- How did you get into athletics ?
Eight years ago, somebody dared me to take on the swim leg of a Half Ironman Relay even though I couldn’t swim. I trained hard every day for months and eventually managed to become a terrible swimmer. My main weakness was sinking. Despite this, I completed the event and managed not to drown. I enjoyed having a big challenge in my life to work towards but didn’t want to push my luck in the sea anymore so decided to attempt a marathon instead.
- Why do you run?
I run for adventure. To test myself doing challenges in mountains and on roads where the outcome is uncertain. To discover what my body and mind can do and to get away from the kids.
- Did you try different events or where you always a distance runner?
I vaguely remember being an ok sprinter in school but following a 25-year hiatus I now run marathons and ultras or whatever Terry tells me to do.
- Can you give a brief synopsis of your running career to date?
I completed my first marathon in a time of 3hr34 in Cork 2013 and did the Dublin Marathon in the same year. Having gone from playing a round of golf and a game of five-a-side football each week to completing two marathons in a year I believed I had become the fittest person in the world.
One day, I agreed to join my pal, Sean Mason and some of his friends, for a “hill run”. I’d never heard of such a thing. I mean how could a person simply “run” a “hill”? Ridiculous. But if anyone could, the fittest person in the world could, so I gave it a go. Half an hour into the run I discovered that I hadn’t even been the fittest person in the car. I remember watching the others disappear off into the distance and cursing them as I found myself alone on the side of the mountain in a crumpled mess, hands planted on my knees, lungs heaving for air. Even so, a love affair with mountain running was born.
I continued to do a marathon or two each year over the next few years, slowly getting closer to the magic sub 3 hour mark, but mainly focused on mountain ultras during that time.
After completing the two-day Stone Mad Ultra in 2014, I did the 127km Lavaredo Ultra Trail race in 2015 and the Eiger Ultra Trail in 2016. Later that year, I had my first podium finish when I came 3rd at the 200km Kerry Way Ultra in a time of 29 hours. I won Don Hannon’s Wicklow Way 100 miler in 2017 and completed the famous 100mile UTMB in 43 hours in 2018.
Last year, I concentrated on marathons and shorter hill racing. I was crushed when I missed out on sub 3 hours in Rotterdam by 18 miserable bloody seconds. I began to have serious doubts that I’d ever get a sub 3, but knuckled down with my awesome training partner, Tim Murray, over the summer and completed Dublin in 2hr56. What a thrill.
- What would you consider to be your main highlight?
It would have to be either completing the Wicklow Round in 2018 with my pal, Warren Swords, which involved us navigating 26 summits covering 100km in under 24 hours or my sub3 hour Marathon in Dublin in 2019.
Both involved years of hard work and failed attempts. Sophie’s Choice; too difficult to decide. To be among only 30 people to complete the Round is very special but the marathon is probably the bigger monkey off my back.
- When did you hook up with TTracers and what was the reason for doing so?
Sometime around 2014, my good buddy and great running nemesis, Rob Costello, invited me to join TTracers probably because he wanted to have someone slower than him at the training sessions.
I appreciated him bringing me in because while I built lots of endurance in the hills, I needed a more structured approach to build speed which TTracers provided.
- what would be in your eyes the main advantage of being part of TTracers ?
I get a big buzz from the culture of the group. There’s a warm and friendly vibe and I find that people take a genuine interest in what others are working towards. It’s not at all ‘cliquey’ and it’s easy to find someone sound to train with which makes a potentially grim marathon training cycle a joy. I also like that the group attracts so many brilliant women which prevents things from getting too ‘blokey’ which can happen at some clubs. The weekly reports and post workout coffee and chats really foster camaraderie. Love it.
The main advantage for me is that Terry is a straight-talker with a better sense of what I’m capable of achieving than I sometimes do myself and he has his ways to help me realise that potential. I find it invaluable to have someone like that in my corner.
- What’s the best running advice you’ve been given which has helped you to become a better runner?
My ultra-running mentor is a legendary running warrior from Wicklow town, named Barry Thornton. He helped me get my head around the concept of ultra-running. I was genuinely terrified by the prospect of stepping-up from events that lasted eight or nine hours to the Lavaredo Ultra Trail which would take me over 20 hours to complete. Before the race, I asked Barry for advice on how I could keep going when I didn’t think I could any longer and he said, ‘accept you are going to fail, but not this mile’.
I wrote these words into my running journal and they’ve served me well over the years. When taking on a big challenge I remind myself that there can be no real achievement without the possibility of failure. This helps me to embrace the fight.
- What’s your running ambition going forward?