DIARY: Weekend of race watching…

Just as my injury has healed any last remnants of damage left after the laser treatment, I caught a nasty head cold. While the raised temperature burned out after a few days the infection seems to have gotten into both sinuses, throat and respiratory tract meaning I am still in no condition to start training.

This meant my role was back at the side-lines, my prime spot these last few years, but at least the action was so good it almost warranted popcorn (not that I’d eat that, of course): our upcoming Crusaders women’s team ran well at the Leinster Novice securing individual bronze for Catherine Thornton and winning the team competition ahead of Dublin rivals Sportsworld and Donore. With our men winning the Dublin Intermediate last year and Alan O’Brian’s individual victory the previous year, things are really starting to change for our club in cross-country. On a personal level I was glad to see Aoife run well in her first cross-country this season.

She had me nervous briefly lying in 11th with one lap to go. By the final 600m she was still in 8th before launching a steam-train like charge through the field to take 4th. With her old foot-problems having acted up intermittently, we have had to be very cautious going into Autumn season and have not yet commenced real quality work. Yet bettering last years 6th place and with peak form yet to be built, things are looking positive. Tressan McCambridge, another name readers will recognise from the hills, has also had her share of injuries this year but worked her way through the field well to take the 4th scoring spot and the precious gold medal that goes with that position when your team takes the win. Cormac Conroy stood next to me as Aoife charged and asked “what training are you giving her?” before going over to her after the race to say “I’d like to race like that from now on”. He may not have needed the inspiration as he went on to run well in a competitive masters field with many hill runners: Ben Mooney, PJ O’Carroll, Derek Coogan, Aengus Burke, Martin McDonald, Jimmy Mac and others I am likely forgetting as I type along.

Speaking of late charges, Richie must have unleashed the sprint of the day as he came into the 100m stretch a good 25m adrift of the two next runners. He unloaded his entire body as one big spring to practically vault them After his successful Aras contract, he’s clearly still working his way back to the fitness he had when running such a stormer for us on Wicklow Way Leg 1 but the old “Healy kick” is still well alive and a fearsome weapon.

Jason and Amidou were also both in the fray. We didn’t know what to expect as the field quality can vary wildly in these events but personally I was pleased with 24th and 37th for the boys on a tough course with plenty of man-to-man throughout. Almost safe home, Jason had reeled in a few Rathfarnham runners but one took him by surprise in the sprint and our green-jerseyed rival did everything right, going by Jason so fast he did not leave a window open for him to go with him. Yet, in the end both scored for the Dublin team and got to take home another gold medal.

Marathoning Crusaders

From watching in the Belvedere Estate, I went with Aoife to do more spectating in the streets of Dublin. Ndungu, the men’s winner, was a marvel to behold as he pulled away from the nearest pursuants with a few miles to go. Every single time he lifted his leg off the ground his heel flicked all the way up to his glutes. There was not a glitch in his form. His stride was complete and powerful as if he was still at the beginning of a fast track race. The two Kenyans behind him on the other hand, looked reduced to a painful shuffle. Although this was probably still sub-5 minute mile shuffling!

Our real object was to support our club runners and other running friends, however, and there was too many out there to mention but we seem to have managed to cheer on most of the people we expected to see. As on any day there was plenty of PBs but also much disappointment when stomach cramps, injuries or poor pacing paid toll to month’s of preparation. First Crusader was Rob Cross and sadly his plantar fasciitis problems of recent months nagged his entire run yet he still PBed with a time just over 2:50, but we know he’s good for a lot more. Another Crusader, and fellow Dane, Torben Dahl ran low 2:50s as well only 10 days after winning the Polar Circle Marathon on Greenland. Going by his other results we know he’s good for a lot more. With a growing squad, I’m optimistic ahead of the many road championship races in the new year.

Crusaders of the Year

Speaking of growth, I met our head coach Michael who broke the news to me that I have been elected “Crusader of the Year” for my efforts with the training group in the hills and in south Dublin (of late), recruitment of runners and work on the Crusaders’ website. I am naturally delighted with the recognition of these projects. This has been a seminal year for the club, now the second-largest in the city, with so many highlights, so I see it as a real reflection on the quality and performances of the “south-side” athletes that the club committee decided to reward this work over the many other good initiatives undertaken by club members this year.

I’ll now have to find space in the house for the perpetual trophy that goes with the title. Most of all, we’ll have to continue to bring together  athletes to train, to put proper training systems in place for them, to arrange trips and to race together as a team. One component of Lydiard’s success often neglected a mention in accounts is the value his athletes derived from training together. “Arthur’s boys” brought each other on, the same effect observed in so many areas that turn into a “centre of excellence” because the right conditions present themselves. Take a group of runners at least 8-10 strong, give them a proper training structure and the motivation to work hard and have them feed of each other. After a few years you will see success. It’s really that simple. This project, athletics, is a life-long one, as Arthur showed, at least as I see it. If I have 50 years left, then I hope to give them to athletics. If I have 70, then I want to give those. There is enough work just in this field for a thousand life-times. So why not spend one?

So great weekend overall, if only my cold would go away…