Relentless Gary O’Hanlon storms to Cork City Marathon crown

Pain was no barrier for Gary O’Hanlon as he finally won the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon in style with a course record of 2:21:10 as Zola Flynn captured the women’s title in 2:58:55.

“I threw everything in to it,” said O’Hanlon, 43, afterwards who won the race at his fourth attempt. Kenya’s Peter Somba was the main threat on the day, having been winning on the Irish roads in recent months with scant regard for his opposition using sit and kick tactics.

“I went for it at three miles and he (Somba) had to crumble at some point, it was either him or me. I did a 68 half marathon from mile 3 to mile 16. I thought to myself ‘he’s going to suffer.’”

The pair were locked together to that point when the cracks appeared in Somba and a gap started to form with the Kenyan eventually crumbling and fading to 6th in 2:33:36.

Mark Kirwan came through for second in 2:25:18 with Eoin Callaghan third in 2:26:09.

The 43-year-old shows no signs of slowing and his new moniker should be “the human metronome.” It’s exactly six weeks since the teak-tough Louth man ran 2:21:42 at the London marathon and pain doesn’t appear to be any barrier.

“I just sort of switch off and don’t think about it,” answered O’Hanlon about pain. “A lot of it is in your head. I only dropped pace when someone told me Somba was gone. Then I started to suffer myself in a way that I shouldn’t have. When you take the foot off the throttle you can’t get back on again.

“It’s a funny game the marathon. You have to learn how to push it out without going past the threshold.

“I was suffering from three miles into that race but I was determined to leave it out there. I was still expecting for it to come down to the sprint finish.”

Getting knocked down by a car at 17 with his athletics career set to blossom also gives O’Hanlon, who coaches a lot of runners, perspective. “If it wasn’t for the car crash I probably would have gotten good results and retired in my early 20s. You remember the bad times and how bad it was you couldn’t run. That’s what drives me.

“The accident I had when I was 17 and all the operations it sticks with you. I also coach so many athletes that I feel I’d be letting them down. You’re representing the athletes you coach.” Sligo’s Zola Flynn had a more comfortable win in the women’s race with Rachel Davies second in 3:02:24 and Youghal’s Annmarie Holland third in 3:03:47.

Leevale’s Claire Gibbons McCarthy repeated last year’s victory in the half marathon with 76:52 while Sergiu Ciobanu won the men’s half in 68:00 ahead of Cillian O’Leary, who won the full marathon in 2015, in 69:20.

Meanwhile on the streets of Dublin, Lizzie Lee had a ‘bucket list victory’ in the VHI women’s mini marathon 10k in 34:18.

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