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BRITISH CONTINGENT SET FOR VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON

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Scott Overall
Scott Overall

19th April 2013

There will be a strong British presence in the elite fields of the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday as the country’s best marathon runners look to secure selection for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.

Lee Merrien (coach: John Nuttall), Derek Hawkins (Lawrie Spence) and Scott Overall (Robbie Chapman) all hold the qualifying standard of 2:14:30 from 2012, but Hawkins and Overall will both line up in an attempt to lower their personal bests and finish as the first Brit home.

Hawkins had a breakthrough performance in his marathon debut running 2:14:04 in Frankfurt last September and will have his sights set on bettering that this weekend. Overall represented Team GB at the Olympic Games last summer, finishing 61st in a time of 2:22:37 after setting a personal best of 2:10:55 in Berlin the previous year, and will be looking to clinch selection for a second consecutive global championship.

Thomas Abyu has the quickest time on paper of all the British entrants with a personal best of 2:10:37 from 2007, while former national half marathon champion Phil Wicks will hope to better his time of 2:15:38 from his only previous marathon appearance in 2011. T42 200m Paralympic gold medallist Richard Whitehead will also be a part of the field as he looks to improve on his personal best of 2:42.54 set in 2010.

Double Olympic champion Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar) will run the first half of this year’s Virgin London Marathon as he prepares to run his first ever full marathon at next year’s event.

“My aim is to run next year and do the full marathon here. This year is just about getting used to the course and the race. It's practice, really,” said the 30 year old.

"I'm learning something. Every race is different. It depends on the course, and this is the biggest race in the world, so what better place to learn? I might be able to run a good half, but who knows how I'll do in the marathon."

"But I won't get any special treatment here. I'll be the same as everyone else. The point for me is to see how it all works, to go through the process of picking up my drinks, to see how I feel."

Susan Partridge (John Montgomery) and Amy Whitehead (George Gandy) will be the leading British hopes in the women’s marathon. Former European 3,000m Indoor champion Helen Clitheroe (John Nuttall) and Freya Ross (Steve Jones) have been forced to withdraw from Sunday’s race.

Whitehead has knocked 20 minutes from her personal best since her first marathon six years ago and will both have their eyes set on the IAAF World Championships qualifying mark of 2:31.00.

“We’ve had some amazing long runs together, and I really gained from that. Susan (Partridge) is in incredible shape at the moment, and we both have the same target of achieving the World Championships qualifying time. That would be a fantastic time for both of us - you have to run your own race and go with how you feel instinctively, but I hope we can work together,” said Whitehead.

“This is the best marathon in the world for the atmosphere, the set up, and the fact that the family can just come down and watch; I’ve run a PB in every marathon I’ve done and my personal target is to do that again. For me, sub-2:31 would be a good run and over 2:31 would be a bad run, so that’s the target.”

The familiar faces of David Weir (Jenny Archer) and Shelly Woods (Jenni Banks) will head the elite wheelchair fields. Weir and Woods have won a remarkable eight Virgin London Marathon titles between them, with Weir collecting a total of six titles so far since his first appearance in 2002.

Weir, who equalled Tanni Grey-Thompson’s six Virgin Marathon titles last year, will bid for a record-breaking seventh this weekend, and is excited at the prospect of competing once again in his home city.

“It (to win a seventh title) would be up there with all my achievements. I love the London Marathon. It's in my home city, and I love it. I love the course because it's tough. A lot of the other races aren't like it. It's why I love getting fit for the marathon every year.

"It was my dream when I was young, that I would win the full marathon. It was the one race that I most wanted to win in my career. Now I've done it six times, and I never get bored of it.

"I just love the event, I love being part of it. I love being associated with the race because it has been so fantastic for me.”

You can watch the action from the Virgin London Marathon on BBC One and online between 0830-1400 BST