Marathon hopefuls not enjoying the waiting game

Donegal’s Olympic marathon hopefuls have admitted the wait to see who gets the final call for London is proving to be a torturous one.

Donegal’s Olympic marathon hopefuls have admitted the wait to see who gets the final call for London is proving to be a torturous one.

Four Irish women have made the A-Standard of 2:37.00 but, in line with all other competing nations, only three will participate in the Games. Maria McCambridge, a Dublin native living in Letterkenny and representing the local athletic club is one, while Caitriona Jennings from Letterkenny and running out of Rathfarnham AC in Dublin has also made the grade.

McCambridge ran 2:37.27 in the Rome marathon on St Patrick’s weekend and Jennings made the time in the Rotterdam marathon last month with 2:36.17. The other two hopefuls are Dundrum South Dublin AC’s Linda Byrne, who was the first to qualify with her 2:36.26 in Dublin last October, while her clubmate, English-based Ava Hutchinson, has the fastest time of the four, 2:35.33.

Currently, the quartet will learn their fate on June 12, which is the date Athletics Ireland set last year for nominating their marathon and race walkers to the Olympic Council of Ireland, having been granted approval from all athletes.

However, three into four doesn’t go and the situation could be further complicated when Barbara Sanchez, who holds dual Irish-French citizenship, stakes her claim for the A-Standard on May 20 in Copenhagan.

Jennings, the most recent qualifier, has taken a four-month career break from her job as a tax advisor with PriceWaterhouseCooper.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “I can understand if they’re trying to give everyone the chance to qualify. But if you’re going to qualify for the Olympic marathon you’d want to do it very soon, otherwise you’re just not going to recover.”

McCambridge also claimed the process is an awkward one that is infringing on her preparations for either the Olympic marathon or 10,000m, or even the European Championships, which get underway in the Finnish capital of Helsinki in late June.

“I’m head-wrecked,” she said. “I really think it’s unfair to keep us waiting. Because the delay does affect your training. If I’m not being selected I’d like to know now, get it over with, and maybe get ready for the European Championships, or target the 10,000 metres qualifying time. But right now I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to rock the boat, but in my personal opinion, yes, bring the selection forward.”

Irish Olympic team manager Patsy McGonagle, a founding member of Finn Valley AC in Stranorlar, understands the plight the hopefuls find themselves in but said the selection process will continue as planned for now.

“We do understand the dilemma, although the selection criteria here doesn’t just apply to the women’s marathon, but other events too, and there could be a similar situation with the men’s 50km walk,” he said. “So as of now that selection criteria stands, hasn’t changed but if there is still any room for manoeuvre then that will have to be agreed with both Athletics Ireland and the OCI.