And so, it comes again. Back in my homeland, I’d be watching a river dyed nuclear-reactive-slime-green, and preparing some convoluted story of ancestry for the scores of Plastic Paddies at the Beverly parade who drunkenly demanded to know “What county d’yer people come from?”. (Note: Ignorance or apathy regarding this subject made you, in their eyes, an orange-wearing, William-and-Mary-loving Protestant, worthy of public flogging [which, on St. Pat's, was a very real possibility]).
But all that’s behind me now. I attend a family-oriented parade, try and catch a few cabbages flung at 85 mph, then make soup. Everybody wins. By everybody, I mean ‘me’. I win.
And in the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to mention a few of our Northern European brethren. The Irish seem preternaturally inclined to distance greatness due to some combination of chips-on-shoulders, wiry physiques, and having not a god damn thing better to do in a country without sunshine or beaches where it rains all the bleedin’ time. It’s a nation, after all, with a history of endurance, and of obstinacy in the face of pretty grim and painful realities. If there’s a better metaphor for the life of a long-distance runner, I haven’t found it.
The ‘Chairman of the Boards’ was one of the first runners ever to inspire me, back when I was operating under the false assumption that I too was a miler. He had a fluid, rangy stride that gave him an appearance of comfort and deadliness, as if, even in his final kick, he had some hidden gear that never required use. He was also the proud owner of a wicked sweet mustache.
While he won gold at the 1979 European Championships (1500) and, at age 31, the 1983 Worlds (5000), his greatest notoriety came from a series of performances on indoor tracks. He broke his own world indoor mile record several times before peaking out at 3:49.78 in 1983 in the Meadowlands.
After tiring of world domination, Coghlan faded into obscurity, where he ran a SUB-FOUR INDOOR MILE AT AGE 41. 41!!!!!! [Note: Now is when you sigh, take a sip of that booze you've been storing in your desk for just such a moment, and retire from running entirely].
O’Hare gets honorary mention, despite hailing from Edinburgh, for two reasons:
2. He just became the NCAA Indoor National Champion in the mile, adding another trophy to the storied halls of that old, venerable program at, um…Tulsa.
Beyond that, he’s an incredibly entertaining runner. A true disciple of the ‘Pre’ school*, he’s comfortable leading from tape to tape, dictating pace and strategy to the rest of the field simply because he’s ballsy enough to do it.
Another in a long line of talented Irish milers, this fellow’s gift is overshadowed only by the improbability of his successes. As mentioned in a previous post, O’Lionaird spent most of his college career collecting injuries like DMX collects drunk-driving tickets. You’d be all like “What?! Not again!”, but before you could finish saying that, he’d have another broken metatarsal.
He transferred from Michigan to Florida State, got injured again, yet somehow managed victories in both the 1500 and 5000 at the ACC Championships in 2011. Gee, must have been a weak field, eh?
Chan Eil (English: ‘No’)! He ran 3:40.65 and 13:52.11 to seal those babies up.
Since college, things have looked brighter and brighter for the spectacularly mulleted Irishman. He successfully sold himself to Alberto Salazar, and then beat out Galen Rupp and Mo Farah in the New Balance Grand Prix Mile. Well done, boy-o.
As for my own St. Patrick’s day training, I’ll be finishing off a 70-mile week with a 15-miler Saturday morning, then undoing that good work with several consecutive hours of fried food, drink, and secondhand smoke. I wish that you all live to see St. Joseph’s day (which has better food anyway, in my opinion), and that the cabbage is softened slowly in your pot, and not at high speed on your skull.
Irresponsibly Amped-Up Song of the Week (English Ass-Kicking Edition): The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God
*Why this pun is not used more often, I have no idea.