Athletics: Prospect of British victory boosted

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The Independent Online
The prospect of Sunday's Flora London Marathon producing the first British male winner in four years rose significantly yesterday as three of the top international contenders reported difficulties in their preparation.

Canvassed earlier this week on who they thought would be their main rivals, the leading British runners - Paul Evans, Richard Nerurkar, Eamonn Martin and Gary Staines - all gave immediate mention to Steve Moneghetti and Antonio Pinto.

But Moneghetti, the Australian who was second in London in 1989 and 1995, said yesterday he had had his training disrupted by an ankle ligament injury in February. And Pinto, the Portuguese runner who won in 1992 and came third two years ago, suffered a foot injury in January.

Jerry Lawson of the United States, who finished runner-up to Evans in the Chicago Marathon last October, also maintained that his preparation had been only partially successful, although in his case the problem was the unseasonal weather in Texas.

"It's been cold and rainy three-quarters of the time I've been there, which is very unusual," said the 30-year-old, who has attracted particular attention in recent years for his eccentric hair styles - he has raced in luminous green and a mohican.

Lawson, who is as strong but not necessarily as sharp as he would like to be, is also renowned for the intensity of his training, once clocking 830 miles in a month. "That was before I ran my first marathon and I was coaching myself," he said. "I was learning by trial and error. That was one of my trials and errors at the same time."

If the American has become more cautious in recent years, then so has Pinto, who nearly ran away with the 1995 title only to see his lead of over a minute cut back in the final couple of miles. "I am not going to do something crazy this time," he said.

As temperatures could rise as high as 17C by late Sunday afternoon, the organisers are increasing the number of bottles of water on the course from 500,000 to 650,000 and installing shower units at nine, 16 and 21 and a half miles.