It also underlined his steely determination as a distance runner. It wasn’t the first time the 31-year-old had questioned his future in the sport, and probably not the last, and there’s a message in there for anyone chasing such lofty ambitions or goals.
“I swear to God, after the race in Doha, I wanted to quit, wanted to retire, and cried, I was so disappointed,” he admitted, in part because he believed he’d given himself every chance of running well even in the searing heat of Qatar.
“Everything over the three weeks after that was about turning it from sadness to anger to putting it all out here, and thankfully it all worked out so well.”
Everyone had the same 26.2 miles to run and promises to keep, only on a day sent straight from distance-running heaven Scullion’s run was the highlight of the race. He might well have won outright had the organisers realised that winner, Othmane El Gourmi from Morocco, was lining up just nine months after returning to the sport following a two-year doping ban.
Had they known when they received his race entry via his agent, they insist they would not have invited him. On the day, El Gourmi clocked the fastest marathon ever run in this country, his 2:08:06 almost half a minute quicker than the Dublin course record, set in 2011.
Never shy to speak his mind, Scullion still declared himself a ‘winner’, which on several levels, he was: as first Irish finisher he also earned his first National Marathon title, his 2:12:01 also improving his previous best of 2:14:34, set in Houston in January.
“Arguably I might have won the thing if he wasn’t here,” he said. “But look, I feel like a winner inside, that’s a victory for me. I’ve always taken a stance that drug cheats can do whatever they want, I can’t control it. What else can I do. Not stand on the medal podium? Not buy into it?
“I want to enjoy my moment, and in six- or nine-months’ time if he gets done for another doping violation, then I’m the champ. If the crowd want to believe I’m the champ, let them say. And when the room goes dark at night, I go to bed content knowing I’m clean.”
Four Irish men all made the top 10: Mick Clohisey, defending Irish champion, sixth in a best of 2:13:19; Hugh Armstrong, eighth in his best 2:14:22; and Sean Hehir, 10th in 2:16:01.
For Scullion, his win was rewarding in other ways too, especially given just under three years ago he was still smoking, well over his natural running weight, and by his own frank admission getting drunk almost every weekend, either on the couch, or ending up there. He trained himself in web development to help fund his comeback, works about 15 hours a week, and is now intent on fulfilling his Olympic ambitions.
“I was so fit, knew I was ready to go well. I’ll get a lot of points as well, towards Tokyo, so that’s good. And I just love racing and finishing as well. The hardest part was not getting involved until mile 16. On my left arm I wrote ‘ego’, which means don’t race people too early, then ‘hills’, for obvious reasons, then ‘patience’.
“That was for the first 20 miles, then I wrote ‘animal’ on the right arm, for the last six miles. I got into around fourth place, at mile 22, saw Mick just ahead of me, and I just kept pounding, pounding. At 24 miles I said ‘f***’ the heart rate, just race. And I loved it. Irish people have something the rest of the world doesn’t, this warrior spirit.” With Patrick Monahan also securing another wheelchair title in 1:39:50, Dublin Marathon number 40 gave us plenty to cheer about.