Phil Healy stood on the track and extended her hand, waving to her track teammate to hand over the baton. By the third lap of the 4×400 relay, the University College Cork women’s team was fifth and almost a quarter of a lap behind the leader.
So when Healy grabbed the baton, she started off at a modest jog, not expecting to be able to catch the fastest runners from the other colleges, including one athlete who is bound for Rio de Janeiro this summer to represent Ireland in the 2016 Olympics.
But as Healy kept running she noticed that she began to gain ground on the head of the pack. She accelerated and hit a gear she didn’t think she had. After a half a lap she was still fifth, but not for long.
“With 130 meters to go I was like yeah, I’m feeling good they are not that far ahead of me, let’s get third place,” Healy told The Post.
The Irish announcers suddenly noticed Healy speeding by her competitors.
“UCC from the depths of hell are powering through,” an announcer said.
[‘Don’t quit’: How the Special Forces teach civilians about mental toughness and grit]
Then as Healy rounded the bend her stride lengthened and into the home stretch she felt her legs glide underneath her with ease. She noticed that she didn’t yet feel the familiar burn of the lactic acid in her muscles.
“I thought yeah I’m feeling really good I might as well kick,” Healy said. “I thought, Jeez, I can go a bit further.”
[For one World War II veteran, a day to give thanks for one more sunrise]
In the final straightaway Healy came in three-wide and zoomed past the other straggling runners. She raised her arms through the finish line, crossing barely a second ahead of respected Irish runner Michelle Finn. The announcers at the meet went wild, squealing with delight at Healy’s unlikely victory. Healy herself was surprised by the win and tripped just steps after the finish line, face-planting into the rubber track.
“AHHHHH! IT’S UNBELIEVABLE. THAT IS UNBELIEVABLE,” one of announcers yelled. “PHIL HEALY. WHAT. A. RUN.”