Saturday 12th April 2008 will go down in running lore in the household of the famous Porter family with Linda claiming her first National track medal in the U15 girls 800m. The Porters are known amongst the running fraternity the length and breadth of the country and news of Linda’s achievement will no doubt ripple around the country.
With Mr Porter senior – Thomas featuring in most road races in the west of Ireland for almost half a century (:-)), Mrs Porter – Mary the voice of athletics on Galway Bay FM and many a PA system at road races, son David competing regularly on Craughwell and Galway teams, daughters Linda and Laura frequently in the medal stakes in Galway and Connacht competitions, and Lisa and Mary’s mum an ever present at athletics events every weekend, this medal was Linda’s destiny and the start of even greater things to come.
On numerous occasions Linda has battled hard to reach the National podium, with a 4th place finish in the U13 girls 600m in 2006, 5th place finish in the U14 girls 800m 2007 and 4th place finish in the U14 girls 1500m 2007. The 1500m race was in particular a tough call – with Linda just 0.01s behind the bronze medal winner.
But this April, nothing was going to take her success away.
Running a great 800m in the Connacht, Linda won by huge distance in a time of 2.29.40. This was the perfect platform on which to build for the National finals. Balancing her athletics with her camogie, Linda managed to find the time for the necessary training and rest and was in confident mood going to the National finals.
The draw for the heats pitched Linda in the first of two heats, with Clare athletes Amy O’Donoghue and Ashling Darcy in the other heat. Both of the Clare athletes were tipped for the medals, having medalled a few times before at National level. The first three in each heat would qualify automatically and the next two fastest times to make a final of 8.
Linda’s heat was the much more intense one with a leading group of four pulling away and three of them going under 2.30 minutes. Ideally the pace would have been slower with the final coming up later but with only 3 automatic qualifying places, it was impossible for Linda to take it easy and her time of 2.29.03 was a new PB. The other heat proceeded at a nonchalant pace, with O’Donoghue and Darcy taking the top 2 places in 2.37.78 and 2.38.19. This wasn’t good for Linda as those times were effectively a warm-up run for these athletes.
With plenty of rest in between heat and final, they lined up for the final around 4.15pm. As the buzzer sounded, the finalists tore off and Linda settled into a mid-pack position as they went through the 100m mark. O’Donoghue took an early lead by 6 or 7 metres but was reeled in by the time the 200m mark arrived. On lap 2, Linda was running in 5th place in a tight group and move up to 4th on lap 3 of the 200m circuit. As runners competed for positions as they approached the bell for the final lap, Linda moved into 3rd place on the home straight, about 2 metres behind Darcy in 3rd place and with O’Donoghue clear at the front by 6m or so. She made a valiant attempt to overtake Darcy on the back straight but had to tuck in behind her on the final corner.
Still about 2m behind as the race entered its final 60m, Linda summoned all her energy and started to narrow the gap to the Ennis athlete. With 20m to go she was almost level and with one final drive, she passed Darcy and continued her momentum to take the silver medal by a margin of 0.29s or about 1.5 metres. It was a incredible run by Linda, tactically perfect and earned her a new PB of 2.27.56 and her first National track medal.
Having come so close in the past, this medal was richly deserved by Linda and will give her the confidence now to mix it with the best in future National finals.