Fionnuala McCormack will be aiming to regain her European cross country title in Chia on 11 December but even if she falls short in her bid to become the first three-time winner of the senior women’s race, the Irishwoman will match another record regardless of where she finishes.
McCormack has already represented her country internationally on 33 occasions from all distances from 3000m to the marathon and a 34th appearance in Chia will put her alongside Sonia O’Sullivan as the most capped female Irish athlete in history.
McCormack’s international career dates back to 2001 where she finished a modest 74th in the junior race at the SAPR European Cross Country Championships but fast forward a decade later, McCormack produced a front-running display in Velenje to become the first Irish winner of the title since Catherina McKiernan won the inaugural title in Alnwick in 1994.
McCormack became the first woman to win back-to-back titles on a frozen course in Szentendre the following year and while the 32-year-old has consistently finished inside the top-six since then, a place on the podium has narrowly eluded on each occasion.
However, McCormack will arrive in Chia with high hopes of claiming at least a medal after an outstanding display in Alcobendas last Sunday where she decimated some high calibre opposition. Among those trailing McCormack were two-time Olympic steeplechase finalist Etenesh Diro and Trihas Gebre, who was the top European finisher at last year’s World Cross Country Championships.
This performance - along with an encouraging display at the Olympics where she approached her lifetime best in the marathon in hot and humid conditions - suggests McCormack still has plenty of great championship races ahead of her. She has only scratched the surface of her marathon potential and McCormack will also be chasing down a fast time on the roads next spring which could be a precursor to an appearance in the marathon at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin.
And in the build-up to Tokyo 2020, McCormack could even surpass the overall record for most international caps achieved by an Irish athlete which stands to thrower Terry McHugh at 45.