Malcolm McCausland: Scott Rankin has ambitious plans
SCOTT Rankin was back at work this week.
He was naturally tired after his second tough half-marathon in 15 days, but felt he was recovering better than he had anticipated.
He finished second in last Sunday’s Belfast City Half-Marathon, Freddy Sittuk beating him to the post by just two seconds.
It was the second time in a fortnight that Rankin had led all the way only for the Kenyan to pass him in the final furlong to claim the winner’s purse.
The Claudy man took the pace from the gun earlier this month at the Waterside Half-Marathon in Derry, but Sittuk shadowed him for most of the route before showing superior speed at the finish.
The margin on that occasion was a mere one second. Rankin varied his tactics in Belfast by starting even faster – but to no avail as the Kenyan hung on and swooped again in sight of the finish to record another victory.
“I knew when he was still there at 12-and-a-half miles that it was going to be hard to get away from him,” said Rankin .
“Freddy has an advantage coming from a speed background on the track over 3000m steeplechase.
In both races, he just sat on me and used his leg speed to get away over the last 200 metres.”
Rankin is employed by Support Services in Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital and has a 30-hour contract.
Often he works overtime including weekends.
Most if not all of his working hours are spent on his feet, whether it is cleaning or on one of the many other duties he undertakes on a daily basis.
He fits in his training as best he can.
Sittuk has been coming to Ireland for a number of years.
He based himself briefly in Derry several years ago, but for the most part seems to stay in Dublin or within a short commute of the capital.
Whilst far from being a top runner in his native Kenya, he is able to gather a bumper harvest of prize money in Ireland each year by running a few races in any given week.
He is a member of the Raheny Shamrock club in Dublin and has run for them in team races on more than a few occasions including the national half-marathon championship and on track over 3000m steeplechase.
He is a professional athlete and can rest and recuperate during the week before his next race.
Rankin calculates that the defeats by Freddy Sittuk cost him £500, that being the difference between winning and coming second on two occasions.
For a man who is saving hard to buy his first house, that is a lot of money.
It would take him some months to save £500.
But it has become a fact of life for road runners, not just in the north but on the whole island, that most of the prize money from the lucrative races will go to athletes from outside Ireland.
Rankin is not riled about it and has ambitious plans of his own.
“I know myself and other boys on the road circuit expect a Kenyan or someone to come in and take the big money and we’ll be left fighting over the scraps,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m going to get in a good autumn now and target the next Commonwealth Games.
The London Marathon comes a bit soon (April) and I’m thinking of Berlin next September to get the qualifying time (2:16:30) before the window closes.”
The next Commonwealth Games take place in Australia’s Gold Coast in April, 2018. Being there would be a huge accomplishment for Rankin – a true amateur in every sense – but taking on the Kenyan professionals would be nothing new for the county Derry man.
Next week: should prize money in local races be ringfenced for home-based athletes? The case for and against as well as the legal position of non-EU athletes plying their trade in the UK and Ireland.