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Top Ulster runners chasing Commonwealth Games mark

Ulster's top distance runners will be out in force this weekend in both the London Marathon and the big Titanic 10K race in Belfast.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon qualification period has started and Northern Ireland's top two female runners will be aiming to break the 2 hrs 40 mins selection mark on the fast London course.

Such an objective is well within the capabilities of North Belfast pair Breege Connolly and Gladys Ganiel who have PBs only marginally outside the time.

Connolly (PB 2.40.25 from Rotterdam last year) and Ganiel (PB 2.40.56 in Houston a year ago) are currently in good form and could easily lower their times if weather conditions permit.

Ganiel recently ran a half marathon PB when fifth in The Hague while Connolly was close to her fastest time over five miles in Dublin.

The province will also be well represented on the men's side with Annadale's Paul Pollock and Joe McAlister of St Malachy's spearheading several dozen local athletes who will be competing.

Pollock (26) is currently Ireland's fastest marathon runner thanks to his superb 2.16.30 in last autumn's Dublin Marathon.

The Belfast-based doctor hopes to gain Ireland selection for this summer's World Championships in Moscow. Another PB could certainly be on the cards.

McAlister has not raced over the distance for 18 months because of injury problems but will be aiming to improve on his previous best of 2.21.05.

Meanwhile, newly crowned Irish 10k road champion Stephen Scullion will be going for victory in Sunday's big Titanic Quarter 10K.

This year the highly talented south Belfast runner has been in the form of his life starting with an impressive fifth in the Greenmount Cross Country.

He followed that with a PB over 3,000 metres indoors which earned Ireland selection for the European Championships in Gothenburg.

A recent record breaking victory in the Omagh Half Marathon laid the foundations for Scullion's Irish title win in the Spar Great Ireland run in Phoenix Park, Dublin last Sunday behind triple Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele who was overall winner.

Scullion, who won the Titanic race two years ago, should have little difficulty securing victory again particularly as his main rival is Annadale's Eddie McGinley who he beat by 45 seconds in Dublin.

McGinley, who took the bronze medal for third Irish finisher in Phoenix Park, was runner-up in last year's Titanic to McAlister.

In the ladies race, 2011 winner Kerry Harty of Newcastle is at altitude training in France.

In her absence, Dromore's Julie Turley should repeat her emphatic victory in last year's race with North Down's Jessica Craig once again likely to feature on the rostrum.

Belfast Telegraph