Eamonn Coghlan: new crop of athletes, including Mark English and Ciara Mageean, can restore Ireland to its rightful place
LOCKDOWN has made Ireland a nation of runners with an estimated extra 250,000 lacing up their trainers and running on roads, paths, parks, and trails.
Irish Life Health and Athletics Ireland have teamed up to bring a new challenge to the 650,000 regular and new runners around the country.
The Irish Life Health Mile Challenge will set out to see which county and club is the fittest and most active.
The week-long challenge and celebration of athletics will start on Monday, August 17 and finish on Sunday, August 23.
Not coincidentally August 17 is also the 35th anniversary of when four of Ireland's top milers, ran a 4x1-mile relay world record at Belfield in south Dublin.
Speaking at the launch, master of the mile, Eamonn Coghlan said: “In a time of uncertainty, running has offered escapism, calmed the mind, and provided a sense of normality for many.
"It was especially important for those like my own children who were juggling home-schooling my grand-kids and working from home.”
Coghlan, who was also a member of the 4x1-mile relay world record team, also added: “The Irish Life Health Mile Challenge is a great opportunity for some friendly county rivalry.
"I know there are runners all over Ireland who will be keen to clock their mile for their county and to put one over again on us Dubs!”
Ireland's current fastest miler Andrew Coscoran was also present at the launch.
The Meath man broke four minutes twice during the indoor season.
He believes Ireland's middle distance Tokyo hopefuls must take inspiration from Ireland's rich middle distance tradition on the track to put the country back on the map.
"We have that huge tradition of being great at middle distance and at the moment we're not living up to where we were once before,” said Coscoran.
"Ray Flynn's standard, his Irish 1,500m record, why isn't anyone getting close to it? We should be getting close to it."
"We just need to look at what they were doing and emulate it, use that tradition of middle-distance running to bring ourselves back to that standard.
"Looking at the times they ran - Eamonn Coghlan, Ray Flynn - they were unbelievable.
"Our technology, our recovery...technically we have the capacity to run fast times.
"With the training group we have in the Dublin Track club, there are a lot of us at the standard to run these times.
"It's a bit frustrating that we can't do it.
"Definitely every day in training I'm personally thinking can I break that record?
"Can I make that jump up in performance because I think we have the capability? There's no reason we can't."
Coscoran is part of the new crop of athletes that former 'Chairman of the Boards' Eamonn Coghlan believes can restore Ireland to its rightful place in world athletics and is very positive about where Irish middle distance running is now after what he described as a "small low".
He mentioned two Ulster athletes in particular as having caught his eye over the past few years and one Donegal man in particular.
"I'd still have great faith in Mark English," said the former 5000m world champion.
“I've known Mark since he was 11-12 years of age. I always felt he should have achieved more than he has.
"But if he gets his act together, he can certainly medal when it comes to the Olympics.
"Then you've got Ciara Mageean. Ciara has got the right calibre and she's got a really good coach and set-up.
"With the quality of people training with her, she's gained a new confidence. The year out will really help her towards her Olympic dreams".
Runners of all abilities and families can sign up free of charge for the Mile Challenge at AthleticsIreland.ie.
Runners simply need to find a flat bit of ground, run their virtual mile, and submit their race online with proof of time and distance.
A four-week online training programme for beginners, intermediate and advanced will be provided by the Athletics Ireland coaching team.
For athletics clubs nationwide as well as contributing to their county's mileage there is €1,000 in total, on offer for the fastest 4x1 mile relay, male and female. Athletics Clubs could also be in with a chance to win part of a €2,000 bursary, with €500 on offer per province.
Walkers, joggers and runners can sign up for the Mile Challenge at AthleticsIreland.ie