In the realm of Irish distance-running, this was the best performance for many years – a two-hour, 24-minute reminder to those in Athletics Ireland of what might have been.
Mayo’s Sinead Diver smashed her personal best to finish a superb seventh at the London Marathon yesterday, the 42-year-old carving more than a minute off her personal best to clock 2:24:11.
Born and raised in Ireland, Diver moved to Melbourne in 2002, only taking up running in 2010 at the age of 33 after the birth of her second child. When she clocked 2:34:15 for the marathon in 2014, she was all set to represent Ireland at the following year’s World Championships but Athletics Ireland soon moved the goalposts, changing the time required to 2:33:30.
“I presumed I’d run for Ireland – like, I’m Irish,” she said.
As a dual citizen, Diver knew the only way to run in Beijing would be in an Australian vest, a decision that proved virtually irreversible given the IAAF now mandates a three-year wait before transferring allegiance.
Going into yesterday’s race, she had no intention to be near the front, but that was exactly where the Belmullet woman found herself after the opening miles with the leading contenders unwilling to push the pace.
And so she forged ahead, building a lead of more than 200 metres at one point over the Kenyans and Ethiopians, passing halfway over Tower Bridge in 1:11:22.
“That was really good fun, I didn’t want to look behind but I was wondering where everybody was,” she said. “The Africans slowed right down, so I said I’d go to the front and run my own race. I thought I might pay for it at the end but I hung on.”
With strong headwinds over the second half, Diver fought hard to hold pace but reached the finish on The Mall in 2:24:11. It made her the second fastest Irishwoman in history behind Catherina McKiernan, and more importantly it qualified her for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“Hopefully that’s enough to get me there,” she said. “That was the main goal for today.”
Mick Clohisey was the leading Irish finisher in the men’s race, the Raheny athlete finishing 25th in 2:15:06. Clohisey started ambitiously, passing halfway in 1:06:34, but running alone in high winds through the second half soon took its toll.
“I ended up in no-man’s land for the first half and used a lot more energy,” he said. “I’d have liked to crank down more but I have to take that today. It’s still solid.”
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge again proved a class apart, becoming the first man ever to win four titles and clocking the second fastest time in history, 2:02:37. Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei won the women’s race in 2:18:20.
Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth in the men’s race in 2:05:39, the four-time Olympic champion enduring a frosty exchange with journalists afterwards when questioned about his relationship with Jama Aden, the controversial coach who was arrested in Spain in 2016 as part of a doping bust.
Farah said his dispute with Ethiopian distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie did not act as a distraction ahead of the race Farah’s preparations were overshadowed by his public dispute with Gebrselassie, with the Briton unhappy that he did not receive help from Gebrselassie after he was robbed at a hotel in Addis Ababa owned by the Ethiopian.
Gebrselassie, a former world record holder and current president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, said the matter was immediately reported to police, who interviewed five hotel employees but opted not to bring charges against any of them.
The episode dominated the news in the run-up to the yesterday’s race, but Farah said he retained his focus despite having failed to challenge for the lead throughout.
“I didn’t think the fuss affected my run and I wasn’t distracted by the build up,” Farah said. “It was all about London today and so I put my head down, did my best.
“I don’t regret anything I said and I respect the race.
“My aim was to reel them back once the pacemaker dropped out, but wasn’t able to. I am disappointed as training went well.”