THIS was as close to perfection as Darragh McElhinney has ever run.
It was one of those races he has dreamt of.
McElhinney smashed another national record when he became the first Irish teenager ever to run under 14 minutes for 5000m.
The Glengarriff teenager (18) broke the Irish U20 5000m record by eight seconds and took a whopping 17 seconds off his previous personal best (PB) when he finished second in a race at the IFAM meet in Oordegem, Belgium.
The Bantry AC star crossed the line in 13:54.10, just behind the winner, Belgium’s Mortier Jennen (13:49.28).
‘I knew I could run sub-14 minutes and if I got 13:59 I’d have been delighted with that,’ McElhinney told The Southern Star.
‘During the week my coach Dave McCarthy sent me a text and he said if he was being completely honest, that if I ran 13:59 then he thought I’d be under-performing.
‘I genuinely didn’t believe him because 13:59 would have been a 12-second PB and a national record – and I didn’t think that would be under-performing. But he was right.
‘I went out at 13.57 pace and I stayed behind the pace-maker. I felt brilliant. I led the way too. It was only in the last 100 metres that I tightened up and a fella came past me so I finished second.
‘It was unreal. It was one of those nights when it just all came together.’
Everything did come together on Saturday night for the talented West Cork runner, who will also sit his Leaving Cert exams at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí this month – but his books stayed in his bag last weekend.
‘I felt so comfortable. Every time I came around I saw exactly what I wanted to see on the clock and I felt really good,’ he explained.
‘Even when the pace-maker dropped out I picked up the pace. For 13:57 you kinda average at 67 seconds per lap but when the pace-maker dropped out I ran a few 66s. It was just at the very end I lost a couple of seconds. I was on for a 13:49, 13:50 with a lap to go – but my legs almost gave way near the end.
‘Overall I wouldn’t have done anything different. I am 100 per cent proud of the run. It was great.
‘It was as close to perfection as I have ever got. It was a 17-second PB.’
McElhinney ran his previous 5000m PB of 14:11 at the same meet last year. Next month is the big one, the competition he has been working towards for a long time: the 5000m at the European U20 Championships in Sweden.
Before that he has the All-Ireland schools’ this Saturday, his Leaving Cert after that, and then a 1500m in Belfast and a 3000m in Watford at the end of June, before the Europeans.
The biggest challenge now for a teenager who is so quick is sitting still long enough for his exams!