• Top Tens

Ten sports stars made for the London Marathon

Ben Blackmore April 20, 2012
Drama tends to follow Paula Radcliffe in marathon competition © Getty Images

The 32nd London Marathon is upon us this weekend, providing opportunity for people across the country to jump into giant bumble bee costumes or poorly-fitted wedding dresses and battle through the most painful 26 miles of their lives.

The very mention of the word 'marathon' usually generates images of a troubled Paula Radcliffe... either searching for the nearest portaloo or an early exit (to be fair, she has set world records too), but we wonder if other big-name sports stars might well have blossomed had they chosen a different profession in life.

Below are ten individuals who might have excelled had their parents handed them a pair of running shoes as a child...

Rafael Nadal
Quite simply, a phenomenal athlete. The former No. 1 in the world of men's tennis never stops running, never gives up - as exhibited in this year's near-six-hour Australian Open final defeat - and has the steely mindset that is necessary when you get through 13 miles and realise you've another 13 to go. Nadal's knees don't appear to like the twisting and turning nature of tennis, which always seems to threaten a premature end to his illustrious career currently yielding 10 grand slam titles. Perhaps the less explosive pattern of marathon running could prolong the Spaniard's time in the spotlight. If his tennis is anything to go by he'd likely fall behind the leader early before doggedly fighting back, guaranteeing a thriller - unless the race ever moves to a clay surface, where he would dominate.

Dirk Kuyt
Often referred to as the Duracell bunny of English football, Dirk Kuyt has made a career out of his endless-motion style. The fittest player at Liverpool, Kuyt averages 13 kilometres per game, with only two of those kilometres covered by a sprint. The Dutchman has pioneered the role of 'holding winger' at times in his Anfield career - such is his disciplined approach - and if he took to the marathon he would be a guaranteed contender, although rarely - if ever - a winner.

Rahul Dravid
It may seem strange to put forward an Indian batsman nicknamed "The Wall" for a London Marathon, but Dravid's mental determination and staying power make him a suitable choice. At Adelaide in 2003, when India won a Test in Australia for the first time in a generation, he batted 14 hours over two innings. A few months later, he was at the crease more than 12 hours for the 270 that clinched India's first series win in Pakistan. The current London Marathon record stands at a mere two hours and four minutes (40 seconds) and, as proven by 461 runs on the 2011 tour of England, British conditions suit the now-retired Indian batsman.

Dirk Kuyt works so tirelessly that he could probably carry somebody through the London Marathon © Getty Images

Usain Bolt
We would like to see Usain have a crack at this, using a schoolyard-style sprint-stop tactic. The London Marathon is 42.195 kilometres long which, broken down into 100m sprints, would mean he would need to complete 422 bursts. If all 422 sprints were done at Bolt's world record time of 9.58 seconds the marathon would take him just over an hour and seven minutes. Now, we're not crazy here at ESPN, we know it would be somewhat unlikely for Bolt to produce a world record time with every dash, but he would have in the region of 57 minutes to play with in order to sneak inside the current record of 2.04.40. #justdoit

Lee Westwood
When the day comes for the loved ones of Lee Westwood to hold a memorial service in memory of his life, it's quite possible that the commemorative plaque might read: "Great golfer, if only he could putt". Fortunately for Lee, the marathon boasts few greens and even fewer hard-to-read gradients, so he might stand a chance on the big stage. Certainly his approach work would be spotless, it would just be a case of finishing things off.

Mark Cavendish
If you need a strong finisher, look no further than our great Olympic gold medal hope Mark Cavendish. The beauty of this idea is that the pressure would only fall on Cav for the final 100 yards or so. Working in tandem with Bradley Wiggins, Cavendish could be 'carried' through the best part of 26 miles, before unleashing his burst of speed at the death to fly past Westwood.

Neptune Collonges
Another reliable performer and an undoubted wise head, Neptune Collonges proved not only that he can last the distance by winning the recent Grand National, but also that he will be tough to beat in a sprint finish. Capable of steering clear of danger when competitors start dropping, Neptune Collonges has also been retired from racing so would have plenty of time to prepare for the perfect race.

Carl Froch
The former WBC super-middleweight champion simply isn't interested in a quick night's work. If you give Carl Froch 12 rounds to get a job done, he'll take all 12. If you give him 42.195 kilometres, he'll make sure not one corner is cut. Froch's last seven fights have gone to the 12th round, all of them in a grinding, punishing, energy-absorbing way. If he gets among the leaders, he'll drag them into deep waters and see who sinks.

Could Usain Bolt break the two-hour barrier? © Getty Images

John Isner
How could you have a marathon without John Isner? Winner of the longest match in tennis history, he might even have the legs to outlast Nadal. A total of 11 hours and five minutes were needed for Isner to see off Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, in a contest lasting 183 games. Isner is also the current American No. 1, which is not particularly significant although it might help with sponsorship heading into the race.

Floyd Mayweather Jnr
Of all the names on this list, none would trouble the field more than Floyd Mayweather Jnr. For a start, anybody wishing to run the same race as Floyd would need to be randomly drug-tested first. Once that hurdle is crossed, you would have to agree to an 80-20 cut in his favour with the money you've raised, and even when those boxes are ticked he will reserve the right to avoid running in the same race as anybody who might stand a chance of beating him.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ben Blackmore Close
Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk