When it comes to succeeding in any race, previous form over course and distance is always a big help — so it proved for Gary O’Hanlon and Angela McCann at yesterday’s Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon.
On a day that saw 8,000 participants take to the streets across the various races, O’Hanlon experienced a sweet sense of deja vu by retaining the men’s marathon title in 2:21:43 while McCann rolled back the years to win the women’s race in 3:02:53.
For O’Hanlon it was the latest success of a career that continues to defy the years, the 44-year-old ageing with the appreciating value of a fine wine.
He came into the race just five weeks removed from his last outing over 26.2 miles — the 2:17:32 he ran to finish 31st at the London Marathon — but such a quick turnaround was nothing new to the Clonliffe Harrier, who ran his PB of 2:17:11 in Dublin last October.
Yesterday he set out at a strong pace but soon decided it wasn’t the kind of day to chase a fast time.
“It was very tough out there and the wind was very, very strong,” he said. “I was planning on running around 5:10 pace a mile but I knew when I was running 5:13 a mile and was flat out after two miles that it was too fast.
"I turned around to Sergiu [Ciobanu], we had a conversation and he just said, ‘It’s too windy’ so we backed off.”
Despite coming home with a winning margin of four minutes, only after 18 miles did O’Hanlon break away from his rivals.
“I knew Sergiu would be tough — he always is. The goal was to retain my title and it was very tough to do that, but I’m delighted with that. I won’t run another marathon now until Berlin [in September].”
Tim O’Donoghue of East Cork AC came through for second in 2:25:52, with Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe Harriers third in 2:28:26.
In the women’s race, Angela McCann rolled back the years to reclaim the title she won in 2011 and 2012, the Clonmel AC athlete coming home in 3:02:53 to seal an emotional win.
“It’s better than the first two times, to be honest,” she said. “To get back this year is such a huge achievement for me because the last few years haven’t been great so I’m ecstatic.”
The 48-year-old set off in conservative fashion, running with the three-hour pacemakers for much of the opening half.
“I didn’t have a strategy — I said I’ll run relatively comfortable for the first half and I did find it very tough the last few miles, but that’s marathon running for you,” she said.
“The support and everything on the course was fantastic and I was able to stay with the pacers for a good bit so I’d a bit of company.”
She hit the finish in splendid isolation to reclaim her title seven years on from her last victory, with Leevale’s Nollaig O’Neil second in 3:07:56 and Megan Armitage third in 3:08:31.
Togher’s Gavin Sweeney took victory in the men’s half marathon in 1:09:04 ahead of Raheny duo Cillian O’Leary (1:09:29) and Freddy Kerron Sittuk (1:11:03), taking two minutes off his personal best in the process.
“It’s a tough course and it was windy so I was trying to tuck in and stay with a group,” said Sweeney.
“I don’t know was it nerves but I didn’t feel great the first half and as it went on I felt better. I really put the boot down the last four miles.”
Fiona Santry took the women’s half marathon title in 1:23:17, ahead of Sorcha Kearney (1:25:26) and Andrea Bickerdike (1:26:58).
“I knew on the way around that I’d be very lucky to get a PB as it was very windy out there, but I’m still happy,” said Santry.
The marathon team relay was won by Leevale AC in 2:24:24 ahead of Togher (2:29:12) and Crusaders (2:30:37). Across all races, a total of 8,000 athletes participated in this year’s event.
Meanwhile, at the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon in Dublin, Kilkenny’s Aoibhe Richardson was the first home of the 30,000 participants, the 22-year-old student clocking 34:35 for the 10km distance.