Spirig can set the tone on a marathon day in Europe

Spirig is desperate for Zurich
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Olympic triathlon champion, Switzerland's Nicola Spirig is running the Zurich Marathon on Sunday and hopes to qualify for the European Athletics Championships also taking place in Zurich this summer.

Nicola Spirig became a national heroine in Switzerland in 2012 when she won triathlon gold at the Olympic Games in London - but now her career has taken her in a new direction.

From three gruelling events to just the one - the marathon - and with it the hope of making this summer’s European Athletics Championships in front of her home fans in Zurich.

And, fittingly, it is in the Swiss capital on Sunday where she will bid to win her place in the team on her debut at the distance.

If the 9,477 runners from 82 countries start, it will be a record number for the 12th Zurich Marathon and though the course will be different from that being used in August, the intensity will be no less as both the women’s and men’s races will have great interest for the watching Swiss crowd.

Spirig is chasing the qualifying time of 2:44:00.

The signs are good of her achieving that, or at least coming close.

Of course there is the “unknown” of what the second 13.1 miles can bring and how her body will react but she has a half-marathon best of 1:15:29 from September last year and a month ago she was second at the Swiss cross country championships to provide her with further impetus for the marathon.

Importantly, stamina is unlikely to be a problem because that is arguably the key ingredient needed to succeed in the triathlon, where she won gold in London in a sensational event, her triumph sealed in a photo-finish in a dramatic sprint after nearly two hours as she beat Sweden’s Lisa Norden.

While much of the attention in Zurich will be on the progress of Spirig, the favourite for the men’s race is Abraham Tadesse.

Eritrean by birth, he now has Swiss citizenship and will be eligible for the European Athletics Championships.

He is the defending champion after his win here last year came in a personal best of 2:07:44.

The Swiss record time - which he can now attempt to break - is 2:07:23 set by Viktor Rothlin in 2008, two years before he won gold in the last marathon to be staged at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona when he took the title in 2:15:31.

Rothlin is aiming to be in Zurich to defend his crown as the event returns to the Championships after its 2012 absence.

While the main challengers to Tadesse will be Kenyan trio Michael Chege, Edwin Korir and Stanley Kirui, Russians Aleksey Sokolov and Dmitriy Safronov will also have a say and may be among those who might play a part in August, too.

It is a huge day across Europe on Sunday for the marathon.

Entry records are also expected to be set in Austria, where the Borealis Linz Donau Marathon has a field of 18,000, and at the 9th CSOB Bratislava Marathon in Slovakia with 8,700 runners.

Milan has the 14th staging of the SuisseGas Milano City Marathon and it is the 5th Brighton Marathon on the south coast in Great Britain.

The Schneider Electric Paris Marathon will have much global attention because it marks the debut at the distance of Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the multiple Olympic and World champion track and cross country champion.