Athletics News

My greatest race: Frank O’Mara

My greatest race: Frank O'Mara

Irish three-time Olympian had many rollercoaster rides during a career that delivered two world indoor titles, but a trans-Atlantic journey to Seville brought an unexpectedly satisfying conclusion

Expo 92 Meeting, Seville, May 28, 1987, 3000m, second place, 7:42.99

Every indoor season, I said I wanted to save a bit for the outdoors. In 1987, when I won my first world indoor title, I finished eighth in Rome at the World Championships. I’d had a chance. With about five laps to go, John Ngugi went to the front and Said Aouita and I went with him. 

Ngugi pulled out to lane two, looking for one of us to take it on, but Aouita didn’t and neither did I. I should have, and I might have gotten away, but I stayed back there and then the pack caught us two laps later, they kicked on and I came eighth. 

When I look back, I should never have moved up to the 5000m. I should have stayed at the mile but, when I was sixth at the 1986 Europeans behind Steve Cram and Seb Coe, my coach took me up to longer distances.

It did mean I was strong because we did a lot of training: 100-110 miles per week. I always had a really good base of fitness with some speedwork a couple times a year. My biggest problem with my career was I remained on an American schedule. I was always peaking in June, not in August around championships. It happened to a lot of American-based guys, and resulted from sticking to the college schedule. One year, I think I had the fastest times in the world over 10,000m, 5000m, 3000m and the mile in June and I was gone by the end of the year.

Steve Ovett said to me once that my greatest enemy was that I had a very good finish. Unfortunately, I relied too heavily on it on occasion so I could generally cope with a degree of separation from the other guys. Sometimes it didn’t work for me but sometimes it did.

Frank O’Mara (Mark Shearman)

There was a race early in the summer of 1987 in Seville, Spain, when it did work. Getting there was crazy. I was meant to leave the USA on a Tuesday and get into Spain on a Wednesday but I couldn’t get out of the country. I flew from Detroit the next morning to catch a daytime flight out from JFK in New York to London. 

However, the next day there was an air traffic controllers strike in France so we spent a full day at Heathrow airport. I was with a buddy who was running in Spain as well. He got flustered but we just had to sort out the travel plans all over again. That night, we finally got to Barcelona and…

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