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Finally, making a Dent in the Olympic team

Date

Chris Wilson

Canberra marathon runner Martin Dent looks set to make the Olympic team for London.

Canberra marathon runner Martin Dent looks set to make the Olympic team for London. Photo: Melissa Adams

Martin Dent was on a lunch-break from his public service job, about 10 kilometres into his 15 kilometres jog around Lake Burley Griffin's east basin, when the phone inside a plastic zip-lock bag began to buzz within his sweaty palm.

It was a phone call Dent had been waiting more than 12 years for.

''I've got some good news,'' Athletics Australia chairman of selectors Dion Russell began, enough for Dent to realise he'd finally been granted a chance to run at an Olympic Games, in London on August 12.

Dent was a 3000 metre steeplechase runner when he was cruelly cut at the last stages of selection before the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2008 he'd even been national champion and had posted an Olympic-qualifying time, only to be overlooked by selectors at the last minute.

So if anyone finally deserved a break, it was this 33-year-old father of three, the self-coached, re-invented marathon runner from Aranda.

Making Dent's Olympic dream even more surreal is the real life that surrounds it. Dent works Monday to Friday in administration for the Department of Industry.

Before work each day he and wife Katie will tag-team their morning runs, before getting themselves ready for work and their three boys - Elye 3, and two-year-old twins Connor and Hayden - to childcare.

On occasions Dent will run to work, just so his commute can become an extra training session. Somehow he squeezes up to 200 kilometres of running into a week.

''Sometimes running can be a break,'' Dent says, laughing.

Dent had been agonising about yesterday's discretionary selection from Athletics Australia. He'd fallen just 23 seconds outside an automatic Olympic-qualifying time for the marathon in December last year - it equates to about 0.5 seconds per kilometre.

He needs only to stay fit to guarantee he competes in London.

''It's been a long time,'' Dent said yesterday. ''I was in the mix 12 years ago, so it's something I've been pushing towards. I've made a few Australian teams along the way, but this is by far the biggest one.''

His first Olympics will almost certainly be his last, too.

''I can't imagine myself still doing this sort of training in four years' time,'' he admits, not yet resigning himself to retirement.

''If I could get a really good result in London, you never know, I might be motivated to push on until the next Commonwealth Games. But I wouldn't be surprised if I wind it back a little bit.''

Funnily enough, Dent was born in London, but was only two when his family emigrated to Australia. He calls Canberra home.

His brother and sister have returned to live in London. His parents will travel to watch him compete at the Games. The marathon will be on the final day of the London Olympics, just hours before the closing ceremony.

''It's a bit of a shame, it's going to be a bit of a long wait watching everything else go on,'' Dent says.

It beats waiting for the phone to ring.

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