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Laura Graham is just off target in gallant London Marathon effort

 

By Brian Hill

Irish Marathon champion Laura Graham finished the London Marathon yesterday in a time of two hours 42 minutes 38 seconds, her second fastest run ever.

However, she was disappointed that the time was 44 seconds outside her Personal Best, achieved when winning last year's Dublin Marathon, leaving her outside the target two hrs 37 mins qualifying time for next year's Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

Mother of four, Laura (31), had her sights set on a time in the region of 2 hrs 35 mins and was on target at half way, which she completed in 77 minutes.

The Kilkeel runner, who competes for Mourne Runners, was racing in the small, elite field of 32, but was suddenly left exposed when her running companion dropped out.

She was then left to complete the course with little support in ever-increasing temperatures.

Coach Ryan Maxwell said: "Laura is a very ambitious athlete so we decided she would attack this course with a view to a Personal Best time. She is, of course, disappointed that this didn't happen. However, you have to move on and she may defend her Irish title again in Dublin in the autumn."

There were three very good male Northern Ireland performances.

Olympian Kevin Seaward enjoyed another solid run with a time of 2.17.08. This is just outside the Irish qualifying time for the World Championships. However, the St. Malachys man has decided to reserve his energies for another marathon in autumn.

Belfast's Stephen Scullion showed signs of his immense talent with a time of just under 2 hrs 18 mins, which slices a huge two minutes off his previous best.

Both, however, were also outside the Commonwealth Games standard. In the U17 wheelchair mini-marathon, Belfast Paralympian Jack Agnew further underlined his star potential by winning for a second successive year.

Kenya's Mary Keitany set a new world record to win the women's Marathon as Daniel Wanjiru took victory in the men's race.

Earlier, Britain's David Weir won a record seventh wheelchair title to clinch his first victory in London since 2012.

Keitany broke Paula Radcliffe's 12-year women's only marathon record after posting two hours, 17 minutes and one second.

"I want to say it was a great day for me. It was really amazing," she said after her third win in London.

In the men's race Kenyan Wanjiru (below with Prince Harry and Keitany) held off the challenge of Kenenisa Bekele, who holds the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres world records as well as eight Olympic and world titles, to win in 2:05.48.

It was the biggest victory of his career, having previously won the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon, while Bedan Karoki was third.

"Yes, everything is possible," Wanjiru said when asked if he could break the world record.

"At the beginning the race was very fast, inside world record pace. As the race was very fast anything can happen.

"It was becoming tougher and tougher. We pushed and the sun was coming up and the day was beautiful. I have tasted world record pace which was good for me."

Robbie Simpson and Andrew Davies finished 15th and 16th respectively while Swansea's Josh Griffiths, running his first marathon, was the first Briton across the line in 2:14.49 and could now qualify for the British team for the World Championships.

In the wheelchair race, Weir clinched victory in 1:31:06 after a sprint finish to beat defending champion Marcel Hug by a second. Weir, taking part for an 18th consecutive year, won the Paris Marathon earlier this month.

Rafael Botello Jimenez was third after a dramatic finish on The Mall as Weir passed Tanni Grey-Thompson's six victories and said it helped banish the demons of his failed Paralympic bid.

Weir failed to complete the marathon in Rio and then vowed never to represent Team GB again, suggesting he had been let down by British Athletics.

He told a press conference: "I felt there was a weight lifted off my shoulders. The last four months have been hell for me - mentally and stuff. It's been a challenge to even get out and train. But all the people I've had helping me have been amazing - my coach, my mum, my kids.

"I've waited five years. That was the best I've felt in a London Marathon. It's amazing. It's been lingering for five years now and it's one of the biggest wins I've ever had."

Belfast Telegraph

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