Strong line up on their marks for half marathon

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Hopes are high that a local athlete can run away with the SIG Insulations Sheffield Half Marathon prize money on Sunday.

With both of last year’s winners not in the field, organisers are saying the race is wide open with quality club runners to the fore.

Entries co-ordinator Ian Thomas said: “We have a policy of not encouraging professional athletes. We were full up on February 20 and would like the winners to be people who work hard all day and train hard in their spare time.

“The race is to give ordinary people in the city a good chance of picking up the prize money.”

Andrew Pearson, the 2010 champion, has opted to compete in his home city half marathon in Leeds, which is also on Sunday.

Leading the men’s hopefuls in Sheffield is Fergus Meade, who finished fourth in the race in 2009 with a time of 70:12.

The Leeds City AC athlete has been in good form this year with a series of excellent 10K times, including breaking his personal best at the Trafford 10K in March.

Ben Morley from Bristol could be Meade’s closest challenger. The 26-year-old finished 10th last year, which was a massive improvement on his 35th place in 2009.

Cleethorpes runner Martin Formstone has dominated the Lincolnshire road-race series for the past couple of years and could carry over his experience of being a regular winner into Sunday.

Hallamshire Harriers’ Michael Sprot will be hoping to make it a home-city win but may have to significantly improve on his personal best time of 74:49, recorded in the 2008 race, to cross the line first.

Sheffield University student Danny Brewer says a top 10 position is his aim but with a UK title to his name in 2007 as part of London’s Blackheath & Bromley club he clearly cannot be underestimated.

With last year’s winner Natalie Farrow withdrawing due to work commitments the women’s race is wide open for the other leading contenders.

Guiseley-based runner Emma Inglis’s personal best of 86:24 is just outside of Farrow’s winning time while Southampton’s Erica Sheldon, aged 33, has run 81:37 but that was in 2005.

Home hopes may rest with Hallamshire athlete Nicola Squires. The 25-year-old has had a steady start to the 2011 season and could use local knowledge to her advantage if the race is tight in the final few miles.

The race starts at 9.30am at Don Valley and incorporates the Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Championships.