50 not out for Martin McGann
Kiltale native Martin (Marty) McGann achieved a remarkable feat when he competed in his 50th successive English National Cross-Country Championships.
Checking in at the age of 72 he set a pace that would guarantee a finish in the 12km event. In the process he set the record in what was the 132nd staging of the championships.
McGann is a brother of 1972 Olympian Dessie who is still a regular around the roads of Kiltale and was last week returned as president and safety officer of the local hurling club.
Marty's nephew Shane McGann is the regular goalkeeper on the Meath hurling team.
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At the English championships more than 2,000 athletes set off from the start in the senior event with the overall title going to Southampton’s Mahamed Mahamed and while McGann finished 1,990th he was not lapped by the winner.
Former club colleague Gareth Raven (44) is the next nearest to McGann with 25 senior and two junior championships in-a-row. while Dave Norman (Altrincham) is on 22.
McGann moved to England in 1968 and ran in his first National Cross-Country Championships at Blackpool in 1970.
This year's race was at Harewood House near Leeds - about 60 miles from where he made his championship debut.
Fifty years later he has just completed that journey by establishing what is probably a record that will not be surpassed.
The Athletics Association recognised McGann’s achievement in the programme.
“I went to England more than 50 years ago, in 1968, and I joined the club the following year,” commented McGann.
“I ran in my first National in 1970 and I was the club champion for nine years.
“The rules at the time stated that the best three cross-country results from the four main ones and so you had to run them all for eligibility. If you missed one you were out, it was hard lines, I didn't miss any and so the streak grew out of that,” he added.
McGann rates his best finishing position, 146th at Roundhay Park, Leeds in 1978, as the top memory although last week's event is also right up there.
“At Roundhay Park in 1978 all the top men were there, Steve Ovett, Bernie Ford, Ian Stewart and Dave Bedford, they had to be to get onto the international team,” he said.
“My run with the great Ron Hill at Alton Towers in 2011 is another one, Ron is now 80 and was twice English National Cross-Country champion, 1966 and 1968, he said last year that I'd make the 50 and he was right about that,” he added with a sense of achievement.
And what about making 51 in 2020?
“I’ll not pack up yet, maybe there’s another year in me, hopefully anyway,” he added.
MARTY'S BROTHER DES WITH TOP IRISH ATHLETE SARA TREACY WHO IS BASED IN THE UK