(by Brendan Mooney, The Examiner). Mark Carroll is now, arguably, the best long distance runner that Ireland has ever produced. Look at his times from 3,000m upwards to 5,000m and nobody else in the history of Irish athletics has ever come close. In fact he is poised to become only the third European to break 13 minutes for 5,000m. His performance in winning yesterday’s 3,000m final at the European indoor championships in Ghent underscores the claim to a recognition he sometimes does not always enjoy. He enjoyed another visit to the victory podium yesterday and this was his third at European level, following on his 5,000m victory in the European junior championships in Thessalonika in 1991 and his bronze medal at the European senior championships in Budapest two years ago. It was a great day for Irish athletics – a first gold medal in those championships since Eamonn Coghlan’s 1,500m victory in Vienna in 1979. Just over an hour earlier James Nolan was on the podium to receive his silver medal. The 28 year old Corkman admitted Nolan’s silver medal on Saturday evening had been a big inspiration for him. “I locked myself in my room around 9 pm and sent James off to celebrate his medal and thank God I did not see him again until 9 am this morning,” he said. “When we arrived here the team manager, Mick McKeon, put myself and James in the same room and I told him this was the room where the medals were going. “The plan was to follow whatever happened. If Mourhit had gone we would have gone with him and taken our chances. You can’t call what way it is going to go. There were 12 guys on the start line and everyone of them had their own game plan. “You have to have your own game plan but, at the same time you have to be flexible enough to adapt to others. “I felt very relaxed out there. I had nothing to do with the race really in the first 2k. When things started to heat up I think the 1,500’s gave me that zip. I was able to cover breaks a lot more smoothly than I have in the past and that is largely due to the speedwork that I have done. “It was great because sometimes the person who kicks last wins and those guys all took their shot at it. I just covered everything and did not really make mine until down the back straight. “I did not know how strong Silva is. I knew he was a strong guy but I did not know how strong, but I felt good enough myself to know down the back straight that I should not wait until I came off the last bend. “I took my shot and it was enough. Most of those guys were 1,500m guys and if this was a once off final today I think it would have been a much different race. “Probably myself and Mourhit were the only ones in the field who really wanted to have first round heats. Mayock, Diaz, Silva – they are all fast 1,500m guys. I knew that two 3k’s under eight minutes would take the sting out of those guys. “I was proved right today. They did not have much left in the last 400m. “I drifted back into the field and that suited me. I stayed well out of trouble. Those guys were up there, pushing, shoving, elbowing each other and boxing each other all around the place. “I was just watching all this from the back. I felt comfortable all the time. I knew that if there was a move I had the speed to cover it. It was no problem. I had a nice smooth run.” He was not surprised at how easily he moved up to the leaders. “I have been in 1,500m races this year like Stockholm where I reached 800m in 1:59 and I was able to step on the gas and run a 55 second third quarter and drop the best guys. If at this time I had a problem covering breaks at that pace then I would have a serious problem. “I’m 28 now. I’m in the prime of my career. It is about time I started winning things. “This is a huge medal for me. I have been very confident all the indoor season and this is a great way to finish it off. “The final sprint was just the way to finish it. I just covered the breaks up to that point. I did not go until the last 150, down the back straight. I had enough lift there to move away from those guys. “In the last 100m I knew I had it but I wanted to make sure. I just wanted to keep running as hard as I could. The last 20 or 30 metres I knew I had it. “I have to admit this is a great day for me. I have a European junior gold medal, a European outdoors bronze and now the gold indoors.
“It is a new millennium and it is Olympic year. It’s a new me. “I will take a short break now. In the past despite running fast times I have gone to races carrying mileage and carrying long workouts into the season. I honestly think this is the first time in my post collegiate career where I have actually tapered down. “I have actually run the last four weeks 40 to 45 miles per week if that. I have been jogging doing five or six miles at day with the boys back in Leevale. Other than that it has just been light 200 sessions in between races. I have really given my body a chance to absorb the training I have done and put myself in a position to race. “In the last few years we have trained very hard to compete with the level of track and field today. I mean 7:13 (for 3,000m) or 13 mins (5,000m) is where you need to be at and we really have trained extremely hard and, at times, I would say too hard which put me in a position like I was last summer where I ran myself so bad that I put myself in an anaemic state and I think it was not that I overtrained but it was that I did it for too long. Now we have more definite phases in our training where I do a base period followed by a transition period followed by a track period and none of them are too long – six to eight weeks and get progressively faster. “In the past I would do 100 miles a week for six months and by the time we would get to the track season I would be dead to begin with. “I always have the strength I mean I am a 7:30 3,000m guy. I always have the base work done and I can say now since December when I went to Florida, we kind of came off the volume work and concentrated on pace work – sessions of 5 x 800 in 1:55/56 where we really concentrated on pace – sometimes even faster than that. “I tapered down and in the last few weeks it was pretty much race, race, race with nothing between. I had never done that before. I’ll be doing it again.”