EVEN as he crossed the finish line to run a new 3000m PB at a recent World Indoor Tour event in Metz, Darragh McElhinney felt he was capable of running even faster.
There’s room for improvement, the Glengarriff athlete feels, and that’s very encouraging ahead of a busy few weeks that includes the national senior indoor championships this weekend and then the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade in mid-March.
In France, McElhinney took five seconds off his previous 3000m indoor PB as he ran 7:45.91 – a time that moved him to fifth in the Irish men’s all-time 3000m indoor list and also qualified him for the World Indoors.
‘That race ticked all the boxes. First of all, I wanted to get the world standard which was 7:50 and subsequently ran a PB and bettered my U23 indoor record,’ he told The Star Sport Podcast.
‘Nearly the most encouraging aspect is even though it was a good time, I don’t think I ran particularly well. The race wasn’t ideal as I had to lead quite a lot of it and run from the front a lot, which is something that you don’t want to do. You want to be able to sit in and be towed along. As happy as I was with 7:45 what is more encouraging is that I came over the line knowing that there is more in me.
‘To be fair, going to the world (indoor) championships, if you want to make a final there you will have to be in the low 7:40s or even high 7:30s – that’s the level you need to be at to try and make a final.
‘To everyone else I ran 7:45, but I know I could have ran a bit better, and that’s encouraging.’
McElhinney’s indoor form heading into the nationals this weekend puts him right in the medal conversation in the men’s 3000m (the final is 12.20pm on Saturday), and this is a distance that he enjoys.
‘The 3000m is a recognised distance indoors more so than it is outdoors,’ he explained.
‘I will be going to the World Indoor Championships in the 3k, whereas there is no 3k at the World Championships outdoors or the Olympics. I think, too, that the 3k is where I am running my best at the moment. In time it will be the 5k as I get older and get more miles into the legs. Because I have a good 1500 and have the strength in the 5k as well, they meet in the middle quite well. It definitely suits me.
‘At these national indoor championships two years ago I won bronze in the 3k, behind John Travers, and that was my first-ever senior medal. I have only raced twice this year as well so I feel fresh.’
The World Indoors next month is his target race right now and McElhinney is building up towards that, and a good performance this Saturday will be another boost.
‘I absolutely love indoor racing. I think because of my small frame, it suits me a bit better because the track is only 200 metres and with the steep bends … I always seem to run pretty well indoors. The time of the year suits me as well because I always go to altitude training in January so I'm usually starting the season off on the back of a good pre-season camp,’ he said.