Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Article...Remarkable Indoor Performance of the Past

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Guest Article...Remarkable Indoor Performance of the Past

This article by John Walshe appeared in the Irish Examiner 'County' supplement on Tuesday the 14th of January 2014 and is republished here with his kind permission.

By John Walshe (Irish Examiner County, Tuesday January 14)

As the Irish indoor athletics season swing into action at the new Athlone IT facility, it is worth recalling a memorable indoor performance by a Cork athlete which took place 40 years ago last weekend.

Treading the boards at the Knights of Columbus Games in Uniondale, New York, on that Saturday evening of January 12, 1974, John Hartnett from Ballyhooly ran the fifth fastest time on record for the two miles distance when covering the 22 indoor laps in a time of 8:26.6.

He finished almost eight seconds ahead of Grant McLaren from Canada (8:34.4) with another Irishman, Neil Cusack, third in 8:37.2. Hartnett’s time was just two seconds slower than the American record at the time which was held by the legendary Steve Prefontaine who would tragically die the following year in a car accident at the age of 24.

The two-mile was one of the most popular races on the indoor circuit back then and although the distance is rarely run nowadays, the time by the Corkman is the equivalent of around 7:50 for 3,000 metres.

It is worth noting that the fastest 3,000m by an Irishman last year, indoors or outdoors, was the 7:50.40 by Ciaran Ó’Lionáird which won him the bronze medal at the European Indoors in Gothenburg.

John Hartnett at the time was on scholarship at Villanova University and had just returned to the US two days previously after spending Christmas at home in Ballyhooly.

Showing the tremendous form he was in at the time, the Sunday before he left he had established a new course record for the Oman Cup road race in the Phoenix Park with a time of 9:07.4.

Hartnett’s amazing form on the boards of North America continued the following month at the Maple Leaf Indoor Games in Toronto where, before a packed attendance of over 16,000 fans, he ran the first sub-four-minute indoor mile witnessed in Canada.

His 3:59.6 was achieved ahead of a glittering field which included the 1972 Olympic 1500m champion Pekka Vasala of Finland and John Walker from New Zealand, who would win Olympic gold two years later in that event.
John Hartnett with Danny Smith of Ballynonty AC

The previous year Hartnett had broken Ronnie Delany’s Irish mile record with a time of 3:54.7 and he would add the Irish 1500m to that when recording 3:38.1 at Bakersfield in California later in the summer of 1974.

He then returned home and on a magical night at the Cork City Sports at the Mardyke he ran a 3:56.3 mile, one of the fastest times ever achieved on grass.

For the past number of years a 10km road race has been held in John Hartnett’s honour in his native Ballyhooly. A year ago last August, the village’s most famous son – who now resides in New Jersey - was on hand to start the race and present the prizes, as well as reminisce with his many admirers on a remarkable and honour-laden running career.

* More information about the athletics career of John Hartnett can be seen HERE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A magnificent athlete. Glided over the Mardyke track on that memorable summer's evening. A joy to watch.