Galway gears up to toast David Rudisha
There is something beautifully innocent about the way this week's visit to Galway by Kenyan Olympic 800m gold medallist David Rudisha and his coach Brother Colm O'Connell came about.
Although there are just 23 Kenyan adults living in Galway, as a community they are hugely proud of their rich heritage and eager to highlight everything that is positive about their homeland.
And so, this Kenyan-Irish community sent a request to O'Connell and his star pupil to visit Galway city. It was a lovely, simple request, sent straight to source; a request that received an immediate and positive response from the recipients. The Kenyan community in Galway also had a great ally in Richard Donovan, race director of the North Pole Marathon, who immediately agreed that his company would underwrite the visit of O'Connell and Rudisha.
Running, especially ultra-distance, has long been a passion for Donovan, whose brother Paul won a silver medal in the 3,000m at the World Indoor Track Championships in 1987. It was Donovan's commitment to underwrite the trip from Kenya to Ireland that put the final seal on what is sure to be a very special event this weekend in the City of the Tribes.
The Galway Kenya Run on Saturday afternoon will incorporate a short track meeting at the Regional Sports Centre in Dangan, located just two miles from the city centre on the N59. Admission to the track will be free, but donations will be gratefully accepted to the event's designated charities – Self Help Africa, Galway Simon Community and O'Connell's teacher-training programme on HIV/AIDS in Kenya.
This is a rare opportunity to witness the Olympic gold medalist and 800m world record holder in action on an Irish track and Rudisha has confirmed that he will take part in what should be a low-key and fun celebrity 800m.
There will be an elite mile on the programme and Paul Robinson of St Coca's AC is expected to race in this event, which will include a number of international athletes. It is a long time now since a young Paul Donovan became the only Galway athlete ever to break four minutes for the mile; the former world indoor silver medallist will – along with his brother – play a central role in organising this track meeting with a difference.
Robinson will be aiming to become the first man to run the mile in under four minutes on the Galway track, and the St Coca's athlete is in the right form to achieve this goal.
And there is a wonderful chance for a great local talent, Keith Fallon of Galway City Harriers, to show his prowess when he acts as the designated early pacemaker for the mile.
There will be a number of fun events on the programme, including several 800m races where everyone will be encouraged to walk, jog or run the two laps of the track. It's all shaping up to be a memorable weekend, culminating in a Q&A session with O'Connell and Rudisha at Bailey Allen Hall, NUI Galway, when Paul Donovan will conduct the interviews and members of the audience will have a chance to put their questions. Admission costs €10, with all proceeds going to the event's charities.
Today and tomorrow, O'Connell and Rudisha will be visiting schools in the Galway area and this visit to the west by an extraordinary Irish coach and an inspiring and brilliant athlete is an occasion not to be missed – especially for young athletes and their coaches.
A year ago, O'Connell and Rudisha held athletes and coaches enthralled at a seminar in Dublin organised by Coach of the Year Teresa McDaid. This seminar was a brilliant experience with lasting resonance and I expect that the same will be true of the Galway event. Welcome back Brother Colm and David.