Road Running

“Experience” the difference for Britton

Fionnuala Britton may have been denied a maiden victory at the SPAR Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park by Gemma Steel who won in 33:03 but this was a big improvement and clear marker for the Wicklow woman. Her 33:07 in blustery conditions a massive improvement on her 33:54 from last year – her coaching link-up with Joe Doonan already bearing fruit.

“The race wasn’t at all about time it was just about racing,” said Britton afterwards. “It’s nice to think you have run quicker but you don’t look at your watch at any point.

“I came into this race the same way as last year. I finished cross country in Edinburgh, I ran a 5k (MSB St Patrick’s Day) road race and I did the same thing this year. You have to stand on the start line believing that you can win. There isn’t a magic formula.”

There may not be a magic formula with the new coaching arrangement and there are no secrets in running but Britton’s demeanour is one of purpose – something which has appeared lacking the past eight months. A 10,000m/marathon double at the European Championships seemed to lack purpose and gave the impression of an athlete at a crossroads.

Doonan’s experience the key

So what does Joe Doonan bring to the table? “The biggest thing is experience,” answered the Kilcoole AC athlete. “Having brought Catherina McKiernan to where she was and what Catherina ran I don’t know how many years ago now, if she ran those times now she’d still be world class. You’re not going back to do something that wouldn’t work now. If you’re trying to be good as what she did 15 years ago now that would be still brilliant.”

Steel made much of the running in trying conditions and was rewarded with victory in 33:03, four seconds clear of Britton in 33:07 with Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar third in 33:11. Steel and Britton will lock horns again at the Great Manchester Run on May 10th.

There was a headwind for the first half of the race which kept many in contention with Steel, a late addition to the start list, testing the legs, and the lungs, of her rivals before pushing on at 5km.

“I just wanted a good honest race with no altitude and no Kenyans,” joked the Brit afterwards who finished 18th at the recent world cross country championships in Guiyang, China.

“It was windy,” she confirmed of the conditions but it’s something she’s used to in Dublin. “It’s been worse but conditions today let me down a little bit. In 2012 I ran 32:06 so on a good say it shows you it is quite a fast course.

“I went off just in contention. I didn’t take the pace on too early and tried to test people out on the hills and at 5km I made a little break. They were breathing a lot heavier than me. I felt really strong.”

“I was just looking behind because everyone was rooting for her and thought that will spur her on a little bit more,” she said of the fast finishing domestic heroine. “I wasn’t really worried because I knew I had a gap unless she put a real sprint in. I knew I couldn’t take anything for granted. I just had to keep pushing really until I put it in the bag.”

Korir retains title

Japhet Korir had it in the bag with 3km remaining in the men’s race with the wind on his back and the Kenyan retained his title with ease in 28:15. Ethiopia’s Birhan Nebebew got up for second in 28:21 with Kenya’s James Rungaru only a second behind in 28:22.

“I pulled way after 7km,” said Korir afterwards. “Conditions were difficult but I pushed hard. I was happy with my run and felt good.”

The 2013 world cross country champion’s next assignment will be the track where he will be aiming for the 5,000m at the World Track and Field Championships in Beijing in August.

“I will run on the track now,” he confirmed and smiled when asked about challenging Mo Farah for global supremacy. “It will be tough,” was his honest assessment on getting the of Farah. “I will have to train hard and we will see.”

The men’s race, much like the women’s, only really got going halfway through – a brief smattering of hailstones didn’t help proceedings. Multiple world record holder Leonard Komon’s expected challenge never materialised – the challenging course and conditions not to his liking.

It was left to Nebebew and Rungaru to put it up to the defending champion but they had no answer to his surge with 3km’s remaining. Mark Christie was the first Irishman home in 30:10 to claim the national title.

Men’s mile

Start of men's mile courtesy of Tomas Greally

Start of men’s mile courtesy of Tomas Greally

The men’s mile kicked off the main programme in the Phoenix Park – one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. The start/finish line was moved further up Chesterfield Avenue along with a wider hairpin turn at the halfway point to increase the chances of a sub 4 minute mile attempt.

A strong headwind for the first half scuppered any chance of a sub 4 and European indoor 800m silver medallist Mark English found the increase in distance tough to handle. This cleared the way for Great Britain’s Jonny Hay who edged the Netherlands’ Wouter – both were credited with the same time of 4:12. Spain’s Marc Alcala finished third in 4:13.

Elite women results here

Elite men and masses here

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Feidhlim Kelly

Feidhlim Kelly

Con Houlihan once told me that tomorrow is now. In taking on this venture I’ve started to try and put his words into action.

I worked for Con from 2007 till his passing in 2012 taking down his copy and a whole lot more. I have a Con Houlihan section which will go in to more depth on that.

I’m a long-time contributor to the Irish Runner magazine and am also working for the Irish Examiner.

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