© Copyright – 2009 – Athletics Illustrated

Martin Fagan broke the Irish half-marathon record on Saturday, March 14th., finishing in 60:57. He was racing the Fortis City Pier City Half Marathon in The Hague, Netherlands. Martin bettered the 21-year-old national record of 61:00, which was previously held by the legendary John Treacy.

During the race, Martin led world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie and a handful of Africans through 10k, clocking a 28:34 split. He passed through 5k in 14:12. From 10k-on, the Africans took over. Martin finished strong achieving a top-five position and finishing within a minute of the eventual winner Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara, who held off Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie with a 100 metre sprint to the line.

60:57 perhaps is an auspicious time for a 25-year-old Hurling mid-fielder from Mullingar, Ireland however, Fagan feels otherwise.

CK: Martin, you led the race through 10k splitting 28:34 and finishing in 60:57, however you ended up in fifth. Are you satisfied despite the positioning?

MF: I was very satisfied with my race up until 15k, but as soon as I lost contention with the lead group, I dropped my head and ran a poor last 5k. I would have liked to finish a lot stronger, but I guess this is something I have to work on for the future.

CK: Would you have fared better yet, if you weren’t leading at 10K?

MF: The pacemakers were meant to bring the leaders through the first 10k in 27:40. Due to the strong head wind, I could see that they had given up on going for the world record so Geb and Kitwara started to race each other. I felt the pace slowing down, so I decided to push. The plan was to run the first 10k fast to give myself a chance of running the Irish record; so I found myself in the lead. Ideally I would of liked to have sat in, but I had to go for it.

Photo: Victah Sailer@Photo Run

CK: I read in the editorial titled, ‘How good is Martin Fagan’ by Irish Runner dot com that near the end of your collegiate career you were going to focus on winning races rather than attaining times. Now that you are a post-collegiate athlete, are you back running for times or winning races?

MF: I have always been an aggressive runner and I like to lead races. But in the past, my aggressiveness has been my downfall. I think it was just a case of my fitness not being as high as my ambitions. But now I feel as if my fitness has caught up and I have made a switch in my mentality. I now believe that I can run with the top guys and I will put myself in contention with them for as long as I can from now on. Basically that is what I did in my last race. I stayed with them for as long as I could. Ok, it didn’t work out in The Hague, I was beaten by a minute (laughing), but I think that one day, it might pay off and I will finish with them. Well, at least I’m hoping it will.

CK: Having trained at altitude in a hilly environment – and I assume you were doing Lydiard hill circuits. Do you think you can run even more competitively on courses that are not so flat? (Like the Dubai marathon and the recent half in The Hague).

MF: Definitely. I think tougher courses suit me more, especially coming from altitude training. I had never run Lydiard-type hill circuits until I came to Flagstaff. At first I really did struggle at them, but I wasn’t too disheartened by this. I saw this as a weakness and since have worked on improving myself at it – this and it has now become a strength in my running. This is why I would love to race the Boston and New York marathons in the future and maybe place high.

CK: So what are your marathon plans for 2009? I would assume Worlds?

MF: I’m going to skip running a spring marathon so I can concentrate on improving my times and building up my profile so hopefully I can get into a big city marathon. I also considered doing Dublin marathon in the fall. It would be great for my family to see me run and I would be excited to run and maybe win in front of a home crowd.

CK: It appears that your training in Flagstaff, AZ with Greg McMillan of McMillan Elite has been very good for your career, last year you qualified for the Beijing Olympic marathon with a sub 2:15 qualifying time, now of course your 60:57 half. What key changes to your training has influenced your results.

MF: The first day I came to Flagstaff, I new that this was the place for me. It’s beautiful up here and it’s hard not to run over 100 miles-per-week. We have the perfect running community up here. Everybody is so friendly and supportive. But having the McMillan Elite guys is the main reason for my results. I feel very fortunate to be able to train with such a great group of guys everyday. We all push each other hard in training, but not in a competitive way and I think this one of the reasons for the success of the team. Mainly I feel like I have all the ingredients up here to become successful at running – great teammates, a great coach and a beautiful training environment.

A diversion

CK: You are a man of tattoos, as seen in the Flotrack Video shot at the Flotrack HQ recently. Any new body art in the plans?

MF: I have an appointment coming up in April. I realize that some of my tattoos are a mess so I’m trying to clean them up a little. Also my friend is an artist and she is going to draw me up something. But there is plenty of more space on my body so if there are any artists out there reading this that would like to draw me up something, I would love to add it to my collection.

CK: Death Cab for a Cutie, favourite release by them?

MF: I’ve seen Death Cab for Cutie 5 times now and I love them. Transatlanticism is one of my favourite albums and one of my favourite songs. Their music always puts me in an indescribable mood. But I was a little disappointed with their latest album. It’s a little too dark for my liking.

CK: I am hearing ‘Cath’ on the radio all the time. Who do you think is the ‘Cath’ in the song from the release, Narrow Stairs?

MF: Cath is a beautiful song. The acoustic version is so much better than the album version. In my opinion it’s about a girl that felt she would never find the love of her life (your heart was dying fast) so she settled for someone who wanted her. I think this happens with a lot of people. It’s the “better to be with someone than be alone theory ” …laughing.

CK: Ok I just listened (and watched) the Youtube acoustic Cath, you are right; it’s a great song played acoustically. Ben Gibbard reminds me both of Neil Young and John Lennon rolled into one guy.


MF: I like the Pogues. They are a very pub band, meaning that they are played a lot in Irish pubs and usually when you are drunk you sing along to them. Some of my favourite bands are Joy Division, Radiohead and Interpol.

CK: So how often do you find yourself singing along to the Pogues?

MF: Flagstaff is a great place to run, but the social scene is a little poor. But the highlight of the week for me is ‘Lady’s 80’s’. This event takes place every Wednesday night, which is one of the many reasons I go. We usually have workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays so it usually feels like our week of training is over on Wednesday. So I usually need to have a couple of pints by then. I usually have a band of the week. This week it’s Cut Copy. I went through a Death Cab week back in January and I need to get back listening to them.

So I find myself hanging out at Lady’s 80’s every week. Also, its called ‘Lady’s 80’s’ because drinks are cheap for the girls and they only play 80’s music. Some of my favourite bands are from the 80’s, so this is why I especially like going. It also gives me a chance to unwind a little and reflect on a good weeks training. I’ve also started to drink Schlitz because it tastes similar to Narragansett, which I love and you can’t get Narragansett’s anywhere but New England.

From the Narragansett site:

“Today, Narragansett Lager and Light Beer is brewed in Rochester, New York, under the supervision of all of us here in Providence. The Bock and Porter are brewed at Trinity Brew House, Providence, Rhode Island. This beer will be here for the long haul – in all its refreshing forms of lager, porter, light and bock – so that one day, years from now, a regular guy, during just another regular moment, can pick up a Gansett. Not because it’s “cool” or it’s “in” or some other BS. Just because, of course he would.”

CK: Growing up, what sports were you into?

MF: I played hurling and gaeilge football, our national sports when I was growing up. But they were pretty physical so I had to give them up for running.

CK: I’ve watched hurling on TV a few times. I’ve always thought that it is such a great sport! Which position did you play?

MF: It’s a very fast paced game and exciting to watch. When I played, I was a mid-fielder. I started running because I wanted to get fitter and faster for hurling. It’s funny how I came to love running more.

CK: Which is your favourite run of the week?

MF: I always look forward to the long run, it usually caps off a week of training. I consider my long run as a workout and I will always run it at a steady pace. I usually run 20 miles or 2 hours, with the last 5-6 miles at goal marathon pace.

We run our long run every Saturday. You might find this weird, and so do I because traditionally a long run takes place on a Sunday. It’s taken a while to get use to, but I kinda prefer it now. Just means that you can enjoy your Saturday night, maybe have some Schlitz and not worry about the morning. Anyways, I usually start my long runs at 6min/mile pace with the team. Because I race longer than some of the guys, I tend to go further, so I usually end up being on my own for the last 5-6 miles. There are no runs in Flagstaff that aren’t hilly so this makes them a bit tougher. When I say I run my last 5-6 miles at goal marathon pace, it’s usually my threshold pace 5:15-5:30 pace. This mighten sound fast, but its a little harder to hit because we are at 7000ft and the terrain is very hilly.

My training week starts on a Monday with a speed workout, usually 200m on 200m off on the track. We have a long threshold or tempo run on a Wednesday and long run with fast finish on a Saturday. In between workouts, I usually do doubles of 70 minutes a.m. and 40 minutes p.m. Sunday is an easy day, where we are given the option of running by how we feel.

CK: One last question, are you going after the Irish Marathon record next?

MF: Eventually I would like to break the Marathon record, but firstly I’m going to attempt to break the 10,000m record of 27:39 by Alistair Craig. I’m very excited to get back to running on the track this season and I believe that I can break that record.

CK: Good luck with the marathon and the upcoming 10,000m record attempt.

MF: Thanks, Chris.

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