Former Olympian Jim Hogan passes away

‘The Irishman Who Ran For England’ died peacefully on Saturday, aged 81

Irish athlete Jim Hogan in action during a Cross Country race on Epsom Downs, 18th January 1964. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Irish athlete Jim Hogan in action during a Cross Country race on Epsom Downs, 18th January 1964. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

 

The only thing we knew for sure about Jim Hogan was that his name wasn’t actually Jim Hogan. He was born Jim Cregan, in Croom hospital in Limerick, on May 28th 1933, and if not one of Ireland’s most successful distance runners, he was certainly one of our most enigmatic.

In 1960, when first moving to England to find work, he changed his surname to Hogan: over the next four years he made several international appearances for Ireland, most famously at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, where he was the last man left chasing defending marathon champion Abebe Bikila, from Ethiopia. All Hogan had to do was to stay on his feet, keep moving forward, and an Olympic silver medal was his. Then, just after 23 miles, he dropped out, truly dehydrated.

Two years later, at the European Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hogan truly conquered the distance, winning the marathon title in 2:20:04 - still the only Irish man to win a European championship gold medal. Hogan, however, was actually wearing an English vest, having switched allegiance in 1965 due to his increasing dissatisfaction with the officialdom of Irish athletics.

Hogan also ran the 1968 Olympic marathon, again as part of the British team. This and other issues were the subject of his book, The Irishman Who Ran For England, published in 2008. In the preface, Britain’s legendary distance runner David Bedford writes: “He (Jim) overcame enormous odds and antipathy but he prevailed. I know Jim has no regrets about his career either.”

During that period Hogan also set a world record for 30km on the road, running 1:32:25, and also a European Indoor three-mile record of 13:37.2.

In his later years he returned to Limerick, settling in Knocklong, and after the death of his wife Mary, dedicated much of his life to the horse racing world, breaking and training horses well into his 70s. He died peacefully on Saturday, aged 81, and his funeral mass takes place at noon tomorrow, Monday, at St John The Baptist Church, Athlacca.

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