Yorkshire duo looking for good times to boost Olympic chances

While Kenyan and Ethiopian runners will dominate tomorrow’s Virgin London Marathon, Leeds City athletes James Walsh and Susan Partridge are expected to be involved in the battle for domestic supremacy.

The prize could be Olympic selection, but only if the times are inside the qualifying marks.

For men that is two hours 12 minutes. Scott Overall (Blackheath) is the only British athlete to get inside that time with 2:10.55 and he has already been selected leaving two places for the rest.

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Leeds City’s Dave Webb, whose best is 2:15.42, has also qualified for selection on the basis of a top 20 placing in last year’s World Championship. He would get a place automatically if no one did under 2:12 in tomorrow’s race.

For Walsh it is his debut for the marathon distance. Consistently good on the road, country and track, he is improving all the time under the guidance of former Leeds international Mike Baxter and has decided that this is an opportune time to make his marathon debut. Many athletes in the past have excelled in their first marathon and it would be no surprise to see Walsh seriously challenging to be the top UK finisher.

The women’s qualifying mark is two hours 31 minutes and Partridge has a best of 2:34.13.

However, there is little doubt that the Leeds athlete can go inside 2:31 on the basis of some top quality races over shorter distances, including her time of 1:11.34 for a half-marathon at Bath recently.

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Only one place is available for the women with Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi already selected. Even finishing first British runner will not guarantee selection as Jo Pavey, not running tomorrow, has run 2:28.24.

Liz Yelling, Claire Hallissey, Louise Damen and Alyson Dixon are other top British athletes likely to challenge Partridge, whose experience of World, European and Commonwealth Games could be a major factor.

Five-time champion David Weir, meanwhile, is relishing the toughest race of his life in London as he looks to lay down a marker for this year’s Paralympic Games.

“It’s the toughest field ever to line up in London and it’s going to be the toughest race of my life, but that’s what you train for,” said Weir.

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