It was the first of September, a day I’ll always remember: that was the day that my Sportsworld singlet died…
The Venue: Tallaght Track.
The Event: Sportsworld Club Championships.
The Races: 1,500m individual men and women, 400m team relay.
The Goal: shine like a star.
The Old Mantra: ‘You can lose fitness but you can’t lose talent’ (Byrne, Joseph. 2001. – sorry, just finished my doctorate and have developed an addiction of formally citing people’s quotes).
The New Mantra: if you have less talent, compensate with fitness.
Disclosure: The events recounted in this report are based less rigidly on actual facts and more loosely on how I interpret them; any levels of realism can rise as well as fall, please read responsibly.
This was a great race for the spectator. Like a group of lean, graceful leopards on the Serengeti Plains, they lined up – the crème de la crème of Sportsworld female athletes gathered on a misty morning track just outside of Tallaght village.
It was a tight contest for the first three laps with Maria Jones (more about her later) closely tracked by Ruth Kelly, Stephanie Bergin and Deirdre O’Connell (yes, the sister of the famous Paul O’Connell). Looking equally comfortable, not far behind the leaders was my great 400m team captain Naoise Waldron, and in the second group were Sinead Farrell, Jessica Kennedy and Val Power.
With the bell chiming in their ears, the lead pack opened up with Maria putting the boot down, but Ruth was not giving up for anybody. Watching them fly past me on the 100m bend, it was not clear which of the two to bet my lunch money on for first and, likewise, the battle for third and fourth spot was being fought out between Steph and Deirdre.
Taking the ribbon, however, was Maria in 5:26, a very respectable time considering she spent most of the summer months recovering from injury; Ruth took second with 5:33; Stephanie third with 5:40; and Deirdre a close runner-up with 5:48.
The honours don’t end there, though, as Val Power took gold in the over-45 category with a time of 6:22, Anna Carrigan took silver for the same age group with 7:15 and Irene O’Connor rocked home in 7:05 to take gold in the over-50s. Well done to all 13 ladies who took part in the race, your times are recorded and listed below!
|Over Placing||Athlete||Time||Medal Won|
|1||Maria Jones||5:26||Gold and Trophy|
|8||Val Power||6.22||Gold o/45|
|9||Bronwyn Murphy White||6:28|
|12||Irene O’Connor||7:05||Gold o/50|
|13||Anna Carrigan||7:15||Silver o/45|
Event 2: The Men’s 1,500m
There were literally LOADS of us. There was a broad range of categories: under 35s, over 35s, well-over 35s and those-who-can’t-even-remember-when-they-were-35s.
This was truly a loaded field; big names, some with county, national, international and Olympic medals under their belts, like Gareth Murran, Karol Cronin, Michael Cunningham, Martin Keenan, Timothy Morahan and myself ‘most improved athlete of the year (2005)’. There was no gun-start, not even a ‘3-2-1’, just a ‘on the line…go’; this rattled me for a second and I never quite caught up with the boys again.
I took it handy for the first lap: I stayed with (the great) Paul Cassidy. I thanked him for his company and pushed on.
Next targets: Karl Chatterton, Wesley Harrison and Martin Keenan. I would have caught them no problem if they hadn’t had paid the other 30 athletes to block me in a finely spread-out and well-orchestrated group. Smashing into the third lap I set my sights on others like David Sanders (sprint specialist), Liam Lenehan (1st home in the 400m relay), Neil Purdy (marathon man), Paul Duffy (club record holder for the marathon 2hrs29mins), and the young and up-and-coming Thomas Lyster.
Meanwhile up at the front, Gareth was using all his track experience to fend off the relentless attacks from Karol as they came into the last 200 metres (I didn’t actually witness this personally as they were about to lap me!). Gareth managed to do just about enough to keep Karol from getting his name on the silverware this year romping home in 4:20 with the primary school teacher settling for second place, a silver star and a two-second difference.
Michael, also running some very good races this season, was entertaining a consistently solid performer Karl who, likewise, was under a touch of healthy pressure from Brian Byrne, Adam Moss and the Talented Mr. Stephen O’Donnell. The Chairman, almost in a photo-(shop) finish, shaved third place in 4:29 and, in a blink of an eye later, Karl crossed the line in 4:30, followed closely by Brian (4:32), Adam (4:33) and Stephen (4:37).
As you all know, runners tend to suffer from amnesia in races and, as such, I don’t remember much of mine. However, I do recall booting around the final bend with an ambitious target: to catch the new man Thomas Lyster in the home straight. This, despite my best efforts, remained just that, an ambitious target, as, upon hearing my grunting get closer, this young man found another gear and out-kicked me, crossing the line (a mere) one second (or even less) ahead of me in 5:55. I didn’t mind, however, as this rising star went on to win a medal in his category so well done Thomas, I’ll see you next year!
The honours for the male athletes of the Sportsworld Track Championships 2018 in the 1,500m event are as follows:
- Gareth Murran: overall winner and undisputed Club Champion for 2018.
- Karol Cronin: overall second place and man behind the boo’s at Gareth’s prize-giving.
- Michael Cunningham: overall third place and still the Chairman of the club.
- Wesley Harrison: 1st over 40 (4:40)
- Justin McKeever: 2nd over 40 (4:53)
- Ronan Masterson: 3rd over 40 (5:17)
- Martin Keenan: 1st over 45 (4:48) – they say that this man now has more gold around his neck than Mr. T.
- Don José Chapa: 2nd over 45 (5:27)
- Alan Hynes: 3rd over 45 (5:30)
- Ed McEntee: 1st over 50 (5:15)
- Joe Byrne: 2nd over 50 (5:26)
- Noel Lynam: 3rd over 50 (6:02)
- Liam Lenehan: 1st over 55 (5:39)
- Derek Long: 2nd over 55 (5:52)
- Don’t know who: 3rd over 55
- Timothy Morahan: 1st Newcomer (4:43)
- Donal Brennan: 2nd Newcomer (5:12)
- Thomas Lyster: 3rd Newcomer (5:55)
Event 3: the 400m Team Relay
This was the big one. This was what all the sunny Saturday morning track sessions, scones and coffees of the summer were leading up to.
Even though Naoise was our team captain, I knew everyone was calling us ‘The Dave Clarke Four’. Diarmuid led our campaign out and what a man to do it; the architect sailed around the opening lap getting us off to a very decent start, tapping our ‘Captain Naoise’ off to an equally inspiring second lap. Then, well, it was me.
According to Conor Kenny and Aileen Melody, I disappeared down the track like Shergar with my eyes fixed on another great Irish racing legend – a man renowned for getting great wear out of a Sportsworld singlet – Joe Byrne. He had, I reckon, about 100 metres on me as Naoise slapped my hand. No bother, I was nearly on his shoulder by 200 metres but something strange hit me and I just couldn’t pass. I told myself it was a physiological issue like ‘lactic acid build-up in elite athlete fatigue disorder’ but I knew it was really a socio-psychological problem: a much too deep respect for my elders.
Anyway, little did I know that another (much more recently developing) legend of the club was chasing me down (what an honour!). No need for names here but suffice it to say she has fair hair, blue eyes, is very fast, appeared on the front cover of The Irish Runner, is from Tipperary, her star sign is… (leave that with me) and she had just won the ladies 1,500m.
Picture the scene (at least in my head): tens of spectator-fans gathered around the track roaring us on; ‘We are the Champions’ blasting from their iPhone speakers, and this famous female athlete preying on my shoulder as we enter the final bend. I held steady for a millisecond, looked her deep in the eye, gave her the Eamon Coughlan salute and – BOOM!!! – I was gone! I ran so fast up the home straight that most of the letters on my singlet fell off and I feared my bottom limbs would soon meet with a similar fate.
I crossed the line (some said ‘like a charging elephant’ – but jealousy does funny things to your competition) after passing one or two other bemused fellow club mates – I only managed to stop myself by deploying my parachute. Even a track legend of yesteryear Michael O’Grady (ex-scholarship runner in the States) was clearly impressed, eating his prawn sandwich and watching on from the VIP section.
Somehow I managed to return to this side of the sound barrier and tap Declan Brady as certain members of other teams contested hotly to officials about my ‘Hand of God’ – whatever! Unhinged by the critics, the man Bolted into a great last lap for us and continued on up the back straight morphing into a hair-raising, X-factor winning, Mo Farah impression, securing another couple of places for ‘Team DC’ and bringing us nicely home in ninth place overall.
Hats off, though, to Liam Lenehan, who peaked at precisely the right time in his career and ran as much a tactically sound as a heroically impressive 400m to arrive first across the line fisting the air in victory (mental note: get Dave Trimble to do up a couple of bouquets for next year).
The honours for the Sportsworld Track Championships 2018 in the 400m team relay event are:
1st Place: Andrew Brett, Jessica Kennedy, Liam Lenehan, Andrew Brett (ran two legs)
2nd Place: Gareth Murran, Noel Lyneham, Stephanie Bergin, Mark Heffernan.
3rd Place: Will Martin Smith, Donal Brennan, Ian Harrison, Val Power.
Finally, A Lap of Honours
But all competitive-seriousness aside, it was a truly fantastic morning for the club: I could see everybody buzzing after the race, lots of congratulating and the odd bit of good-humoured banter and slagging and good craic. Let’s now do a lap of honours together and thank the various people who made it happen.
I know it’s often said that behind every great man, there is a great woman. Well, behind this great event and, by extension, behind our club, is both a great man and a great woman of equal measure: Myles and Emily.
They put so many hours of methodical planning into this event, not to mention each and every Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday morning session with one uniting goal in mind: our improvement.
No matter how cold, wet or windy it is, they will always be out there to support and guide you in Bushy Park, the Pheonix Park, the Track, Kiltipper…
Thanks also to our two beautiful and bubbly tea ladies Ellen and Sean who kept the refreshments flying out. Thanks also to those who helped out pre-, during- and post-races around the finish line and beyond: Anna Delaney, Ceoimhe Daniels, Ann Higgins, (‘The Queen of Connemara’) Lucy Darcy, Adrian Lannigan, Conor Kenny, Aileen Melody, and Michael O’Grady.
Roll on 2019 and another chance to lead my team mates to podium glory…