 miles was when I got lost on a run!" added Wattleworth, who has spent the last two years studying at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

Describing the marathon, Wattleworth continued: "The half-marathon runners started at the same time as the marathon runners, and they ran together for the first eight miles, at which point there was a big group of about 20 or 30 of us.

"When the half-marathon runners turned off, there was suddenly only three of us left in the group, with someone else a bit further ahead. The others were far more experienced than me, so I decided to respect them and also respect the marathon distance by holding back, and letting them show me the ropes.

"At half-way there was four of us in the lead group, and I noticed that the others were breathing heavily. They were running at 5:40-mile pace, but my natural lock-in pace is 5:30, so I started to do that from mile 15 onwards.

"It was a natural breakaway, and I gained about 100 yards every mile to open up a big gap.

"In fact, I didn't see anyone for the last five miles! Most of the giant freeways in San Diego are four or five lanes, but they had all been closed off for the marathon race, so it was a weird, surreal experience.

"Mile 23 was the hardest of the lot, because it was a straight uphill section away from the coast, with all the roads cleared and just the lead cyclist for company. I sometimes chatted with him, for some light relief," added Wattleworth.

Although this was a superb marathon debut, especially given the lack of previous experience of long distance running (beyond 10 kilometres), there is no guarantee that Wattleworth will run another marathon.

There is certainly no prospect of him running a follow-up marathon, in the near future, as instead he intends to concentrate on his new career in America.

"I am back home for a few weeks, but I am then going back out to America to start work," explained Wattleworth, who was based in Grundisburgh until his late teens. His family have since moved to Felixstowe.

He continued: "I've spent the last two years at the Notre Dame University, to the east of Chicago, doing two different one-year Masters. I have since graduated from both, and will be returning to Chicago in August to work in a consultancy business.

"I have been told to expect some long hours in the office, so I don't think I will be able to run as much as before. Running might have to take a back seat, for a while."

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