Olympian chats to Newstalk.com's Raf Diallo about Rio, running and the Dublin Marathon
His build-up might not have been ideal but in the end, Paul Pollock put in a strong showing in Rio's Olympic Marathon.
A 32nd place position in a time of 2:16:24 made him best of the Irish marathon runners in Rio 2016, with Kevin Seaward 64th and Mick Clohisey 103rd.
But Pollock wasn't 100% sure that he would be going to the Games until a few weeks before the start.
In May, Moldovan-born Irish distance runner Sergiu Ciobanu had aired his grievances quite vocally at being omitted from the Ireland team, despite having the third fastest qualification time.
With three picked for the Rio marathon by Athletics Ireland, it meant a contender would miss out.
Pollock was the fourth fastest qualifier but had been chosen ahead of Ciobanu. However, Athletics Ireland said the selection policy for the Games ws not limited to qualifying times alone with other criteria also considered. And Holywood man Pollock - from the same town as Rory McIlroy - had signalled his form by finishing in a strong 17th place at the European championships half marathon in Amsterdam.
"To be honest, by the time I actually got to the [pre-Games] holding camp, it was sorted and forgotten about," Pollock tells Newstalk.com as he looked ahead to October's Dublin Marathon.
Paul Pollock ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
"But obviously in the lead-up, pretty much from when the selection was announced for all of June and July for the final, final decision to be made, it was obviously a lot of stress there and it was just niggling in the background. You're going out doing runs, doing your sessions but you're still thinking 'am I actually still going?' And until I was 100% completely, definitely certain, you're thinking about it. But I showed at the European half-marathon championships - not just myself but the other two, Kevin and Mick who did end up going to the Olympics - I think all three of us didn't have as good runs just because we were all quite aware that we all needed to finish in the Top Two positions.
The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are also a target for the 30-year-old, who has taken time away from his medical career to concentrate on athletics.
"Unfortunately, athletics is a minority sport in Ireland and the money's just not there to be able to fund yourself and do it full-time and I've been very lucky to be able to have done it for the past three years and it's getting to the stage now where I've to look at my medical career, family and all that sort of life and I probably will keep it up for another year or two. But there will come a time where I will have to call it a day and go back to medicine," he said.
Ireland's Paul Pollock, Kevin Seaward and Mick Clohisey after the race ©INPHO/Karel Delvoije
The Dublin Marathon, which takes place on Sunday, October 30th this year, was the first marathon that Pollock first took part in.
And the Rio course, while temperature and condition wise was different, bears some similarities to what we're used to here.
"For Rio, it was very good. It was like the roads back here and it was very flat as well which takes out other problems like hills and things, so the actual course was excellent and it was good that there was good Irish support out there."
As for his debut marathon in Dublin back in October 2012, in a sport often dominated by talent from East African nations like Ethiopia and Kenya, it reminds him of a famous Declan Moffitt sketch by one notable Irish comedian.
"I hadn't competed at any major championships or anything like that. There's a very famous Tommy Tiernan sketch where there's this white guy running with all the African athletes and he tries to keep up with them for a number of times and all the African athletes are wondering 'who is this guy?' And for me that's what I think back to in that Dublin Marathon because for the first 10 miles, I was leading it. I wasn't just sitting in a group. I was 80-100 metres down the road leading it and I didn't know any better. I wasn't training for a marathon. I was just winging it a bit and then they all caught me at about 10 miles and then they started to pull away and then I hit the 20 mile mark and I was suffering badly and then it was a long grind to get to the finish line. That's the marathon for you. Anything can happen on the day and on another day I might be able to keep that pace going but it is what it is."
The SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon has sold out for the first time in its history and is now the fourth biggest marathon in Europe. Keith Walsh has been documenting his preparation and training journey through his regular blogs on www.sseairtricity.com/keithwalsh.