Road RunningTrack & Field

Fighting Fifth For Heffernan In Beijing

Heffernan a fine 5th in brave title defence

Robert Heffernan finished a fighting fifth place in the men’s 50km race walk in 3:44:17 in a brave bid to defend his world title at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing while the men’s 4x400m relay team set a new national record.

Heffernan (Togher) was in the thick of the action for a medal for much of the race won impressively by Slovakia’s Matej Toth in 3:40:32. Australia’s Jared Tallent was second in 3:42:17 while Japan’s Takayuki Tanii was third in 3:42:55 with his compatriot Hirooki Arai fourth in 3:43:44.

“For me to finish fifth after the problems I’ve had this year, it shows my resolve,” said Heffernan afterwards on dealing with his injury problems.  “If I’m healthy and not injured, I can always grind out a good result. In relevant terms, this is a medal for me.

“At 40k I thought this was possible, then even with 3K to go the Japanese were still in my sights, but my legs started cramping up, my quads and my arms and I thought, ‘I have to finish here.’ Fifth in the world is still very, very solid going into the Olympics.”

Unfortunately Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny) was disqualified and Alex Wright (Leevale) was unable to finish.

Irish 4x400m relay record

The Irish men’s 4x400m relay team of Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers), Brian Murphy (Crusaders), Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) and Mark English (UCD) produced a national record of 3:01.26 to finish 8th in the second heat and an excellent 13th overall. USA won in 2:58.13 with Trinidad and Tobago second in 2:58.67 and Jamaica third in 2:58.69.

You can watch the relay race video here.

Brian Gregan lead out the team on the first leg in lane 9 and had to keep his composure against world class opposition inside him. “I had to run my own race out there, and not panic when the guy (Jamaican) came beside me. The first leg is always difficult to measure.”

Gregan passed over to long-time Irish athletics stalwart Brian Murphy who battled well on the second leg. “This is what dreams are made of. I’m not like these guys, I’m not a super-talent, 13th in the world is a big deal, people don’t realise until you come to a world athletics championships how big the world is.”

Thomas Barr ran an excellent third leg and was encouraged by the performance as they bid to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year. “We’ve come on an awful lot as a team, and we’d a much harder semi today. We came through strong and it gave me a bit of an extra drive.”

Mark English was equally impressive, and enthused, on the anchor leg of the team’s performance. “We were up against one of the toughest 4×400 competitions the world has ever seen, there were four guys running 44 seconds in the 400m final so I think we’re all happy we got a national record and it’s something we can work off for next year.”


Murphy, Gregan, Barr and English after thier record run in Beijing. Image: Cathal Dennehy
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Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell is an athlete, physical therapist, and MSc student. He is current national 110m hurdles champion and ranks 3rd & 5th on the Irish all-time list for the sprint hurdles events. He is occasionally referred to as GOD, not due to his initials, but because of his heavenly beard, which he has sported since the age of 5.

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