Capital distance runner Freya Murray enjoyed a brilliant debut in the Virgin London Marathon when she covered the classic distance in two hours 28 mins 10 seconds to go straight to second place on the Scottish All-Time list for the event behind the legendary Liz McColgan, whose best of 2:26.52 was set 15 years ago.
The 28-year-old engineer and Edinburgh Athletic Club member also jumped right into contention for a place in the British team for the London 2012 Olympics.
Though officially the British athletes in yesterday’s star-studded event were racing for the right to fill the third and only vacant spot in the British team, as Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamouchi have already been chosen, Murray and Claire Hallissey (Bristol) both ran well inside the UK Athletics’ official qualifying time of 2:31.00 and also bettered the time of 2:28.28 set last year by another contender Jo Pavey, who chose to sit out yesterday’s race.
While Kenya’s Mary Keitany stormed to victory in 2:18.37 for an African record, Hallissey emerged victorious in the race within the race for the aspiring Brits, finishing strongly in 2:27.46 while Murray survived a crisis at 17 miles when she was temporariy dropped from this mini-group and came back to pass Midlands rival Louise Damen and chase Hallissey.
With fitness doubts over both Radcliffe and Yamouchi, Murray could yet find herself in the British team though the Heriot-Watt graduate is typically taking nothing for granted.
She said: “I just don’t know what’s going to happen now – I’ll just have to wait for the decision following today’s selection meeting.”
Yet Murray admitted to a slight pang of disappointment after her triumph. “It was certainly tough but I’m slightly frustrated,” she said, doubtless regretting that she had let Hallissey get away from her. “Claire beat me by about 35 seconds and she’s the clear favouite for the third spot but once I could see the clock on the final stretch I was very conscious of trying to get inside Pavey’s time. I’ve done that in my debut at the distance – I can’t ask for more.
“I’m really pretty pleased with it though there’s nothing guaranteed for me in terms of the Olympics. It basically looks like I’ll be the one asked to keep myself in reserve and train for a marathon I might not run - but I’m more than prepared to do that. You never want to get into the Olympics on the strength of someone getting injured but you have to bear in mind that it can happen, especially in the marathon. There’s still the 10k on the track as well but I’ve yet to decide what to do about that – I’ll talk to my coach in the next few days once we know the outcome of the GB selection.”
Murray, who has pushed Hayley Haining (2:19.18) into third place in the Scottish AT list, could yet find herself in the same position as the unlucky Haining was in 2008 when she was official reserve for Beijeng and waited in vain for Radcliffe to declare herself unfit when the whole world could see that the world’s fastest female marathoner was not at her best.
Radcliffe insisted on running and limped home in 23rd place in 2:32.38, a pale shadow of the amazing athlete who won London in 2005 in the still World best of 2:15.18.
Murray can only hope history does not repeat itself.