Athletics: Fagan eyes historic Great Ireland glory
MARTIN FAGAN has his sights firmly set on the Spar Great Ireland Run in a fortnight's time.
Injury forced the Mullingar Olympian to withdraw from the LA Marathon two weeks ago but he is intent on winning the big road-race in the Phoenix Park on April 18 which also, for the first time, doubles up as the Irish 10km Championships.
A long-running Achilles problem put paid to Fagan's medal hopes at the European Cross-Country Championships in Santry last December where he finished a disappointing 26th. His decision to run a marathon so soon afterwards surprised many given the injuries that have dogged him, and the fact that the European Championships take place in late July.
But Fagan has explained his reasoning, saying: "After Europeans I finally got my Achilles fixed and after time off I experienced the best training period of my career.
"For two months I averaged 140 miles a week and I've never felt stronger.
"Because I've had so many injuries in the past two years I decided why not take advantage of this fitness," he revealed.
"In the week leading up to the race I started tapering and running shorter but faster but I damaged my knee five days out from the race and was advised not to run."
Fagan said he was particularly frustrated because his training suggested he was in 2:08 shape but he's now focused firmly on returning from his US-base in Flagstaff, Arizona to try to become the first Irishman to win the Great Ireland Run.
Since the inaugural race in 2003 there have been two Irish women's winners -- Sonia O'Sullivan (2003) and Catherina McKiernan (2004) -- but no Irish man has done it.
Fagan was third last year behind Portugese winner Rui Silva and Kenyan runner-up Paul Tergat.
Irish inter-club cross-country champion Mark Kenneally was second in the event in 2006 when his current coach Mark Carroll was third.
The Clonliffe man, whose eighth place was Ireland's top finish at the 2009 European Cross-Country Championships, is among the strong domestic field expected to throw down a strong challenge to Fagan this year.
The men's foreign raiders will be led by Switzerland's Viktor Rothlin who was third in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka and sixth in the Beijing Olympics.
Athletics Ireland's decision to combine a national championship with a commercial road-race was a controversial one but they already do that with the Adidas Dublin Marathon and obviously felt that the publicity that the Great Ireland Run attracts -- particularly its live television coverage -- made the move worthwhile.
They also negotiated a reduced entry fee of €20 for registered AAI members which incorporates entry into the national 10km championships.