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'I think it will bring out faster times for everyone'

A new initiative has been launched to encourage Ireland’s top distance runners to race each other more often.

Olympians Catherina McKiernan and Mick Clohisey launched the Kia Race Series yesterday.
Olympians Catherina McKiernan and Mick Clohisey launched the Kia Race Series yesterday.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

A NEW RACE series designed to encourage the top Irish long distance runners to compete against each other more often could improve the overall quality of Irish racing according to Mick Clohisey and Catherina McKiernan.

The Kia Race Series will take place from March until mid-September 2018 and feature a mix of five and 10km events, as well as a 10 mile race.

Starting in Portlaoise on St. Patrick’s Day — where a 5km race will take place before the parade — the eight race series will finish at Mondello on 9 September.

Elite runners across Ireland will be invited to all eight events with athletes receiving points for their finishing position (one for first, two for second and so on).

The male and female athletes with the lowest points total at the end of the series will each win use of a car for a year from the sponsor, while each individual race will have a €500 incentive for course records.

The series — which is also open to club and recreational runners — is the brainchild of Brian and Dave Conroy of Pop Up Races, with the hope being that Ireland’s best distance runners go head-to-head more frequently than they do at present.

It’s something McKiernan — who competed at two Olympic Games — feels will happen, despite the proliferation of road races throughout the country.

“It’s a new initiative and what’s new is attractive. There are a lot of road races but this is different and the main aim is to get our elite athletes to race against each other and I think that can only be a good thing as they bring each other on.

“I think they’ll be good races for spectators to watch as well.

“At the moment, it is easy for [elite Irish athletes] to avoid each other. But with this, it’s much more attractive for them to race each other.”

Mick Clohisey after finishing 22nd Clohisey after finishing just outside the top 20 at the World Championships in London. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Clohisey, who finished 22nd in the World Championships in London last year, is not surprised that the incentives on offer would attract his fellow elite racers.

“It might get some of the lads who like to lay low or kind of avoid each other out. There’s enough of a group of us to be facing each other more regularly and that would be good for everybody’s sake on the international circuit and with the Europeans next year as well.

“There are a lot of times you think some of the lads will turn up to a race and they don’t, so hopefully this will get more people out.

“They often say you have to go away to find a race but there are enough lads around to be egging each other on.

“We really should help each other out as it is beneficial for the standards and it will grow from there with the younger lads buying into it.

“There are obviously big races [out there], the ones people see and hear about, but there is a lot of other stuff that goes on that people wouldn’t hear about.”

The Olympian also says that one of the biggest challenges facing distance runners is that, when your peers don’t show up for a race, it can give you a false perspective of where you are in your training.

“It is too often that you go out and think you’d a great win but, then you go away to England and you might run a better time but you finish well down the field,” he said.

That’s something McKiernan — a European cross-country gold medallist — agrees with.

“I think it will help people train a little bit harder and get a little bit fitter and, when people are racing against each other like that, they might put in more of an effort and that will bring out faster times for everyone.”

The Kia Race Series will kick off in March with The Streets of Portlaoise 5k with the finale event in Mondello Park organised in September by Pop Up Races

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Steve O'Rourke

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