Crucial day in Berlin for Games hopefuls
It is a critical weekend for four Northern Ireland athletes who will be racing in the Berlin Marathon tomorrow with the aim of qualifying for next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Kevin Seaward of St Malachy's, Laura Graham of Mourne Runners and North Belfast pair Breege Connolly and Gladys Ganiel must achieve the Gold Coast qualification standard if they want to have any hope of being considered for Games selection.
This is because of the cut-throat selection competition where 13 athletes have already qualified in the various track and field events.
The quartet have selected Berlin as it is generally regarded as the fastest of all marathon courses.
Some six world records have been set there including the current record of 2 hrs 2 mins 57 secs by Dennis Kimetto.
Of the four local entrants Seaward's form this year clearly points to him being the most likely to qualify for Australia.
Kevin's superb 20th place in difficult conditions in last April's London Marathon in a time of 2 hrs 17 mins 8 secs was only 38 seconds short of the Games selection standard.
In addition, since then he has achieved impressive PBs when winning the Notts 10 Miles (50.13) and the Newark Half Marathon (64.51).
The 32-year -old teacher, who raced in the Rio Olympics, will relish Berlin as it was the scene of his best time of 2.14.52 two years ago.
Laura Graham won the Belfast Marathon last May in a PB time of 2.41.46 only eight days after racing in the London Marathon.
The 31-year-old mother of four will be going into unknown territory in Berlin as she, plus the other women, must achieve the tough 2 hrs 37 mins mark to be considered for the Games .
Connolly is closest to the qualification mark assuming she wishes to be considered for selection.
While Rio Olympian Breege has only raced three times this year in 10-mile races she is the fastest of the NI women with a PB of 2.37.24 from London in 2015.
Team-mate Ganiel is the most experienced. She represented NI in the Glasgow Games in 2014 and has also raced twice in Berlin. Ganiel said Sunday will be a "do or die" effort as she will try to run two minutes faster than ever to make the Games team.
There will be 60,000 participants in Berlin with Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge starting favourite. The former London Marathon runner has a PB of 2.03.05.