With 18 months to go, the countdown to Rio 16 has already begun – with the women’s marathon again likely to throw up an extravagance of talent.
Four women qualified for the 2012 London Olympics and with only three places on offer, Maria McCambridge was left at home. Ironically, she remains the only one of the four qualifiers still active – Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson and Caitríona Jennings all stopped competing after London.
McCambridge, 40 next July, she has a renewed spring in her step these days after altering her training last year. The result was a personal best of 2hrs 34mins 19secs on the hilly Dublin Marathon course last October; on a faster course, she feels that she can get close to 2 hours 30 secs.
Heading the list of likely contenders is Fionnuala Britton who ran a time of 2:31.46 at the European Championships in Zurich last August.
Although she finished fourth at the European Cross-Country in December and second at Edinburgh a few weeks ago, she will by-pass the World Cross-Country Championships in March to concentrate on the roads.
Second on last year’s rankings was the Scottish-based Galway woman Nicola Duncan who ran 2:33.28 in London last April but has suffered from injury since then. Also under 2 hrs 40 mins last year was was Jenny Jagger, based in Bristol, who ran 2:39.46 in Frankfurt last October but hasn’t shown any form since.
Another women very much in contention is Lizzie Lee, whose time of 26mins 34secs at the Axa Raheny 5-Mile last Sunday knocked almost a minute off her personal best. Lee ran a time of 2:38.09 at the Berlin Marathon in September 2013 and then took time off to have a baby, now six months old.
With Rio firmly in her sights, she’s aiming to run the Barcelona Half-Marathon, where Nicola Duncan ran a sensational time of 71 mins 12 secs last year, and will follow that with the Rotterdam Marathon in April. She may even decide to run Berlin later in the year.
McCambridge is taking a different tack. She won an invitational 1500m at the Athlone Indoor Arena last Sunday and wants to make the 3000m qualifying mark for the European Indoors next month.
On the roads, her target race is Berlin and she plans to work hard on her track speed until then.
Then there’s Mary Cullen. The Sligo woman will make her 10-mile debut at Sunday’s John Treacy Dungarvan ‘10’ and her form will be closely watched.