British athletic diary: a man and his dog, Andrew Davies selected for London 2017, with little assistance from dog, Scrappy, by Paul Halford

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Paul Halford writes a column on British athletics many weeks of the year. Actually, Paul has been doing this for a couple of months, and quite honestly, we love it. His column on Andew Davies should be quite popular, as a part time runner, Mr. Davis improved from 2:52 to 2:15! And it only took eleven years.

We found Andrew Davies Instagram, and with pictures of him, his family, and his lovely dog/training partner, Andew has a wonderful life. We are happy that Andrew will toe the line in London at the World Championships. Thanks to Paul Halford for the story and to Andew Davies for having such a colorful life journey.

Northerns! #mud #tough #northerns #newbalance #nbmcr

A post shared by Andrew Davies (@fordendogs) on

Working full-time and having only his dog, Scrappy, to train with, 37-year-old Andrew Davies received an improbable call-up for Great Britain at the IAAF World Championships in London next month - after 11 years of very gradual improvement in this event.

It was unlikely not just because Britain had already picked their three marathon runners - Robbie Simpson had to pull out injured and so Davies belatedly received his chance. In fact, despite a long career in the sport, it was not until he reached his mid-Thirties that he would have considered himself a contender for major championships.

Despite representing Wales in mountain running at the age of 14, he concentrated on football in his late teens and early Twenties. He played semi-professionally for Caersws in the Welsh Premier League.

He said: "Football was my main sport back then. I still did a bit of running on the side, but I knew to be a good runner you had to run a lot of miles and, at that age, I wasn't committed, couldn't be bothered to do all those miles."

However, while on a round-the-world trip in 2006, he decided to enter a marathon in Christchurch, New Zealand. Off just three weeks' training, he ran 2:52:38. His marathon career had begun but it was to be many years before he could describe himself as anything more than "good club runner". He showed he was still useful as a mountain runner - although he would more often than not find himself behind brother Tim, three years his senior.

By 2012, he had spent a few years teetering around the same level, having taken his marathon PB from 2:37 in 2007 to 2:26. But more focus on the roads saw him steadily improve - 2:25 in 2012 and 2:20 in 2013.

It was then that he thought he could make the team for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. "The main aim a few years ago was just getting to Glasgow," he said. "I thought with that this was my only chance."

With the qualification secured, he went on to place 17th in the Commonwealths in 2:18:59, but when he lined up at the Virgin Money London Marathon in April he was not thinking of making the British team. British Athletics had tightened their standard to 2:16 from the IAAF equivalent and, as well as Callum Hawkins having already been selected, several others such as Chris Thompson, Scott Overall and Tsegai Tewelde were considered to have a better chance.

"In London when I saw the line-up I thought, 'I've got no chance of going to the Worlds' - it wasn't even an option. I was just looking for the time for the Commonwealths (Gold Coast, 2018)."

He took more than a minute and a half from his PB with 2:15:11 but was agonisingly seven and 22 seconds respectively behind the top two Brits as Josh Griffiths and Simpson were selected to accompany Hawkins.

However, at the beginning of July he received the call-up - news that was made public this week - and he was faced with having to cram his marathon preparation into one month.

"I had a couple of weeks off as usual and this summer I was going to concentrate on the shorter stuff - 5k and 10k," he said. That is the usual preparation [at the start of the build-up], doing shorter stuff, so I suppose it's just squeezed a bit. Usually I take a three-month build-up. I do the 5k-10k earlier on, whereas, this time it's halfway through the preparation."

He will be the oldest male member of the British team in London and one of the few to have a full-time job. He concedes full-time training would not be for him anyway.

"I don't think I could do it. I think I'd get a bit bored," he said. "I've been on a couple of altitude training camps and you're just sitting around all day. I'd need a part-time job at least."

So training is fitted in around college hours - sometimes with Scrappy the Terrier and often with a head torch in the winter to negotiate country roads and the canal towpath as he lives in the small mid-Wales town of Newton.

"She's probably doing 25-30 miles per week," he said of his training partner. "I'm used to it. It's quite nice that I can do things when I'm ready. And when the dog's ready!"

Improving in the marathon in your late-Thirties is not unusual of course, although Davies' trajectory is particularly notable.

"Because I played football for all these years and came into running late I didn't wear myself out early on," he said. "I've been running seriously for probably five or six years, so I'd like to think I've still got time to get some of my bests down."

Although he says he will one day return to his mountain roots and also utilise his ability at ultra-distance, he says, in typically understated style, that he is still "dreaming of 2:14", as well as improving over shorter distances.

His long and steady advancement at the marathon could yet go on further.

Andrew Davies' marathon progression

2006 2:52:32

2007 2:37:10

2008 2:37:52

2009 2:26:58

2010 2:33:43

2011 2:40:15

2012 2:25:03

2013 2:20:35

2014 2:18:59

2015 2:16:55

2016 2:17:45

2017 2:15:11

GB team for London 2017 named

British Athletics has gone against recent "quality over quantity" policy by selecting a comprehensive team for the World Championships with more names possibly to be added later this month.

Mo Farah is the main hope for gold as he defends both his titles, but with Greg Rutherford battling injury and Jessica Ennis-Hill having retired, medal chances will otherwise be few.

http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/news-and-features/british-athletics-name-london-2017-team/

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