Hallissey holds on to her title after jetting in from America
CLAIRE Hallissey shrugged off the effects of jet-lag to fly around the Bristol Half Marathon and not only retain her women's crown but also win the UK and England Athletics national titles.
A transatlantic flight from Washington DC, where she had been training in a 30C heatwave, may not have been the ideal preparations for a wet and blustery day in Bristol, but Hallissey is not easily deterred.
Starting steadily, the 27-year-old Bristol & West AC runner swept into the lead after five miles and then dominated the race to finish two minutes 31 seconds clear of South African Tanith Maxwell.
While the delight in defending her crown and ensuring another local success story was clear to see, there was an element of frustration for Hallissey as her winning time was exactly the same as 12 months ago.
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"As I sprinted down the finishing straight, I could see the clock and to miss breaking 72 minutes was a little annoying," said Hallissey.
"I thought I was further off the time than that because I started quite conservatively. Without the wind and the wet cobbles, I would have broken 72 minutes easily."
There is no doubt that landmark will be beaten in the near future, but yesterday 72 minutes acquired greater significance because it is the qualifying time set by UK Athletics for selection for the World Half Marathon Championships in China.
Only two other Brits have run that time, Mara Yamauchi and Steph Twell.
"I would like to run the Worlds, as it would fit in with my plans, but the New York Marathon in November is my priority," added Hallissey.
Her coach, Keith Brackstone, is adamant Hallissey deserves to be offered a place in the team.
"Claire is very relaxed about China and if she goes so be it," said Brackstone. "But if she is not selected then it will be another case of the UKA picking their stars."
Runner-up Maxwell revealed that she also had a Bristol connection. "I have come over from Johannesburg for a week and I'm staying with my cousin Sarah in Clifton," said Maxwell, who is running the Berlin Marathon in three weeks. "It meant I had a nice easy walk to the start!"
Third woman was Kenyan Sarah Kiptoo and the next local was Westbury Harriers' Emma D'Alton, who believes she ran a PB of 1:19.38 but can't be sure because her chip timing device came off her shoe – a problem that appears to have affected many runners in the wet conditions.
The women's team results have yet to be confirmed, but the Bristol & West AC trio of Hallissey, Grace Crane and Vicky Tester look to be in contention.
The tale of the men's race was not dissimilar to the women's, with winner Edwin Kipyego having arrived in the UK only on Friday.
"Edwin was travelling for 24 hours because he had visa problems in Shengen that needed sorting out," said his manager Peter McHugh de Clare. "He was feeling pretty tired, so that's a tremendous performance and if he had been pushed I think we would have seen the course record (62:52) go."
Nonetheless, Kipyego's time of 63:08 is the second fastest ever and put him 1mins 24secs clear of runner-up Shiferaw Tewodros, from Ethiopia.
Third, and top Brit, was Aldershot, Farnham & District's Andy Vernon, who clocked 64:43.
"It was not as tough as I thought it would be and I felt very strong at the end," said Vernon.
Vernon won't be interested in the Worlds as he is off to India at the end of the month to run the 10,000m for England in the Commonwealth Games.
The prize for top local runner will go to Westbury Harriers' Matt Ellis, who finished 30th in 1:10.42 to smash his personal best by almost four minutes.
The 32-year-old finished just ten seconds and one place ahead of Clevedon AC's Stuart Leaney. Bristol & West's Steve McGuigan was 33rd (1:11.37) with club-mate Matt Crane 37th (1:12.05), while Ben Morley, of Great Western Runners, was 39th.