Margate, UKCatherina Mckiernan’s victory on England’s Kent coast yesterday may not have been as significant as some of her previous victories in Britain, but the Irish star was understandably delighted to return to winning ways.
McKiernan enjoyed success at the 1994 European Cross Country Championships in England, not to mention a London Marathon triumph, and the 33-year-old was still full of smiles after winning over 5.5km in the Margate Reebok Cross Country International - EAA Permit - race.
The four-times World Cross Country silver medallist did exactly what she hopes to do in Edinburgh next month and that is help the Irish team to victory, although their task will undoubtedly be harder in the European Cross Country Championships.
With Rosemary Ryan in second, Ireland recorded a convincing team victory over the East of England and France, and they have former World Cross Country champion Sonia O’Sullivan to add their team for Edinburgh so are understandably hopeful of making the podium.
McKiernan will run the Irish trials in two weeks but her pedigree, and her return to winning ways yesterday, will surely see her in the team for Edinburgh. She settled into fifth on the opening small loop but once onto the first big lap she effortlessly moved to the front and never looked like relinquishing her lead.
Having signalled a return to form with second place in the Belgian CrossCup in Gent, McKiernan lived up to her role of pre-race favourite and came home 16 seconds clear of team-mate Ryan, who twice ventured off course.
On the first occasion, French star Laurence Duquenoy, who won this race seven years ago, followed Ryan but the pair soon got back on track and gradually worked their way through the field.
But there was no denying McKiernan victory, one that has boosted her confidence ahead of Edinburgh. She said: “I felt good, despite the fact I had trained hard during the week without easing down for the race.
“I needed a hard run ahead of the Irish trials and it was a good feeling to win again. I am enjoying my running again although I don’t have any plans to run any more marathons, at least until I have stopped running seriously.”
“The marathon is a long way so I have just been enjoying running some shorter road races, and of course I have always loved cross country. All I am looking for in Edinburgh is to help Ireland run well as a team.”
Seamus Power made it an Irish double by winning the men’s race, comfortably in the end although for two of the three laps he simply could not shake off Frenchman Irba Lakhal.
He said: “I tried to drop him for two laps but he just stuck with me. I tried slowing the pace down but he just stayed on my shoulder and I was worried the others were catching us so I picked it up again. I feel more comfortable running at a sustained pace but I had to try other tactics to try and drop him.”
Early into the final lap Power finally surged ahead and Lakhal’s challenge faded as he was then passed by Adrian Mussett and Billy Farquharson, who will both run Saturday’s British trials for the European Cross Country Championships.
A third Irish success came in the under-20 junior international where Mark Christie, who is likely to run the junior race in Edinburgh, started cautiously before going ahead during the final lap.
England’s Kelvin Hardy and James Ellis, plus Kristof Mouton representing the Flemish Athletic Federation, challenged going into the final lap but Christie proved too strong.
The junior women’s international saw Kirsten Braem bouncing from the illness that has held her back this year, winning comfortably as the Flemish squad filled three of the first four places.
Braem was 21st in the junior race at last year’s European Cross Country Championships and again looks set to make the Belgian team for next month’s event.
Also competing on the south coast in England yesterday, Jo Pavey easily won a 4km cross country race at Brighton and the World Championships 1500m finalist will make a decision later this week whether to compete in Saturday’s UK trials at Liverpool.
Paula Radcliffe will not compete as she will line up in the following day’s Chiba Ekiden Relay in Japan, but the trials will see the likes of Kathy Butler, Hayley Yelling, and sister-in-law Liz Yelling among the favourites. Former world 10,000m champion Liz McColgan had contemplated running the trials after surprising herself with a few recent road and cross country races but she has now decided not to compete.
Bob Frank for the IAAF
1 Seamus Power (IRL) 28:43
2 Adrian Mussett (GBR) 28:49
3 Billy Farquharson (GBR) 28:54
4 Irba Lakhal (FRA) 28:59
5 Haggai Chepkwony (GBR) 29:03
1 Catherina McKiernan (IRL) 17:49
2 Rosemary Ryan (IRL) 18:05
3 Laurence Duquenoy (FRA) 18:36
4 Sharon Morris (GBR) 18:42
5 Julie O’Mara (GBR) 19:01
Under-20 men (6km)
1 Mark Christie (IRL) 18:30
2 Kelvin Hardy (GBR) 18:37
3 James Ellis (GBR) 18:42
Under-20 women (3.5km)
1 Kirsten Braem (BEL) 12:02
2 Hayley Beard (GBR) 12:08
3 Marieken Verhaeghe (BEL) 12:09