Athletics: Aughney confident 'Marathon Mission' can boost Irish standards
IRELAND'S former marathon greats may have spent the past decade puzzling over the drastic drop in standards nationally, but someone is finally addressing the problem.
A joint initiative between Athletics Ireland (AAI) and the Lifestyle Sports-adidas Dublin Marathon is set to address the issue.
Ireland's proud tradition in the event includes John Treacy's LA Olympic silver medal. However, when Martin Fagan ran 2:14.06 in 2008, he became the first Irishman to qualify for the Olympic marathon since 1992, with 2:20 now a mark that Irish runners struggle to break.
But a new programme, dubbed 'Marathon Mission,' will offer athletes plenty of incentives to raise the standard nationally.
Athletes will have to meet certain time criteria at either marathon, half-marathon or 10 miles, between January '09 and before September 2010, to join the group.
Those invited will benefit from coaching support, group training, gear sponsorship and will also be considered for training camp/altitude training support.
Dublin Marathon Race Director Jim Aughney is confident that the programme will improve the strength of Irish marathon running, as well as adding to the competitiveness of his own race, which already doubles up as the National Marathon Championships.
"Despite the increase in social running and record levels of Irish participation in this year's Dublin Marathon, the standard of Irish elite running has dropped considerably over the last decade," Aughney said. "Eleven of the first 14 Dublin Marathons were won by Irish runners, routinely running sub 2:20, yet there has not been an Irish winner in 15 years.
"I believe that, with the right kind of support, we can enhance the prestige and competitiveness of domestic running."
He added: "It is going to take time to raise the bar. You're talking a minimum of four to five years because it takes a huge, huge effort to run a sub 2:20 marathon.
"But we have plenty of runners who are capable of achieving that, and I believe that with the right kind of support, we can enhance the prestige and competitiveness of domestic running."
The group's first meeting will take place tomorrow in the West County Hotel (1.0) and the necessary standards for men are sub 2:25 (marathon), sub 67:30 (half-marathon) and sub 50mins (10 miles) and sub 2:45 (marathon), sub 79:30 (half-marathon) and sub 60mins (10 miles) for women.
Elsewhere, as Ireland's two-week elite training camp in Portugal comes to a close, the indoor season kicks off with this weekend's AAI Games in Nenagh.
The AAI has just announced its managerial appointments for the coming international cycle.
Patsy McGonagle will continue in charge of the senior team for the next two years and Teresa McDaid, who has been named as senior deputy, will take charge of the Development and the World University Games teams.
Other appointments include Hayley Harrison (U-23s) and Neil Martin (Juniors), with Brian Dowling the deputy for this summer's World Juniors.
Bernie Alcorn and John McGrath have been appointed Youth Team Manager and Deputy Manager, respectively, for this year's inaugural World Youth Olympics in Singapore, while Peter Stafford and John Maye have been appointed as trainee team managers as part of a new mentoring initiative.