Fionnuala McCormack grabs runner-up spot at Great Edinburgh Cross Country

Fionnuala McCormack finishes second in the women's 6k event at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country in Holyrood Park on Saturday
Picture by PA
Malcolm McCausland

FIONNUALA McCORMACK turned in her best performance of the season to maintain an enviable record at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in Holyrood Park.

The former two-time European champion pounced late in the race to grab the runner-up spot behind Turkey’s Yasemin Can. That meant McCormack has finished in the top two at the prestigious Scottish meeting in each of the last five years and helped Europe to a comfortable team victory over the USA and Great Britain.

The race followed a similar pattern to the recent Europeans in Italy. Can and Meryem Agdag, both ex-Kenyans but adopted Turks, raced into an early lead with Irish woman leading the chasing group. Can moved away from her Agdag half way through the six kilometre distance while McCormack left the other chasers in her wake to make it a European 1-2-3 with a lap to run.

That looked as though that was going to be the finishing order until the Wicklow woman dug deep on the final circuit to catch a tiring Agdag before going on to seize the silver medal: “It was tough, but it was good,” said McCormack afterwards.

“I definitely enjoyed that a lot more than the European Cross Country – I think partly because of the course and partly because I was more competitive there today. I love it here. I’ve ran here so many times before. Even out on the course it’s like home support, so it’s brilliant. Even coming down the homestraight I didn’t know whether I was safe for second, there was so much support. It’s such a good atmosphere and such a great race to be part of."

Mo Farah did not share that enthusiasm after finishing, for him, a lowly seventh in the men’s race. Another adopted Kenyan, but this time running in the colours of the United States, Leonard Korir snatched the victory in the last few metres. But it was the Scot Callum Hawkins who drew the plaudits after he led from the gun. However despite repeated surges, the Paisley man was unable to shake off the tenacious Korir who stole past the gallant Hawkins just before the line.

Farah admitted being disappointed with his form but was nevertheless optimistic about the year ahead: “Got to be honest with yourself, it’s not what I wanted but it’s where I am and I’ve got quite a lot of work to do,” said the two-time double Olympic champion.

Korir’s win and the domination of the American men meant the overall title went across the Atlantic, with Europe second and Great Britain bring up the rear. An Irish team consisting of John Travers, Ciara Mageean, Kieran Kelly and Kerry O’Flaherty finished fourth in the 4x1km relay, while Mick Clohisey competed for Europe in the senior men’s race.

Over 700 runners turned up for the fifth race of the ‘Run Forest Run’ Series at Tollymore Forest with races over both 5K and 10K. David McKee was first home in the men’s 10K after a tense duel with Mourne Runners teammate Timothy Johnston. Just six seconds separated them at the finish line with Pace Running Club’s Aaron Woodman a close up third.

The unattached Cathy McCourt was unpressed in the women’s event winning by almost three minutes from Dromore AC’s Gillian Burns and relative novice Bethany Haugh. Just over 100 started the ancilliary 5k event with Sperrin Harrier Sam Linton and Karalee Porter from the Mourne Runners club grabbing the respective top prizes.

Judith Lonnen from host club City of Lisburn and St Peter’s, Lurgan runner Gerard Heaney were the winners of the senior races at the Moira Cross Country.


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