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UK Athletics

GB prospects in Flora London Marathon

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Mara Yamauchi in London last year.

Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team selectors will, as always, be among the keenest spectators at the Flora London Marathon on Sunday 22 April.


For they meet on the day after the London race to name up to five men and five women to run in the World Marathon Cup, which will be incorporated into the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan, on 25 August to 2 September.


Should a team be selected for the World Cup, the UK Athletics guideline standards are 2 hours 16 minutes for men and 2 hours 35 minutes for women. Individuals have to meet higher guideline standards to be considered for the World Championships marathon: 2:12 for Men, 2:31 for Women.


Five of the UK athletes with high hopes of beating the individual standards met the media at a press conference on Friday 20 April and confirmed their form and confidence despite weather forecasters warning they could be running in a heatwave. The temperature could rise as high as 23° Celsius, six degrees above the point at which the body is comfortable – which led organisers to impress on the masses of fun runners in particular the importance of rehydrating.


As for the only marathon man on UK Athletics’ World Class Podium Programme, Jon Brown (Sheffield AC) said his training at his Canadian home had gone “all right – it’s been getting better.”


Twice the fourth-placer in Olympic marathons, he added that a time of 2:09 or 2:10 in London would be fine, adding: “Then I want to be on an up-slope as far as Osaka.”


Dan Robinson (Stroud AC), Commonwealth Games bronze medallist with a best of 2:13:53, said: “I’m pretty fit; can’t wait now! I hope the weather behaves itself and I can get into a good group – and that at 20 miles I have something left.”


Asked what his target time was, he replied: “You can never tell how you’re going to be on the day. But I have done my part: got myself fit, run a PB for the half marathon, and I think I’m in shape to come back with a PB.”


That said, he will be on a learning curve, as he explained: “Since 2004 I’ve run only Championships and three our of four of them went well. It will be interesting to see how a Championship run compares to a big city marathon.”


Other UK men out to impress the selectors include Mark Miles (Belgrave Harriers), making his debut at the distance; Huw Lobb (Bedford and County AC), who has a PB of 2:14:33; Tomas Abyu (Salford Harriers), whose PB is 2:15:12; and Richie Gardiner (Cardiff AAC), who ran his PB of 2:18:41 in London last year.


As for ‘the Battle of Britons’ in the Women’s race …


Mara Yamauchi (Harrow AC), who is on the UKA World Class Podium Programme, believes she is in shape to reduce her PB of 2:25:13 by a couple of minutes to underline her status as the second-fastest UK woman of all-time behind world record holder Paula Radcliffe.


“My preparation has gone well,” said Yamauchi, who is living and training in Tokyo to prepare for next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing. “If it’s hot on Sunday it will be good practice for the World Championships that I want to run in Osaka. I’m hoping to get into a fast group that goes through halfway in 71:30.”


And the Commonwealth 10,000m silver medallist is not burdened by superstition: “I flew in last Friday, the 13th. That kind of thing doesn’t spook me – I was born on a 13th (August).”


Kathy Butler (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC), who has a best of 2:28:39, was just happy to get out of her frequently snow-bound training base in the USA without problems.


She said: “We had a lot of snow. I had a heavy fall when the weather was at its worst. But the last month and a half has not been too bad. That said, we feared we wouldn’t be able to fly out a week and a half ago. Several airlines cancelled their flights because a bad storm was forecast. But our flight went ahead OK.


“I think I’m in PB shape. It depends on how the race goes and the conditions, of course. And it’s only going to be my third marathon. It’s still all quite new to me.”


Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC), the Commonwealth marathon bronze medallist, will be looking to lower her PB of 2:30:58 – and earn another ‘champion’s dinner’ from husband Martin.


She explained: “Every time I win we go out for what we call a champion’s dinner – and in my preparations for London, I’ve run three half marathon course records and won the English National Cross Country Championship.”


Martin interjected: “I think a PB will earn her another champion’s dinner on Sunday.”


Not that Liz will want to go through any swanky menu: “All I ever want after a marathon is a big plate of chips. I know it’s naughty, but it’s not often!”


And there’s still time to pledge support to John Nuttall, the UKA Performance Coach who is running to raise funds for the rehabilitation of Karen Harewood, the 800m star who shattered a femur at last month’s European Indoor Championships.


UK Athletics insurance will ensure that Harewood’s medical and physiotherapy bills are all paid, whilst her ‘protected’ place on the WCPP will ensure rehab support and a small stipend. Nuttall and her training partners at Loughborough are acutely aware, however, that she will need all the help she can get to overcome injuries that were akin to her being in a car crash.


Anyone wishing to support Nuttall in his London efforts can email pledges to him via the UKA administrator at Loughborough HPC, Sue Clarke, who can be contacted at sclarke@ukathletics.org.uk


The leading UK wheelchair contenders are David Weir and Shelly Woods.


Weir is in "excellent shape" but his PB of 1:27:46 should be compared with that of, for example, the 1:18:27 of Ernst Van Dyk (South Africa) in a high quality field.


Woods, only 20, is in "very good nick" and could go close to her PB of 1:50:00 to give herself a fine chance of victory, even though the field includes world record holder Francesca Porcellato (Italy), bidding for an unprecedented fifth successive London title.