NI Quartet aiming for CWG Marathon Standard in Berlin
21 September 2017
Four Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games hopefuls will be amongst tens of thousands of competitors taking on the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon in Germany this weekend (Sunday 24thSeptember 2017).
Olympians Kevin Seaward (St Malachy’s AC / Andrew Hobdell) and Breege Connolly (City of Derry AC / Donie Walsh), Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel O’Neill (North Belfast Harriers / Matt Shields) and Belfast City Marathon winner Laura Graham (Mourne Runners / Ryan Maxwell) will all set out with the intention of dipping under the required standard, which is 2:16:30 for men and 2:37:00 for the ladies.
The course is notoriously fast – seven of the top ten best ever official marathon times have been recorded on it. Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto holds the current men’s world record with a 2:02:57 in 2014 (Berlin). This year, Eluid Kipchoge (Kenya), who was part of the Nike Sub2 attempt, and ran an incredible 2:00:25, has openly stated that his intention is to break the world record. The local stars will be hoping to get dragged along by the wave of support around the aforementioned record breaking attempt.
School teacher Kevin Seaward has bettered the 2:16:30 standard previously - he ran 2:14:52 here in 2015, which ultimately sent him on his way to the Rio 2016 Olympics. Kevin missed the Gold Coast standard by 38 seconds earlier this year when he clocked 2:17:08 in London. Since then he has impressed with personal bests over 10 miles (50:13) and 13.1 miles (1:04:51) which bodes well going into this weekend.
Fellow Rio Olympian Breege Connolly has a personal best of 2:37:24, which is from the London Marathon back in 2015. The Spartan athlete has also run 2:39:27 (London 2013) for the classic distance. Recently, Breege has recorded three 58 minute timings over 10 miles – she won the Trim 10 in 58:26, the Mullingar 10 in 58:44 and the Jude Gallagher 10 in 58:52.
Belfast based Gladys Ganiel O’Neill represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games back in 2014 (Glasgow) where she claimed an excellent 12th place in 2:40:29. Back in 2012, Gladys ran 2:39:26 in Berlin, so she knows the course well. Since then the North Belfast Harriers athlete has run an impressive 2:38:47 over 26.2 miles in Seville. Last month, Gladys was crowned the AAI National Half Marathon Champion after winning the Rock N’Roll Half Marathon in 1:17:07.
Belfast City Marathon winner and current AAI National Marathon Champion Laura Graham is the only one of the quartet who has not previously donned an international vest. However, that takes nothing away from the Kilkeel woman’s obvious talent – she captured the attention and the imagination of the province in 2016 when she slashed her marathon personal best from 2:48:03 to 2:41:54 to secure National gold; this propelled Laura to a new level.
Laura’s potential was further emphasised with a famous victory at this year’s Belfast City Marathon. Laura covered the tough Belfast route in 2:41:46, a personal best - this was just eight days after the Mourne Runners star had run 2:42:38 at the London Marathon. This term, Laura has run personal bests over 13.1 miles (1:16:59 at the Larne Half Marathon) and 10 miles (58:50 at the Frank Duffy 10).
Hundreds, if not thousands, of other local athletes will also be travelling to the German capital, all with their own hopes and expectations for the event. Live tracking will be available HERE on race day.