Sean Hehir and Pauline Curley were crowned national champions at the SSE Airtricity Dublin marathon as Ethiopia’s Alemu Gemechu (on men’s title) and Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova (on women’s title) took overall glory ahead of a record entry of over 15,000 participants in wet and windy conditions.
Hehir, who had a quick turnaround from the Berlin marathon on 27 September, led the field around the first turn but from there on it was an African procession at the head of proceedings.
Ethiopia’s Alemu Gemechu eventually prevailed in 2:14:01 while Ukraine’s Lehonkova trumped the Africans in the women’s race in 2:31:08.
The battle of the Irish saw Hehir keen to erase the pain of Berlin where he was the fifth Irish man and outside the Olympic qualifying standard (2:17:00) running 2:17:48.
“It was a balancing act between absorbing the effort from Berlin, recovering and trying to win the national title. I’m very happy with the sub 2:20. That’s special and to be national marathon champion that’s very special too,” he said afterwards.
Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) put in a brave effort for national silver running 2:25:21 with the 40-year-old showing no signs of slowing down yet. David Mansfield (Clonliffe Harriers) bagged the bronze in 2:30:45.
Curley (Tullamore Harriers) proved that age and injury were no barrier for an emotional victory in the chase for the women’s national crown.
The 46-year-old who ran was limping four weeks ago after a recent knee operation breasted the tape in 2:49:29, becoming the oldest Irish champion in the 143-year history of the national championships.
The previous record was held by Danny McDaid aged 42 years and 43 days set in 1983.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said the Beijing 2008 Olympian who won a team bronze medal in the World Cross Country Championships 18 years ago in Turin.
“I started off conservatively and ran fairly even,” she continued on her race plan. “I just ran to the way I felt. The crowd were absolutely amazing.”
The unheralded Jane Ann Healy-Meehan (Athenry) and Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) were second and third running 2:54:48 and 2:56:21 respectively.
Almost 4,500 athletes from around the world joined an estimated 10,800 Irish participants. An additional 3,853 club athletes were registered to participate, according to the organisers.
Top 3 men overall – 1 Alemu Gemechu 2:14:01 2 Francis Ngare 2:14:07 3 Asefa Bekele 2:14:20
Top 3 women overall – 1 Nataliya Lehonkova (Ukraine) 2:31:08 2 Grace Momanyi (Kenya) 2:32:16 3 Tesfanesh Denbi (Ethiopia) 2:34:44
Top 3 Irish national championships women – 1 Pauline Curley (Tullamore Harriers) 2:49:29 2 Jane Ann Healy-Meehan (Athenry) 2:54:48 3 Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) 2:56:21
Top 3 Irish national championships men – 1 Sean Hehir (Rathfarnham WSAF) 2:19:47 2 Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) 2:25:21 3 David Mansfield (Clonliffe Harriers) 2:30:45
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