The magical day in 1985 when Eamon Coghlan, Marcus O’Sullivan, Ray Flynn and Frank O’Mara combined on the Belfield track in Dublin to break the world four-by-one-mile relay. The record stands to this day.
By Ray O’Hanlon
When it comes to re-running a great run, this one takes the baton.
The 1980s was a standout time in Irish middle distance running and an exclamation point was delivered on a warm August day in the middle of the decade over the Belfield track of University College Dublin.
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Before a wildly enthusiastic crowd, the Irish foursome of Eamon Coghlan, Marcus O’Sullivan, Ray Flynn and Frank O’Mara combined to break the world four by one mile relay and while doing so helping support the Irish aid agency, GOAL.
That record was 15:49.08 and it stands to this day.
Thirty five years on, all four are still kicking, praise be, and still running, sometimes even kicking for their personal finishing lines.
And all four will be taking part in next week’s Columbia & New York Presbyterian Virtual Marathon Team Relay presented by New York Road Runners and hosted by the Armory Foundation.
The virtual event will be conducted October 15-17. Maximum participation more than minimum time is the emphasis here and in a year when the New York City Marathon had to be shelved due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The four Irish runners will be taking part as a team, just as they did back on August 17, 1985. All will run on Thursday, October 15. All four will combine to run the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
This time around, however they will be spread out: Ray Flynn will be running in Johnson City, Tennessee. Marcus O’Sullivan will be running in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Eamonn Coghlan will be running in Dublin and Frank O’Mara in Little Rock, Arkansas.
They are drawn together again by the famed Armory in New York City, The Armory Foundation and the NYRR Millrose Games, which now is based in the Upper West Side facility.
In past years, all four competed in the Millrose Games’ signature event, the Wanamaker Mile, with Eamonn Coghlan winning seven times (1977, ’79, ’80, ’81, ’83, ’85 and ’87) and Marcus O’Sullivan winning five times (1986, ’88, ’89, 90 and ’92).
“The four of us are supporting The Armory Foundation by running this relay together,” Flynn said.
“We will combine to run the 26.2 miles between Frank, Eamonn, Marcus and myself. The whole merit of this is of our story together and the friendship over the years with what binds us. We set the world record in the mile relay. There is an intimate connection where we set the record together and we all support The Armory Foundation and its Armory College Prep and youth programs.”
This event was previously to be The Armory’s 5th indoor marathon (211 laps around The Armory’s track), but was changed to virtual due to COVID-19.
Even in the new format it will be The Armory Foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year which is used to support both its after-school educational and youth athletic programs for children from underserved communities in New York City.
These include the successful Armory College Prep (ACP) program, which for the last four years has had one hundred percent of its high school seniors admitted to four-year colleges, and The Armory’s after school youth program CityTrack, Little Feet and Tiny Feet, comprised of middle and elementary school students from the Washington Heights, Inwood and Harlem neighborhoods of New York City.
Added Flynn: “It is a legacy group of great milers that set the world record and we are running a marathon relay. It reunites our friendship and our history together that connects us to The Armory and the Millrose Games.”
“We just had the 35th anniversary of setting the world record and had planned to get together for the anniversary prior to COVID-19. This is a substitute for doing something together, and we may do something else later.”
If anyone wants to “run alongside” the Irish World Record team by competing in the same event, they can register from two to eight runners per team. For more information and to sign up, go to: indoormarathon.org. The deadline is Monday, October 12.