Lady and the tramps

20 April 2012 / 07:48

Olympic hopeful Louise Damen has attracted a unique bunch of supporters as she looks to claim the last marathon place on the British team for London - a bunch of Special Brew-drinking tramps.

Damen, 29, will contest the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday in the hopes of joining Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi in the three-strong women's marathon team for this summer's Games.

And although she may not be widely known outside of athletics circles, Damen revealed her exploits have been gathering some attention from an unlikely source. "One of my regular training runs goes past where a few tramps sit drinking Special Brew and I get a little shout of 'Go Louise' from them," she said.

But she joked: "It is Winchester though, so they are quite posh tramps!"

It is quite remarkable that Damen is a runner at all, never mind one with Olympic ambitions, given that she was born without a left hip socket and spent several months in traction and splints as a baby.

She is also a self-coached PE teacher who made her marathon debut in London last year and ran an excellent time of two hours 30 minutes, exactly one minute inside the Olympic qualifying standard.

However, Devon's Jo Pavey remains in pole position for the last Olympic place available by virtue of her run of 2hrs 28mins 24secs in the same race, putting her third in the UK rankings over the last 12 months.

That time is 63 seconds quicker than her closest selection rival Claire Hallissey, but while Pavey sits out Sunday's race to concentrate on preparing for the summer, Hallissey, Damen and Liz Yelling will all compete and try to beat Pavey's time ahead of Monday's team selection.

Damen, who was forced to drop out of her only other marathon in Yokohama last November, said: "I think I've probably experienced the two ends of the spectrum.

"I had a great experience on my debut in London and then a horrible one in Yokohama. It taught me you can have a brilliant build-up but things can go wrong over 26 miles, it's a long way. I have taken those lessons on board and hopefully Sunday can be a progression in my career."