After last weekend’s championship cross country, it’s road race action and Monday’s Dublin Marathon which grabs the athletics headlines.
And Greg Roberts fronts the local challenge as he chases a new Personal Best on a course where last year he ran 2hrs 21mins for a big breakthrough over the classic distance.
The Spartan will be joined by clubmates Declan Reed, Christy McMonagle, Marina Campbell, Hannah Shields, Paula McGilloway and Ciara Fraser as Dublin once again hosts the National Championships.
Roberts has been in heavy training for Monday’s challenge and has his sights firmly fixed on seriously improving his PB.
Sub 2hrs 20mins is certainly achievable - conditions permitting - but the Spartan has bigger ambitions with the Olympic “A” qualifying standard of 2hrs 15mins the ultimate objective.
Ireland can send three male marathoners to London next year and with Dubliner, Mark Keneally already posting a sub 2hrs 14mins, the battle for selection has grown even more intense.
Most of the serious Irish contenders will be in Dublin and Alistair Cragg will race in Japan in December with every expectation of making the qualifying standard.
The issue then is relatively simple for Monday’s top men - run sub 2hrs 15mins is the minimum requirement but that guarantees nothing.
Only the three fastest men under the qualifying time will get the nod for London 2012 therefore really big runs in Dublin will be vital.
Roberts took the championship bronze medal at last year’s Dublin and would dearly love to get on the podium again this time but will clearly have to deliver the run of his life to do so.
He is genuinely capable of going under the 2hrs 20mins barrier, he has prepared well and conditions permitting will push hard to run an impressive new PB.
Declan Reed is also chasing a fast time and with a PB of 2hrs 35mins set here last year the Ulster Masters cross country champion has the current form to smash that on Monday. He has been training with Roberts in recent months and all reports indicate he is up for a good one.
Top M65 athlete Christy McMonagle is another who has prepared assiduously for Monday’s test and will be favoured to retain his age group title, won convincingly last year. He is the reigning National 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon champion and will be difficult to dislodge on Monday.
Marina Campbell leads the local female challenge and is in splendid form with a low three hour clocking her target in her marathon debut.
She ran very well in the horrific conditions at the recent Waterside Half Marathon and is hoping for a sub 3hrs 10mins finish time.
Everest heroine and ultra runner Hannah Shields, the experienced Paula McGilloway and marathon debutante, Ciara Fraser join her in the female Spartans squad.
Cross Country Action
November will be another busy month for competitive action with the Seeley 10K on Saturday 19th splitting a series of cross country races.
The classy Seeley 10K hosts the NI road championship for the distance and no doubt will attract the attention of both local clubs although the bulk of the month’s action is on the country.
The Bobby Rea races in Belfast on Saturday, November 5th kicks-off the month and incorporates the Provincial Juvenile (Uneven ages) championships which will attract a massive entry with local interest guaranteed. The meeting also kick-starts the new NI cross country League with seniors and masters also catered for.
Saturday 12th brings the annual McConnell Shield races in Ballyclare, the Seely 10K follows a week later and on 26th it’s the Masters International cross country in Glasgow.
On Sunday 27th it’s Sligo for the National Inter Counties and Juvenile (even ages). Some local Juveniles have qualified for this one and will be joined by JP Williamson who will go in the men’s U20 championship after impressing in last weekend’s provincial Novice championship.
Beyond that, December starts with the second race in the local Primary Schools cross country league at St Columb’s Park on Friday 2nd and it’s Ballyclare on the 3rd for the Malcolm Cup.
There is a big one in Kildare on Sunday 11th when the Curragh hosts the National Novice and Juvenile (Uneven ages) championships.
Hopefully there will be some Juvenile qualifiers from the Bobby Rea meeting but City of Derry have already announced their intention to go for the men’s Novice championship.
The red vests won this team title a few years ago in Dublin and have a strong squad lined up to chase the honours again in Kildare.