- How did you get into athletics ?
My real love as a kid was football – it’s all I ever wanted to be. But I always did ok in the sprints on the school sports day and the cross country events which the school organised. I only really got into running with some modicum of regularity when I could no longer play football. I played until I was nearly 40 and became the personification of a term I’d often hear my Dad use over the years to deride a slow footballer: “Milk would turn quicker than him!” That’s what I became so I reluctantly hung up my boots 10 years ago. I did two (grossly unprepared for) marathons with a friend from work in 2012 and 2013 which nearly killed both of us! We were lucky to cross the finishing line before it had been dismantled. I had a particularly difficult year personally in 2014 and then indirectly through Niall Lynch, who works a few floors above me in Agriculture House, I joined the Terry’s Group in the summer of 2015. Almost immediately I was bitten by the bug!
- Why do you run?
Primarily for my mental health. I love nothing more than, particularly on a long Sunday run, putting on the latest audio book or podcast I’m listening to. I also tend to almost inadvertently stumble across solutions to work or life issues that have been on my mind while running. It’s a form of meditation for me and TT Racers has been an absolute gift to me in that respect entering my life as it did at a time when I was desperately in need of such an outlet. For the first couple of years with the group I got great highs from the improvements I made but it’s always been just about the pure enjoyment I get from running and being part of the group.
- Did you try different events or were you always a distance runner ?
As I said earlier I was footballer who dreaded those long runs you would have to do as part of pre-season training. I was set to go on trial to West Ham at Easter 1990 but it clashed with my mock leaving cert and my Dad stepped in and said “no way”. The West Ham scout said he would send me that summer but I never heard from him again. I played at under 18 level for Ireland that same year and junior/amateur level a couple of years later. So I’ve four international caps at home of which I’m very proud. I signed for Shamrock Rovers at aged 18 and played 5 times for the first team the highlight being marking Frank Stapleton in a pre-season game against Blackburn Rovers in 1990 in Dalymount Park. The football fans out there will recognise some of their players that day: Terry Gennoe, Mike Duxbury, Howard Gayle, David May, Scott Sellars and Jason Wilcox. I got the proverbial boot from Rovers after just one year after a major falling out with the then manager and knocked around League of Ireland for the next couple of years playing for short spells for Bohemians, Bray Wanderers and St. James’s Gate. I eventually went back playing junior football with local teams. I won a couple of league medals over the years but the highlight was a Leinster Junior Cup winners medal in 1997 (I’m “one up” on Tom Lupton with that one!)
- Can you give a brief synopsis of your running career to date ?
It’s not too much of a career! I did my first marathon in 2012 and have now done eight including Rotterdam in 2017. The difference between the 2012 and 2017 DCM was two hours: proof positive that without following a proper programme and getting the excellent advice I did from Terry and the likes of Elaine Caul and Charlie Cruise, marathons were going to continue to be an exceedingly unpleasant experience for me. From 2015 onwards I’ve done the BHAA cross country races which I’ve really enjoyed and re connected with some great old friends through local Parkruns.
- What would you consider to be your main highlight ?
Even though it’s not my best time my most enjoyable experience was DCM in 2015. I had only started running around June that year and followed the programme and loved getting down to Trinity at lunchtime every Tuesday and Thursday. The elite guys among the group would be right to have a giggle but I ran 4.22 that day. But after the experience of the previous year I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a sense of joy and a genuine outpouring of emotion as when I crossed the line from any sporting activity in my lifetime. I had knocked an hour and a half off my 2013 time but that really was secondary – it was a personal milestone on a road to recovery and a day I will never forget. I got under 3.50 a couple of times since but they genuinely don’t mean a much as that 2015 marathon.
- When did you hook up with TT Racers and what was the reason for doing so?
As I mentioned above it was 2015. A friend of mine in work (Des Connolly) who did the marathons with me in 2012 and 2013 had got talking to Niall Lynch one day about running. Niall told Des about Terry’s group and that Terry took runners of all levels. Des started going and then brought me along a few weeks later. Even though the dynamic is very different to what I was used to as a footballer I loved being part of the group from day one. Terry was so welcoming and went out of his way to say that he got as much enjoyment from the improvement of the sloggers like myself and Des as he did from the more elite runners. The reason initially was curiosity but once I saw the benefits and how I was improving time-wise that was a great motivator. Myself and Des (who was 61 at the time btw) formed a group with a few others at our level and we made some great friends along the way so I always looked forward to seeing those guys and noticing how we were improving as individuals.
- What would be in your eyes the main advantage of being part of TT Racers ?
Structure and discipline (self-discipline is not my strongest point!) Meeting people like Elaine Caul and Mags Macready who have become great friends.
- What’s the best running advice you’ve been given which has helped you to become a better runner?
My best times came when I stuck rigidly to training at my aerobic level and rigidly employing the 80/20 rule. I was also at my fittest and leanest when I followed the MAF Method having read about it in Chris McDougall’s brilliant book ‘Natural Born Heroes’.
- What’s your running ambition going forward?
I became a parent for first time in August. My wife Úna gave birth to our beautiful son Albie and it’s been all those things people said it would be; a truly amazing experience and I’m loving every minute of it. But when Albie starts school I’ll be approaching 55 years of age. So my only genuine ambition is to keep healthy and keep running for as long as I possibly can as Albie grows. PBs would be a nice bonus obviously and I try not to look too far ahead in life but sometimes when I’m daydreaming I think wouldn’t it be nice to be preparing for DCM in 2038 when Albie is celebrating his 18th birthday…
Best wishes to all!