Fionnuala McCormack wins at the 2016 Great Ireland Run (© Tomas Greally)
Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack and Great Britain’s Andy Maud took victories at the Spar Great Ireland Run in Dublin, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday afternoon (10).
The men’s and women’s races played out in different fashion, with McCormack striking early in the 10km race and coming home a comfortable winner in 33:30, while Maud edged local athlete Mick Clohisey in a sprint finish to also take his first win at the event, 29:55 to 30:00.
With almost 8000 athletes taking to the streets in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the pace was surprisingly timid in the opening miles of both men’s and women’s races, a result of the high winds that buffeted the runners from the outset.
McCormack was content to sit in second place behind Maria McCambridge through the opening mile but the two-time European cross-country champion showed her class thereafter, surging to the front and opening an immediate advantage.
As the field ran into a stiff breeze, McCormack’s lead grew quickly, and she was all alone as she entered the hilly portion of the race just past halfway.
Given the venue is a long-time training venue of McCormack’s, the latter miles must have felt like little more than a hard tempo run for the 31-year-old, and she coasted to the finish in 33:30, 71 seconds clear of runner-up Deirdre Byrne, who was second in 34:41.
Irish Olympian Maria McCambridge made a quick return after a disappointing outing in last weekend’s Amsterdam Marathon to finish third in 34:52.
“I’d say I lost any chance of a good time at the start,” said McCormack. “It was windy and it’s a tough course, so it wasn’t going to be fast. This race is never about times, though.”
McCormack’s win was her third race in the past four weeks, and brought to an end a racing block which featured a fourth-place finish at the New York City Half Marathon last month and a 10,000m Olympic qualifier of 32:05.08 at the Stanford Invitational in the US last weekend.
“It was a short spring season and it was three good races,” she said. “It sets me up well for the summer.”
Maud edges Clohisey for men's crown
In contrast to the women’s event, the men’s race proved a closely fought duel, with Ireland’s Mick Clohisey losing out in the end to Britain’s Andy Maud.
The race began in conservative fashion, with a group of four passing halfway together, Clohisey and fellow Dubliner Brandon Hargreaves leading the way.
At that point Maud was content to sit behind the leaders, but he responded immediately when Clohisey made the first decisive move of the race just before the 7km mark.
“I have to run at an honest pace,” said Clohisey when asked about his willingness to lead the race in such windy conditions. “I can’t sit in and react.”
Maud ran alongside Clohisey as the pair navigated the hills in the latter half, and the Briton tried his best to launch an attack of his own with two kilometres to go, but Clohisey was alert to the threat.
“The last 3K we were both trying to edge ahead but neither could get anything on the other,” said Maud. “Mick is a good front runner. Every time I tried to go ahead, he put himself back in front. I tried to break him at 8K, but he kept retaliating.”
The pair entered the home straight together, but in the end, Maud’s change of gears proved too much for Clohisey, and the Highgate Harrier took victory by five seconds, 29:55 to 30:00. Ireland’s Kevin Maunsell finished third in 30:23.
“It was a really good race, a tough race,” added Maud. “In the conditions I didn’t want to take it out. It’s a hilly course, and was very windy, so to get sub-30 in those conditions, I’m happy with that.”
Earlier in the day, the men’s mile was won in convincing style by Ireland’s John Travers. The 25-year-old Dubliner raced to the lead approaching the halfway stage and injected a vicious surge, which carried him clear of the field to win in 4:11, coming home three seconds ahead of Britain’s John Ashcroft.
“I decided to go for hell after halfway,” said Travers. “It was tough with the wind, but I’m happy enough.”
This year’s event saw a revised format to previous editions, with organisers inviting a Commonwealth team comprised of mostly British athletes to compete against a squad of Irish men and women.
“Competitive athletics is what gets people going these days,” said race organiser Gareth Turnbull. “That’s what we’re trying to engage in here. We want this team format to be the approach for these mass participation races. Hopefully in the following years we’ll bring other national teams across too and make this an inter-country competition.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF