Athletics

Annadale athlete Paul Pollock finishes 2017 on a high

Annadale strider Paul Pollock
Malcolm McCausland

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Irish cross-country champion Paul Pollock finished 2017 on a high with a creditable 14th place in the San Silvestre Vallecana 10K Road Race in Madrid on New Year’s Eve ... the event attracted 42,000 runners.

Previous winners of the men’s race included Olympic champions Mohammed Gammoudi (1967), Carlos Lopes (1979 & 1980) and Eliud Kipchoge (2005 & 2006) while Spain’s world marathon champion Martin Fiz had his day of glory in 1994.

The Annadale Strider contested the lead early on as the route followed a point to point course starting at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium and finishing at the home of Rayo Vallecano in the working class district of Vallecas in the south of the city.

However the Annadale Strider slipped back as the race entered a tough final three kilometres when Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui made a decisive break to go on and take the victory in 27 minutes and 34 seconds, the third fastest time in the history of the race. Compatriot Amos Kirui was second in 27:45 while Spain’s Toni Abadia claimed the bronze medal spot for the second consecutive year in 28:24.

Pollock Annadale Strider crossed the line in a personal best of 29:12 and finished just behind a bunch that included England’s Chris Thompson (28:57), winner this year of the Great South Run 10 Miles and Great Scotland Half Marathon.

“It was an OK course, in the first 5K there was a lot of downhill which at times is as hard as going uphill but the last couple of K (kilometres) were just steady uphill and relentless,” said Pollock when he got his breath back. “I have to say the crowd there was absolutely fantastic and I’ve never experienced a 10K like that before and it just made it more enjoyable, if that is the right word for a hard 10K.”

Pollock was pleased to put a lid on a year that at one time appeared lost before he recovered sufficient fitness to win his first national senior cross country title in the autumn. That gained him selection for the European Cross Country where he did not have the best of runs in Slovakia but that is another story. Just five days before Madrid he had picked up his fourth consecutive win in the Greencastle “5” in Tyrone.

“It’s been a horrible year to be honest and I came here thinking I was in sub 29 (minutes) shape and I think if I had raced that better today, I would have done that comfortably enough, but I went off very hard but this is just something to see where I’m at in races and the training. I’ll definitely take that coming into the new year with a big training block in front of me.”

This year promises to be a huge challenge for the Hollywood doctor with the Commonwealth Games and European Championships both listed for 2018. But Pollock’s mind is on the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia on March 24. He had an incredible run to finish 14th in the event two years ago when the race was held in Cardiff and inspired Ireland to an eighth place finish in the team listings.

“I’m a lot more excited about the World Half Marathon Championships. That has always been my very first goal and I think if I get into good shape I should be in with a chance of improving my PB there and also because it’s a team event, in the Irish team, we always say we have a strong team but this year I’ve just got a feeling with the people around that if three of us have a good race on the day, then something special might happen.”

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