Letterkenny Olympian Caitriona Jennings reflects on her brave bid to break the 100k World Record last month.
WHEN Caitriona Jennings received a race offer – and a chance to break a world record – in October, she jumped at the chance.
Representatives from Hoka One One reached out to the Letterkenny woman, who set about preparing an attempt to break the World Athletics record for 100k.
When Jennings took to the Project Carbon X2 event in Chandler, Arizona ten days ago, she did so while 12 weeks pregnant.
A valiant bid came to an agonising end after 60k.
“This time, I was hoping to have a crack at the record, but when I learned that I was pregnant, everything changed,” Jennings said.
“My priority was then going to be minding my baby.
“It was a really difficult one. Usually I approach a race with a very positive mindset. I’m there to compete and try to win, or certainly be involved in the mix.
“Although I had received the all-clear from the doctors, it was still difficult.
“My close family and friends were really anxious. Dealing with all of that was quite difficult psychologically.”
With racing opportunities severely limited in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jennings was delighted to get the chance initially.
In December, she had to think again.
A consultation with her doctor offered her positivity. The green light was given, provided she minded her body temperature and ensured sufficient hydration on the run, which comprised a series of six-mile laps.
She said: “I was still hopefully that everything would go well, but I did promise myself if there was anything I felt unusual that I would pull out. I readjusted my entire race strategy so I’d run much slower, at a pace I knew that I could maintain. With 100km, you’ll never do that in training so it was still an unknown.
“I’ve been running all my life, I’m aware of my heart rate all the time, but I don’t even need to look at my monitor now to get a sense of it.”
“I could always step off, but the competitor in me was still hoping. I was really so sad and so emotional stepping off at 60km.”
Jennings, from Hawthorn Heights, was through 55k in 4:08:18.
Jennings took part in the women’s marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and she holds the Irish 50k record of 3:19:47.
After another couple of kilometres, the alarm bells were ringing.
She said: “I was feeling really good in myself and my heart rate was way lower than it would be in training. Around 55km, I started to feel stomach cramps, which I wouldn’t usually get. Immediately. alarm bells rang and I just said: ‘No’. I didn’t want to live with a regret forever, so I took the decision to step off and call it a day.”
Hoka One One – an athletic shoe company – signed Jennings on a two-year sponsorship deal and she’s already looking ahead to further chances.
The Irish record for 100k, of 7:52:45, set by Carndonagh woman Helena Crossan in Galway back in 2009, still stands. That could be among her targets.
She said: “I can take a lot of positives from it. It opens up exciting opportunities for me post-pregnancy. Hoka One One signed me on the sponsorship knowing that I was pregnant so that’s definitely a big positive for me.”