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Proud Parents line up for Bristol Half.

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The Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday 9 September, the official trial for next month’s World Road Running Championships, has attracted 14 of the UK’s current fastest 25 men, 13 of the UK’s current fastest 25 women plus a number of athletes whose form is an intriguing mystery. For examples, much West Country – and national – interest will centre on Amy Stiles and Dave Mitchinson seeking to give fresh life to their international ambitions after becoming proud parents.

 

Stiles gave birth to Amelia Rose last 7 October while Mitchinson had to rush back home on the eve of the ERRA National Road Relays in April to be at the birth of Eleanor. Both are now looking for a quality check against athletes seeking the qualifying times set by UK Athletics for the World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy, on Sunday 14 October. The target times are:

 

 

Individual

Team

Men

63 minutes 30 seconds

64 minutes 15 seconds

Women

72 minutes 30 seconds

74 minutes 00 seconds

 

The UK half marathon rankings leaders are understandably resting after their efforts at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka: Dan Robinson (Stroud and District AC) was 11th in the men’s race and Mara Yamauchi (Harrow AC) ninth in the women’s 26.2-miler.

 

But there will still be good quality in the Bristol 13.1-miler. Two of the women’s entrants have beaten 72:30 this year: Liz Yelling (Bedford and County AC), who clocked 69:28 at Bath in March and opted not to race in the marathon at the World Championships in Osaka but to head for the Chicago Marathon, and Louise Damen (Poole Runners), who is quietly rebuilding a career that has been gilded by medals since she was an Under 13 and clocked 70:47 at Reading in March.

 

Yelling says: “I ran Glasgow without easing down my training last weekend and didn’t go so well [she clocked 73:11]. I’m hoping that easing down this week will put a bit of a spring into my old legs. I’ve pushed my training boundaries out a bit this year. Whether that will be against me in Bristol, I don’t know, but this is an important stepping stone to Chicago, my main aim of this autumn.

 

”Bristol is the British Championships race and it’s a good course. I always like to put myself on the line.”

 

Among the expected challengers are Michelle Ross-Cope (City of Stoke AC), who clocked 72:43 at Wilmslow in springtime; Wendy Jones-Nicholls (Cirencester AC), whose year’s best of 72:48 from the Reading race, and Alice Braham (Harrow AC), who ran Reading in 73:25.

  

None of the UK men has a qualifying time so far this year, but several of the Bristol battlers are close. Tomas Abyu (Salford Harriers) is second in the Power of 10 rankings – behind Robinson – with 64:24 at Wilmslow in March; Mark Miles (Belgrave Harriers) is third with 64:29 and Huw Lobb (Bedford and County AC) fifth with 64:43, both at Reading also in March.

 

Others seeking to improve on their spring form include former Bristol star Andi Jones (Salford Harriers) 65:00 at Wilmslow; Gareth Raven (Sale Harriers Manchester), who clocked 65:14 at Wilmslow; Stephen Hepples (Newham and Essex Beagles), 65:19 in Lisbon; Richard Gardiner (Cardiff AAC), who clocked 65:47 at Bath; Mike Coleman (Medway and Maidstone AC), who finished one second behind him; home city hero Kevin Heywood (Bristol and West AC) 66:03 at Bideford; John McFarlane (Thames Hare and Hounds) 66:27 at Wokingham; Martin Williams (Tipton Harriers) 66:37 at Bath; and Billy Farquharson (Mansfield Harriers) 66:52 at Mansfield in July.

  

And then there are Stiles and Mitchinson

 

Stiles (aged 32) has no idea how close she is to her best form (she has a half marathon best of 74:42) – especially as on Sunday she will not be pushing Amelia Rose in her buggy. “She must be 22 or 23lbs now so I’ve done a fair bit of resistance training,” the new mum smiles. “She knows all the lanes around Wiltshire now!”

  

Mitchinson ranks equal 16th in the UK this year with his time of 66:03 at Bath on 25 March. Since then, his life has taken a couple of significant turns. Baby Eleanor arrived in April and he deliberately dipped out of athletics “to get used to the whole thing, including sleeping.” And now he is training to become a regular police officer with the Hertfordshire Constabulary.

 

He says of the race: “It will be interesting to see how I go. Rather than running 100-120 miles a week, I’ve been doing more like 80 out of necessity. I’m looking forward to getting back into racing.”