On Monday, all eyes will be on Harrier Gladys Ganiel O’Neill who goes into the National Lottery Dublin Marathon full of confidence in her quest to attain the Olympic Marathon “A” qualifying standard of 2.37.00.
Irish citizen Gladys has had an excellent year notching up victories over 10km and Half Marathon – most recently in Irish Half Marathon Championships in Waterford where she ran a personal best of 1.15.32 for silver behind former track star and recent marathon convert Ava Hutchinson (Cardiff/Loughborough/Ireland).
Gladys’s personal best of 2.41.22 (London 2010) is inside the Olympic “B” Standard but she knows everything needs to come right on the day if she is to get the Olympic “A” mark.
The former US collegiate star feels the move to North Belfast Harriers has made a difference to her performances this year.
She has particularly benefited from training regularly with top male club mates over trails, long runs and tempos: “My preparation for this marathon has exceeded that of my other marathons, both in terms of quantity and quality of miles. Given the need to increase my training while staying healthy, and working around the constraints of a demanding full-time job, I’m satisfied that I’ve done everything I can to get myself in the best possible shape. My North Belfast team-mates have been brilliant in pushing me in sessions and long tempo runs.”
Last year Gladys was struck down by a heavy cold in the week before the Dublin Marathon, but this year she is positive, healthy and feeling strong.
Nevertheless, she admits that: “there are so many variables that go into a good marathon that it’s foolish to try and predict what will happen on the day. I will simply be trying to get the best out of myself and no matter what the result, if I feel that I’ve gotten the best out of myself I will have to be happy.”
She will certainly have the best company possible – most, if not all of the top Irish female marathoners will be on the start line next Monday.
Athletics Ireland selectors will be paying close attention to performances from their “Marathon Mission” squad.
The battle between former Olympian Maria McCambridge (pb 2.35.39 in Paris 2009), Rosemary Ryan (pb 2.39.31 in Berlin 2007), Linda Byrne and Ava Hutchinson (both debutantes) who have all recorded faster times than Gladys over the half distance this year, will be fierce.
Three-time Dublin winner Dick Hooper is involved with the “Marathon Mission” squad and believes that the women’s race will be exciting to watch: “There’s a really nice women’s race developing,” he said, pointing out that Linda Byrne, Maria McCambridge, Ava Hutchinson, Rosemary Ryan and Gladys Ganiel have all run under 75 minutes and 30 seconds for the half-marathon this year.
“You also have the likes of Siobhan O’Doherty, Lorraine Manning and Breege Connolly making steady progress.”
“Marathon Mission” recruit and friend, Breege Connolly is quietly confident about her chances of notching a personal best on Monday.
If she runs to form, there is no reason why she can’t go under 2.45 to complete a remarkable season.
Other Stags running on Sunday include Gladys’s training partner Jim Benson (2:39 PB) who has hit some good form recently.
Alan Ritchie, new recruits Andy Considine and Marty McIlkenny and Gerry McNamara will be shadowing Dublin’s official “sub 3” pace maker Marty Rea.
Stephen Walker should be slightly ahead of this group while Gerry Gribben is on the hunt for a time around 3.15. V40 Frankie McGivern is also competing on Monday.
Links: Dublin Marathon website: http://dublinmarathon.ie/
Course map and video: http://dublinmarathon.ie/general_course.php
Results page: http://dublinmarathon.ie/results.php
Live Streaming: http://dublinmarathon.info/streaming.html