PATSY MCGONAGLE has had to deal with many situations in his time as the Irish Athletics Team Manager, but the morning of August 5 2012 was one that was hard to imagine.
Letterkenny woman Caitriona Jennings rounded Buckingham Palace on the home stretch of the women’s marathon.
She was an hour behind the winner, Tiki Gelena, and that last 400m stretch onto Admiral’s Arch down The Mall from the Palace were worse than an ordeal.
Jennings – whose sister Sinead is competing this year and fulfilling a lifetime’s Olympic ambition – suffered a foot injury called Plantar Fasciitis, and also a stress fracture on the foot in the lead-up to London.[adrotate group=”81″]
It would have been easy for some to give in and give up, but not Jennings.
That’s not the way the Jennings girls do things. On she wait. Pained and agonised, she finished the course in three hours, 22 minutes and 11 seconds.
“I couldn’t stop,” she said at the finish. “I had so much support in the lead-up to this, I just wanted to thank everyone who had supported me through it.[adrotate group=”38”]
“They were fantastic, amazing. I couldn’t have finished it without the crowd and I’d just like to thank everyone for travelling over and for their support throughout the whole thing.”
The crowds on London’s streets stayed on, long after the leading runners had passed, willing Jennings to finish.
McGonagle waited, sympathetic at the finish line and told of the warmth of the British public.[adrotate group=”76″]
He said: “That was obvious on the course and for this girl in particular. She was never going to win Olympic gold but she won it for effort and for courage.”
Jennings was later forced to defend her decision to go under starter’s orders for the event.
“I would not have run if I had thought myself I was not fit to go and had not been given the all clear by the medical team,” she said.[adrotate group=”37″]
“Most definitely not. I would never deprive anybody else the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.”
She described the experience as ‘devastating’, but had been given the go-ahead by her physios to take part.
Her selection was initially a controversial one. Four runners achieved the ‘A’ standard for London.
Jennings hit a p.b in Rotterdam when she completed in 2:36:14, in what was only her second full marathon – an improvement of some seven minutes from her first.[adrotate group=”46″]
She was selected, alongside Ava Hutchinson and Linda Byrne with Maria McCambridge – once of Letterkenny AC and married to Letterkenny man Gary Crossan – to go to London.
Jennings finished not where she’d wanted. But she finished, saying later in an interview with Newstalk: “I’m really glad of is that I finished the race. It was the Olympics, so I was determined to finish. I just knew I wasn’t going to do that (quit). No, I don’t think I ever thought I wasn’t going to finish it.”Tags: