The plan was for some race experience ahead of next month's European Indoor Championships in Poland only Mark English came away with a lot more, breaking his own Irish indoor 800 metres after a superb race with rising teenage star Cian McPhillips at the Athletics Ireland Elite Micro Meet.
The lack of any spectators at the Sport Ireland Indoor Arena at Abbotstown didn’t take from the excitement either, as English just about held off the final challenge of McPhillips, taking the win in 1:46.10, his younger rival clocking 1:46.13 to take some six seconds off his previous indoor best.
For English, running in his first indoor race of the season, that improved his previous indoor record of 1:46.82, clocked in Athlone in 2014; still there was plenty of consolation for McPhillips, the 18 year-old from Longford AC, who took almost two full seconds off the Irish junior record which had belonged to English with the 1:48.63 set back in 2011.
It will also qualify McPhillips for those European Indoors in Torun, Poland next month, given the standard was 1:48.25: indeed such was the quality of the race third-placed John Fitzsimons was also inside the standard with his 1:47.80.
Set up by some quality pace-setting from Kevin Woods, McPhillips then took control of the race at the bell, looking extremely comfortable even as English raced past him on the backstretch. Then McPhillips came again, forcing English to dip for the line and actually got ahead him of just after they crossed over it.
English however just held on for the win, giving his confidence a significant boost going into the European Indoors, the championships where he won bronze in Glasgow two years ago.
English, now running with Finn Valley AC and coached by Feidhlim Kelly at the Dublin Track club, has managed to juggle his winter training while also working as a medical doctor, and his 1:46.10 certainly augers well in his quest to make a second Olympics. It's also a first National record for the Dublin Track Club.
Coming just three days after Nadia Power also improved her senior women's 800m record to 2:00.98, English is also one of only five athletes to hold the men's record, beginning with Ronnie Delany in 1955 with his 1:53.0, the others being Noel Carroll, James Nolan and Daniel Caulfield.
Others to take advantage of the first home competition of the season was Leon Reid, who clocked his first sub-21 seconds 200m indoors, winning in 20.93, ahead of Marcus Lawler, who ran 21.33. Sarah Lavin also clocked her second fastest time over the 60m hurdles, winning in 8.20 seconds, and is also on course for the European Indoors, set for March 5-7th, while Matthew Behan ran 8.00 to win the men's race.
Sommer Lecky also of Finn Valley won the women’s high jump with a best of 1.75 metres.