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LONDON MARATHON LOOK-IN

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2012 London Marathon

22 April 2012

Team GB selection for the marathon was the name of the game at this weekend’s Virgin London Marathon.

A host of British athletes were vying for the remaining marathon places at the London 2012 Olympics. They will be hoping to join compatriots Paula Radcliffe (coach: Gary Lough), Mara Yamauchi (Shige Yamauchi) and Scott Overall (Robert Chapman), when the British Olympic Association announce the second and final marathon selection on Monday.

British Women

Claire Hallissey (self-coached) has done as much as possible to earn Team GB selection for this summer’s London Olympics with an outstanding lifetime best of 2:27:44 to finish 11th in today’s Virgin London Marathon and put herself in a strong position to take the one remaining Games-place available.

With Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi already selected and Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey) – who clocked ‘A’ qualification standards in both London and New York in 2011 - opting out of today’s race, the US-based 29-year-old had the company of fellow Brits Freya Murray (Steve Jones) and Louise Damen (self-coached) for the first 17 miles today as the trio locked together in their shared sub-2:28 mission.

With just under 15km remaining however, she took her chance to break, convinced that if the opportunity arose, she should take it.

“I was trying to build a little bit of a gap, not because I was feeling amazing but because when I was feeling good I felt I should try to push it on,” she admitted.

“I was just aware that Freya and Louise had a bit more natural speed than me and I wanted a bit of a gap going into the finish. I had more faith in breaking them at that point than over a speedy final few miles and after I got away I didn’t look back; I didn’t want to look behind and see them close to me or I thought I might crumble.”

Hallissey has shown great promise over the longer distances in recent years and today’s performance was not entirely unexpected.

She was top Brit in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham in 2009 and a year later lowered her personal best over the distance to a credible 72:02 in Bristol, just prior to her 2:36:13 debut over the full 26.2 miles in New York City.

In October 2011 she recorded 2:29:27 in Chicago which was good enough to rank her fourth in the UK for the year, but crucially at that point, almost a full minute slower than Pavey.

“I took the same approach for this as I did before Chicago Marathon,” said Hallissey. “I went to Boulder to train at altitude and I didn’t do a lot of really speedy stuff, but I did replicate a lot of my pre-Chicago sessions and I was running quicker so I took confidence from that.

“New York half was slower than I wanted (72:58), but I took confidence from my ten miler in Washington (the Cherry Blossom Ten where she clocked 54:37) because it was exactly the time I wanted to run.

“I’m not trying to think too much about the Olympics now as I don’t think I could cope with the disappointment if I didn’t get picked, but I know I’ve done everything I can do.”

Arguably, Freya Murray also did everything that was asked of her as she clocked 2:28:10 on her debut to finish inside Pavey’s benchmark time and in 13th place. It was a brilliant performance, but just not quite as brilliant has Hallissey on an otherwise successful day for the British duo.

“The first couple of miles just flew in,” said Murray, who is coached by British marathon record holder Steve Jones. “We were more or less together right through to 17 miles, but even at that point she (Hallissey) wasn’t that far ahead, there was just a small gap we didn’t close, it had just gradually opened up.”

Murray herself was determined to push on and with 10k to go admitted that something just clicked: “Something just went off in my head...maybe it’s because it’s a distance I’m familiar with, but it didn’t seem too bad,” she said.

“I just picked it up and I really thought I could catch Claire. I could see her just ahead and it didn’t seem that far, I even thought I was closing. Also over the last few miles there was just so much noise it was unbelievable; in fact the whole way the number of people supporting me and shouting my name was amazing.

“I do feel a little disappointed now though. I’m pleased but frustrated, I mean I’m really pleased for Claire but we were all going for one Olympic spot and there was always going to be someone disappointed.

“I learned a lot today.”

Louise Damen was third Brit home in 16th (2:31:37).

British Men

The British men were understandably despondent, although the top two - Lee Merrien (John Nuttall) and John Beattie (John Nuttall) - both recorded personal best times.

Merrien finished 17th in 2:13:41, an improvement on his Virgin London Marathon performance 12 months ago but outside the UKA Olympic Games ‘A’ qualification standard of 2:12:00, while Beattie was just happy to do himself justice with a 2:16:38 performance after a disaster, by his own admission, on his New York debut.

“The guys at the front went off a fraction too quick but it was still ok,” said Merrien. “At five or six miles we slowed a bit and I was sharing the lead with Ben (Whitby) but from seven or eight miles I was more or less running on my own.”

“I knew I wasn’t too far out on time (the qualifying time) on the Embankment, but I was slightly out, I was maybe still on for 2:12 flat until around 25km but then I started to fall off it.

“I did so much on my own...I’m not saying it would have made a difference, but the wind was a factor and so was the isolation. I did pick people off but I couldn’t do enough to make up the time.

“If it has been a non-Olympic year I’d have been happy with a PB but it is and a PB wasn’t my only target.”

Beattie, the second Brit home in 19th, ran a sensible race and is reassured there’s now more to come: “It’s a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to progressing in the marathon now, but I’m also looking forward to doing some damage over 5000m and 10,000m on the track this summer,” he said.

Phil Anthony was the third Brit to finish in 20th (2:16:40).

The final Olympic marathon selection places will be announced on Monday 23 April. Stayed tuned to www.uka.org.uk

Athletes already confirmed to compete for Team GB in the marathon are Paula Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi and Scott Overall.

2012 London Marathon
Wheelchair races

It was double delight for Britain in both the men’s and women’s wheelchair races at today’s London Marathon.

David Weir (Jenny Archer) and Shelly Woods (Peter Eriksson) won their races and both are now in very strong positions to be selected for the ParalympicsGB for the Paralympics based on their race times and world rankings.

Men

David Weir has now equalled Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record of six titles. Against a world-class field, Weir pipped Marcel Hug to the post in an exciting sprint finish to record a time of 1:32.26.

“It was very windy out there,” said Weir. “I know it wasn’t a really fast time today, but I think everyone realised it was going to be a race between us and the clock.

“This is really special and better than the first one. I haven’t decided what I’m doing after the Games so this could be my final time and I was really emotional because of that.”

Reflecting on his sixth London Marathon title, Weir  paid tribute to Grey-Thompson:

“She inspired me in this sport. I saw her compete in Sydney as a youngster and I went on to medal in 2008. It is a privilege to be up there with her now.”

Women

Shelly Woods celebrated her second London Wheelchair Marathon victory today.
 
“On the start line, I was worried”, explained Woods. “With only Edith Hunkeler missing, any one of those girls could challenge along the course”. 

Now 25, Woods has matured over road and track since her first win. But her last marathon competition was in New York 2011 where she came second. Alongside Weir, she was in London straight from training at the Aviva warm weather camp in Portugal - in one of the most important years of her career.

Woods was quick to play down the pressure to bring home gold in London.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a favourite for gold in the Paralympics”, she said. “These girls are so close and you have to keep doing well and being at the top of your game”.

Her time today of 1:49.10 was made even sweeter by the early break she made in the world class field. She finished almost four minutes ahead of second and third placed Japanese Tsuchida (1.53.04) and Canadian Roy (1.53.05) respectively.

“I tried not to look back, stay strong and keep a good rhythm. I didn’t know until 25 miles how far ahead I was and that I could win it”, said Woods.