Sunday, August 30, 2009


Well that was good. My 'test' run back to town from Howth ended at Sutton DART station after an appalling few miles around Howth peninsula. After struggling up the hill from the harbour I reckoned I'd find a rhythm coming off the summit. But it went from bad to worse and I simply couldn't continue.

I'm neither proud about that, nor embarrassed. I've had too many runs like it where my body just won't respond. For example, both my marathon starts in Cork in 2007 and 2008 where I bailed out at around halfway. A lot of runners would say that I ought to 'man up' or 'HTFU' - a great triathlon acronym that I've recently come across! But in Cork, wouldn't you think that I would have battled on if I could have? Especially on the second occasion where I was distraught to realise I was failing for the second consecutive time. The tank was simply empty.

Conversley, it was a year ago today that I completed my one and only marathon in Longford. On that occasion my body gave the thumbs-up and I completed the 26.2 miles without a single walk break. However much I've tried to analyse the peaks and troughs of my running I've come to no conclusions as to why I can float along some days - seven days ago for example, and why the handbrake stays firmly on like it did today. What I'm not going to do is struggle on when my body is not responding at all. This is a different scenario from battling fatigue where you expect it to occur - during track sessions, tempo efforts, during the latter miles of long runs. If it is clear from early on that there's nothing there then I'm not going to fight it.

So unless I have a really good week then I can't see me toeing the line in Blarney on 12 September.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Final weeks in Baile Atha Cliath

The die is cast. I have struck a deal to buy a gym business down the country. I'll not go into further details until the legals and financing are all tied up. But - assuming these all go through properly, then there's no turning back. 37 years as a working accountant, now a leisure business proprietor!

Which means of course I'll be leaving Baile Atha Cliath within the next few weeks, or sooner. Will I miss living in the capital? Not really. When I came to Ireland I knew that the work was to be found in the capital otherwise I'd have headed for Cork or Kerry. All my life I'd only really passed through Dublin and the little time I'd spent here did not really impress me. At least I've now lived here for the guts of two years and have got to know the city a bit. I've been happy enough knocking around the place and I've found the natives friendly and welcoming - of this I never had any doubt anyway. The city has many rough edges of course. Initially the sheer number of non-nationals now living in Dublin surprised me - it is a very cosmopolitan place these days. I've also been surprised by the overt begging that goes on, often as an occupation though sometimes by those genuinely troubled. Dublin city centre has a major problem with junkies, alkies and general scumbags. However I have to say that these have hardly affected me at all. At the most worrying end of things are the drug gangs for whom life is cheap, but again you would need to be very unlucky if you were to be caught up in all of that.

I've enjoyed pub life and the Guinness, and will no doubt continue to do this in the future! Dublin's historic streets, buildings, parks and canals are full of character and I've enjoyed mooching around exploring these. I've got to know some parts very well indeed via my running, particular the Royal Canal, the Phoenix Park, Docklands and Dublin Bay.

I'm going to make a point of seeing a few places that have escaped me, before I leave. These include the Iveagh Gardens, the Forty Foot at Sandycove, the Botanic Gardens. I also want to pay another visit to Glasnevin Cemetery.

But no, I won't miss Dublin and I won't look back. But I am truly dreading leaving the crowd at Crusaders who have made me so welcome over the past year or so. I can't believe this is happening again so soon after my very emotional parting from Jersey Spartan AC. But these things happen and I hope I can still nip up and take the occasional Saturday session in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Nike Evil?

Yow. My legs have reacted badly to my long run on Sunday, and what was probably an unwise long walk on Monday. On Tuesday I did no more than walk/jog a 4-mile circuit and, whilst today was better than that, it was still a bit of a painful affair. It all goes to show how poorly conditioned I am really. Once my working life settles down again I'm going to consider how I might incorporate some of those things I coach every winter (weights, plyometrics, circuits etc) into my running schedule.

I've been listening to Steve Chopper's 'A Mile With Me' podcast recently, the four most recent episodes. Steve is based on the English south coast and produces a show that, although less polished and produced than Phedippidations, nevertheless has its merits. Steve has an interest in local history, a subject that always grabs my attention. He has recently covered industrial construction history in the Potteries, as well as an excellent portrayal of the wartime glider raid to capture Pegasus Bridge, via an ultra run to commemorate the event. Less successful was a well-intentioned run out to Stonehenge to witness the summer solstice, only to impose on us too many minutes of typical English revelry which can only take place with the assistance of cheap lager and whatever choice of drug is de rigeur these days. If I want to listen to garbled drivel I can open my apartment window any night of the week after the pubs shut. Nevertheless I'll be continuing to tune in as I'm sure there will be better to come.

And Steve Runner has now decided to take on Nike. He says that he pondered for a long time whether or not to include the Nike Is Evil piece but, in the end, he went for it with all guns blazing. The cause of his ire of course is of course far Eastern sweatshops where workers earn something stupid like USD2.50 per day, barely enough to keep them alive, while the Nike Corporation report profits in the billions. Tiger Woods endorses Nike products for annual sums in the many, many millions. This crusade has been led for a number of years by Jim Keady in the US. Now. I'm too old to accept only one side of an argument and I'm sure Nike have plenty of answers. But if you are interested in the whole subject a good place to start is by watching the video Behind The Swoosh that you can find at

Down at Irishtown the young athletes are starting to drift back after the school holidays. And in a flippin' holiday mood they still are with the sloppiest set of drills imaginable last night. However this is always the case at any club and once they get a bit of hard work under their belts they will be sharp again. I hesitate to call it winter training when it's still August but the athletes now need to get fit for cross country. We started late last year but this time they will be fine for the first of the competitions.

And the gang were back from the World Championships with tales of Berlino the Bear as well as all the top-class athletics they had seen. The atmosphere in the stadium was, apparently, wonderful. And I got a little present as well. If, as seems likely, I leave Crusaders shortly it will hurt a great deal.

Monday, August 24, 2009

World T&F Champs - 3

Well, Gilly gave it a good shot and went off fast before fading to 6th in the home straight. Never mind, he is in good shape and Ireland will be hoping that he brings home a medal in the Euros next year.

In fact it was an improved Worlds performance all round for the Irish. They finished 11th European nation on the placings table compared with 26th last time round. There is plenty that is wrong with the athletics setup here but plenty that is right too.

As for the Brits the bonus medal came from Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m, a bronze upgraded to silver after a DQ. Then the relay boys did the business - a well-worked sprint bronze, albeit in the absence of the USA. Then an excellent silver in the 4 x 400m behind the USA having struggled a bit in the semis.

Of course there were many other highlights during a fantastic week of athletics and I was able to watch a good deal of it. The field events provided much excitement, not always the case. The men's shot early in proceedings set the tone, and it helped that the home crowd had plenty to cheer about. The Beeb's coverage was excellent and indeed Irish viewers had to rely on this or Eurosport. The national broadcaster RTE is essentially bust and, to much indignation, could not see its way to even showing a highlights programme.

I had a juggling act to do yesterday as the Cork v Tyrone senior football semi-final clashed with the athletics, but I managed to access the latter via the 'Net. And what a result as Cork, a man short from midway through the first half, held off the All-Ireland champions. But they were incredibly fortunate not to lose a second as Miskella, in full view of the cameras, felled his marker with a cowardly punch from behind. Whatever the umpire told the ref it resulted only in a yellow. But how do Gaelic footy players, knowing that it will be picked up 95% of the time, persist in off-the-ball assaults? It's a mystery to me and should certainly have cost Cork the match yesterday.

Finally, well done to Channel Islands AC men in avoiding relegation from Div 4 of the British Athletics League. That's two years survived in the BAL now. It would be an easy matter if they were to get their full team out regularly, but that is rarely possible.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ian Hunter - Man Overboard

A gentle 13.7 miles today in 2h 30m. Still with lingering doubts over my ability to run for any length of time it was slow but satisfying. Now, over the next couple of weeks, I need to add some up-tempo work to ensure that I'm going to start the Blarney Half with a bit more speed in my legs than I've showed recently.

A curious incident occurred as I made my way back down Pigeon House Road, about 11 miles in. I was running on the road as it was a better option at that point than the rutted pavement. A cyclist, a slow fat one, approached and I moved in to run between the double yellow lines to allow him the right of way. To my astonishment, instead of moving out into the otherwise empty road he lined up his bike along the yellow lines. He was not going to change direction and I had to hop onto the pavement at the very last moment to avoid an RTA. And as the fat twonk continued on his way no amount of shouted insults or waved arms was going to make him turn around, never mind return to face the music.

Ian Hunter would have made a song about it. It is 35 years since Hunter fronted Mott the Hoople, during which time he has remained plying his trade as a singer/songwriter. Even in his youthful days he refused to compromise his principles (that good ol' rock 'n roll phrase) and at no time has he put popularity and fame ahead of the way he wants to produce his music. He connects regularly with his many fans by answering emails via his website.

At the age of 70 he has produced another excellent album, 'Man Overboard'. The voice is struggling, but he never exactly had a voice like a skylark in the first place. Here he has generally slowed the pace and sings some heartfelt, meaningful but often humorous songs. In the humorous category is the opening upbeat number The Great Escape.

When you gotta get away you gotta get away
When you gotta get away it's true
When you gotta get away you gotta get away
Especially when the other guy's bigger than you

Girl From The Office is a wry and funny ditty reflecting on young love (lust) that we have all experienced in our working lives.

What's she like, what's she like, what's she like, what's she like
Everbody says
What's she like, what's she like, what's she like, what's she like
What's she like in bed

Hunter has been married to Trudi for many more years than is fashionable for a rock 'n roll star. Over the years he has dedicated several songs to her, a couple of albums back the sublime Knees of my Heart. Here he continues the practice with These Feelings, which celebrates what Van Morrison might call 'warm love'.

The final track is Hunter's take on an old Red Indian legend River of Tears. A simple enough story and narration but surprisingly moving for anyone blessed with a daughter. There again I think I'm the only male alive that gets teary-eyed seeing the balloon fly off without Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz so she can't go back to Kansas.

Go to iTunes or click on the title line for the website link - do yourself a favour and buy this album.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Having done little or no running for a week I did a tentative and slow 6.6 miles this morning. But however tentative it was a mighty relief that I was able to complete the run after a bit of a scare on Tuesday. The next couple of weeks will tell me whether or not I have a chance of lining up for the Blarney Half Marathon on 12th September. Like Paula Radcliffe I'm not turning out if I think I can't do myself justice.

So here I am at a crossroads - not in my running but in my working life. I am a 56-year old chartered accountant and finished up my previous contract at the end of July. Job offers are not exactly flooding in, though I suppose I'd pick up something in due course. But I have an opportunity to buy into a fitness/leisure franchise and therefore be able to combine my business skills with my love and passion for sport and fitness generally. There are significant risks in so doing. I have no marketing skills and I will need to learn quickly. I will be risking my small savings and, in addition, taking on a business loan. This of course is the risk/reward pattern of running a business. The upside of course is that I am my own boss and am answerable only to myself. I will be involved in a business I have a lot of empathy with and, in this sense, it will be hardly like work. And if it really works out I could become pretty successful.

The obvious alternative is that I fall back on my old trade of accountancy and work away for another few years. At the end of which I might still have my small savings but no private pension. A safe but unexciting prospect.

So the crossroads decision consists of (1) turning back and plodding the same road once again, (2) taking one of several mysterious side roads, the destinations of which are not yet signposted or (3) taking the road ahead which promises to be a rocky, exciting, insecure roller-coaster with no guarantee of not crashing and burning on the way.

And though I have a terrible sense of direction I think I'm pretty sure where I'm going.

World T&F Champs - 2

It's nice to see that at least two sets of Crusaders' parents and their young athletes are in Berlin for the athletics. This time last year they were just starting out, and now they are enthused enough to be wanting to see the best in action. In turn they will come back to Ireland with a new perspective on the sport. I received three texts yesterday, the last of which followed the 200m final.

'Hi roy..we here!!unbelievable exceted.got2ourseats jst as t chamney's heat started.sch a pty he didnt get thru.webehindHj 2 the rghtFu standwithback2hjbar.xm'

'Hussain bolt just down below us! Start of 200m mens final. Amazing. Kids hysterical. Jean.'

'Feckin amazing'

The pick of the Irish performances since Loughnane's silver has been Cork girl Derval O'Rourke's 4th place in the 100m hurdles with a new Irish record. That was a blistering perfomance coming after several years in the wilderness. The Hesh didn't quite make that remarkable 200m final, finishing 10th. Chamney went out in the first heat of the 800m, a disappointing championships for him after his big season to date. David Gillick is our last contender, going in the 400m final tonight.

Meanwhile Phillips Idowu grabbed triple jump gold, and Jenny Meadows battled down the home straight for a medal in the 800m. This was a just reward to an athlete that has worked hard over the years but has always been on the fringes, until now. Amazingly William Sharman (who he) blasts into the 110mH final and then finished fourth. Both Rutherford and Tomlinson are safely through to the long jump final, the former with a new British record of 8.30m. Steve Lewis makes the pole vault final as does Mo Farah (5000m) and Emily Freeman (200m).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

World T&F Champs - 1

So who's watching the athletics? I'm fortunate to have a foot in both the Irish and Brit camps of course. And as I'm presently resting between careers I'm able to catch some of the morning coverage from Berlin on the Beeb as well.

Far and away the Irish highlight so far is Olive Loughnane's silver medal in the 20k walk. Far and few are Irish medals at global championships and this one was greeted with great delight. After her 7th placing in the Beijing Olympics Olive was Ireland's best medal bet going into these championships, but still only an outside chance. The result was announced at Tullamore on Sunday in the middle of the race walking and I heard it said it gave all the competitors a lift.

The other Irish hopes are Paul Hession (200m) and David Gillick (400m). The Hesh was agonisingly just one place off taking part in the final in Beijing and, after negotiating the first round safely and with several no-shows (including Gay and Chambers) he has high hopes of making the last eight this time. Gillick, another outside bet for a medal, looked laboured to me in qualifying - though others say he looked comfortable. Meanwhile Thomas Chamney of Crusaders ran a less than clever 1500m qualifying round to finish 7th. Easy for me sitting here I know but I suspect Thomas would agree. However I'm backing our boy to do far better at his favoured distance of 800m later.

Meanwhile the Brits are having a mixed time of it. Jessica Ennis has quickly replaced Steph Twell as the golden girl with her astonishing win in the heptathlon. This morning Twell had a disastrous run in the 1500m which may just be beneficial for her in the long run as she can adjust to senior athletics with rather less media pressure on her shoulders. Goldie Sayers and Carl Myerscough disappointed again though at least Sayers had the excuse of coming back off a significant injury. Lisa Dobriskey looked class in qualifying.

All three Brits are through to the semis of the 400m with Michael Bingham looking the pick of these. Marilyn Okoro and the lovely Jenny Meadows are in the final of the 800m. I wonder if either can find an inspired PB and grab a medal - the event is wide open with Jelimo crashing out.

David Greene is a definite good bet in the 400mH though Marlon Devonish - who I saw win the 2003 world indoor title in Birmingham, will be happy just to reach the semis of the 200m.

In the meantime I had a worrying non-run this morning. Not having been 100% well for a couple of days I had no longer set off on an easy run than my legs turned to rubber. This does not bode well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Irish National Masters Track & Field Championships

A break from running as I headed for Tullamore to try my luck against some other old gits. Just for the craic really - I have never competed before in my life. An inauspicious start as, having bought my train ticket at Heuston the 8.40 for Galway seemed disinclined to leave the station. Fortunately I was able to intercept Jim O'Neill and jump in his car. Jim is a Crusader, a very good former athlete and ex-President of the club. These days he is as active as ever in all sorts of ways, notably taking the lead in maintaining the track and equipment down at Irishtown. Today he would spend the day officiating.

First up for me was shot. The competition encompassed M35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 with me being in the oldest category, throwing a 6k shot. (The really old fellas, 60+, constituted a further and seperate group). The throws lads turned out to be a great bunch, full of fun and wisecracks and not an ego between them. And there was some good throwing in amongst the more mediocre offerings. Following my own advice to young throwers I put a safe one in to the muddy grass - 8.89m with a standing throw. Then a passable glide and 9.56m - which was as good as it got. Slightly vexed not to hit 10m but, as the only entry in the M55 category I accepted my gold medal!

After which the day went downhill rather. I'd entered the high jump having coached it for years and occasionally having popped over low heights at the FB Fields and Irishtown. With some foreboding I checked in for the event - all around me were proper-looking jumpers, professionally marking out their run-ups and casually hopping over the practice bar. Two desperately embarrassing practice attempts later and I scuttled away from the scene having got the official to scratch my name out.

Meanwhile I have to confess to being impressed by the events unfolding as I sat on the bleachers with a coffee. The track stuff was pretty competitive with men and women giving it their best efforts. I have never been a fan of Masters' athletics, having thought it somewhat sad. Too many vets swan about with their cheap medals and GB tracksuits imagining they are God's gift. But here at Tullamore I was admiring the competitiveness, the athleticism and the good humour of everyone involved.

So to my final event, the discus. I had thrown a couple of practice sessions at Irishtown with the 1k discs and had been throwing comfortably in the low 30s. I was surprised to see the M55s were only expected to throw this girly 1k weight. To my consternation then it appeared that the entry paperwork had contained an error and it was 1.5k implements that were to be used! Now there is a big difference between the two weights and I just hadn't had time to adjust my throwing accordingly. In I went to the circle and hooked my first 'safe' standing throw outside the left sector line. Ah well, with four throws in all I went for another safety in the second round, with the identical result! I reckoned I couldn't do worse on a full turn and my third round throw at least found legal ground, albeit a paltry 24m something. But then, keyed up to bang a big one out with my final throw I snatched at it and instead banged it into the cage. However, my second medal, a bronze, though I still hadn't beaten anyone.

So I'm glad I tried out the Masters. It was a good experience amongst some nice guys and gals. And it's not every day you can claim to be a national champion.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Roy In England

The old family homestead is an inter-war semi-detached and rather solid and compact building set on the main Coventry to Birmingham Road. The district of Sheldon forms a sort of a bridgehead between the brassy Second City and the sophisticated and aloof Solihull. Falling between the two it totally fails to have any defining character of its own; it is completely unremarkable other than for the fact that its nondescript pubs between them can't offer a pint of Real Ale. That said, the old family local The Three Horse Shoes is presently serving a refreshing pint of mild for a recession-busting £1.49 which means that one can afford a proper bag of Walsall pork scratchings with each pint.

There is the option of running through the well-appointed Sheldon Country Park but the grass is pretty soggy right now. Instead I head in the opposite direction. This takes one through quiet suburban roads and a pleasant park, over the railway line and the Grand Union Canal to the Warwick Road. Beyond this is the seriously posh district of Olton which is within Solihull Borough. Nice leafy lanes and roads, speed bumps everywhere to slow down oiks that might be passing through, expensive residences set back in grassy and well-tended gardens. Solihull has been this posh for as long as I can remember. It has a feel of 'old money' and therefore doesn't offend in the least. Fellow pedestrians are pleasant, cars are courteous to the visiting plodder, dogs are as well brought up as their owners.

Six miles is the target and the outrun takes me through to the Stratford Road where the Garmin says three miles. I turn for home and try to pick it up a little. Less than an hour, average pace 9.48m/m. OK for a training run though of course I'd want to be down below 9m/m in race mode. A couple of days later I repeat the run in 9.38 m/m.

On Thursday I was in Milton Keynes. Having arrived ridiculously early for my appointment I repaired to nearby Willen Lake, an impressive man-made affair which is a great leisure facility for the area. It is also (I remembered) a regular running ground for Charlotte Dutch - see bloglist for Following Charlie. Although there were several runners around none of them was in fact Charlie, who seems to have disappeared off the running/blogging scene again - I hope only temporarily.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Irish Bank Holiday

Bank Holiday Monday here in Ireland, inevitably a showery, breezy one. Off I go down the river for my long run, 12 miles planned. My only companion is Steve Runner, this week broadasting from the Allagash River in North Maine and reading pieces from a book by the 19c environmentalist HD Thoreau. Pleasant listening, and no shocks such as in last week's episode where he took everybody's favourite running guru Hal Higdon to task for what he believes is excessive and injury-inducing mileage programmes. I expect some incoming flak for this and I'm surprised he chose Higdon, someone who has so many satisfied devotees, as a target. Not that Steve is ever shy of tilting against established windmills.

There are a few brave families on Sandymount Strand despite the weather - bracing is how Skegness used to describe itself as a selling point to Britishers wondering where to go for their fortnight's holiday. At six miles I'm trotting along comfortably enough to add a mile, taking me to the salubrious edge of Dun Laoghaire at Salthill, across the railway bridge and heading for home on the far side of the tracks. I purchase a Lucozade Sport from the little shop, the owner possibly happy to give it for free to see his premises rid of this sweaty person. Back through Blackrock Park and onto the beach where I 'bonk' rather suddenly at 10.3 miles. Whatever, I'm in no hurry and I'm able to trot at an even slower pace and keep the run going to finish up 13.97 miles in a little over 2h30m.

There's no doubt I'm getting a lot of base miles done right now, but nothing much else. I need to do some shorter, faster stuff - maybe some hill reps, a bit of gym work perhaps. Maybe I'll get the chance now my latest work contract has run out and I've a little time on my hands! But tomorrow it's off to England for a few days, back at the weekend.

Things I forgot about yesterday

Probably the most dramatic bit. Mark Kirwan of Raheny had the 'chase in his pocket, maybe 25m clear of defending champion Rory Chesser at the final water barrier. Trip, in he went! By the time he'd clambered out Chesser was on his shoulder and, unable to regain rhythm, he was then passed for the silver by Emmet Dunleavy.

Which reminds me, I don't think I've seen an athlete hurdling the water barrier before as Ireland's no.1 Fionnuala Britton does.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

National T&F Champs Day 2

Well I was like a young kid in a toyshop today, scuttling around the Morton Stadium to catch whatever was happening next. A great day of athletics, much of it top-class, and all of it just excellent sport.

I caught the latter part of the men's hammer and was startled when one of the big lads lost control of the implement which went crashing into the cage just by where the foot fault judge was standing - fortunately not near enough to the netting to be killed. Young Killian Barry of Crusaders picked up a bronze.

Next up was Olympian Robert Heffernan in the 10000mW. He sped around the early laps in about 94s; I reckon I could have beaten him running - just, over two laps but he kept the pace up for 25 laps with Colin Griffin a creditable second. There was a 'sprint' finish for third place, and anyone with doubts over the energy expended by good race walkers would have noted that both of these guys lay on the track totally done in at the end. And the lad that finished in third place got cruelly DQ'd. Back down the field one young lad dropped out with a few laps to go, wandered off to the side, had a little rest and then, feeling better, found his way back to the inside lane and carried on to finish. And epitomising the spirit of grassroots athletics, one old fella from Mullingar determinedly plodded around his last few laps oblivious of the officials who were anxious to get on with the next event.

I missed the men's pole vault but it looked like there was a very good competition there with the bar at a fair old height by the finish. The women's shot was not good, and a fit Sarah Fleming (Crusaders) wouldn't have been out of place. Colin Quirke, the laid-back son of Olympian Paul and living in the USA, added to his shot title with one of his few half-decent discus throws. Colin just looks unfocused to me, as if he'd rather be somewhere else, but what a talent that I hope is fulfilled.

But the real excitement came on the track. Regrettably for the fair-sized crowd, Paul Hession (9th in Beijing) withdrew from the 100m after strolling through his heat. This however left the competition wide open and it was Paralympian Jason Smyth who came through the rounds to win. New boy on the block Steven Colvert (Crusaders) grabbed bronze, as he did in the 200m yesterday. The lad hasn't got an ounce of muscle on him and will need to get stronger to compete with the best in the first 30m of his races. The women's 100m produced its own drama. For some reason the nine entrants ran a semi-final to eliminate one athlete (there are 10 lanes). There was a bit of a kerfuffle with the second semi when the girls were stood up three times at the start, with the marksman saying that the spikes of Kelly Proper and Niamh Whelan were not engaging the blocks properly - odd for international athletes. Kelly argued that they only needed to be engaged in the 'set' position. After Niamh received a yellow card they finally got away. Later, in the final, Ailish McSweeney got away to a brilliant and legal start and nicked the win from Proper by 1/100s.

The showpiece final saw Thomas Chamney (Crusaders) hold off David Campbell in the 800m. Remarkably Campbell came back later in the day to win the 1500m. Over in the corner the big boys were doing their thing in front of no spectators, this time throwing the 56lb/35lb weight for distance. I couldn't get excited about that one.

So a great day. In many ways it was like a village fete. The top athletes were wandering around the stadium chatting to their mates. The likes of Sonia O'Sullivan was leaning against the fence with the rest of us watching the competition. Any number of former champions, now spectators, were pointed out to me.

I was lucky to have been there.

National T&F Champs Day 1

At the various national juvenile championships this summer I've been stung for a tenner entrance fee for each day of competition. Whilst I know there are costs involved, the only spectators by and large are parents and coaches who already contribute their fair share to athletics. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to be able to waltz into the Morton Stadium for nothing to watch Day 1 of the national track & field championships yesterday (Sat). And excellent value it would have been at twice the price.

The first two events involved Olympic athletes. Eileen O'Keefe, returning to something like her best form after major injury, put a couple of hammer throws just a touch short of 70 metres. Next, an excellent PB in the 5000mW for Olive Loughnane, a solo effort with the three other women long since set adrift. Strangely the women's triple jump and long jump were scheduled back-to-back. The day really came to life in the long jump with the excellent Kelly Proper twice jumping 6.68m, well in advance of her own national record but assisted illegally by the strong wind. After her fifth jump she hurried off to win the 200m title. A great competitor, crowd pleaser and a stunner to boot is Ms Proper.

The throwing events were pretty desultory affairs and showed up Ireland's lack of strength. O'Keefe had no difficulty winning the discus with some ragged throwing. Colin Quirke (Crusaders) threw poorly but well enough to win the shot in a little over 16m. The women's javelin, without Anita White, is best having a veil drawn over it.

But there was some spanking action on the track and this is where Ireland's real strength currently lies. The most fiercely contested event is the men's 800m, for which there were several heats, and Thomas Chamney and David Campbell set up today's showpiece final at 2.15. The men's 1500 was even more cuthroat with only the winner from each of the heats getting automatic entry to today's final, the last event of the day. The men's 200m saw David Gillick stepping down a distance to win a good race in 21.78 from Darragh Graham and Steven Colvert (Crusaders) who was left in the blocks. The men's 400m saw an impressive qualification run from Brian Gregan. In a two-horse race Deirdre Byrne finally saw off the challenge of Rosemary Ryan in the 5000m.

Late in the day there was a very Celtic affair with the big guys chucking a 56lb weight (35lb for the junior men) over a bar. The technique is to stand with your back to the bar, get the weight swinging perilously between your legs before flipping it upwards and backwards. A guy that looked like he'd swallowed a beach ball was eliminated early doors but a young chap from Leevale (Cork) had the crowd on his side as he continued to push the bar upwards after he'd won the contest.

Good week

A good running week with 23.8 miles of early morning runs done. I am postponing my LSR this morning as I can just as easily do it tomorrow on Bank Holiday Monday and instead I'll head up to Santry for Day 2 of the national championships.