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Impending fatherhood helps motivate Lemoncello after long fight back to fitness

U nder normal circumstances, the prospect of running 26 miles for the first time after several months of miserable inactivity might have weighed heavily on the mind of Andrew Lemoncello.

His marathon return in the Californian capital Sacramento tomorrow marks only a fourth competitive appearance of 2012 for the Scot.

However, Lemoncello admits only to being "a bit anxious", perhaps due to having other things on his mind. Finding out that he and his wife Julie are to become parents for the first time next summer has stopped the 30-year-old dwelling on the short-term.

Some reticence would be understandable as the Arizona-based Fifer makes his long-distance comeback after a torrid spell in which misfortune was a constant companion. Established as Britain's No.1 after a successful switch from steeplechase, he entered 2011 with high hopes.

At the London Marathon, he was cruising comfortably. Suddenly, with little warning, a searing stitch proved overwhelming and his bid to break the 2 hours and 10 minutes barrier was shattered. It was an aberration, he hoped. But in Japan, exactly a year ago, he was similarly afflicted. With his hamstrings turning to concrete, it would be nine months until he would race again.

"I did wonder if this was going to be something that would be a major problem," he says. "There were points where I was a bit worried. It's tough when things aren't going well, when you think maybe you might not run another marathon."

His coach of the past five years, Greg McMillan, had to keep his spirits high. "But the way my fitness was coming along, and then slowly being able to do pretty well over short distances, I never really got to that point where I was really concerned. I was never going to just give up," he says.

The Olympics passed without him. After savouring Beijing, missing London was a blow. However, Lemoncello found solace in the tribulations of those whose marathon ambitions were driven by masochism, not medals. McMillan has a sideline providing mentoring and support over the Internet.

Who better, he thought, to provide wisdom than someone who had felt the highs and lows? Listening to their stories provided perspective. "When you hear some of the things they've gone through, injuries or just trying to get fit enough to run that far, it does inspire you," Lemoncello said. "I have to work hard, but then I'm an athlete so I expect that. When they're doing it for the challenge, it does spur you on. Plus having a baby coming is going to be another reason to stay motivated."

Impending fatherhood will not, he vows, turn him into one of those athletes who pops up in every far-flung destination chasing one appearance cheque after another, despite another year outside the Lottery funded ranks. "I've never tried deliberately to chase the money," he said. "But yeah, it does put a little bit more pressure on you to think about stuff like that. But I know if I'm running well, that will take care of itself."

As long as there are no further glitches, he will approach next season with fresh plans. Glasgow, and Rio, are on the horizon, but he will initially target the Scottish cross country crown, a title he has never won. "My main priority is to win marathon selection for the world championships," he added, "or if that fails, the 10,000 metres. But let's get Sunday out of the way first."

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