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Northern Ireland aces out to make mark on World stage before Games tilt

By Brian Hill

Five Northern Ireland athletes comprise half the Ireland team which will be competing in today's World Half Marathon in Valencia, Spain.

Annadale's Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward of St Malachy's have delayed their departure to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games marathon in order to race in this important event. The rest of the Games team left a few days ago for a two-week training camp on the Gold Coast.

This will be Pollock's fourth World Half with his most impressive being an outstanding run of 62 mins 10 secs in Copenhagen back in 2014. The Holywood doctor's times this year have been more modest reflecting his heavy training concentration for the Gold Coast Marathon.

He did, however, easily win the Brighton Half Marathon last month in a time of 67 minutes.

While Cardiff teacher Seaward has his eyes also firmly set on the marathon in Australia, he will be hoping to do well in Spain following a useful PB last August of 64.52 when winning the Newark Half Marathon.

The Games bound pair may however be upstaged by South Belfast's Stephen Scullion who ran a superb time of 63.16 in the Houston Half back in January.

The 29-year-old Belfast Half Marathon silver medallist has never quite fulfilled his potential but a good run on Sunday may well inspire him to seriously concentrate on the marathon distance for the future.

In the Women's event double, Belfast and Dublin marathon champion Laura Graham will be entering new territory as it will be her first ever World event.

The Mourne Runners mother-of-four recently ignored the travel chaos of the cancelled Bath Half to race in the British Champs in London where she smashed her PB by almost two minutes in a time of 75.15.

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