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The Dubliner targeting a 38-year-old Irish record in a second chance at elite athletics

Irish middle-distance runner Andrew Coscoran has learned some important life lessons.

IRISH RUNNER ANDREW Coscoran doesn’t reckon things would have turned out any other way for him.

irish-life-health-mile-challenge Irish runner Andrew Coscoran. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

A prodigious athletics talent, he was 18 years old when he was awarded a sports scholarship at Florida State University. The Dubliner was heading to the same college that fellow Irish athlete Ciarán Ó Lionáird attended, a move which led to him reaching the final of the 1,500m at the 2011 World Athletics Championships.

That running distance just so happens to be Coscoran’s event as well.

The teenage Coscoran had lots of potential and even now, in 2020, he still has the target of reaching his first Olympics firmly in his sights.

His list of results so far this year include winning the 1,500m title at the National Indoor Championships in March. He also impressed at the prestigious Wanamaker Mile in New York where he finished in 10th place in a time of 3.57:83.

But Coscoran’s progress to this point didn’t come without some wobbles. And during his stint in Florida, he wandered off the tracks.

Coscoran previously reflected on those experiences in an interview with the Irish Independent earlier this year. He recounted the times when he was banned from training with his team for a month following a drunken night out.

There was another night when he was attacked by four men while trying to help out one of his friends. He woke up in hospital having suffered several serious injuries, including a broken nose and a broken jaw.

By 2016, Coscoran was back home in Ireland and it would be a while before he could start to rebuild his athletics career.

“Maybe. I could have had another year after Leaving Cert in Ireland,” the 23-year-old replies when asked if perhaps this opportunity came to him too young.

I could have stayed here. Nobody could convince me at the time. I was set to go over to the States. I think it has worked out well. I’m in a good place now.”

Either way, he has no regrets about how that period unfolded for him, or the lessons he took from it to help him grow.

“Looking back I was training hard when I was over there. Maybe the social side of things got in the way. I was training hard but I had a few injuries and stuff as well.

andrew-coscoran Coscoran training during lockdown. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Reflecting back I think that [the Florida experience] is what makes me what I am now.

“Maybe making those mistakes when I was younger, I learned a lot when I was over there. I had great training partners [like] Zak Seddon, steeplechaser for the UK. Bob Braman [coach at Florida State University], maybe we clashed a few times, but a great coach and I learned a lot from him.

I wouldn’t change anything. Reflecting back, I did what I did. I learned from it and I’m a better athlete the other side of it.”

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Like many other elite athletes, Coscoran’s season has been put on pause due to Covid-19. During the time of the 2km radius limit, he was forced to train within the confines of his home in Balbriggan.

He used a 1km loop at the end of his road, along with some local football pitches, to get the work done. But he was missing the intensity and competitiveness that comes with group training, as well as the social aspect of it all.

The barriers are being gradually lifted now and Coscoran is able to plan for some races again. He has a mile run to look forward to in Tipperary next month which will hopefully be followed by an 800m or a 5km run after that.

The National Athletics Championships, which were originally due to take place in June ahead of the Tokyo Games, have rescheduled for the weekend of 22/23 August.

He also an extra year to secure a spot at the Tokyo Olympics. And he’s doing all this without receiving any funding from Athletics Ireland, and is grateful for the financial assistance he gets from race organiser Richard Donovan.

Coscoran certainly has dates to circle on the calendar, and even has national records to chase down.

Longford native Ray Flynn holds the current Irish 1,500m record of 3.33:5, which he ran at the 1982 Bislett Games Dream Mile in Oslo. He also broke the Irish mile record in that same race in a time of 3.49:77.

“Looking back at the times they ran… Eamonn Coghlan, Ray Flynn… they were unbelievable,” says Coscoran about the high standard of Irish running that he and his team-mates are striving to match.

“Our technology, our recovery technically we have the capacity to run fast times at the moment.

It is something that we are definitely targeting but at the moment with the training group at the Dublin Track club, there are a lot of us at the standard to run these times. At the moment maybe we can’t and it is a bit frustrating that we can’t do it.

“Definitely every day in training I am personally thinking can I break that record, can I make that jump up in performance, because I think we have the capability to and there is no reason we can’t.

“We are all working together as a group [in Dublin Track club] and we all want to see each other do well. Everyone goes out and runs 100 miles a week which we are trying to do and working hard together.

None of us are afraid of hard work. We just want to compete well for Ireland and we are working together to do that.”

Andrew Coscoran was speaking at the launch of the Irish Life Health Mile Challenge. The weeklong challenge to find out the fittest and most active club and county starts on 17 August.

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