National Master’s Track & Field, Morton Stadium, Santry 6th September 2020

 By Anthony Gillen, Garrett Banahan, Liam Lenehan & Brian Conway

 Anthony Gillen’s 1500m

I was lined up in the second heat with 5 runners from my age group and another 9 runners from the O40 category.  My overall plan for the race was to run 60- 80- 80- 80 for about 5:00 minutes.

The gun went off, and I went out immediately at about my intended race pace, letting others pass as they wished so I quickly found myself at the back of the pack.  However, at the first bend the pack slowed down noticeably and I thought for an instance that new pace would be the going rate and hence favourable for me.  However, having navigated the bend it was back to normal and I had to settle in to manage on my own at the back.

The first two laps went to plan timewise being right on target times.  But I was at the upper end of my target pace and shortly after seeing one competitor drop out, I began to struggle myself. Left to my own at the back on this occasion I was not able to muster the enthusiasm to kick on.  The remaining laps passed in a blur and I reached the finished line well off a decent time.

The winner came home in 4:22.78.  The results for my age group were:

1              John HENNESSY                 Middleton A.C.                  4:30.01

2              Ken ARCHBOLD                 St. L. O’Toole A.C.            4:36.72

3              Eamon MURPHY               North Sligo A.C.                 4:37.63

4              Michael COUNSEL            Trim A.C.                             4:41.99

5              Anthony GILLEN               Sportsworld A.C.              5:17.93

Many thanks to Peter Knaggs for transport, motivation, and photos.

Garrett Banahan’s 5000m – The Refrigerator in the Sportsworld Singlet

This race was a race of “firsts” for me – first race for Sportsworld, first race for seven months, first track 5k…and first race in the middle of a global pandemic! And I only first believed that last Sunday’s National Masters in Santry would actually go ahead when the Athletics Ireland email came through on the Thursday…especially after the entries for the men’s 5k passed the three figure mark! Athletics Ireland reacted to these unprecedented numbers by tweaking the schedule to basically add a third session to the day specifically for the five or six 5k races they’d need to run off! Anyway, we finally had a race to run…

I got to the stadium in decent time having spent the morning catching a few of the other races on the online stream. There was an orderly/socially-distanced queue of M35 5k entrants waiting outside the gate for the 3:30 opening. When we got into the stadium we were ticked off as having checked in online/confirmed our healthiness, and headed for the stand beside the call “room” (i.e. the covered terrace-bit over by the corner-gate to the Demesne). The atmosphere was a strange combination of very calm and very surreal – even though there were some great 800m races going on, the only sounds were the heavy breathing and spike-strikes of the athletes, the occasional intervention from the PA system, some clapping from our stand, and some commentary from the lads on the online stream from the far side of the stand! It was still great to watch some races live. There were 21 in our O35 race which was scheduled for 5 o’clock – various groups of us warmed up with about five extended laps around the track, before some drills then into the call room at 4:40. Something that would become a bone of contention later was how the “illegal shoe inspection” was more of a question than an inspection (literally – “Is anyone wearing runners?” – to which there were no claims…more later). 4:55 and we were escorted over to the 5k start and assigned our lanes. It was all strangely chilled out, especially for a track race.


The gun went and all the chilled-outness disappeared, and what a great feeling it was to get stuck into proper racing again! My plan was to start strong to get into a competitive group, and then see what sub-groups developed from there. As is so often the case, this meant having to go out a bit harder than I should have, but I was happy to sacrifice my time (in every sense of the word) in the interests of racing. I’d also lined up a few lads that I figured I should be near or nearabouts, so that gave me something of a barometer. A group of about four sub-15 “elites” unsurprisingly broke off the front early, leaving a relatively big bunch behind. This stayed together for about four laps before it started “leaking” – I think I got leaked at about a mile in. I was going along at a nice clip though and felt ok in the four or five-strong group that we kept together for a few more laps. I hadn’t been looking at the track splits and received a bit of a nasty shock when we went through the 7.5 lap mark in 10:08…my 3k pb is 10:07! “Trouble.” I knew a few friends who were watching and commenting on the live stream, and I was certain one of them in particular would have noted this slight miscalculation from Garrett! I’ll let his messages that I read later in the WhatsApp group speak for the rest of my race:

17:14: Garrett will either run a massive pb here or completely blow up

17:15: On for sub 17 with a mile to go

17:20: He blew up

17:21: But still a pb

Or what I’d call a race well run!

Even though the last four or five laps were tough, I was still happy to have dug in and, having being lapped by the front four elites with about four laps to go, and then passed by a lad from Portmarnock AC, managed to keep it together and pass a lad from Waterford, and made Drogheda and Blackrock work hard for their Sportsworld scalp in the last three laps (featuring a decent nip and tuck with Blackrock in the last 200m – ending in defeat but hey).


It was then a case of handshakes elbow-punches, before circling back to the start line to pick up our things and leaving the stadium “immediately after your event has concluded”. By which I of course cooling down around the track for ages and then doing a lot of stretching on the grassy hill…coincidentally all within sight of the abundance of 5k’s that followed! To be fair I think we benefitted from being the last session of the day, so there was no actual reason to kick us out of the stadium. This was a most welcome development as it meant I got to watch Brian put in a great shift in the M40, and also catch up with Liam before his M60 battle with national-record breaking Tommy Hughes! Fair play to both for clocking excellent sub-20’s respectively. I should also say well done to Anthony Gillen who ran a good-looking time in the 1500 M50 earlier in the day

For those who are interested in watching back any of the 5k’s (or all five of them!), here’s a link to the stream and where to scroll to (I’d recommend watching some of one of them at least for the commentary alone).


M35 5k (feat. Garrett): 7:07:00

M40 5k (feat. Brian): 7:32:00

M60 5k (feat. Liam): 8:47:00


The days after the race have featured blisters (12.5 laps in spikes for the first time), figuring out how my sister and a friend of mine managed to earn me the nickname of “The Refrigerator” on the online stream (scroll to 7:28:45…this also explains the title of this report, that and it being an ode to Zig and Zag’s “The Fridge in the Denim Jacket” 1989 masterpiece), and some heated-enough discussions around the number of athletes who raced in “the cheat-boots” (i.e. the Next Percent’s) – including one Crusaders lad in my race who got a great big shoe-shaming by Cathal Dennehy on the live stream (7:10:15).


Overall a genuinely great experience and effort by all involved – particularly the organisers. Hopefully it bodes well for a XC season of some description. I’m off to take a week’s break from running myself (another first – first break from running since February), so see you all in a few weeks 🙂


Liam Lenehan’s 5000m

Having raced against or more accurately run in the same race as Tommy Hughes, I wanted to add a few lines to Garrett’s report about the man/superstar of Masters running.

You will be hearing a lot more of him in the next 12 months as he smashes Irish and world masters records.

An upside of the Covid restrictions is that for the first time ever in my masters running career (presumptuous), we had a race just for ourselves so to speak. No longer restrained by running blind against opponents in a race for all age categories O35, we O60’s could all see the whites of each others eyes on the starting line. The only time we saw Tommy’s again was when he lapped all of us once and most of us twice! (finishing 6th he still got me for a second time halfway down the finishing straight).

As for yours truly it was my first time to run in Morton Stadium, a first time to race around 12.5 track laps, a first time to run in The Nationals, a first time to be live streamed and best of all, first time to race directly against Tommy and a great bunch of similar vintage athletes. Here’s to a good few more years of the same.

For the record, Tommy’s time was 16.47, Martin McDonnell (runner up with his daughters and son in last years finals of Irelands fittest family) was a close second with a time of 19.23. Running 19.53, I was thrilled to break 20 minutes and and hold my own in a strong field. Thanks to all who watched YouTube stream and supported with live commentary and on Club WhatsApp groups. I knew I had to keep going!

Here is Tommy’s post- race interview:

And finally; the last word to Brian Conway:

The second heat took off quick and then things seem to settle down after the stagger. It definitely seemed longer than 12 laps or so. I more or less ran my own race (against the clock) as I was a bit behind the main group. Even so, it was enjoyable race.

Results National Masters 2020 Morton Stadium, Santry

1500m 5th in age Anthony Gillen 5:17.93

5000m 17th in age  Garrett Banahan 17:08.36

5000m 17th in age Brian Conway 19:20.35

5000m 6th In age Liam Lenehan 19:53.78