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Olympic qualifiers for Radcliffe and Overall in Berlin

25th September 2011

Britain’s Scott Overall produced a superb marathon debut in Berlin this morning to qualify for Britain’s Olympic team while Paula Radcliffe secured her place on the London 2012 start line with a top three finish on her marathon return.

Radcliffe finished third in 2:23:46 easily inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:31:00, while Overall shocked even himself to finish fifth in 2:10:55 behind Patrick Makau’s world record.

For Radcliffe, racing over the 26.2 mile distance for the first time since 2009, it was a day of mixed emotions as she finished just over four minutes behind winner Florence Kiplagat after the Kenyan became the 11th woman to break the 2:20 barrier with 2:19:44.

The world record holder has endured two years of injuries and said before the race she was more concerned with winning than her time. Yet she had no answer to Kiplagat when the Kenyan began to move away after 15km.

Radcliffe, who was also caught by Germany’s Irina Mikitenko at around 34km, said: “In some ways I am happy and in other ways I am disappointed with the third place.

“It’s been a tough year and with everything I had to come through I should accept this. At least I have the Olympic qualifying time. Now I have to build on that for London.

“I thought I could get 2:22 but I blew that when I went off too hard. At least the qualifier is ticked off now. I know I can come back more confident and do better next year.”

Yet if Radcliffe’s was a solid performance, Overall’s was a revelation.

The 28-year-old Blackheath and Bromley runner enjoyed a stunning race on a beautiful day in the German capital that saw Haile Gebrselassie’s world record fall.

Makau retained his Berlin title in 2:03:38, 21 seconds inside Gebrselassie’s time set here in 2008. The Ethiopian, who suffered breathing problems at around 27km just as Makau made his break, eventually dropped out before 40km probably putting an end to his 2012 Olympic dreams.

There were no such troubles for the inexperienced Overall though. Running a steady pace from start to finish, the Londoner moved through the field from 12th at half way to finish more than a minute inside UKA’s Olympic A standard of 2:12:00.

“I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line,” he said. “When I got to 40k thought I had got the time wrong, so I was cruising on the home straight. I thought I’d lost it.

“It was only when I saw the clock at the end that I thought, ‘Blimey I’m going to run 2:10 here’.

“I always came here to run the Olympic qualifying time and after going through halfway in 65:17 I just kept pushing and pushing. I was on my own from halfway and if I had had a pacer I may have gone quicker.

“All in all, not a bad debut.”

Overall, a former national 5000m champion who used to train with Mo Farah at the Hounslow, Slough and Eton club, chose to make his debut in Berlin on the advice of David Bedford, race director of the Virgin London Marathon which paid for half a dozen British hopefuls to chase Olympic qualifying times on this super-fast course.

It was a wise decision, for Overall – who works at Sweatshop in Clapham and is an occasional staff member at the London Marathon offices – produced the best run by a British man at a major marathon since Jon Brown was fourth at the 2004 Olympics.

His time is the quickest by a British man since Tomas Abyu won the Dublin marathon in 2007, and puts him equal 24th on the UK all time lists alongside Chris Bunyan from Boston way back in 1983.

Overall now joins Dave Webb as a holder of the British Olympic qualifying standard after Webb finished in the top 20 at the Daegu World Championships last month.

It’s an eye-opening turnaround for Overall who only 18 months ago was knocked out of the 3000m heats at the World indoor championships and whose only other international vests have come at European level. Now the new Hammersmith-born marathon man is looking forward to an Olympic appearance on his hometown streets.

“I’ve run the Olympic qualifying time but I haven’t been selected yet,” he said with unnecessary caution. “But, yes, it will be an amazing honour to run the Olympics in my home town.”

Overall, who studied in Indiana and often trains in Flagstaffe, had been planning to run on the track this season until poor early season form persuaded him to change his mind – that and the London Marathon’s support.

“I had a conversation with Dave Bedford around May or June and told him what I was thinking,” explained Overall. “He said: ‘That’s fine, but you have to leave this room knowing you are a marathon runner and don’t think once about going back to the track.’

“That’s what I did, thankfully. I think I’ve found my event now.”

It was a good day all round for Britain’s London Marathon-supported contingent as Overall’s training partner Benedict Whitby was tenth in 2:16:27 while Anthony Ford sliced nearly two minutes from his personal best in 2:17:16, good enough for 17th place despite hitting the wall in the second half of the race.

There was also a big PB for Amy Whitehead, Radcliffe’s former training partner at Loughborough University. The Sale Harrier improved her previous best, set in the London Marathon this year, by nearly four minutes as she finished 14th in the women’s race in 2:35:39.

“I really enjoyed it,” said Whitehead after moving within range of the qualifying time. “That’s the best I’ve ever felt, and the last 10km was great for me. What a brilliant course. I loved it.”

Of the other Britons supported by the London Marathon and UKA endurance programme, Andi Jones finished 20th in 2:18:34 and Martin Williams was 34th in 2:21:59.