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Australian Elite Marathon Update: London Calling

jeff-hunt-1170

Here at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon office we are big fans of distance running, not just at our events but at all races worldwide, especially when there are elite Australians competing. We feel as though our Australian distance runners don’t get enough kudos for all the hard work they put in so thought we would put this story together to spread the word.

The next few weeks has us just about jumping out of our skin with excitement as a swag of elite Aussies attempt to book their spot on the marathon team for the London Olympics.

Before we run through the prospects let’s have a quick recap of where things currently sit. Athletics Australia has set the Olympic marathon qualifying times at 2:12:00 for men and 2:32:00 for women with the qualifying period from 1 January 2011 through to 14 May 2012. Athletics Australia may nominate up to three men and three women for selection by the Australian Olympic Committee. So far the following athletes have attained these standards:

Men

Michael Shelley (2:11:23 in Amsterdam, NED 16-Oct-11 and 2:11:38 in London, GBR 17-Apr-11)

Women

Benita Willis (2:28:24 in Houston, USA 15-Jan-12)

Lisa Weightman (2:29:23 in Frankfurt, GER 30-Oct-11)

Jessica Trengove (2:31:02 in Nagoya JPN 11-Mar-12)

Jessica’s result was particularly impressive as it was her debut marathon and her time actually eclipsed the fastest debut time by an Australian women (previously 2:32:22 co-held by Lisa Ondieki and Lisa Weightman). A great run Jess!

So, the question is, can any men also dip under 2:12 or will any women be able to dislodge the three ladies with qualifiers on the board before the 14 May deadline?

Let’s have a look at the men first…..

The quest starts this weekend with Clint Perrett racing the Brighton Marathon (UK) on Sunday 15 April. Clint has a marathon pb of 2:17:28 set in Amsterdam last October (the same race Michael Shelley ran the fastest of his two qualifiers) and a half marathon pb of 1:03:41 set in Italy four weeks ago.  Clint isn’t going to die wondering in his attempt at an Olympic qualifier and we certainly wish him well:

Clint Perrett: “I am planning on going out at 66mins for the half and putting myself in the game for the OG qualifier. Hopefully with a bit of luck, good legs and ideal weather working for me, I can hold it together for a 2.12 finish… but the marathon is a tough and unpredictable beast, so you just never know!!!!”

On the same day, Dan Hornery is competing in the Rotterdam Marathon. Dan had a breakthrough 2:19:40 at Lake Biwa, Japan last year which put him into the top 10 Australian performers in 2011. While he’s not planning to actively chase the Olympic qualifying time he’s been training well and is looking for a solid 2:16-2:18 finish which will be a great progression and definitely worth a mention! Good luck Dan!

The following weekend sees Martin Dent and Scott Westcott line up in the prestigious London Marathon on Sunday 22 April. With plenty of Commonwealth Games and World Championship marathon experience between them, all are striving for their first Olympic team. Martin Dent came agonisingly close to the qualifying time when he recorded 2:12:23 in Fukuoka, Japan last December and Scott Westcott has a 2:11:36 personal best (17thAustralian all-time) so they know what it takes to run the time required. The London Marathon issued a press release in February to say that Scott Overall (the only British male already selected for their Olympic marathon team) will be pacing a group of British hopefuls as they also target a sub 2:12 qualifying time.

Sounds like Martin and Scott will have some company which will be of great assistance.  It is going to be a cracking race (also a trials race of sorts for many of the Kenyan Olympic team contenders) and we wish both guys the very best of luck – hope the London weather is kind!

Sunday 29 April will then see Nathan Hartigan and Jeff Hunt toe the line at the Hamburg Marathon in Germany. Nathan made his marathon debut at the 2010 Gold Coast Airport Marathon running 2:23:27. He lowered this to 2:22:40 in Vienna last April. Nathan is hoping that he can run under 2:15 but if things go well he believes that a sub 2:12 is possible. Jeff Hunt burst onto the marathon scene with his 2:11:00 at the 2010 Beppu-Oita Marathon which was also an Australian debut record (surpassing Steve Moneghetti’s 2:11:18). They should also benefit from the fact that there are several German men racing there to try and qualify for the German Olympic team who also have to achieve a sub 2:12 time so they should have a good pack to work with like the boys in London. All the very best to Nathan and Jeff as well.

As for other men capable of running the Olympic qualifying time we don’t know if Shawn Forrest is considering another attempt having gone close in Chicago (on pace until 30km) last October and Houston (2:14:37) in January. Lee Troop also hasn’t completely shut the door on one last tilt at a spot on his fourth Olympic Games team.

Now onto the women….

Kate Smyth is running the Paris Marathon this Sunday 15 April. Kate certainly has the ability to go sub 2:32 with a personal best time of 2:28:51 from Nagano, Japan back in 2008. This time places Kate sixth on the Australian all-time list. If she can recapture this form on Sunday she is a big chance of securing a seat on the plane to London and we wish her well.

Also racing this Sunday is Lauren Shelley and Karen Barlow. They will be running the Nagano Marathon which has been very kind to Australian women in the past (as evidenced by Kate Smyth’s second place in 2008 and Lisa Weightman’s victory in 2010, both in personal best times). Lauren represented Australia at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and has a personal best time of 2:33:42 from 2005. She has recently been back in good shape and posted 2:35:57 in Osaka in January. Karen is a also a big chance to improve on her 2:44:19 best time as she’s been racking up some good results in the USA the past couple of years. Good luck to both Lauren and Karen.

We’ve also heard some whispers that Nikki Chapple (fifth fastest Australian all-time half marathoner – 1:08:37) has been training hard but we don’t know if a debut marathon is on the cards.

If you are interested in following the progress of any of these runners (not sure which races have good live tracking though) the race websites are below:

15 April

Brighton Marathon (Clint Perrett)

Rotterdam Marathon (Dan Hornery)

Paris Marathon (Kate Smyth)

Nagano Marathon (Lauren Shelley and Karen Barlow)

22 April

London Marathon (Martin Dent and Scott Westcott)

29 April

Hamburg Marathon (Nathan Hartigan and Jeff Hunt)

Huge apologies if we’ve missed anyone! If this is the case please let us know and we’d be happy to add them as well!

Good luck to all our Australian elite athletes over the next few weeks of racing!

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