By Mark Jones
DUBLIN – Ireland’s Catherina McKiernan ran her way in to the top tier of the world’s distance athletes when she was a superb winner of the London Marathon last weekend. A stunning burst over the closing 10 miles sealed an impressive victory in one of the road circuit’s most prestigious events in a time of two hours, 26 minutes and 26 seconds.
Her debut victory in the Berlin Marathon last September announced her arrival in the big time, but following this remarkable second success, McKiernan has established herself as one the favorites for the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Last year’s winner, Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya, and Scotland’s Liz McColgan were left trailing in the Cavan athlete’s wake as she produced a relentless surge from the 17-mile mark.
At the halfway point, she was a full 90 seconds down on the Mexican, Adrana Fernandez, but once she struck for home there was little doubt about the outcome as McKiernan swept past the main contenders during a long, brave solo run.
Appearance money, prize money and sponsors’ bonunes brought her earnings for the say to around $100,000, but afterward McKiernan was her usual modest self.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
“I had to work at it and it wasn’t easy,” she said. “My stomach began to give me trouble around the 10-mile mark and it was a problem most of the way.”
For her manager, Ray Flynn, this performance far outstripped that victory in Berlin, where McKiernan recorded 2:23.44.
“This was a far bigger win in terms of pressure, expectation and the field she faced,” he said. “It was a tough course too, with windy conditions.”
The reigning World cross-country champion, Sonia O’Sullivan, was on hand to witness McKiernan’s biggest success and she had no hesitation in forecasting that her friend and great rival could go on to win the Olympic title.
“Of course she can win the Olympics,” O’Sullivan said. “Anyone who trains as hard as she does and wins races can win the Olympics.”
McKiernan may have been more than five minutes outside the world’s best time for the distance, but her coach Joe Doonan said he felt that it was just a matter of time before she breaks the mark.
“She believes and I believe she can break the record,” Doonan said. “We will have a real crack at it. It’s a question of finding the most suitable course.”