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Sonia O’Sullivan wins debut marathon

Sonia O’Sullivan wins debut marathon
IAAF correspondent in Ireland
31 October 2000 – Dublin - Sonia O'Sullivan, Ireland's Olympic 5,000 metres silver medallist, stunned the crowd and surprised race rivals when she ran and won her debut marathon in the Dublin City event staged through the Irish capital on Monday.

O'Sullivan had only telephoned the organisers of the event late on Sunday night, and despite pouring rain and gusting winds, she strode around the often hilly course comfortably enough, clocking 2hr 35min 42sec, finishing 20th overall and winning the women's race on her debut over the classic 26-mile 385-yard (42.195 kilometres) distance by nearly two minutes from experienced marathon international, Theresa Duffy.

The surprise was all the greater because O'Sullivan's longest run in her "preparation" for the gruelling marathon had been less than 16 kilometres - when the 31-year-old Irishwoman had dropped out of the Great North Run half-marathon event in Newcastle, England, earlier in October. O'Sullivan had never before run for more than two hours in a training run towards becoming the European champion at 5,000 and 10,000m in 1998.

Yet here, the former double IAAF World Cross-country champion gave up the chance of a likely large appearance fee available from a big-city marathon just to be part of the 9,000 ordinary runners in the event through Dublin, venue of next March's 2001 edition of the World Cross-country.

"My mother and father will probably kill me," she said.

"It was a shock to hear about Sonia," said Duffy, who ran a personal best 2:37:36. "I only found out about 10 minutes before the race began. At about nine miles she took off. I was closing later on but I was extremely tired over the last four miles."

O'Sullivan said that the idea first occurred to her after going on a long slow run with some training partners in London the week before, and then discussing the idea with her coach, Alan Storey, ahead of a visit to her parents' home and a promotional tour of Ireland to promote her book, Running to Stand Still.

With No 101 pinned to her chest, O'Sullivan said, "It was my intention to just run with the other girls during the entire race but I felt they were not going fast enough.

"So I just latched on to a bunch of guys and tried not to think too much of how far I had to go.

"All I was thinking about was finishing," said O'Sullivan. "I didn't care about a time or anything. I just wanted to get around. It wasn't any experiment to try and run fast or anything like that.

"It was all new to me. I'd never run a marathon ever so I'd no idea . . .and it will be a long time before I do another one. If it was anywhere else I wouldn't have run it. It was just because it was in Dublin and I was here for the book launch, so I just called yesterday and asked for a number."

"It was great," O'Sullivan said. "I really enjoyed it . . . for the first 20 miles and then I was saying `Oh God, 2:15, I've never been here before, I hope I'm going to survive this.

"It's something that everyone asks - when are you going to do it? I've always said I'd love to run one because I'm always around at these big marathons doing things for Nike and stuff. There is always such a big buzz about it that I've just always wanted to do it. I was nice to win."

The men's event was won by Simon Pride, the IAU 100km world champion, in a personal best of 2:18:49, beating the 1999 Dublin champion, John Mutai, of Kenya.