Britons in the hunt for international places
Overall victory in the Virgin London Marathon may be the ultimate target for the international elite and leading domestic contenders this Sunday (25th April), but simultaneous selection battles will also take place as GB athletes fight it out for European Championships and Commonwealth Games qualifying standards.
This summer's European Championships marathon in Barcelona will incorporate the European Marathon Cup and UK Athletics (UKA) will select up to six men and women to run in each race where three will score as part of the team. The first three eligible UK elite athletes in the Virgin London Marathon - which also includes the UK Championships in addition to Commonwealth Games trials for Scotland, Wales and England - will be selected subject to having achieved the qualification standard within the required period (1January 2009 - 25 April 2010.
Of those Britons competing in London, only Dan Robinson (Stroud), Andi Jones (Salford) and Tom Payn (Wincester) have secured the required men's mark of 2:18:00 within the selection period to date, but US-based Scot and marathon debutant Andrew Lemoncello (Fife AC) will expect to be in the mix following a consistent programme of high mileage at his altitude base in Flagstaff, Arizona.
From a UKA perspective, Dave Webb (Leeds City) and Martin Williams (Tipton) in 2010 and Tomas Abyu (Salford) in 2009, have also raced to sub-2:18:00 clockings - although none of them are competing in London.
Mara Yamauchi (Harrow), the runner-up in London in 2009 with a new lifetime best of 2:23:12 - well inside the UKA women's selection standard of 2:38:00 - is undoubtedly favourite to finish top British woman this weekend.
Although no UK woman has run quicker within the last year, English quartet Michelle Ross-Cope (City of Stoke), Sue Harrison (Leamington), Jo Wilkinson (Bedford & County) and Holly Rush (Bath), all with the European standard in 2009, are expected to start and will be joined in the fight for a European team place by Scotland's Susan Partridge (Leeds City) who has a lifetime best of 2:37:50 from London in 2005.
While the European battle unfolds for places in the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, England, Scotland and Wales have named the Virgin London Marathon as their Commonwealth Games trial event for Delhi.
The selection process does not conclude in London however, and although the qualifying standards match those of the UKA European Championships marks for England (2:18:00/2:38:00), and are similar for Scotland (2:19:00/2:38:00) and Wales (2:19:40/2:38:00), athletes, as a rule, have until the summer to achieve their respective requirements.
Northern Ireland's marathon athletes are not committed to a trial race, but must run the qualifying time (2:18:40/2:40:00) within the defined selection period.
In theory, all of those chasing European Championships team spots are, naturally, in the mix for Commonwealth Games selection. It's not an impossible situation, but from a performance perspective, peaking twice within two months is tough.
Home countries representatives primarily focused on Delhi, and with a realistic chance of securing the time, include European junior 10,000m silver medallist Simon Lawson (Cardiff), the 20-year-old Welsh medical student who announced he was quitting the sport earlier this year. Lawson, an outstanding endurance talent, has not competed in 2010 but has maintained a balance between high mileage and his studies and will target a sub-2:19:40 clocking on his debut.
Cardiff AAC should challenge for the UK Championships team title. As well as Lawson, Cardiff field Nat Lane and Richie Gardiner who, with PBs of 2:24:46 and 2:18:41 respectively, will also be aiming for the Welsh Commonwealth Games mark. Gardiner clocked an impressive 2:19:48 in London a year ago, while Lane has posted a half marathon PB of 66:66 in recent months. Also showing good recent form is Tipton's Ian Williams, who, like Lane, has clocked a half marathon best this year (66:20).
Behind the domestic elite of Robinson, Jones and Payn, English men likely to target the Delhi mark are Michael Green (Blackburn), Dave Norman (Altrincham), Gareth Raven (Sale Harriers Manchester) and Neil Renault (Medway & Maidstone), all of whom have best times below 2:20:00, although only Renault has recorded that mark in recent years.
It may, in fact, be the English women who guarantee their places on the team, all four of those who currently hold the selection time have achieved their marks within the past 12 months, although all of them are likely to opt for Barcelona's European Championships if they make the grade this weekend.
For Scotland, Martin Williams (Tipton) does not run, but has already achieved the full nomination criteria for Commonwealth Games selection courtesy of a 2:17:36 clocking in Spain in February. While Jethro Lennox (Shettleston), Nigel Leighton (VOTwo TC) and Ross Houston (Central AC) are running, they have a lot of work to do to achieve the time.
Susan Partridge lines up in the knowledge that she's posted a quick 72:45 half marathon in 2010, while Scotland's greatest hope in London is Lemoncello who starts his first ever marathon hoping that it's the first step on a journey that will bring him back to the capital in 2012.