Brian Fay: The Journey of a Late Bloomer Turned Record-Breaking Olympian

July 01, 2024

By Phil Knox

Discovering Running in North Dublin & Schoolboy Promise

Brian Fay's journey into the world of athletics began later than most of his peers. Unlike many Irish senior track and field athletes who started training from a young age, Brian's introduction to competitive running came during his teenage years. Growing up in North Dublin as one of quadruplets, Brian initially struggled with contact sports due to his small stature, which led him to explore other athletic avenues.

It wasn't until Brian was around 13 or 14 that his interest in running began to take root. Initially resistant to cross-country races at school, Brian recalled being consistently in the middle of the pack and struggling to keep up. However, encouragement from his coach, Ronan Duggan, helped him gain confidence.

Brian's dedication paid off when he claimed his first major victory at the Irish Schools T&F Championships in the Senior Boys' 2000m Steeplechase in June 2017. Less than a month later, he secured another win in the 3000m Steeplechase at the National Junior & U23 T&F Championships, both held in Tullamore.

Brian's decision to join Raheny Shamrocks Athletics Club further accelerated his development as a distance runner. Competing under the club's banner, Brian continued to excel, breaking the sub-4-minute mile barrier at the age of 19, becoming the youngest Irishman to achieve such a feat.

DCU & US Collegiate Success

Transitioning to Dublin City University (DCU) under the coaching of Feidhlim Kelly, Brian's athletic career continued to flourish. He dominated university competitions, securing victories in events like the University Track & Field Championships and contributing to DCU's success in the University Road Relay Championships in both 2018 and 2019.

Brian's journey took an international turn when he earned a scholarship to the University of Washington, Seattle. Under the guidance of coach Andy Powell, Brian excelled, becoming a pivotal member of the Huskies' track and field team. His collegiate achievements included leading the Huskies in cross-country and securing top finishes at the Pac-12 Championships and NCAA Championships.

One of Brian Fay’s most memorable moments at the University of Washington came during the Bryan Clay Invitational in April 2022. In a jaw-dropping 5,000m race, Fay was trailing by over 30 metres on the final lap. With a remarkable burst of speed, he surged past the leader in the closing stages, clinching the win in 13:16.52 – the sixth-fastest time in NCAA history. Announcers and spectators were left utterly gobsmacked by his extraordinary comeback. Outside of university,Fay then made his debut at the 2022 European Athletics Championships, competing in the 5000m event.

Return to Ireland, Professionalism & a Record Breaking Night in Belgium

Upon graduating from the University of Washington, Brian returned to Ireland and signed with Nike, with a professional marking a significant milestone in his athletics career. His dedication and rigorous training regimen, which includes running over 100 miles per week and intensive track sessions, are a testament to his will to improve.

However, it was not long until he achieved watershed moment in his career happened. In July 2023, at the KBC Nacht meeting in Heusden, Belgium, he broke the Irish National Record for the 5000m, clocking 13:01.40—two seconds faster than the previous record held by Alistair Cragg since 2011.

Fay's performance in this race not only set a new national record but also met the 13:05 qualifying standard for both the 2023 World Championships in Budapest less than a month later and the 2024 Paris Olympics. Fay is quoted as calling it “the race of my life.” At the 2023 Worlds, Fay competed in the 5000m event and ran 13:42, though he did not advance to the final.

2024: The Olympic Year

In March 2024, Brian Fay solidified his position in Irish athletics history by achieving second place on the Irish all-time list for the 10,000m. Competing at The Ten in California, Fay posted an impressive time of 27:43.45. While aiming to break Alistair Cragg’s Irish record of 27:39.55, Fay fell just short but still achieved a personal best by 38 seconds and met the qualifying standard for the upcoming European Championships in June.

The European Athletics Championships in Rome in June came around quickly, with Fay competing in two events. He finished 14th in the 5000 meters with a time of 13:29.48 and 20th in the 10,000 meters with a time of 28:40.53. These performances, though challenging, gave Brian invaluable experience as he prepares for the upcoming Olympics.

He followed this up by comfortably winning the Irish 5000m title in Santry at the end of June, adding a second national title to his repertoire.


Brian Fay's journey from a late bloomer in athletics to a record-breaking Olympian is nothing short of exceptional. From being a reluctant secondary school runner in his teens to a dominant force on the international track, his story is a testament to his drive and perseverance.

As he prepares for the ultimate stage at the Paris Olympics in July 2024, Brian's path has been marked by unforgettable moments—like his jaw-dropping comeback at the Bryan Clay Invitational and his record-breaking night in Belgium, where he shattered the Irish National Record in the 5000m. With each stride, Brian’s story continues to redefine what's possible.

We wish him every success in Paris.

Related News