'It wasn't much fun jogging in the Olympics because you've nothing left to give'

Three months on from Rio, marathon runner Mick Clohisey is back in training after injury and illness cruelly hampered his Olympic performance.

Clohisey after finishing the Olympic marathon in August.
Clohisey after finishing the Olympic marathon in August.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

RIO OUGHT TO have been the peak of Mick Clohisey’s year, and career. He had hit a purple patch in the months before, earning his place as one of Ireland’s three marathon runners.

Form and fitness was on his side. In just his second run over the 26.2 mile distance, the Dubliner met the qualification mark in Berlin and then raised the bar in Seville to record a top ten finish; he was doing something right.

The qualification system meant that every athlete hoping to make the Irish team had to prove their credentials right up until May, at which point a five-man panel selected from the 14 eligible candidates.

At the time, the selection process was the subject of much debate. The controversial omission of Segiu Ciobanu, despite his superior qualification time to Paul Pollock, raised serious questions of the system and the manner in which Athletics Ireland assessed the runners.

Clohisey was selected, but by the time he got to Rio, he was physically and mentally drained. He should have been in prime condition for the Olympic marathon but was instead left with nothing in the tank.

“I had run three marathons in the space of 10 months and then I was doing a lot of other racing,” he explains to The42.

Mick Clohisey Clohisey finished in 103rd place. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“After the half-marathon in Amsterdam in July I just felt mentally and physically tired even though I shouldn’t have been going off to the Olympics. I should have been buzzing and full of energy but you have to convince yourself it will be fine.

“I was worn out going over and I think I just went a bit stale. I was burned out from having gone on for so long.

“When I went off to Brazil I hoped I would freshen up and feel good but after two weeks in the holding camp in Uberlandia I got a virus and I suppose one thing led to another. I just had to grind it out, there’s nothing you can do.”

In the days leading up to the marathon, Clohisey’s preparations were severely hindered by a blister on his foot, which soon became infected, and a debilitating virus. The strain of 12 months of intense racing and training had taken its toll and his body chose the most unfortunate time to shut down.

“Rio was a mixed experience really, I didn’t perform anywhere near I was hoping to,” the 30-year-old continues. “I realised as the race went on that I just had to try and finish it out. I knew I wasn’t going to be one of my best performances but I was just glad to finish it.

“I was kind of glad it was over. I got the virus and my appetite was gone. I was running on empty as such and I just couldn’t eat the week of the race and I think that’s what did the damage because the blister healed up. I got that looked at so it was the virus that really emptied the system.

“At the time I thought I was fine, but it just shows you the body can’t keep going all the time.”

For Clohisey, finishing was a feat in itself. A time of 2:26.34 was well off the pace and saw him come home in 103rd, not that numbers really mattered in the end.

Mick Clohisey The second half of the race was a struggle as he resisted the temptation to give in. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I was feeling brutal and you know when you’re sick you don’t get to enjoy anything,” he adds. “Finishing was an important thing for me. After halfway I was totally out of energy but I just had to finish it out because it was the Olympics and just grind through it.

“It wasn’t that much fun literally jogging home as opposed to racing. My time and place, I didn’t care about that at that point, just wanted to finish. I was frustrated afterwards but I wouldn’t get too down about these things. There’s not really a whole lot you can do from it apart from learn.”

On the selection process, Clohisey added: “I probably could have taken a bit more down time and not rush into things but I think that was the whole thing with the selection I needed to show myself and my form. It’s a tricky one

“It’s been a big talking point because it was so drawn out. Looking back it is a tricky one because you’re trying to get there first and you could be totally worn out by the time you do it. I’d say there will be discussions to change it.”

Three months later and the Raheny Shamrocks runner is back in training, with his focus now on the cross country season and defending his national crown at the end of November.

A holiday in America with his girlfriend allowed Clohisey to recharge the batteries and completely switch off.

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“I didn’t rush things coming back,” he says. “I’ve let it just come naturally and I’m enjoying my training again. I made sure not to rush back and give myself some time and not force it. I was worried that I’d still feel lethargic and mentally tired so I’ve eased back into it gradually.”

SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon & Race Series Launch Clohisey with Patrick Monahan and Lizzie Lee at the launch of Sunday's Dublin Marathon. Source: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

As his winter programme revolves around cross country events, Clohisey won’t be in the elite field for Sunday’s Dublin Marathon — but it’s an event he’s definitely looking to add into his schedule in future.

The plan is to qualify for December’s European Cross Country Championships and then return to the road and run a marathon at some point in the New Year, most likely in London.

Then there is the World Athletics Championships in the English capital next August. 12 months after Rio, Clohisey is eyeing another crack at the marathon and a chance to right the wrongs.

“If I am feeling good and I’m enjoying the running then I’ll look to make amends,” he adds.

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Ryan Bailey

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