We repair to Santry to rekindle our love of the sport
Then the gun fired for the start of the 800 metres and with that came the classic affirmation of everything that is bright and true and believable about the sport, that still unique expression of pure, honest endeavour, in the form of 20-year-old Mark English
Determined not to be corrupted or tainted or sabotaged by any talk or thoughts of oxilofrine we sat alone in the still warm sunlight on the old concrete terrace down along the backstretch, which back in my day was actually the homestretch, where the fantastic possibilities of this sport first began to shine.
There weren’t many of us there and we were there not because we needed to or necessarily wanted to but were somehow drawn to, perhaps not unlike the old elephants who limp off to the hills before they die.
Then the gun fired for the start of the 800 metres and with that came the classic affirmation of everything that is bright and true and believable about the sport, that still unique expression of pure, honest endeavour, in the form of 20 year-old Mark English.
When he coolly moved onto the shoulder of the leader with 200m to go, perfectly upright, floating at high speed, it was as if we could hear his heart pound, that moment when every athlete faces the question: “Right, now, what are you made of?”
As if on cue English responded by hitting the front, with a brilliantly deceptive burst of acceleration that drags all blood from the brain, and after a slight glance to his right, then a slight grimace, the gentle clenching of the fists, visible from even the far side of the track, announced his victory – and yes beautifully reminiscent of a young Seb Coe.
The comparison is justified: English had just run 1:45.32, only one Irish man has ever run quicker, and everything about his run can be traced back to the same wonderfully raw talent which has always beggared belief, no matter what the sport or sporting individual, at least to some extent.
Thanks to the 20-year-old from Letterkenny the sport also seemed fantastically fresh with possibilities once again. This same old wonderfully raw talent might also explain why one man can run 9.58 seconds for the 100m while more and more of the men around him fall further behind or simply fall from grace, or indeed that might all be explained by something else.
The more burning question at the end the week is not so much whether track and field is losing all credibility or not, but whether some of the methods still used to police it are now outdated, and what exactly is and is not doping, when even those of us sitting in the terraces are living so positively in the same pharmaceutical world.