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22 April 2016

38,000 runners are expected to take the start at this weekend’s Virgin Money London Marathon, but there is an added incentive for Britain’s elite men and women this year with the top two finishers in each race automatically booking a seat on the plane to the Rio Olympics this summer (providing they have clocked UKA's Olympic qualifying time).

In the men’s race both Scott Overall (coach: Alan Storey) and Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins) have secured the 2:14:00 UKA Olympic standard. “There’s going to be nerves when it’s such a big prize for the first two Brits,” said Hawkins.

“I don’t think anywhere near 2:14:00 will cut it. I think you’ll have to be much quicker than that. Anyone that thinks they can nip under 2:14:00 and be in the top two should be worried.”

“This is what I’ve been thinking about for the last four years,” added Overall. “I want to make Rio and produce a championship performance that’s worthy of my talent.

“I switched to a new coach two years ago and that has been another learning curve. I ran 2:13 in London last year and 2:11 in Berlin again, so it feels like I’m in good shape again.”

In the women’s race, Sonia Samuels and Alyson Dixon, who are both self-coached athletes, start with the advantage of having already run the qualifying time in Berlin last September – clocking times of 2:28:04 and 2:29.30 respectively.

“Everything has been going really well, so I’m just excited to get going now,” said Dixon. “I know I’m in good shape, so I’ve just got to go out there and be sensible on the day.

“If you’re building on each marathon and you’re getting stronger, then improvements are there to be made,” added Samuels.  “It’s gone really well off the back of Berlin. It’s nice to build on the two marathons last year and continue to get stronger.”

Others looking to finish in the top two include 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson (Alan Storey), Tsegai Tewelde (John MacKay), London 2012 Olympian Freya Ross (Steve Jones), Charlotte Purdue (Nic Bideau) and Susan Partridge (Jones) – who missed the 2:31 qualifying time by just 31 seconds in last year’s Chicago Marathon.