Fionnuala Britton aiming for third time lucky in the Park

Fionnuala Britton will aim to make it third-time lucky at the SPAR Great Ireland Run 10km in Dublin’s Phoenix Park tomorrow as she continues her transition to road running.

Fionnuala Britton aiming for third time lucky in the Park

This will be Britton’s third appearance in the event, having finished seventh in 2011 in 34:10 and fourth last year in 33:54 — her personal best for 10km on the road time.

Britton will need to improve on that if she is to have any hope of becoming the third home runner to win the elite women’s race after Sonia O’Sullivan, who took the honours in the inaugural event in 2003, and Catherina McKiernan who triumphed in 2004.

The double European cross-country champion (2011 and 2012) has recently linked up with Catherina McKiernan’s old coach, Joe Doonan, as she looks to master the marathon.

“There are not many Irish coaches living in Ireland that have coached world class athletes so when Joe Doonan agreed to help me it was an opportunity I knew I had to make the most of,” said Britton.

Britton’s main contenders will be Italy’s European marathon silver medallist Valeria Straneo and European cross-country champion Gemma Steel of Great Britain.

The race will also incorporate the national 10km championships and the Kilcoole AC athlete is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’ll be interesting, because it’s a tough race. I know it’s on the road in the Phoenix Park but it’s a bit like cross-country and it can be windy,” she said, mindful of the various hills and twists and turns on the course.

“It can be a difficult race to predict — it’s at a time of year where no-one really knows where they’re at in terms of how fit they are. Some runners are getting ready for spring marathons and others are looking to the summer and the track.

“For me, it’s really just the start. I want to try to qualify this year for Rio but not in the spring. I’m going to wait until an autumn marathon.

“It would be a brilliant race to win but a lot depends on where the other girls are at. It’s our national championship 10km road race and, with it being a mass participation race, the two linked in together makes it an even bigger race.”

Interestingly, four-time world cross-country silver medallist and former London marathon winner, Catherina McKiernan, will be competing. The 45-year-old finished third in the national championship last year.

The men’s race looks set to be a straight head-to-head between Kenyans Japhet Korir and Leonard Komon.

Korir, the 2013 world cross-country champion, will be bidding to retain the title he won last year in 29:12, but his compatriot is a multiple world record holder on the roads over 10km, 15km and 10 miles.

The domestic challenge will be led by Sergiu Ciobanu (Clonliffe Harriers) — the Moldovan recently acquired his Irish passport — and Mark Hanrahan (Leevale) who finished 6th last year and won the Irish national championship.

Before the main races get underway, there will be the elite men’s road mile at 12:20pm.

European Indoor 800m silver medalist Mark English will be the marquee name but he sees himself as more a of a 400m runner than a miler.

“I’ve never actually run in an individual mile race before,” said English who won bronze at the European outdoors in Zurich and also ran on the Irish 4X400m relay team.

“I did race over 1,500m when I was about 15 or so and I ran in a mile road relay championship at university a couple of years ago, but this will be my first individual mile race.

“It’ll be a new venture for me, but it’ll be nice to see where I am at over the distance. It’ll be good in one way, because there’ll be no pressure on me to beat these guys who know the distance really well.”

RTÉ 2 will cover the event from 12:55pm.

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