Athletics: Leeds runner clings to marathon Olympic hope

LONG ROAD AHEAD: Marathon runner Susan Partridge pictured training in the hills above Sowerby Bridge.
LONG ROAD AHEAD: Marathon runner Susan Partridge pictured training in the hills above Sowerby Bridge.
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JO PAVEY is hot favourite to join Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauch as Team GB’s third marathon runner at this summer’s London Olympics.

But hoping to shake things up is 32-year-old Leeds runner Susan Partridge who could sneak in the back door by being the top British female in tomorrow’s London Marathon.

Radcliffe and Yamauch have already sealed their Olympic spots with Pavey in pole position to grab the third place despite bypassing tomorrow’s big event in the capital which is the last opportunity to stake a qualifying time.

A top performance from one of Pavey’s Team GB rivals could propel them into the Olympic frame and Leeds City Athletics Club star Partridge hopes to star in London with Claire Hallissey, Louise Damen and Liz Yelling among her rivals.

Likeliest

Hallissey is generally regarded as the likeliest runner to give the selectors a headache and Scotland-born Partridge admits she would be considered an outsider to make the team but that won’t stop her giving it a really good go.

nor has it stopped the Leeds athlete from contemplating just how good being an Olympian would feel.

“The Olympics are in the back of my mind,” Partridge told LS1.

“Well, it’s more than in the back of my mind – it’s something that I can’t stop thinking about!

“I am definitely not expected to make the Olympic team – I’m just one of the contenders.

“Women’s marathon running in Britain this year is very strong and Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauch have already been selected.

“There’s only one place left and a few girls have already achieved the qualifying time.

“There’s quite a few with a realistic chance of getting that last place and the competition is fierce. my preparation has gone very well and I ran a half-marathon personal best a few weeks ago.

“That’s a big confidence booster and I don’t need to be scared of anyone tomorrow.

“to stand a chance I would have to be the best of the Brits and you would think that if I did that I would be at least considered for Olympic selection.”

The Olympic qualifying time is two hours and 31 minutes but Partridge admits an effort of around two minutes 28 would likely be needed – a time recorded by Pavey within the last year.

Partridge finished last year’s London race in 2-34:13. that was her second personal best in succession and her eyes are very much set on a third tomorrow.

“This will be my fifth London Marathon,” said Partridge, who works in the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering at the University of Leeds.

“I’ve been getting better the last couple of years and London has been kind to me. Hopefully, it stays that way!”

Not that the Scot, who was introduced to running by her dad, is in any way blase about the 26-mile test ahead.

Important

“It still puts the fear of God into you!” she said. “But I’m used to it – I’m used to the whole process and the training and everything and I am not afraid of the distance, though with it being an Olympic year this is a very important marathon.

“I’ve spent a lot of time training for it – a good four months and then in the last two weeks I have been trying to do a little less to give me time to think ahead.

“So far, the build-up has gone well.”

That preparations have gone to plan does not surprise with Partridge’s running career having blossomed over the last two years – the highlight coming last year when she finished 24th and top Brit in the 2011 World Championship Marathon in South Korea with a time of 2-35:57.

“That would be the highlight so far but hopefully the best is yet to come,” said Partridge.

If so, those future glories can now also be celebrated by Leeds to where Partridge relocated in 2004 to be with husband Martin.

Hometown Oban’s loss was the Yorkshire city’s gain and the lure of Leeds and in particular Leeds City Athletics Club is gradually working its charm.

“Leeds is growing on me,” said Partridge, whose main running companion is her German short-haired pointer Piper.

“I have a nice group of friends, I really enjoy my job at the university and I run for Leeds City Athletics Club which is a great club.

“It’s a friendly club where you can have a laugh and while it’s a big club and a very successful one it has also got that old-fashioned club spirit about it.

“If I ever had to leave Leeds, that would be one of the things I would miss the most.”

Not that you’ll ever really take the Scottish fire away from Partridge who even prefers training in her home country to more fashionable climes.

“I do miss home – my parents still live there,” said Partridge.

“I do go back there as part of my training. The other athletes are in Kenya and exotic places and I am in the north of Scotland!”

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