Latecomer keeping pace with younger rivals
BRIAN MAHER was very much a latecomer to athletics, but his physique and raw natural talent has seen him join the ranks of elite distance runners in this country over the last five years.
Former marathon running legend Dick Hooper reckons that even though Maher is 32, his 'running age' is closer to 22 because he has missed out on the decade of intensive coaching and racing that most of his contemporaries have experienced.
That partly explains why Maher was able to fend off the challenge of some much younger runners to finish second in the 10,000m at this year's National Championships and also why he's been selected as one of the athletes in the elite Marathon Mission squad launched earlier this year.
A joint initiative between the Dublin Marathon organisers and Athletics Ireland, Marathon Mission aims to revive the Irish tradition of excellence over the classic distance and Maher himself has set the 2:18 European Championships marathon qualification time as his long-term target. That looks a realistic ambition given the 67:26 he ran when winning the Dublin Half Marathon last September on an undulating course and in windy conditions in the Phoenix Park.
The Olympic Marathon qualification time of 2:15 may be beyond his range given his working lifestyle, but it's not inconceivable that he could also attain that standard if everything falls in place at the right time.
He set a personal best of 30:06 for the 10,000m at the National Championships, but believes he can slice at least another 20 seconds off that time this season given the right conditions and competition.
He's currently clocking an average of 70-80 miles per week in training and runs six days a week, once a day.
A long run of between 15 to 18 miles at the weekend is the cornerstone of his training programme along with one interval session, while he has also started to compete in road races to maintain his competitive focus and edge.