The Graded Meet Series concluded with an exciting finale at Tallaght stadium on a sweltering Wednesday evening, the 12th August. Entries for ‘real’ non virtual events these days are at a premium so we were up very early at 6am booking this online a few days before as we knew it would sell out very quickly.
Five Sportsworld runners ran 400m and 5000m events over the course of the evening. First up, Elaine Kennedy continued her blistering vein of form in an incredibly competitive women’s B race with a superb 103.76 to better her own time as the second fastest in the distance in the Sportsworld record books. With this rate of progress surely an all-time Sportsworld record must be within reach for Elaine and she’s really been doing the club proud in track events both indoor and outdoor.
Anthony Gillen and myself decided we would try to get as much value from the final Graded Meet as we could by entering two events, the 400m and the 5000m. Drawn in a very fast heat, I’d rather not dwell on it too much other than to say I appreciated the experience of an outdoor block start and getting under 70 seconds. Other than that, it was a torrid minute or so. Anthony did rather better in his heat, clocking an impressive 66.18 and finishing a credible fifth despite a difficult draw in the outside lane.
On to the 5000 metres. Conor Keating had travelled from Tipp to run this. Also lined up was Timothy Morahan, another Sportsworld athlete who, like Conor, has been hugely impressive on the track this season and who has excelled in all three of the graded series, really doing Sportsworld proud. Anthony and myself, made up the rest of the Sportsworld contingent, all of us racing in the same heat.
Just prior to this we had all watched the ‘A’ 5000m which contained quite a cast of stars, not least Mick Clohissey, Eoin Everard, Conor Duffy, Sean Tobin, Sean Hehir and our own Stephen O’Donnell’s brother Paul who runs for DSD. Paul ended up coming second to Sean Tobin and it was hugely exciting to see such a competitive field. That’s the great thing about the graded track events, both indoor and outdoor, you really feel you are rubbing shoulders with the best in the country even though part of you thinks that you have no right to be competing in such exalted company.
Our 5000m had a big field, it was a sticky balmy evening and we all know it was going to be a tough twelve and half laps of the track. Having done the 400m already I know it would be quite a physical ask. I think I’d set my own target beforehand of being happy with anything under 20 minutes but after about three laps of glancing at my watch I realised that this was going to prove difficult. The incessant cornering of the track over that distance seems to hold you back a bit unlike a road race. It’s as if there’s a kind of sideways gravity at play that is restricting. The race began with a familiar pattern, leading my old nemesis Anthony around the early stages then being slowly ground down by him as the race wore on a bit. Once people start to pass you, a Donore athlete was next, you start to wonder how many are behind you and all the doubts then surface.
Before the race I’d been chatting to Frank McNally, the Irish Times journalist and Donore runner who writes ‘An Irishman’s Diary’ in the Irish Times and I knew he was behind me at least. I’d asked him if he was going to write about the event, thought he might dig up some hitherto virtually unknown piece of information about the history of the location of the meet. He wrote instead about his 12 and a half lap experience in his Irish Times column two days later; “As I was reminded during 12 and a half laps of pain on Wednesday night, even their slowest events are too quick for me these days.
Also – speaking of horizons – there are no such thing on a running track. In most road races, at least, the faster people can overtake you only once. After that, they usually have the decency to disappear”.
Briefly, I managed to claw Anthony back a bit over the mid to latter part of the race but in the end my revival petered out – if you pardon the pun – missing my 20 minute target by 45 seconds. Meanwhile, both Timothy and Conor had lapped us and were looking strong. In the end, Timothy finished in 5th position (out of 24) with a hugely impressive time of 17.57, Conor following a few places after in 18.21. Even though there were no team prizes, it was great in some way to feel part of a collective Sportsworld effort. Very often in these track events, they feel very individual and that you are often ‘out on your own’. This can be character building when you are on the blocks staring down the barrel of the starters pistol but there are moments equally when you appreciate your club mate’s presence and encouragement before, during and after a race. Also, a big thanks to Nicola and Pádraig who came to shout their support, which we heard ringing in our ears as every lap passed by.
By the end of the race, the darkness had set in. Another great fantastic meeting concluded. It seems that some of the teething problems in the first graded meet around getting people in and out of the athletes area under the required restrictions had been ironed out. The Tallaght track appeared to work very well in this regard and the organisers are to be congratulated on their excellent organisation of and completion of a very successful series of meetings in challenging circumstances.
Elaine Kennedy 1.03.76 PB & 2nd fastest outdoor Sportsworld 400m
Anthony Gillen 66.18
Peter Knaggs 69.52
Timothy Morahan 17.57 (5th place)
Conor Keating 18.21
Anthony Gillen 20.29
Peter Knaggs 20.45