NI supermum Laura joins world's elite in London showpiece
A Co Down mum-of-four who only took up marathons three years ago will tomorrow race alongside some of the biggest names in world athletics as part of the elite group of 32 runners in the London event.
Laura Graham (31) from Kilkeel will take the experience in her stride in the same way she combines home life with training and her job as a part-time gymnastics teacher.
And in a week when tennis superstar Serena Williams announced her pregnancy, Laura hopes to encourage other new mums or mums-to-be to take up or return to sport for fitness.
Explaining how she copes with a training regime of up to 85 miles a week, coupled with the demands of a young family aged from two to six, Laura said: "While everyone tells me I have the ability to run even faster, I have always to think of the kids first. I train when they are at school or after they go to bed and I have a treadmill at home.
"I always try to think of running as a hobby. I don't want to take the fun out of it and I would recommend running to any mum who would like to improve her fitness."
It is a remarkable achievement for Laura to be included in the elite group, which starts 40 minutes before the main field. Some 36,000 runners are expected to finish later in The Mall.
Laura, the current Irish women's marathon champion, has been included on the strength of her winning time in the Dublin Marathon last October when she took six minutes off her previous best time, finishing in 2 hrs 41 mins 54 secs.
Laura, who competes in the colours of her local club Mourne Runners, caught the running bug after her first marathon in Belfast in 2014, when she did a respectable 3 hrs 45 mins on very little training. Her inspiration was to support the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke charity after her father suffered a serious coronary.
Now she is aiming for a time under 2 hrs 40 mins in a bid to make this summer's World Championships in London and the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane next year, where the qualification is 2 hrs 37 mins.
However, despite her success, she retains a healthy respect for the distance.
"Marathons are hard and you have to challenge yourself at something," she said. "However, running is a feel-good thing and it de-stresses me."
Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel from north Belfast will also be racing in London, as will fellow Belfast athlete Stephen Scullion.