The weekend just past saw the culmination of a season’s work by the men and women of the International Triathlon Union. London was the venue for the world championship finale in which the sport’s top triathletes covered the Olympic distance of 1500 metres for the swim, 40kms for the bike and 10kms for the run. Saturday hosted the women and Sunday the men attracting huge crowds in the ever growing sport.
Derry girl, Aileen Reid nee Morrison took a very impressive silver on the day which bumped her up into 8th place in the world for 2013. A wee bit more recognition from our national broadcaster is more than deserved. But for a crash on the bike during the London 2012 Olympic race there is little doubt that she would have been on the podium and would now be a household name around Ireland.
On Sunday England’s Brownlee Brothers finished off a somewhat disappointing day with a reoccurrence of an ankle injury for Alistair and a second place finish for Johnny, beaten to the line in an all-out sprint by the ever popular Spaniard, Javier Gomez. Further down the course Alistair’s misfortunes this season with injury left him hobbling along the run discipline, a sight which was a green light for Spain’s Mario Mola to put the foot down and seize the overall bronzed podium step from Alistair. Johnny’s tactics in the run were later criticised by Alistair in a way only a brother can “I’ll be giving him a lot of stick for that.” “He’s thrown a world title away today for being a complete tactical numpty.”
Elsewhere with just four weeks to go to the World Ironman Championship in Hawai’i excited racers are tapering down and thinking about shipping bikes and the infamous hot winds on Kailua-Kona. More on that in the next few weeks.
An Ultra Marathon is defined as anything over the traditional distance of 26.2 miles. It’s all pretty vague when you consider races can be from 160 miles or more downwards. Walking parts of an ultra is acceptable and more often than not economic in energy conservation particularly when the race is off-road and you are confronted with extremely steep mountain sides.
Is the mystique surrounding the marathon distance deserved? Does this mystique scare people who would otherwise be well capable of finishing the distance? Is it possible to run a marathon or longer on minimal or no marathon specific training? Let the experiment begin!
I have ran a few mountain marathons this summer but unfortunately ended up injured after my last one at the end of July. Since then the only training I have had was two five and six mile runs and my last run, a 15 miler a few weeks back which put me back on the physio bench and square one. It would be fair to say I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in for a number of years.
My friend, Micheal on the other hand is in great shape, a phenomenal cyclist but never ever runs. Over the last four weeks he has got his running distance up to 15 miles in preparation for the purposes of this experiment.
At an ungodly hour on Saturday morning I found myself on a chilly beach at the start line of a 41 mile ultra. Micheal, a couple of hours later at the same event would start his first ever marathon, an off-roader to boot. Over the following hours a mental and physical battle took place over beaches, crags, headlands and mountains. After the 26 mile point was passed I was in new territory in-terms of running, gradually the body started to break down. First the knees, then the ankles, then my right hip followed by my lower back, all old niggles come back to bite me on the bum. At 39 miles two miles short of the finish for the first time in my life I withdrew from a race. I was barely able to walk for the final few miles. The body had finally overruled the mind. Micheal stormed the marathon finishing in 13th place out of 150 entrants.
Is the mystique deserved? Leaving aside the wonderful history and lore associated with the distance I don’t think so. It’s just a distance like any other achievable by anyone who is prepared to put the work in.
Does the mystique of a marathon scare people away? Just ask someone would they ever consider running one.
Is it possible to run a marathon or longer on minimal or no specific training? Yes if your mission is just to finish but only if you have a reasonably high level of fitness gained through another sport or yes, if you haven’t trained for a couple of months but had a high level of fitness before and are mentally used to pushing the body through all sorts of torture for extended periods of time.
If you have stairs in your house forget about it, it’s not worth it!!
There is now just over a week to go until the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawai’i. “By qualification only” it proudly boasts on its website. You qualify by either putting your name in a lottery pool, with those having completed 12 or more full Ironman races getting the first shout at 300 places or true qualification meaning you have to be placed in your age group in one of the World Series races which take place each year around the globe. Not a chance! But I have tried a couple of times to no avail. I’m not giving up. I’m two years into a 44 year plan. I am figuring by then my age group will be full of aul bucks and I may have by then learned how to swim properly.
Kona, as the race is more often simply referred to as has almost a holy grail like status among long distance triathletes, held sacrosanct by all who dream, “one day.”
Sadly, Ironman organisers have begun to let rich or bankrolled celebrities take part in the world final! Gordon “f%(king” Ramsey and former American footballer Hines Ward to name a couple are toeing the line on the 12th of October without having gained a qualification slot. Last year Lance Armstrong thought he would have a go. Thankfully he was finally exposed as the quare hoor he was before he could disgrace yet another sport though not before the Queen of Kona, Chrissie Wellington, legend, made no bones about it in an interview “he would have to qualify like everyone else.” Fair play to you Chrissie. Sadly it seems the spirit of the Big Island is open to suggestion and the greasing of its backhand. All in the name of promotion of course.
Senior Gaelic football star, Michael Murphy has been put into a rather stressful situation where he has to choose between club and country this week. Murphy’s club, Glenswilly, of which he is captain will contest the Senior County Final against Killybegs on Sunday October 20th after a narrow victory over Ardara last weekend. The following day an Ireland Select is due to take on Australia in the first leg of the International Rules Series where Murphy has been given the captaincy of the Irish side.
An appeal from Glenswilly to the County Board to change the date of the county final to allow Murphy, one of the biggest GAA stars in the country to play in both games has been turned down. The County Board did apply to the Ulster Council to postpone for a week the first round of the Ulster Club Championship which would facilitate the County Board’s changing of the county final date. This was turned down. A further appeal from Glenswilly to The County Board to change the final date to Friday October 25th was also shot down.
This has been accepted by Glenswilly and Murphy will now play both games. He will in no doubt play a quieter role in the International game. Hopefully he will start the game which means he will hold onto the captain’s armband.
There has been lots of sympathy for the dilemma Murphy has found himself in. Most, including myself, have been deriding the County Board for not accommodating the biggest star in the county to captain his country and in so doing give a full-on performance. Instead, he will have to mind himself for the final which of course is hugely important to him. Others, in particular Martin McHugh, not known for his support of the International Rules Series commends the County Board in their decision to stand their ground against “a made up game” McHugh. M (2013) Hoganstand, Available at: http://www.hoganstand.com/Donegal/ArticleForm.aspx?ID=202527 (Accessed: 12th of October 2013) Championship football should not be undermined by frivolities such as this silly game, right?
My gripe is how the County Board now look like they have done all that possibly could be done could to accommodate Murphy and how they can now wash their hands of blame by saying the Ulster Council turned our request down.
But wait a minute!
This International Rules Tour has been penciled into the calendar now for TWO YEARS. Yet after Donegal’s exit from the All-Ireland Championship this year on August 4th the County Board decided not to pick up the club championship matches again until the weekend of September 14th-15th. Why? Clubs objected because players were going on holidays in August. More Frivolities! How many championship-free weekends was that? Five! Five weekends where the County Board knowing that it was highly likely that Donegal players would feature strongly in the International Rules Series could have stood their ground and said no. Thus by now we would have a county champion and have the pleasure of watching one of the greatest exponents of Gaelic football on an international stage.
This International Rules contest is, as the week goes on, gaining a large amount of detractors. The game itself was enjoyable once the players it seemed caught up with the rules and that primal competitive edge in us all finally began to emerge from the holidaymakers. It’s the notion of the ideals and the point of the game that is causing most of the fuss. Originally it was designed to remind both Ireland and Australia about shared heritage; how the Australian game is a direct descendant of the Irish game and also cough cough a wee holiday for the lads. A progressive an innovative idea in the main.
The backlash on the web forums however is probably a fair reflection on the general lack of support in the wider community with people referring to it a sham of a game and a drinking holiday for the Aussies. They’re pondering whether anyone even knows the rules or how to define the tackle (that old chestnut), the round ball is unfair on the Aussies etc. If your knickers are twisting over this switch over to the XFactor! Nobody is forcing you to watch.
The end of this game must surely be nigh though as even the GAA can’t agree if it’s a good thing or not. Headquarters seem to be on one side of the choir with the clubs on the other both singing from a different hymn book. Last week I mentioned Michael Murphy’s dilemma. Now this week, it emerged, Eglish Football Club in Tyrone refused to budge when Tyrone star, Sean Cavanagh’s club, Moy asked for a league relegation decider, set for the same evening, to be rearranged so Cavanagh could line out for Ireland. Big deal I hear you say. Yeah, it is because Eglish GAA club is the club of the late Cormac McAnallen. The same Cormac McAnallen the International Rules Series’ trophy is named after! This kind of intransigence stinks of begrudgery, thick headedness and downright disrespect to McAnallen’s memory. Eglish, with the trophy named after such an illustrious clubman could spin this in such a positive light instead choose to mire it down with negativity and petty jealousy. Down with this sort of thing.
Slavery it seems is living and well alongside corruption in the richest country in the world Kunad (2013) and by awarding the 2022 World Cup to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar FIFA has effectively turned a blind eye. With FIFA president Sepp Blatter claiming the situation “is not FIFA’s primary responsibility”. Scott-Elliot (2013)
70 Nepalese construction workers have died on building sites connected with the tournament since the start of 2012. Workers have been forced to work in summer temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius without drinking water. Employers have also been accused of keeping the workers’ passports, preventing them from leaving the state and forcing them to live in what are essentially shanty towns. Manfred (2013) The International Trade Union Confederation estimate that as many as 4,000 construction workers could die before the tournament starts if action is not taken. Scott-Elliot (2013)
The very fact that the summer temperatures are so incredibly stifling in Qatar should have been reason enough to rule out their hosting of the event. As part of Qatar’s bid, which estimates put the final spend at 220 million US dollars, Manfred (2013) was the promise of air conditioned stadia. After the success of the Qatari bid this idea was scrapped because of its unsustainability and expense on large scale arenas. Associated Press (2011) The city which will host the actual final is still a baron, desolate expanse of burning sand because the city, Lusail does not exist yet.
When it comes to organisations or nations who try to solve seemingly insurmountable problems by flinging money in that direction it is hardly surprising corruption seems to be at the core. FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) voters have always been subject to a certain degree of political lobbying particularly when it comes to World Cup hosting. This lobbying of voters is strictly against FIFA rules with expulsion a punishment. However the Qatari bid carried with it unprecedented levels of political influence particularly around Europe because of major economic interests in Qatar. ExCo member Michel Platini has publically stated he was asked by the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to vote for Qatar. Harris (2013) It is not known if Platini received an incentive for voting but there are numerous reports on other ExCo voters elsewhere around the world asking for and receiving sweeteners. Lord Triesman of the England 2018 bid claimed FIFA Vice President Jack Warner suggested in return for his vote a fee of 2.5 million pound sterling be paid through him for a school in Trinidad. Paraguay’s ExCo member, Nicolas Leoz asked Triesman for a Knighthood. It is claimed by The Sunday Times Cameroon and Ivory Coast ExCo voters each received 1.5miliion US dollars in return for a 2022 Qatari vote. The Sunday Times also claim that Qatar hired a fixer to deal with the voters in the African nations. Press Association (2011)
The beautiful game it is not.
Reference list and Bibliography
Kunad, K. (2013) The Top Ten Richest Countries in the World 2013, Available at: http://www.clicktop10.com/2013/05/top-10-richest-countries-in-the-world-in-2013/ (Accessed: 28th October 2013).
Scott-Elliot, R. (2013) Sepp Blatter washes hands of workers’ plight at 2022 Qatar World Cup, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/sepp-blatter-washes-hands-of-workers-plight-at-2022-qatar-world-cup-8858946.html (accessed: 28th October 2013).
Manfred, T. (2013) 11 Reasons Why The Qatar World Cup Is Going To Be A Disaster, Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/11-reasons-why-the-qatar-world-cup-will-be-a-disaster-2013-9 (accessed: 28th October 2013).
Associated Press. (2011) Qatar urged to scrap air conditioning in stadium, Available at: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=soccer&id=7206958 (Accessed: 28th October 2013).
Harris, N (2013)World Cup could be TAKEN AWAY from Qatar after Blatter probe unearths unfair political voting influence, Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2427853/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-taken-away-political-voting-influence-claim.html (accessed: 28th October 2013)
Press Association. (2011) Lord Triesman accuses Fifa executives of ‘unethical behaviour’, Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/may/10/lord-triesman-fifa (accessed: 28th October 2013)