Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Post: MICK MOLLOY CELEBRATES HIS 81st BIRTHDAY... by John Walshe

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Guest Post: MICK MOLLOY CELEBRATES HIS 81st BIRTHDAY... by John Walshe

In this guest post, John Walshe of Ballycotton writes about Mick Molloy who one of the best marathon runners in the country back in the 1970's. He also has the distinction of having set a new world record for 30 miles of 2h 44m 47s. That works out at about 5m 30s per mile pace for 30 miles!

(By John Walshe)                                       

This month sees one of Ireland’s legendary distance runners celebrating his 81st birthday. Mick Molloy was born on March 13th, 1938, and during the 1960s won three Irish marathon championships, along with titles at 10 miles, 15 miles and cross-country. He also represented his country in the marathon at both the 1968 Olympics and 1969 European Championships.

Molloy grew up beside Lough Corrib, four-and-a-half miles from Oughterard in County Galway. His first sporting involvement was with Gaelic Football but all that changed at the age of 18 when he ran his first cross-country race. In a full page feature in the Connacht Tribune last December, Molloy recalls that day: “My only mode of transport at the time was a bicycle and so after returning from Mass in Oughterard I headed to Dunmore (100 mile round trip) and lined up with 45 other runners, I finished in eight place.

Four years later, he won his first Galway senior cross-country over nine miles near Athenry. “I not only beat Willie Morris, the favourite, but won the race by over 300 yards,” he remembers. In 1966, on a wet and windy day at Dromoland Castle in Clare, he won the All-Ireland cross-country title and captained Galway to win the inter-county team event ahead of Cork.

Later the same year he transferred that winning form to the road with victory in the Irish Marathon at Banteer in 2:24:45. A second marathon title (2:22:52) followed two years later in his native Galway which qualified him for that year’s Olympic Games.

In the warm and altitude conditions of Mexico City, Molloy had to discard his shoes after 14 miles due to blisters but he gallantly carried on to finish 41st of the 74 starters in a time of 2:48:13.  Despite the setback of a serious ankle injury he was able to retain his national marathon title (2:22:32) the following year of 1969 and went on to finish a creditable 13th in 2:28:38 at the European Marathon in Athens.

Five years later, in September 1974, Molloy won the prestigious Berchem marathon in Belgium, but not without drama: “I was leading the race at 15 miles when the official car turned down a side road for petrol and I followed; not understanding the language, I lost about a minute-and-a-half and by the time I got back on the correct road I was back in eight place.”

He eventually caught the leaders at 21 miles and went on to win by over two minutes in 2:18:41, a time he would marginally improve to 2:18:22 (which remained his fastest) when finishing 12th the following year at Kosice. This was less than a minute behind Waldemar Cierpinski who would go on to become dual Olympic champion at Montreal (1976) and Moscow (1980).

But it was on the track that Molloy registered probably his most memorable performance when, on November 2nd, 1974, he set a world best of 2:44:47 for 30 miles. The occasion was one of the autumn Road Runners Club promotions prevalent at the time and it took place at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey on a windless and overcast Saturday.

Molloy’s target was the 2:47:34 time set by New Zealander Jeff Julian (a 2:14 marathoner) four years before during the course of a 50 mile race. The 30 mile record was therefore maybe not as difficult as some of the other long distance track records, but the Irishman still had a number of formidable opponents to contend with amongst the 17 starters. These included Don Ritchie, who would go on to re-write the ultra record books at all distances in the years ahead.

Molloy went straight into the lead and at 10 miles, reached in 53:15, he had lapped the entire field apart from Ritchie who was around one hundred metres in arrears. Through 15 miles in 80:21 and 20 miles in 1:48:13, the record was well on schedule. A 56:34 split for the final 10 miles saw him cross the line in jubilant mood (as the accompanying picture from Athletics Weekly shows) in a new world best of 2:44:47. This was an average pace of just under 5:30 per mile for the 30 miles which took in 120 laps of the Walton 440 yard track.  

His own account of the race was typically undramatic. “I had a chance of the record because the announcers kept saying I was inside the schedule for a world record.  I was just hoping – but a 30 mile race is four miles longer than a marathon. I was lucky to get a good run on the day.”

Four months later, Molloy was invited by Fr Liam Kelleher to run the Midleton 10,000m road race, held over six laps. There he finished ninth of the 48 finishers in a race won by Paddy Murphy from Kildare ahead of Donie Walsh of Leevale. He made the cover of Marathon Magazine – the country’s first athletics publication – the following month of April 1975 when receiving a special award in recognition of his world best from the late Paddy Hartnett, President of Midleton AC.

Addendum: A list of guest articles from John Walshe can be seen HERE


Ivan Sanders said...

GREAT to see Mick still going strong! A formidable athlete in his day. Very best wishes, Ivan Sanders

Stello said...

I remember talking about Paavo Nurmi, with Mick, in 1997 when I lived in Galway!