Christie surprises even himself with defining turn of foot
Speed kills, as the saying goes, and when it comes to athletics it kills everyone who doesn't have it. Mark Christie proved that once again yesterday by surging to victory over the last mile of the Great Ireland Run, the Mullingar Harrier also claiming the national 10km title in 29.30.
In the absence of Fionnuala McCormack, who was a late withdrawal from the women's race through injury, Christie saved face for the hosts by powering away from England's Graham Rush, with Rio Olympian Mick Clohisey coming home third in 29.44.
"I'm delighted with that," said Christie. "I've had a real up-and-down time since Christmas, been sick two or three times, but the last two weeks have come around a little. I'm surprised, but pleasantly surprised."
Christie made his decisive move at the 8km mark, the sub-four-minute miler dropping the hammer on his rivals in supreme, superlative fashion over the undulating terrain of the Phoenix Park.
"I was feeling comfortable and went a bit earlier," he said. "I didn't look back from there and knew once I got to the last kilometre I had enough running in my legs."
Christie was long considered one of the richest talents in Irish distance running throughout his youth, but had occasionally drifted from the sport in recent years after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
In recent months, however, he's demonstrated that a tilt at the 2020 Games may yet be on the cards.
That, however, would require him to master the marathon, a task easier said than done when he reflects on his debut in 2014.
"I went through halfway at 2.15 pace," recalls Christie, "then the arse fell out of me at 35K. It's such a different event. You're training your body to take the pounding and burn the right fuel. Compared to a 10K it's like a different sport. I might try to stick on the roads, but I really have to get my head around the marathon so it means changing my training."
While there was no disguising the women's race suffered from the absence of McCormack, England's Gemma Steel proved a worthy winner, slowly squeezing the life out of her rivals through the latter half of the race.
She came home in 34.15, ahead of team-mate Jenny Spink, while 3000m steeplechase specialist Kerry O'Flaherty took the Irish title, finishing third overall, in 34.38.
Leevale's Claire McCarthy was next home in 34.47.
"I wasn't sure how it was going to go because 10K feels like a marathon to me," said O'Flaherty, who will fly to Font Romeu in France today for altitude training.
"I was delighted I had the endurance, but this year it's all about (the world championships in) London - everything is geared towards that."
Elsewhere, Thomas Barr made his much-anticipated season debut when taking victory over 400m hurdles at the Irish University Championships in Cork, the Olympic finalist clocking a comfortable 50.92. Carlow's Marcus Lawler also impressed, winning the men's 200m in 21.01.