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Britton to skip Worlds to concentrate on marathon

FIONNUALA Britton is set to miss the World Championships in Beijing this summer in favour of pursuing Olympic qualifying in a big city marathon next Autumn.

The two-time European cross-country champion steps back into serious competitive action in the Spar Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park today and indicated yesterday that road-racing, to prepare for an Olympic marathon, will be her main focus this summer.

Britton (30) surprised many by making her marathon debut in the European Championships last summer where she finished 10th in 2:31.4, a time that immediately ranked her fourth on Ireland's all-time list.

That came just four days after she finished eight in the 10,000m at the same championships and since then she has begun working with Joe Doonan, Catherina McKiernan's former coach.

"I have to use this year as a focus for next year," said Britton (pictured). "So for the moment I think I'll use the whole thing to practise on the roads and then build up to a marathon instead. I probably will do some track races but not with the aim of going to Worlds."

She is also getting married, to fellow-athlete Alan McCormack, at the start of June but indicated yesterday that they have no honeymoon plans and that training will remain her priority.

Britton's last big race was the Edinburgh Cross-Country, where she finished second last January, so her current form is unknown but she pointed out yesterday that she will not be alone. Today's opponents include Britain's reigning European Cross-Country champion Gemma Steele, recently 18th at World Cross-Country in China and Italy's Valeria Straneo (39), a marathon silver medallist at Europeans and Worlds in the last two summers and now back after a three-month injury lay-off.

Straneo only became an international after having her spleen removed five years ago.

A genetic condition caused it to swell up to weigh 2kg yet she ran a 1:21 half-marathon just six weeks after surgery.

Today's schedule: Junior (11.30), men's Mile (12.20), elite women (1.10), elite men (1.30), rest of field (1.36).

RTE 2 12.55 -2.35

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