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Anya Culling: Briton’s rapid rise from four-hour finish time to London Marathon elites

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It is an approach which Culling has harnessed as she prepares for her third London Marathon, and her first among the elites alongside runners such as Ethiopia’s world record holder Tigst Assefa.

Norfolk runner Culling admits she has felt more pressure as her performances have improved – and self-doubt has led to tears during previous preparations. But she has learned to “take a step back” and be proud of her achievements to date.

“I have taken a lot of the pressure off myself compared to previous races. I know I just need to keep going and not overthink everything. Hopefully that will pay off,” Culling says.

“I just never considered I would be able to do this; it was never in my mind. The times and personal bests were always secondary.

“I am blown away whenever I think about what I’ve done. I still think it’s beginner’s luck, but then lockdown was a long time ago.

“I just think about myself in 2019, the difference between me then and now. My brother would join me on runs and he’d have to wait at every single corner for me to catch up. I used to walk in cross country at school.”

Now she is preparing to return to the race that has marked significant milestones in her career, having taken almost two hours off her 2019 time – when she was the 7,546th woman – in her most recent London Marathon to be the third British woman across the line in 2022.

Racing in the city which has been her home since 2018, Culling intends to keep that bigger picture sharply within view as she takes the next steps of her whirlwind journey on Sunday.

“It blows my mind when I get messages from people telling me I’m an inspiration to them, I don’t really believe it,” Culling says.

“But I think that motivation will get me through London because I’ll be running with the elites and I am still bridging that gap between amateur and elite.

“Before 2019, I thought the London Marathon was this race to come first but, really, the reason for most people running is bigger than that. They are doing it for someone, for a cause, in someone’s memory.

“It was the first marathon I ever did, and the two times I’ve done it have been pivotal in my running career. I think it will be an emotional one but I will try my best to stay rational.”

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