National champion Gary O’Hanlon believes tomorrow’s Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon will be one of the most challenging editions of the event.
O’Hanlon, 43, a serial marathoner and winner, has run the event three times, finishing third and second twice, feels the competition and conditions are going to provide a big test.
“It’s the biggest depth that the Cork marathon has seen for years with five guys having run under 2:20. Add to that the expected heat wave and it’s going to be very tough,” said the Louth man who runs for Clonliffe Harriers.
Kenyan Peter Somba will be O’Hanlon’s main rival along with Mark Kirwan, Eoin Callaghan, and Bantry’s ‘flying doctor’ Alan O’Shea.
“It’s a grand course,” he said.
O’Hanlon has been through tougher times than hot weather and in recent years has been finally able to fulfil some of his potential.
On the cusp of an athletics scholarship to the US as a schoolboy, O’Hanlon was knocked down by a car while out on a run on the local roads of Kilkerley. This brought his budding athletics career to a halt and led to plastic surgery and therapy. Over the course of a decade or more, O’Hanlon ‘lived the good life’ going out at least three to four times per week.
The running bug began to gnaw at him and in his early 30s he returned to run some 1500s on the track and cross country.
It wasn’t until 2011 that he found the perfect distance when he debuted over 26.2 miles at the Dublin Marathon, finishing 19th in 2:26:30 off minimal training. Last year O’Hanlon won the national title in 2:18:53.
Cillian O’Leary, the 2015 champion who became the first Cork winner since 2007, will be looking to win the half-marathon, which takes place as part of the event along with the team relay.
Leevale’s Claire McCarthy will be bidding to win the women’s half-marathon with the 26.2-mile distance wide open.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, Lizzie Lee will be looking for a ‘bucket list’ victory in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon. Two legends on that roll of honour include Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan.
“I really want to win it,” said Lee who ran the Olympic marathon at Rio 2016.
“It was the first thing that I said to my coach Donie (Walsh) when I’d had Alison (her second child). I will vomit blood to win this. The Cork Marathon is also on my bucket list but I can do that when I’m older and will need to be in this shape to win that.”
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