Robinson getting ‘out there’ to get to the next level
Kildare athlete ran first sub-four minute mile ever run in Galway
Paul Robinson: His 3:57.98 was the first sub-four minute mile ever run in Galway. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
He charged across the finishing line, pointed down at the clock, and the whole place went crazy. A record, surely, that would last a very long time. And with that Brother Colm O’Connell, the maker of champions, gave his typically modest nod of approval.
Fear not the obvious: this is not another recap of David Rudisha winning the 800 metres at last summer’s London Olympics, but rather Paul Robinson winning the mile at the Regional Sports Centre in Galway last Saturday. His time of 3:57.98 was no world record, but it was the first sub-four minute mile ever run in Galway, and in fact all of Connacht – thus conquering the last of the provinces, and providing Robinson with a sweet little aftertaste to his season.
Indeed the young athlete from Kildare probably upstaged Rudisha, too, not easily done, even if Rudisha wasn’t actually running on the day. There is still something magical about the sub-four minute mile, especially if it’s the first of its kind, and Rudisha was among those to shake Robinson’s hand afterwards, along with Br O’Connell, both men in town to promote the Galway-Kenyan run, an afternoon of mostly fun running and fund-raising for charity (one of Rudisha’s Kenyan running vests, which he wore in Olympics, selling for a tidy €3,700).
Later that evening, at a packed lecture hall at Galway University, the famous coach and his most famous athlete sat down with Paul Donovan, the Galway runner who once clocked 3:55.82 for the mile, and the questioning, inevitably, soon turned to the advantages of training in Kenya.
“I would hope there is potential there, to take this into the wider perspective,” said Br O’Connell, emphasising the Irish-Kenyan link. “I think this positivity can be harnessed a bit more, to get more Irish athletes to visit Kenya, if only on a social level at first. I can talk here, or lecture, or whatever, but nothing is as good as being on the ground out there in Kenya, getting the feeling for what is done. Mo Farah has visited many times, and I think more elite Irish athletes should consider it.”
This, it seemed, fits with the suddenly popular theory doing the rounds that Irish athletes aren’t putting themselves “out there”, in both the training and racing sense, and when they do qualify for major championships, they just smile at themselves in the mirror when exiting from their qualifying heat. Now that may be true in exceptional cases, but it’s certainly not the rule – Robinson at least providing ample evidence of how far “out there” he is willing to go.
At age 22, his CV is slowly gathering pace: born and raised in Kilcock, he enjoyed modest schoolboy success before finishing in the ranks with an Irish junior mile record of 4:00.93, and placing ninth in the World Junior 1,500 metres. Around the same time he linked up with Robert Denmead, the Tullamore-based coach with 20-years experience, and they chipped a few big chunks off his best times this summer, his 1:45.86 over 800m getting him to last month’s World Championships in Moscow, then his 3:35.22 over 1,500m – run in Rieti, Italy, last Sunday week – moving him to number six on the Irish all-time list (faster than the likes of Eamonn Coghlan, James Nolan and Niall Bruton).