By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

In a joint announcement today, the Virgin London Marathon and UK Athletics (UKA) said the Britain's biggest marathon would provide an annual investment of up to £150,000 (USD 225,000) to support the UKA Endurance Programme "and help to produce world class British distance athletes."  The program, managed by Olympic medallist Ian Stewart, already receives a "significant investment" from UKA, official said.

The money will be used to finance high altitude training camps in Iten, Kenya, and Font Romeau, France.  Marathoner Paula Radcliffe has used Font Romeau as her high altitude training base for years.

"The mutual expertise in endurance running will form a successful partnership and make a significant impact on endurance running by giving British athletes access to a programme perhaps unrivalled in Europe," said UKA chief executive Niels de Vos in prepared remarks.  "London Marathon's involvement in projects such as this and the laying of Olympic track at the UKA National Performance centre at Lee Valley shows their commitment to the sport."

This British initiative is modeled after a similar program in the United States where the ING New York City Marathon provides funding to USA Track & Field (USATF) to finance distance running centers of excellence, including the Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where marathoners Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor, and Meb Keflezighi train.  That program is widely credited with turning around USA distance running which hit a low point in 2000 when only one American man and woman qualified for the Olympic Games marathon.

With the exception of a few stars like Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi, and Mo Farah, British distance runners have struggled to keep up with the world's best, especially in the marathon.  In 2009, only Dan Robinson was able to record a marathon time faster than 2:15 (he ran 2:12:14 in Amsterdam).  In the half-marathon, only Andrew Lemoncello broke 62 minutes in 2009 (61:52), and he is coached by an American, Greg McMillan, in Flagstaff, Ariz.  The last British man to win the Virgin London Marathon was Eamonn Martin 17 years ago.

"One of the London Marathon's founding aims was to help improve the overall standard and status of British endurance running," commented Virgin London Marathon race director Dave Bedford in a statement.  "Over the years it has provided the stage for some outstanding performances from British athletes such as Paula Radcliffe and others.  We welcome this opportunity to provide further help to British endurance running by funding altitude training facilities for Britain's current and future world class athletes."

The Virgin London Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 25.  Last year's race had 35,306 finishers, making it Europe's largest marathon, and the second-largest in the world behind the ING New York City Marathon, which had 43,660 finishers.




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