THREE years have now passed since Maria McCambridge won the national title at the Dublin City Marathon and a repeat of how things panned out in 2008 at the Bank Holiday Monday event would do just fine.
Back then McCambridge had never run a competitive marathon before but produced an excellent performance to clock 2:36:33, which meant she was the first Irishwoman over the line.
Perhaps as important, although less tangible, was how the result had been obtained. The Dundrum South Dublin athlete, who is now based in Letterkenny, had swapped the road for the track. Having missed out on the chance to go to the Beijing Olympics through injury after being part of the team in Athens four years beforehand, McCambridge wanted to prove to herself she could have made the grade.
The Olympics had been a gone but the qualifying standard then, as it will be on Monday, was 2:37:00 and having made it with 20-odd seconds to spare McCambridge decided take the positive slant and instead of regretting Beijing she would instead continue to enjoy the marathon and see what London might bring.
It seemed a logical thing to do, considering McCambridge’s husband and coach, Gary Crossan, is a four-time national marathon champion himself. Together the couple now have a five-month old son, Dylan, and by the time McCambride comes around Merrion Square North on Monday afternoon the pair, all going to plan, will be there to cheer her home.
“It’s an athlete’s dream to get to compete in the Olympics and it was an amazing experience,” McCambridge recalled of Greece. “Athens in 2004 seems like a long time agonow but having competed there in the 5,000m I was a little disillusioned coming up to Beijing as I missed the best part of nine or 10 months. I was gutted to miss Beijing but I didn’t have time to get fit. I wasn’t going to hang up the running shoes or anything like that, though, but I needed a goal.
“There was exactly 10 weeks to the Dublin marathon so I put everything into seeing if I was capable of making the time. Obviously the Olympics had passed but I just wanted to see.
“That’s when I turned to the marathon and immediately after Beijing I thought I would give myself four years at this and hopefully make it to London. I love the marathon and the challenge and training for it.”
Training has been going well and Monday is perhaps the most direct route to London. Although the qualifying time does not have to be met until April, an early qualification would mean that plans can be firmly in place that little earlier and the new focus and goal will have been established.
To use form as a guideline, McCambridge’s best marathon run was to years ago in Paris, when 2:35:29 was enough to clinch eighth place overall. Something similar on Monday would do just fine for the 36-year-old.
“I want to just try and get the best out of myself,” McCambridge said of Dublin. “There’s a lot at stake between Olympics qualifying time and first Irishwoman and just trying to finish as high up the field as it possible. You put everything into this one day and that’s the nerve-wracking thing about it.
“I feel as though I am in good shape so hopefully I’ll just get the bit of luck on the day to just go and it. Things have gone really well to this stage. I’m confident having done the training and I’m really happy with the way things have progressed since having Dylan.
“I didn’t know if I would have enough time for Dublin and was worried a little but since them everything has fallen into place really and I’m really excited.”
Maria McCambridge has proven what she is capable of in Dublin already. More of the same next week would do her just fine.