Report and photos by Ann Keenan.
It is a long destination to get to Ancona with a flight of two and half hours to Rome followed by a bus ride for another hour. A train journey for four hours and finally a taxi to our hotel. Needles to say by the time we arrived the hunger had set in along with a quench of been in a desert and of course very tired.
But I guess while it was hard to get to Italy it was even harder for Martin to make it to the start line. While most runners understand hard work dedication tears and sweat to run a fast road race, cross country or even a marathon; however a 1500 meters is different and seems even harder.
Race Reporter Ann Keenan with Martin in Italy!
The question “why” might arise in your thoughts when reading this especially to the person who hasn’t run a track race. Well I believe because its running “guts out nonstop “until you reach the finish line. There is no place to hide; you are very exposed to those watching the race. There is no easing up; it requires a special kind of focus determination and to be able to sustain the pain which will test your vo2 max to the limit.
To be able to do this requires a lot of training, speed work to get muscle memory working in your body and to be fit and fast enough to get you around the track and to be able to stay with the other competitors and if good enough aim to win or be in the top three in the race. Last year Martin wanted to return to the track and only God and himself knows why. As a youth he was well able to compete and ran solid times for the 800 meters his fastest was 2 minutes 2 seconds at age 18 years of age.
He certainly made an Impression with his fast kick over two hundred meters. My dad always said he had good talent for the track. He could have ran faster times if he had stuck to it. But one day Martin had a new plan and surprised all our family to tell us that he was given up running to play football. He wanted a team sport so joined Rathgar United. While he turned out to be a good footballer and I did go support him even then screaming from the side lines. Today it’s still hard to believe that he has got himself back into shape to compete in the Europeans masters in just a year.
This new dream arose from finishing third in the national masters indoors and second in the outdoors 1500 meters He then made the decision to go to Ancona. However it wasn’t all plain sailing as he got injured twice and I believe it’s from wear and tear on a body pushed to its limits over the years. But he never gave up on his dream competing in the Europeans and kept going nursing his injuries thankfully made it to Ancona. He was proud to represent club and country and is always happy to give something back to Emily Dowling for all her hard work with sportsworld over the years and who we all know is an inspiration to all athletes.
Martin was aware of the calibre of athletes that he faced in battle in this Europeans championships and although looking forward to the race he knew he had a tough task ahead of himself. Before the heats he was walking outside the stadium to begin his warm up when he spoke to another Irish athlete who told him that it might be a straight final. Martin then went to the official area to find out if this might be true and it was confirmed that there would be no heats. Martin was disappointed as he was all mentally prepared to race. So we went back to the hotel and the build up began again getting ready for the Final the next day.
Martin waiting to go with Emilys Nephew Paul Flemming (1478), a regular on the annual Lanzarote Trip
Martin knew he was in good shape thanks to Myles Nugent his mentor and coach and the hard work on those winter cold nights was hopefully going to pay off in the final. The following day we returned to the stadium. There was two races for his 1500 Meters and Martin was in series one and he gave it his all. The first lap the Italian was in front followed closely by the Belgian runner and Martin. As the lap progressed the Belgian runner moved to the lead and again closely followed by the Italian and Martin. When the bell sounded Martin and the Italian battled it out with the Italian edging ahead at the finish line. Martin was happy to finish third in his race series finishing in a time of 4 minutes 42 secs a seasons best (and 1 sec off his indoor PB).
These races were all about times and how fast could each athlete run in each series. Following Martins race series two blasted out and the winner was from Spain in a time of 4 minutes 17 seconds. The result overall put Martin in 12th place and he felt this was an achievement in a very strong field of athletes.
We all felt happy and proud to be part of something very special. I especially felt proud of my brother who is very dedicated to the sport we all love. I know our Dad, coach Mick Keenan RIP, would have been delighted with Martins performance and no doubt very proud of him as much as everyone is.
Ann, 3rd April 2016