Joy and heartbreak of two debuts


Two very different lessons learnt in yesterday's 98FM Dublin City Marathon brought supreme joy to Teresa Duffy and heartbreak to Seamas Power.

Both Power and Duffy carried the Irish hopes despite making their debut over the distance and while the Belfast woman displayed perfect tactics to take the woman's race in an excellent 2 hours 39 minutes 56 seconds, Power suffered the consequences of his inexperience, dropping out in the last mile with exhaustion.

"Everything just worked out perfectly," said Duffy, running in the colours of Beechmount Harriers of Belfast. "I was ready to run something around 2:40 and even though there was a fairly strong wind I felt great all the way. It's been difficult to get the training in for this race around my job but hopefully I can build on this in the future."

The cold headwind certainly reduced the quality of times amongst the men's top finishers. Kenya's Joshua Kipkemboi had to call on all his expertise to repeat his victory of last year, coming through in the later stages to finish in 2 hours 20 minutes - although just over 4 minutes slower on this occasion. Benson Masya and John Mutai completed a Kenyan top three, but that too was only confirmed in the last couple of miles when Power's brave effort eventually succumbed to the infamous "wall" that has wrecked so many marathon ambitions in the past.

Mutai, wearing a hat and gloves to protect against the cold, made a committed attempt to improve on his runner-up position of last year, building up a substantial lead from the three mile point onwards. Power and Kipkemboi were watching him closely but by the halfway mark were almost one and a half minutes back.

Things then changed dramatically around the 20 mile mark as Power and Kipkemboi ate into the gap with considerable speed, overtaking the now rocking Kenyan within a small stretch and leaving him for dead as they passed the 21 mile point in 1:49.21. It looked to be down to these two for the overall honour and £5,000 reward as they ran together onto Conyngham Road by the Phoenix Park.

Power, unfortunately, then hit the wall with dramatic force and by the time he reached the Quays his race was over, eventually dropping out on Abbey Street inside the last mile. It was a huge disappointment for the Clareman after making such a controlled effort for so much of the race but the experience will surely stand to him in future attempts and he gave many indications yesterday that he does have a future over the distance.

Paddy Mangan ran the best race of his life to become the top Irish finisher, coming through for fourth in 2:29.01 while national triathlon champion Eoin O'Connell ran well beyond his best to finish sixth in 2:31.49.

It was Duffy's performance, however, that not only surpassed even her own expectations, but left her at the finish looking the least of all drained from her supreme effort. She had run with tactics more expected of a veteran rather than a novice, holding back in the early stages as last year's winner Carol Galea of Malta set about defending her title.

By 10 miles the two were running level before Duffy made her move a little over halfway mark, opening up a 45 second gap between 14 and 15 miles. It was plain-sailing from there - cruising into the finish on O'Connell Street with almost nine minutes to spare over Galea.

The three-time National Cross-Country champion had won a string of half-marathons and road races in the build-up to her marathon debut and at 29 can now concentrate on again representing the country at international level.

"I've run eight World Cross-Country Championships in the past and I'll be hoping to make Belfast this season as well," she said. "I didn't get any grant this year so this money should help me reach my next goal of running in Sydney."

Kipkemboi put his money to good use last year, buying a farm in Kenya, and intends to invest this year's reward in some livestock. "It was cold and windy but I timed it well," he said. "I like Dublin and hopefully will be back next year for a third." The 29 year-old had flown straight in from altitude training in Kenya for the race and becomes only the third man to win two Dublin Marathons in succession.

The organisers will be hoping that most of the 6,000 entrants that declared for this year's race will also have plans to return. The crowds on the streets were certainly up too and overall the race went off as one of the best in recent years.

Around half the field had entered as walkers and had the course well lined from 7.30 in the morning. The first finishers of the day, however, were Dublin's John Fullham and Patrice Dockery who took the men's and women's wheelchair prizes by considerable margins - Fullham in 2:04.00 and Dockery in 2:15.11.