Paul Pollock: Northern Irishman books Olympic marathon spot after 2:10 run

Paul Pollock's time moves him to second on the all-time Irish list behind John Treacy
Paul Pollock can look forward to competing in a second Olympics after finishing as the leading Irishman in the Rio Games marathon in 2016

Northern Ireland athlete Paul Pollock achieved the Olympic marathon qualifying time on Sunday and moved to second on the Irish all-time list as he ran 2:10.25 in Valencia.

Pollock's time was one minute and five seconds inside the Tokyo standard.

The 33-year-old Holywood man's performance cut five minutes and five seconds off his previous best set in 2017.

Emma Mitchell also ran well as she clocked 2:36.47 on her marathon debut.

Pollock's time, which left him 18th overall, moves him up to second on the Irish all-time list behind 1984 Olympic silver medallist John Treacy.

The Waterford great holds the Irish record with his 2:09.15 clocking in Boston in 1988.

Cork man Mark Carroll previously was the second fastest Irishman with his 2:10.54 run in New York in 2002.

With his Olympic qualifying time now secured, Pollock can start planning for next summer's Games in Tokyo where he may be joined by another Northern Irishman Stephen Scullion.

Emma Mitchell clocked 2:36.47 on her marathon debut in Valencia
Emma Mitchell produced an encouraging marathon debut and is likely to make a further attempt at pushing herself into the Olympic Games frame in the Spring

Scullion improved his personal best to 2:12.01 at the Dublin Marathon last month and that time could prove good enough to secure his Tokyo spot on world ranking even though it was 31 seconds outside the Olympic standard.

The Belfast man's time broke Greg Hannon's 40-year-old Northern Ireland record but that has now gone to Scullion following his superb run in Spain.

Speaking on Twitter after Sunday's race, Pollock said: "On 9th September, I was lying in an MRI scanner with broken metatarsal. Today I went number two on Irish all-time list."

Mitchell's run will give her encouragement that she can get into the frame for Olympic selection next Spring with Fionnuala McCormack already having booked her Tokyo berth with a 2:26.47 clocking last month.

The women's Olympic standard is 2:29.30 but once again, times shy of that could be enough to put athletes in Tokyo contention under the complex new qualifying system.

Aoife Cooke and Ann-Marie McGlynn are potential contenders having run 2:32:34 and 2:32.54 in Dublin.

Ethiopian Kinde Atanaw won the men's race in Valencia in a new course record of 2:03.51 with Turkey's former Kenyan Kaan Kigen Ozbilen, formerly known as Mike Kigen, setting a new European record of 2:04.16 as the first 13 finishers all broke two hours and 10 minutes.

Ethiopian Roza Dereje also set a new course record of 2:18.30 in the women's race as Mitchell finished 20th.

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