Athletics: Martin on move for first double: Mike Rowbottom on the runner who found he had what it takes to become a London Marathon man

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The Independent Online
EAMONN MARTIN'S career before last April was filled with successes of which most athletes will only dream - a British 10,000 metres record in 1988, the Commonwealth title two years later foremost among them. But in winning the 1993 London Marathon, as he acknowledges, he moved on to a different plane.

'There were nine million people watching the finish on TV,' he said. 'In terms of the number of people who recognise you, it takes you beyond the athletics world. I know that from the reaction I get from people. Last year topped everything for me. It was enjoyable. But there have been huge demands on my time.'

With three young children, a job as a testing engineer at Ford's, where he works from 9.45am to 3.15pm, and of course the continuing need to train, Martin has struggled to accommodate all the requests that have come his way. He estimates he has had 50 days off work for appearances. 'Any Briton hoping to win the London Marathon should be warned about that,' he said, with a characteristically sheepish grin.

Martin, who attempts on Sunday to become the first man to win the London Marathon twice, is one of a number of distinguished 10,000m runners who have made the jump up to marathon, following the likes of Ron Hill and Steve Jones. But it is not an automatic progression - as witness the failure of Mike McLeod, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist who many thought was ideal to make the transition. 'There have been just as many track runners who have not made the conversion successfully,' Martin said. 'Last year was a matter of finding out whether I was one of them or not.'

That fact established to everyone's satisfaction, it is now a matter of deciding which further marathons to go for. Martin is sticking with the London event, and has an ambition to run the 1996 Olympic marathon. But he has not discarded his track career yet. He intends to run the 10,000m at this August's European Championships in Helsinki rather than defend his Commonwealth 10,000m title later the same month. 'I think I am a definite medal contender. All the middle distance events are wide open in Helsinki.'

His prospects on Sunday appear excellent. Having taken nearly six months to fully recover from the foot injury which forced him to drop out of the European Cup 10,000m in Rome half-way through the race, his training has been going well. Unlike last time round, when he decided definitely to do the London only four months beforehand, he has been planning Sunday's run for a year. 'Physically and psychologically the marathon is what I have been aiming at all winter,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)