No disputing Pollock's desire to claim another green card
After the year he's had, Paul Pollock knows all about the value - and occasional cost - of representing your country.
It's the reason why, far from wallowing in an Olympic hangover, the 30-year-old Belfast man will be back in action at the National Cross Country Championships in Abbotstown tomorrow, trying to book his place on the Irish team for next month's European Cross Country.
"This was never the primary goal for the winter, but you can't pass up the opportunity at another Irish vest," he says. "If it's there, and you're going well, then why not?"
This time around, he hopes there will be little debate about his place on the team.
In May, Pollock was one of three Irish men selected for the Olympic marathon despite him having the fourth-quickest qualifying time. Having been forced to bypass a spring marathon through injury, Athletics Ireland took into account his outstanding half marathon times and chose him alongside Mick Clohisey and Kevin Seaward, which meant Sergiu Ciobanu - the third quickest - stayed at home.
Both Ciobanu and his coach, Jerry Kiernan, blasted that decision, and a hurricane of fury soon came blowing Pollock's way. It meant that in Rio, he ran with a heavy burden of expectation.
"There was pressure, not from anyone I knew, but I was aware if I hadn't run well it wouldn't have looked good," says Pollock. "It came out in the end that the choice wasn't even between myself and Sergiu - it was between Mick and Sergiu - but it's all over with now."
In Rio, Pollock silenced his critics, coming home 32nd in 2.16:24, almost four minutes ahead of the second-best Irishman, Seaward. "It was a solid run, but it wasn't where I wanted to be," he says. "I don't think it was anywhere near my potential."
After the Olympics, Pollock (below) took two weeks off before resuming training. Right now he's averaging 75 miles a week - cautious by elite standards - but that will ramp up as he eyes a spring marathon.
He continues to base himself in Teddington, England, and though he still does the odd shift at a local hospital to pay the bills, his medical career is on hold as he chases his sporting dreams.
"I have both eyes firmly on that Irish marathon record," he says, referring to John Treacy's mark of 2.09:15. "I think if I have the right build-up, the right race, I see no reason I can't run that."
Tomorrrow, he will renew rivalry with former champions Mick Clohisey and Mark Christie. He hopes to be in the reckoning to reclaim the title he last won in 2014. "I've raced them all before and I know how tough it will be," he says. "I see no reason I can't be on the podium."
And if he is, it would mean Pollock takes one of three automatic spots on the Irish team, a selection no one could argue with.