Course knowledge crucial for O'Hanlon and McCann

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.

Course knowledge crucial for O'Hanlon and McCann

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.

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