Nike’s marathon gimmick just doesn’t do it for Irish star Hehir

Two-time Irish marathon champion Sean Hehir says he is far more inspired by legendary Clare hard-man Seamus Power than the Kenyan Olympic champion who took part in the recent bid to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

Defending Irish women's champion Laura Graham, right, and Leevale athlete Clare Gibbons-McCarthy. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

“It was interesting as a scientific experiment but does it personally inspire me? No! Let’s be honest, it was other-wordly,” said the man from Kilkishen who is hoping to win his third Irish title in the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon (which doubles up as the Irish championship) on October 29.

“Seamus Power was my role model growing up and still is,” Hehir insisted of the Kilmurry-Ibrickane mud-lark who famously won nine Irish inter-county cross-country titles on the trot as well as four Irish inter-club titles.

“I remember watching him finish 16th in the 10,000m in the European Championships, that’s what inspired me and watching him running cross-country,” he added.

Nike’s recent #Breaking2 bid, which saw Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge run over two minutes faster than the reigning world marathon record (2:02:57) and come within 25 seconds of breaking the two-hour mark, polarised opinion.

Some felt Kipchoge’s feat will inspire a new generation of marathon runners while others lambasted the event as simply a cynical exercise to sell new shoe technology.

The use of a variety of pacemakers for the ‘closed’ race, which was run on Italy’s famous Monza car-racing track, meant Kipchoge’s time of 2:00:23 doesn’t count as a world record.

“It was interesting from a science point of view, taking it out of a big city marathon and putting it on a specially selected course, with teams of pacemakers jumping in and out, having drinks bottles delivered by a motorbike and with special shoes,” Hehir noted.

“Nike achieved what they wanted to do. The last four world records have been held by adidas athletes and now all of a sudden people are talking about Nike athletes in the same breath.

“But it doesn’t stand as a world record and remember Kipchoge is still living a spartan existence in Kenya, sharing a room with two other athletes. He’s completely devoted to it.”

Raheny Olympian Mick Clohisey also believes the stunt failed to resonate with the public.

“I don’t think a pair of runners is going to make a difference,” Clohisey said.

“Kipchoge’s phenomenal and I’d say he will break two hours eventually but it was so staged. I think people will get more inspiration elsewhere.”

Both Hehir and Clohisey, along with defending Irish women’s champion Laura Graham and Leevale’s two-time medallist Claire Gibbons-McCarthy, helped launch the 2017 Dublin Marathon yesterday, for which there is an early-bird entry rate of €70 before May 31.

Entry has been capped at 20,000 again and race director Jim Aughney revealed he has talked to Athletics Ireland’s new high performance director Paul McNamara to try to ensure that the first Irish man and woman home in 2017 will get automatic AAI selection for the 2018 European Championships.

“We tried this a few times before with Olympics and failed but it’s one of the tasks we want to get across the line this year and for me it’s not a big ask,” Aughney said.

“It should be feasible to do it for one of a team of three and, if it’s a team of five, we might ask if the first and second in Dublin could qualify for Europeans once they subsequently get the necessary standard.

“If that carrot was there I think we’d have people running Dublin as opposed to Berlin at the end of the year,” Aughney added.

“It’d be win-win for us, Athletics Ireland, and the athletes themselves.”

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