Another week, another Cru virtual challenge, again mostly run in windy conditions!
But we start indoors. At the end of a week which witnessed some wonderful indoor running around the USA and Europe, with great results for the likes of Andrew Coscoran and Nadia Power (the latter achieving a new national indoor record for the women’s 800m in Torun in Poland, at the same time knocking 1.5s off her PB set in January, itself a new record), we saw some excellent performances in Abbotstown on Saturday and Sunday. The venue was an event established to help Irish athletes qualify to run in the European Indoors Championships in Torun next month. Indeed, the Championships are set to be run on the same clearly fast track that Power ran on to improve her record. So a mouth-watering prospect for any athlete who qualifies.
We were treated to some great racing in the AAI-organised event, the highlights for Crusaders being the 60mH which featured Matt Behan, the men’s 800m and 1500m paced by Kevin Woods and the men’s 400m in which Andrew Mellon competed.
For some reason the 60mH was run twice, with only two athletes competing, Matt and Gerard O’Donnell, and, as luck would have it, the honours came out even, although neither made the qualifying time (and in fact Matt was not really looking for it as he is now focusing on the Summer outdoors running of the 400mH and was using the event to help him work on his speed). As potentially expected, in the first race Matt had a blistering start from the gun and took advantage of that and clean jumping to win by 8.0s to the Carrick-on-Suir athlete’s 8.07s. The second race went the other way, despite the same fast start for Matt and a faster time of 7.99s, as the more experienced athlete, 8 years Matt’s senior, managed to pull out a time of 7.95s. Even so, the young Crusader will have been delighted with his consistency and clean jumping as well as beating O’Donnell for the first time in his career.
Master pacer Kevin Woods had huge responsibility on his shoulders in the men's 800m but he took it all in his stride. Kevin ran just as directed and the outcome was an almost dead heat finish by another master and his apprentice, 27-years old Mark English and Cian McPhillips at the tender age of 18, the latter making a superb late surge when English thought he had the race easily won. The result of the photo finish was a new Irish indoor record for English in 1.46.10, with McPhillips becoming the second fastest Irishman in history (and clearly obtaining an U20 record), with a time of 1.46.13. Definitely he is an athlete to watch!
On Sunday morning Andrew Mellon took part in the men’s 400m. On paper it was always going to be a tough ask for Andrew, as he came up against outdoor champion Chris O’Donnell, and his cause was made a little harder by the inevitable rough and tumble of this two lap event as runners break from their lanes before the end of the first lap. Andrew initially found himself slightly blocked in during the 4-man race but was able to work his way through the tight bunch to place 2nd behind the North Sligo athlete. Unfortunately, neither was able to make the qualifying time of 47.20 with O’Donnell winning in 47.51 and Andrew just behind in 47.79, replicating the outcome of the national outdoors in August last year with an almost identical time difference between the two athletes. Still, there was plenty of excellent running throughout the weekend, which can be watched again on YouTube, since, as usual in these times, there were no spectators at the event. The races included Kevin Woods pacing the men's 1500m, where the winner, Luke McCann, booked his ticket to Torun in a PB time of 3:40.03. Another successful pacing job done and dusted!
So, last week’s challenge was to predict times for the rarely run distance of 6k. As a result, it is likely that maybe all 35 runners who took up the challenge ran their fastest times for the distance!
Again, anyone leaving it to be run on Saturday faced a blustery day, making an already difficult event to predict even harder. So it was quite an achievement for several runners to have run within 20 seconds of their predictions. The winner of the challenge was Fiona Shine, who only beat by a whisker Tanja Narancic, both running in Kilbogget Park at the same time. Fiona predicted 27:17 and completed the distance in 27:12, a difference of 5 seconds, whilst Tanja predicted 28:58 and finished in 28:51, just 7 seconds ahead of her prediction. 3rd place went to a runner who appears to be quite adept at predicting her times: Maureen McGinley was only 8s out from her prediction of 36:00, running 36:08. An honourable mention should also go to Darina Scully who was only 10s adrift between her predicted time of 30:30 and her actual time of 30:40.
Julie McGrath was the fastest athlete overall in the challenge and she is currently in top form. Julie ran a super 23:05 (only 15 seconds off her prediction). For the women, she was followed home by Gill Earley who ran 26:16 (14 seconds behind her prediction) and Joanne Carey who ran 26:38 (who surprised herself by running 82s faster than she expected). An honourable mention should go to Margaret Foley who ran 26:41 (another athlete who surprised herself by running nearly 80s faster than she thought she might do). For the men, Seamus Moore ran well to finish in 23:05, with Michael Fitzsimons (23:29) not too far behind, with Darran Lovely (24:04) recording a third place finish.
This week’s challenge is a team predictive event again with each runner in a team of 4 expected to predict the outcome of a 5k time trial, the winning team coming closest to its predicted time. So far, we have 52 runners signed up in 13 teams. All the best to everyone!