Saturday 25 May 2019

Hehir hoping the 'best man' wins

Barry Minnock and his Rathfarnham WSAF AC club-mate Sean Hehir
Barry Minnock and his Rathfarnham WSAF AC club-mate Sean Hehir

Cliona Foley

One of Sean Hehir's closest mates has asked him to be his best man when he gets married before Christmas.

Organising the stag party is on his 'to do' list but right now he has other priorities and chief among them is beating the groom-to-be - Barry Minnock - in Monday's SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon.

With a national title, plus a shot at Olympic qualification, at stake, neither will be holding back, yet their great friendship is not why eyebrows have been raised at Hehir's participation.

In 2012 the Dublin-based Clare man established himself as one of the country's top marathoners by running 2:17.35 - still his personal best - on his debut over the distance.

A year later he was the race winner and last summer he was the first Irishman over the line (20th) at the European Championships.

But Dublin will be his third marathon in six months and comes just 29 days after he ran in Berlin.

He went to Germany on September 27 seeking Olympic qualification (2:17 flat) but came up short by 48 seconds on a day when Ireland's marathon renaissance was underlined by four others getting the Rio standard and Gary Thornton (2:17.19) just narrowly missing it.

Like most of those battling for the three Irish Olympic marathon spots in 2016, Hehir also plans to run another 26-miler next spring.

So why is he jumping back into the saddle so quickly again in what many regard as a dangerous gamble?

"It wasn't the original plan and I know it's a bit of a risk but I just didn't feel I got the return on the training I did before Berlin," he explains."I spent over 50 days training at altitude in Font Romeu (France), took unpaid leave (from primary teaching) for most of September, but just wasn't good enough on the day."


Hehir didn't begrudge any of those who succeeded but was disgusted personally and couldn't understand it, given what he felt was his best block at altitude ever.

He rang his coach Dick Hooper from Berlin airport that night.

"Normally I can take a bad performance on the chin but that one hurt a lot because I'd put so much into it," he admits.

"I was upset, I didn't want to rule out the possibility of running Dublin and Dick said 'let's see how you recover in the next week.' Since then it's been a balancing act between recovering and maintaining momentum.

"I've never run two this close together. But this is Dublin, there's an Irish title at stake, and for me it doesn't get much better than that."

Monday is certainly a gamble and also pits him against regular training partners and good friends like Minnock (Irish runner-up last year) and in-form Eoin Callaghan.

"Barry and myself lived together for three years, he's like an older brother to me and never has a bad run in Dublin," he says.

"I've done a lot of my long runs with Eoin and there's a really good performance coming for him too, so it's going to be a great race.

"The support in Dublin is really special. You can hear people shouting your name at every street corner, it is like having the wind at your back every step of the way."

When Hehir won Dublin in 2013 the race was an all-Irish event but, with improved sponsorship, the international elite returned last year and Kenya's defending men's and women's champions Eliud Too and Esther Macharia are both back.

Maria McCambridge, the overall women's runner-up last year, is missing as she is chasing Olympic qualification in Frankfurt tomorrow.

In her absence Sarah Mulligan, Pauline Curley and Michelle McGee are expected to vie for the Irish women's title and Kildare's Patrick Monahan, who has broken the Irish wheelchair record in his last three races, will be among the first starters at 8.55am.

Don't miss our special 16-page Dublin Marathon supplement in Tuesday's paper

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