Irish Life Health Mile Challenge 2020 (17th – 23rd Aug)
The Irish Life Health Mile Challenge was set up to see what County and Club could take the prize as the fastest and fittest. The week long challenge started on Monday 17th August, the 35th anniversary to the day, when four of Ireland’s top milers (Frank O’Mara, Ray Flynn, Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan) ran the World record at the time for the 4 x 1 mile relay in Dublin. For athletics clubs nationwide, there was €1,000 on offer for the fastest 4 x 1mile relay, male and female.
To coincide with the challenge, Mullingar Harriers AC members ran a mile race at training on Wednesday evening 19th August. Weather conditions were far from ideal with Storm Ellen on the way and the most recent Government Covid-19 restrictions required the athletes to run in groups no greater than 15 in size. The first group of runners set off under a downpour but recorded some impressive times with James Keegan leading the field across the line in 4:58 followed closely by Andrew Nevin in 5:05. Áine O’Reilly was quickest woman in that group recording 5:51 but it was Catriona Kennedy, running in the second wave, who ran the fastest woman time of the night in 5:41.
On Thursday morning 20th August a number of Club members who missed the Wednesday night challenge ran their own timed mile. When Sinead Whitelaw (5:51), Jenny Algar (5:59) and Amy Mahony (6:02) submitted their times, the Mullingar Harriers women had taken the lead in the National challenge. The lead was short lived though and it wasn’t long before Mayo AC took the lead, so calls went out for help. Elizabeth Carr included a flying mile of 5:46 during a triathlon training session, which included a cycle followed by a number of running intervals. Then Joan Flynn’s rest week was disrupted when asked to throw in a surprise time trial but she produced a great solo effort of 5:41 bringing the Club within touching distance of victory.
One last hope lay with Claire Fagan who was busy racing at the National Senior T&F Championships on Saturday 22nd August. Following a tough 5,000m race, where Claire won a National bronze medal, she still produced a mile in 5:30 which put the Mullingar women in the lead. Unfortunately, Dublin City Harriers (DCH) kept the best for last and on the final day of the competition had their athletes out, determined to make their mark. Just like being passed on the finish straight, the DCH women jumped ahead of the Mullingar team and stole the victory with a last gasp effort.
A similar week played out for the men. When Pauric Brady’s solo mile of 5:01 was added to the team’s scores from Wednesday, the Mullingar men were well represented at the top of the overall leader board. A few late additions were submitted but it was Club-leading time of 4:41 by Maurice Looby which made the biggest difference. The overall score wasn’t quite good enough for victory though and by Sunday evening 23rd August the Harriers men placed third in the National challenge.
This is the second virtual event organized by Athletics Ireland this summer and the second time both the Mullingar women and the Mullingar men have made an appearance on the National virtual podium.