August’s World Championships in Beijing may be the summer priority but Mark English has also earmarked the Monaco Diamond League meet in mid-July for a crack at David Matthews’ 20-year old Irish 800m record.
English has already claimed the indoor version of that honour, running the distance in 1:46.82 at the Woodie’s DIY AAI Open Games in Athlone last February, and, in the process, shaving almost 0.4 of a second off the mark set by Daniel Caulfield 13 years earlier.
His personal best outdoors still stands at 1:44.84, which he ran in London’s Olympic Stadium two years ago, and he will need to chop 0.03 seconds off that in the Mediterranean principality if he is to achieve his aim in just over three weeks’ time.
“The track always produces fast times,” he explained. “The American Andrew Wheating ran a 3:30 1,500m there and other guys have run super quick on that track. I mentioned it to my agent at the start of the season when I laid out all the races I wanted to do.
“I just said, ‘whatever you do, just do your best to get me in to Monaco because that track’s magic’. I ran the time for that in Ostrava last month (at the Golden Spike meet) so I’m absolutely thrilled with that. I’m really looking forward to it.”
English has declared himself happy with his form. His most recent outing came in an Irish singlet at last weekend’s European Team Championships in Heraklion where his second place in the 800m and his relay leg helped Ireland to a best ever sixth-placed finish.
A disappointing seventh in the New York Diamond League the week before was put down to medical exams in May and the inevitable impact they had on a training regime that was already prioritising endurance over speed at the time.
“My legs just didn’t feel as fresh. I just didn’t have the pop in them. I had a doubt as to whether my speed was really there, but then I ran a 44-high relay split at the weekend so that is there. I just need to work on my kick now. I feel nearly ready to pop.”
Irish athletics fans will get to see how ready he is next month as he pitches up for both the Cork City Sports on July 7 and the Morton Games on July 24, the latter of which he was helping to publicise yesterday in Dublin.
The recently revived Morton Games have already established itself on a firm footing in the calendar with last year’s meet providing an extraordinary evening of fare what with eight stadium records falling, including the fastest mile run in Ireland.
Will Leer, the American who managed that feat in a time of 3:51.82, will return in 2015. In all, one hundred or so international athletes are expected to compete from 14 different countries while Ireland’s top-shelf will be well stocked.
English aside, the meet will see Thomas Barr line up for the 400m hurdles, Brian Gregan and Dara Kervick are pencilled in for the 400m, Ciaran Everard will contest the women’s’ 800m and Kelly Proper is down for the 200m.
English was among those claiming yesterday that the meet is gaining a name for itself internationally, with France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, ranked fifth in the world in the 800m, expressing an interest to the Donegal man in attending in future years.
Glorious weather the last three years has helped the occasion attach itself to the domestic sports calendar and English was particularly effusive in his praise for the Games which take place at the iconic venue in Santry.
“I think it’s the ambiance that makes it, the crowd are knowledgable. They don’t just cheer arbitrarily, they know a good performance when they see it. There is a good bunch of athletes that go there and hopefully that will only get better, too.”
For English, Bosse and the rest, the World Championships in Beijing remain the pinnacle in the months to come, but the European bronze and European Indoor silver medallist is eager to enjoy the path that takes him to China, too.
“I try enjoy every race. I look forward to them just as much as the Worlds. In the past, I looked forward to them or a Europeans and you run the risk of something going wrong on the day. Then your whole season is out of control. So, you should enjoy the process.”
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