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wORLD HALF MARATHON preview

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Claire Hallissey
Hallissey's form peaks in time for World Half quest

8 October 2009

For the first time since 2001 - the last time the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships were held in the UK -  the Aviva Great Britain & Northern Ireland team will comprise a full quota of athletes for this Sunday’s IAAF/EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, 11 October.

Looking ahead, there is a genuine possibility that a top eight team finish could be secured for the first time in over a decade.

Phil Wicks (Belgrave), the top ranked UK senior over the half marathon distance for 2009 to date with a lifetime best of 62:51, has had an impressive season clocking personal best performances over 5M (23:25), 10k (28:54) and 10000m (29:10.66).

Fifth ranked Andi Jones (Salford Harriers), the top British finisher in this year’s Flora London Marathon, and Andrew Lemoncello (Fife AC), who clocked a fast 61:52 at the Austin Half Marathon in Texas earlier this year (overall downhill gradient), make up a trio of athletes who have made clear their intention to focus on the full marathon distance.

Indeed, both Wicks and Lemoncello are expected to use this weekend’s race as a significant stepping-stone en -route to their expected spring 2010 marathon debuts.

Mark Miles (Belgrave) and Gareth Raven (Sale Harriers Manchester), second and third British finishers respectively at the World Half Marathon trial race Bristol on 6 September, make up a strong Aviva GB & NI male quintet.

Birmingham-based Miles clocked a half marathon best of 64:11 at the Wilmslow Half Marathon in March and is currently third ranked in the UK, while Raven – who recorded his 64:28 lifetime best in 2003 - is having one of his best ever seasons.

GB & NI’s women are led by trials winner Claire Hallissey (Bristol & West), who smashed her personal best by over a minute when winning the Bristol Half Marathon in 72:03.

She’s undoubtedly the in-form British athlete going into this weekend having clocked personal best performances over 3000m (9:39.1); 5000m (16:24.27); 10000m (33:10.73); 5k (16:16); 5M (28:02) and 10k (33:56), in addition to the half marathon distance, in 2009.

On paper, she’s half a minute faster than any of her team mates, although there’s very little to split the girls, who are five of the top ranked eight in the UK for the year to date.

Michelle Ross-Cope (City of Stoke), who represented GB & NI in last year’s World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and the 2007 World Road Running Championships (Udine, Italy), will bring international competition experience to the team. 

She finished eighth in the trial in Bristol but had only recently returned to competitive action after missing most of the summer due to injury. With an additional month of training since then, she should be close to her best in Birmingham and the form that saw her record a lifetime best of 72:35 earlier this year.

Kendal duo Rebecca Robinson and Gemma Miles, plus Chester-Le-Street’s Alyson Dixon, have also shown outstanding recent form, clocking personal best times - 73:11, 73:13 and 73:40 respectively - in the Bristol Half Marathon trial race. 

Although the GB & NI women’s record at IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is enhanced by Paula Radcliffe’s three individual victories (2000, 2001 and 2003), the most recently recorded team result was in 2005 where they finished a credible fifth overall - a position which would be tough to achieve, but is certainly possible for the class of 2009.

A total of 47 IAAF Member Federations are set to compete in Birmingham this weekend, the highest number since 2004. The record number of Member Federations that have taken part in this IAAF World Athletics Series event was 60 in the 2002 edition (Brussels, Belgium).