On Your Marks Herald March 27

Last weekend highlighted the contrasting sides of athletics. While over 300 hardy souls battled snow, icy winds and bitter cold at the Wicklow Ultra and Trail Runs, around 1,200 youngsters were warm and snug at the Athlone indoor arena, where they were competing in the Woodie’s DIY National Juvenile Indoors.
The new arena in Athlone couldn’t have come at a better time – athletics is experiencing a boom because of the ongoing recession and indoor arenas, such as Athlone, will bring more youngsters into the sport and keep them there.
Yes, there are teething problems with the new arena, with both officials and athletes in particular needing time to get used to the facilities, in particular the state-of-the-art timing system but if records are anything to go by, the new arena is already a massive success.
Marcus Lawler of St Laurence O’Toole set a new Irish junior 200m record with a time of 21.29, breaking his own time of 21.31. Sligo’s Zak Irwin and City of Lisburn’s Megan Marrs both ran 60m records, while Alanna Lally of Galway City Harriers improved the W18 400m best to 55.87. Highlight in the field was a 18.11m from John Kelly of Finn Valley in the M18 shot.
A rare record by a Dublin athlete came in the W19 long jump won by Mid Sutton’s Sarah McCarthy.Which underlies a small problem. While much of the country has access to indoor training for the technical events, Dublin has one over-used 60m track at Santry. The Dublin “indoors” traditionally takes place outdoors.
From Santry on the northside to Greystones in Co Wicklow, there is not one decent facility, either indoors or outdoors, for athletes training in the technical events.  Since the shameful closure of the track at UCD, southside athletics clubs are under particular strain and Irishtown is packed to bursting. The signs of overuse are visible, with the track disintegrating and the shot put circle flooding regularly.
Good news is that a couple of south Dublin clubs are seeking a venue for indoor training facility modelled on Nenagh. Far from going into extinction, the long-standing Nenagh facility is experiencing higher numbers than ever.
Not every athlete seeks to test themselves with gruelling winter runs in the Wicklow hills. Let’s hope technical athletes in the Dublin area can soon come in from the cold!

Making light of the epic conditions at the Wicklow Way 51km ultra was Jonny Steede, an experienced mountain runner from Ballymena now turning to the longer distances. Steede had an eight minute lead by the time he reached the turnaround  and when he finished in 4 hours 14 minutes 55 seconds, was 19 minutes ahead of Eagle’s Paul Tierney who suffered severely cut shins in the freezing snow.
In a Northern Ireland double, Denise Mathers of Newry Harriers was first woman, just two minutes ahead of Hannah Shields from City of Derry. Ian Conroy of Raheny Shamrock and Suzanne Moore were the winners of the shorter 26km trail race. Quote of the day: “Sure some people pay €1,000 to run a marathon at the North Pole!”

Joe Gough of West Waterford struck gold at the European Masters Indoor Championships in San Sebastian Spain, winning both M60 800 and 1500m. Gough won the 800m comfortably in 2:14.45 to break his own newly-minted European record. He then proved the class of the field in the 1500m final,  crossing the line in  4:47.00. Ireland took 11 medals, four of them gold. In the W55 high jump, DSD’s Lucy Moore-Fox dedicated her silver medal to her husband Nigel who died last week. To Lucy, her family and her many friends in athletics goes our deepest sympathy.

On a bitterly cold day in Co Meath, John Coghlan and Maria McCambridge were the winners at the Eirgrid Dunboyne 4-mile. leading home an entry of over 1,000. In the men’s race, the in-form Coghlan beat Michael Mulhare of Portlaoise comfortably. Maria McCambridge, who runs the Rotterdam Marathon in three weeks time, won the women’s race by 19 seconds from Fiona Roche of Raheny.

Sign up now for the Ras UCD 5km, taking place in Belfield, Dublin on Saturday April 6 (11am). Last year’s Ras raised €7,000 for  UCD’s Overseas Volunteers and their work in the developing world. Everyone who finishes gets a t-shirt and  goodie bag, and can enjoy a truly unique atmosphere with the race commentary ‘as Gaeilge’.  See www.ucd.ie/rasucd/en/

over a minute ahead of the chasers led by Michael Shannon. In a Raheny double, Elish Kelly was first woman and also seventh overall in 57 mins 44 secs.  Just two places behind was Barbara Sanchez, also Raheny, with Pauline Curley  third.

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