AthleticsExclusive Interviews

Donegal’s Jennings “Delighted” With Hong Kong Marathon Bronze But Rues “Too Cautious” Approach

Letterkenny’s Caitriona Jennings crossed the Hong Kong marathon finish line in third place on Sunday, clocking a time of 2:51:31.

The 2012 Olympic games runner was preceded only by natives Ching Kit Wu (2:39:27) and Cheek Ning Wong (2:43:17) and says she was “delighted to make the podium” but feels she was “too cautious” in her plan of action.

“I feel myself, I probably should have been closer to the 2:45 mark” she says.

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“I don’t think that would have been outside my ability and even given the conditions I should just have gone out a little bit harder.”

Living in Hong Kong the last two and a half years, the Donegal woman cedes that she “can’t blame time difference” as a factor anymore, but that other contributors still play a part in her racing.

“I should be used to the weather but I just don’t cope well with heat and particularly humidity. I find that really difficult” she comments.

“So I mean, I mean if I’m honest, would they have beaten me if we were racing in Europe? Very possibly, but  I think I would have given them a better run for it if it was in a less humid environment because it actually did impact how I raced on Sunday.”

“Usually you finish a marathon and you’d be exhausted and you’d be dying to the finish line, well I didn’t really have that experience. So unfortunately, I think I was too cautious.”

The course outliers ranging from a motorway run to hills and dips below sea level the period was action packed but prior advice had placed certain limitations on her game method.

“Everyone warned me not come out of the tunnel at full pace and don’t be dead going through that tunnel or it will kill you!”

“I think that probably played a part in the way I was running conservatively as well because I was just so cautious about wanting to have something left there at the end.”

While family support may have been limited in presence it was made up for in spirit, her dad having kept up to date with the race on a tracker regardless of the eight hour time gulf in disparity.

“He was following the little icon so he knew the results straightaway, which was nice because it felt like he was supporting even though he wasn’t actually here.”

“I have a group of friends that are based here and the course was unusual in that it was closed to all spectators until the last 400 metres. When I turned the corner and saw the massive tricolour and it really gave me such a lift because even though you’re racing in a foreign country, you can’t you can’t get away from the fact that that’s really what gives you the lift at the end” the 3rd placed Comrades 2019 competitor adds.

Such backing has also occupied her mind on other illustrious occasions, like when she set a new national 100k record in August at the Anglo Celtic Plate in Mondello Park, with the 50k accolade under her belt too.

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Racing sometimes up to eight hours, ways to “distract” herself allow the time to pass quicker and her loved ones served as a fantastic avenue of entertainment around the 1.8k by 56 lap loop.

“At Mondello Park I was really lucky it was a home race and I knew my parents, my sister, her husband and my in laws were coming” says Jennings.

“I was trying to think that if the race starts at 9am they’d probably arriving around lunchtime, so I was almost doing little calculations of where they were or anything like that just to just distract myself” she laughs.

Her allegiances wavering between ultras and the marathon, a current goal of hers is to improve on her current PB in the latter.

“There’s a saying you can be a jack of all trades and the master of none, so I am conscious of trying to focus on where I’m where my strengths lie.”

“I think they are a little bit more in the ultra right now, so I think when things return to normal here and I can travel more I’ll probably map out some races abroad that I’ll target in that scene” she says.

Hard work more of an attributing aspect than luck for this inspiring athlete, she insists that her success can be replicated “if you set yourself a challenging task” and follow through with dedication.

“Of course it’s not going to be plain sailing but it is possible to achieve if you really do work for it and you really want it” she conveys.

“Once you see someone else do it, you know, you kind of realise that actually it is possible and you should go after it. Stick with your guns and set your wild dreams and knowing that you’re not crazy to either.”

Promising next time to refrain from tentative tactics in next February’s Hong Kong equivalent, “a good crack at it” will be released regardless in her pursuit of another triumph.

“And who knows? Maybe it will be better next time.”

Alanna Cunnane

Alanna is a Journalism student in Dublin City University and is passionate about all sport - in particular Ladies Football and Soccer! Alanna has made contributions to Ocean FM, the Final Whistle, the Sligo Champion and the Connacht Telegraph! She even has hosts her own podcast called 'Are You Still Listening?'
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