Marathon mission is not impossible
DESPITE tougher standards, 30 Irish distance runners have been offered Marathon Mission squad places for 2012, with about 24 expected to accept the offer.
For women, the 2 hours 45 minutes marathon qualifying time remains for a third year, although the half-marathon time drops by 30 seconds to 78:30 seconds, and the 10-mile time to 59 minutes.
For men, the half-marathon standard is now 1:06.30, while the 10-mile standard of 50 minutes and the marathon time of 2:24 remain unchanged.
In 2011, an impressive total of 14 women ran under 79 minutes for the half marathon, while seven broke 2:45 minutes for the marathon -- a big improvement on the previous four years when no more than three in any given year had gone under that marathon time.
It means that Linda Byrne's time of 2:36.21 seconds set in Dublin may not be enough to book her place at the London Olympics.
Gladys Ganiel and Ava Hutchinson are set to run the Houston Marathon on January 14, while Maria McCambridge is likely to run in Seville on February 19 or Barcelona on March 17.
Among those likely to run the Rotterdam Marathon on April 15 are Caitriona Jennings, Lorraine Manning, Annette Kealy, Lizzie Lee, Breege Connolly, Rosemary Ryan and Barbara Sanchez.
All have their sights set on the 2:37 qualifying mark for London.
Of the men, five went under 2:20 in 2011, with both Mark Kenneally and Sean Connolly doing it twice. In the previous four years combined, just two men ran under 2:20.
Mark Kenneally is banking on his 2:13.55 time from Amsterdam in October being enough to earn him a slot at the Olympics.
Connolly, with a time of 2:17.23 from Rotterdam last April, returns to the Dutch city in April aiming to run under the Olympic qualifying mark of 2.15, while Thomas Frazer will run either Rotterdam or Boston.
Alan O'Shea, Gary Thornton and Martin Fagan are undecided on their next moves.
Leading the Irish half-marathon list at the moment is US-based Alistair Cragg, who ran a time of 1:00.49 in New York last March, but dropped out of Boston and Fukuoka marathons.
Running 1:05.24 for the half marathon was Sean Hehir, who may make his marathon debut in the spring.