Heffernan (Togher) was in the thick of the action for a medal for much of the race which won impressively by Slovakia’s Matej Toth in 3:40:32. Australia’s Jared Tallent was second in 3:42:17 while Japan’s Takayuki Tanii was third in 3:42:55.
And Heffernan, who has struggled with injuries for much of the last year, was satisfied with his showing. He said: “For me to finish fifth after the problems I’ve had this year, it shows my resolve. If I’m healthy and not injured, I can always grind out a good result. In relevant terms, this is a medal for me.”
The men’s 4x400m relay team of Brian Gregan, Brian Murphy, Thomas Barr and Mark English combined to set a national record of 3:01.26 to finish eighth in their heat and an excellent 13th overall, putting them into contention for qualifying for the Olympics in Rio next year.
Athletics Ireland’s high performance director Kevin Ankrom highlighted “some very positive performances and for many of our athletes, the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the year prior to the Olympics”.
Ankrom added: “Ultimately our best performers have secured some very high placings in the world order during the championships in Beijing. Rob Heffernan is 5th in the world, Mark English 10th, Thomas Barr 11th and the relay team 13th. These are very creditable results on the world stage. These are very positive ratings to have achieved and provide a platform to build on for Rio with the individual performances we saw from this team meeting with our expectations.
“With regards to our ambition derived from the Strategic Plan set out in 2016, we identified 24 medal opportunities by the end of 2016. To date we have achieved seven medals this year and 19 in total, a 80% strike rate.
“Later this year we have the European Cross Country Championships and moving forward into 2016 we will have the European Championships, European Youths, Olympics and then the European cross again to close out 2016.
“We have had a very good rate of success to date.”
Meanwhile, on the final of action in the Bird’s Nest stadium, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia produced a masterful performance to win the women’s 5,000m final in a championship record of 14:26.83, while Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop swooped in the home straight to win the 1500m in 3:34.41, with fellow Kenyan Elijah Manangoi also snatching silver in 3:34.63.
Jamaica caused a big upset in beating the USA in the women’s 4x400m relay in 3:19.13 to 3:19.44. There was no upset in the men’s 4x400m relay with USA coming out on top in 2:57.82.