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Monday, 16 April 2012

Virgin London Marathon - Top Britons to Look Out For

With days to go to the Virgin London Marathon, one of the most intriguing sub-plots of this year’s Virgin London Marathon will be the battle for British Olympic places as some of the country’s leading runners seek selection for Team GB’s London 2012 marathon squad. After Scott Overall, Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi were named by UK selectors in December, there are just two slots available in the men’s squad and one in the women’s.

Overall’s selection came after his memorable debut in Berlin last September when the former UK 5000m champion, and part-time salesman in a Clapham Sweatshop, finished fifth behind Patrick Makau’s rampaging world record in 2 hours 10 minutes 55 seconds, faster than any Briton for almost four years. Overall was aiming for 2:12:00, the Olympic A qualifying standard, and that remains the target for his compatriots on 22 April when he will run as a pacemaker for the leading British men.

Among the main hopefuls will be Lee Merrien, who ranked second in the UK in 2011thanks his best ever performance at last year’s London Marathon. Merrien was the first Briton across the line in 2011, finishing 14th in 2:14:27, a lifetime best by more than two minutes. Merrien went on to finish 22nd at the IAAF World Championships last summer after acclimatising for the punishing Daegu conditions by running on a treadmill in a greenhouse.

Alongside him will be Benedict Whitby, a City of London police officer who regularly spends lunchtimes and evenings running along stretches of the marathon route. Whitby trained with Overall before the Berlin Marathon last September and the pair hoped to go through half way together in pursuit of the qualifier. But they lost touch early on and Whitby trailed in four and half minutes behind his friend in 2:16:27. It was a disappointing result for the former mountain biker. A national steeplechase champion back in 2001, the south Londoner needs to take three minutes from his PB on 22 April, but he’s been preparing hard at the London Marathon high altitude camp in Kenya with the likes of Mo Farah.

Also in the hunt will be Andi Jones, a veteran of five London Marathons who finished 10th in London in 2007 and in 2010, and Phil Wicks, an international over 10,000m, cross country and half marathon.

Local interest will focus on former Leamington man James Walsh and Rugby's Steve Fahey. Both are making their debuts and are reported to be in good shape.

The women’s fight is set to be even fiercer with only one place available and three Olympic hopefuls who have already achieved the qualifying time of 2:31:00 – Jo Pavey, Claire Hallissey and Louise Damen.

Pavey is not running in London this year after her impressive debut in 2011 when she ran 2:28:24, but Hallissey and Damen both have reason to feel confident.  The US-based Hallissey ranked fourth in the UK last year thanks to her first sub-2:30 marathon in Chicago last October. The 29-year-old finished sixth in the ‘windy city’ in 2:29:27, taking a massive seven minutes from her previous best to beat the Olympic qualifier by more than 90 seconds. Damen, meanwhile, made a triumphant marathon debut in London as she strode home second Briton in 2:30:00, a minute inside the qualifier. A Hampshire-based teacher and self-coached athlete, Damen showed her maturity by correcting an overspeedy start and guiding herself through the rest of the race. 

Alongside them will be the Leeds-based Scot Susan Partridge, an experienced international who was third Briton home last year in 2:34:13, a personal best by more than 90 seconds, and Liz Yelling, the 37-year-old former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist who has two Olympic marathons behind her and boasts the quickest PB of the lot.

Freya Murray shouldn’t be discounted either. The Scot will make her first foray over26.2 miles after setting a half marathon PB in New York this March.
Leading British Men
Bib Name Club PB
22 Lee Merrien Newham & Essex Beagles 2:14:27
23 Benedict Whitby WSE & Hounslow 2:15:09
24 Andi Jones Trafford / Salford Harriers 2:15:20
25 Phil Wicks Belgrave Harriers 2:15:38
28 Ben Moreau Aldershot, Farnham & District 2:16:46
29 Antony Ford Sale Harriers Manchester 2:17:16
30 Martin Williams Tipton Harriers 2:17:36
34 John Beattie Newham & Essex Beagles 2:23:43
35 James Walsh Leeds City Debut
36 Alex Hains Cardiff Debut
Leading British Women
Bib Name Club PB
120 Liz Yelling Bedford & County 2:28:33
121 Claire Hallissey Bristol 2:29:27
122 Louise Damen Winchester 2:30:00
123 Susan Partridge Leeds City 2:34:13
125 Alyson Dixon Chester-le-Street 2:34:50
126 Amy Whitehead Sale Harriers Manchester 2:35:39
127 Helen Decker Ipswich Jaffa 2:35:43
128 Michelle Ross-Cope City of Stoke 2:36:02
130 Freya Murray Chester-le-Street Debut
131 Sonia Samuels Sale Harriers Manchester Debut

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