Sixth in Europe, soaked in sweat and smiling in the midday sun - that was the situation for the Irish men's marathon team at the European Championships in Berlin yesterday after a performance that provided a much-needed fillip for Irish distance running.
They were led home by Kevin Seaward, who clocked 2:16:58 to finish 15th, seven minutes behind race winner Koen Naert of Belgium, who set a Championship record of 2:09:51.
"It was hot in the second half and I was trying to respect the weather," said Seaward, who passed halfway in 39th.
"I worked out what pace I could hold as an even split and I knew I wouldn't be far outside the top 10 or 15. We went in hoping for a medal and we weren't too far away."
The team event was decided by the cumulative three best times, and Ireland's tally of 6:53:55 left them just four minutes outside the medals.
Mick Clohisey was next in behind Seaward, the Rio Olympian 18th in 2:18:00.
"I have to be happy with top 20," he said. "I took a few risks, went with one of the faster groups, but I ran out of juice in the last few kilometres."
Seán Hehir bounced back from a rough experience at last year's World Championships in London by finishing 25th here in 2:18:58.
"My father said to me last night you can't have another London and it weighed heavy on my mind since last year," he said. "I had to banish those demons and I'm so proud of this team."
Sergiu Ciobanu came home 36th in 2:19:49, with Paul Pollock well off his best when finishing 47th in 2:23:26.
The Irish trio of Lizzie Lee, Breege Connolly and Gladys Ganiel O'Neill were all outside 2:40 in the women's marathon, but managed an eighth-place finish overall. Lee led them home in 29th with 2:40:12, with fellow Olympian Connolly 31st in 2:41:53 and Ganiel O'Neill 33rd in 2:42:42.
"Any day you finish the marathon in a green singlet is a good day," said Lee. "I was hoping for a bit better but if you told me at mile 22 that I was going to finish I'd have bitten your arm off."
The Irish women's 4x100m team of Joan Healy, Phil Healy, Ciara Neville and Gina Akpe-Moses finished fourth in their heat in an Irish record of 44.80, but missed out on the final by just 0.06.
"We've got a great future ahead of us, we've got many, many years to build, to prepare and to get things right," said Akpe-Moses. "It's quite exciting to think about how good we'll be in the future."
"It's quicker than an Irish team has ever run," said Phil Healy, who capped a busy week by running the second leg. We'll take the positives from that."