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Flora London Marathon


24 April 2009

One of the most popular annual events of the UK’s sporting year takes place this weekend as the Flora London Marathon takes over the nation’s capital. There is plenty of British interest at the elite end of the field as Paralympic gold medallist David Weir, Olympic 6th placer Mara Yamauchi and former women’s wheelchair winner Shelly Woods carry the biggest hopes of home success.

Surrey-born wheelchair race Weir won four medals in Beijing last summer, including gold in the men’s 800m and 1500m. He is a four-time London Marathon champion, he is also the course record holder (2006 - 1:29.48) and will be gunning for his third successive victory. His main opposition should come from perennial rival Kurt Fearnley (Australia).

In the women’s wheelchair race, Blackpool’s Woods will have the Swiss duo of 2008 champion Sandra Graf and Paralympic champion Edith Hunkeler to overcome if she is to regain the title she won in 2007.

In the elite women’s race, Yamauchi (Harrow AC) will be taking part in her fifth London Marathon and will do so in career-best form. The 35 year old was a superb 6th in Beijing last year, it was a result she followed up with a PB of 2:25:03 to finish third in Tokyo in November and most recently she set another new PB in winning the Marugame International Half Marathon on February in 68:29.

For her final preparations for London she has been training for a month at altitude in Albuquerque, New Mexico so should be in fine shape and could give British supporters plenty to shout about.  “I have definitely got a 2:22 or 2:23 marathon in me. It’s just that everything has to go right on the day. I hope that day will be on Sunday.” said Yamauchi.

She will have a mighty field to contend though, including defending champion Irina Mikitenko (Germany), Olympic champion Constantina Dita (Romania) and twice World Champion Catherine Ndereba (Kenya).

Other British entries include 2004 Olympian Tracey Morris (Valley Striders) who is back for another crack at London and GB & NI cross country international Louise Damen (Winchester), who is making her debut over the distance. 

London will also mark the official trial for British athletes aiming for August’s World Championships in Berlin. The first British athlete home will be selected, providing they possess the UKA A standard of 2:29:00.

In the Elite men’s race, Thomas Abyu (Salford Harriers), Tom Payn (Winchester) and Ben Whitby (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow) are amongst the British contingent. Abyu had a great breakthrough at the distance in Dublin in 2007 when he placed 2nd with 2:10:37, but he still has to replicate that form on the streets of London. Looking towards Berlin, the A standard of 2:12:00 will be the target.

As ever, there is a stellar field assembled for the men’s race, including three-times winner Martin Lel (Kenya), Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru (Kenya) and marathon debutant Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea), twice World Half Marathon champion.