15 January 2023

Tom Kelly 8K, Ardfert 2023 - RESULTS

Time Bib Name Club
1 00:27:55 351 Derek Griffin                                 1st Male
2 00:29:08 356 Tim Long                 An Ríocht AC 2nd Male
3 00:30:05 200 Peter McGovern                         3rd Male 
4 00:30:07 551 Robert Purcell      Gneeveguilla AC Over 55 Male
5 00:30:49 502 Garóid Pierse             Spá Fenit Barrow AC Over 50 Male
6 00:31:05 517 Breda Gaffney     Mallow AC 1st Female (New Course Record)
7 00:31:15 466 Dermot Dineen     Farranfore MV AC Over 45 Male
8 00:31:44 562 David Kennedy
9 00:31:45 416 Dan Dalton                                         Over 40 Male
10 00:31:48 100 Lachlan O'Shea                                 Junior 1st Boy
11 00:32:07 362 Peter Jackson      St. Brendan's AC Over 35 M/1st St Brendan's AC M
12 00:32:16 460 Moises Olalde      St. Brendan's AC 2nd St Brendan's AC M
13 00:32:20 605 Niamh O'Sullivan     An Ríocht AC 2nd female
14 00:32:27 501 John Culloty             St. Brendan's AC 3rd St Brendan's AC M
15 00:32:31 557 Larry Hickey             An Ríocht AC
16 00:32:35 217 Brandon Conway
17 00:32:45 405 Siobhán Daly             An Ríocht AC Third female
18 00:32:46 358 Stephen Falvey     MG Coaching
19 00:32:54 508 Gerard Cremins     MG Coaching
20 00:33:03 455 Rory Prendergast
21 00:33:08 554 Raymond Smith     Kenmare AC
22 00:33:16 519 Garreth Scollard     St.Pats GAA
23 00:33:42 515 Alan Mulgrew             Tralee Harriers AC
24 00:33:49 103 Zach Walshe             St. Brendan's AC Junior Boy 2nd
25 00:33:55 406 Brian Barry
26 00:34:25 450 Darren O'Sullivan     MG Coaching
27 00:34:28 105 Rian Kenny O'Sullivan St. Brendan's AC Junior Boy 3rd
28 00:34:42 220 Ciara Tierney             An Ríocht AC
29 00:34:48 423 Jer Kelly
30 00:34:52 503 Stephen Griffin     Star of the Laune AC
31 00:35:26 104 Aaron Horgan          St. Brendan's AC Junior
32 00:36:04 465 Pádraig Regan          St. Brendan's AC
33 00:36:23 511 D J O'Sullivan          Killarney Valley AC
34 00:36:38 208 David Fahey
35 00:36:48 413 Mary Reynolds     An Riocht 040 Female
36 00:36:54 221 Paud Costelloe
37 00:37:17 215 Martin Scannell
38 00:37:36 653 Michael Mangan     Star of the Laune AC 065 Male
39 00:37:42 500 Gerard Carroll       St. Brendan's AC
40 00:37:46 516 Vivian Juffs             Star of the Laune AC 050 Female
41 00:37:54 415 Siobhán Healy
42 00:38:00 561 Liz Heaslip             An Ríocht AC 055 Female
43 00:38:02 652 Willie O'Riordan     St. Brendan's AC
44 00:38:08 363 Cheryl Carmody     Gneeveguilla AC 035 Female
45 00:38:23 504 Jean Costello                                         
46 00:38:33 552 Den McCarthy     Tralee Triathlon Club
47 00:38:52 560 Martin Moore             Born to Run
48 00:38:53 411 Kenneth Leen       St. Brendan's AC
49 00:38:56 206 David Fitzgerald
50 00:38:57 216 Áine Quane
51 00:39:11 207 Alan Kelly
52 00:39:13 355 Ken O'Connell
53 00:39:19 422 Ivan Segade Carou St. Brendan's AC VI O40 Award - 1st
54 00:39:19 457 Ursula Barrett         St. Brendan's AC 045 F 1st/1st St Brendan's AC F
55 00:39:25 211 Kevin Burke
56 00:39:31 210 Kieran Fitzgerald
57 00:39:37 453 Patricia Corbett     Star of the Laune AC
58 00:39:38 458 Anna Foley             Star of the Laune AC
59 00:39:38 361 John O'Mahoney
60 00:39:51 509 Francis Maunsell
61 00:39:53 426 Fozzie Forristal     Listowel Crusaders
62 00:39:54 110 Aidan Forristal Junior
63 00:40:28 555 Maggie Carlin          St. Brendan's AC 2nd St Brendan's AC Female
64 00:40:52 108 Charlie Perkins
65 00:41:07 512 Con Mulcahy
66 00:41:10 418 Marie O'Carroll
67 00:41:19 608 Pat Murphy             Castleisland AC Race Walker - 1st
68 00:41:32 410 James Pierse             St. Brendan's AC
69 00:41:51 510 John Corridon
70 00:41:56 419 Paul Doogan
71 00:41:58 651 James O'Dowd     St. Brendan's AC
72 00:42:02 600 Eilín Loibhéad                                         060 Female
73 00:42:28 550 James Lee             St. Brendan's AC
74 00:42:43 205 Dylan O'Sullivan
75 00:42:43 366 Shane Griffin
76 00:43:08 464 Suzanne Foley
77 00:43:26 407 Ross McAuliffe
78 00:43:45 202 Keith O'Carroll
79 00:43:54 209 Áine Gallagher
80 00:44:03 365 Chris O'Connor
81 00:44:07 461 Maggie Stack
82 00:44:27 459 Valerie Harnett
83 00:44:32 402 Micheal Reidy     Tralee parkrun
84 00:44:59 454 Declan Sheehan     Listowel parkrun
85 00:44:59 607 John Godley                                                 060 Male
86 00:45:07 201 Timmy O'Connell
87 00:45:11 368 Mary Brick
88 00:45:45 408 Maeve Ryan             Kerry Sports Partnership
89 00:46:07 359 Janet Slye
90 00:46:07 463 Breda Mulvihill
91 00:46:44 417 Sínead Kelliher     Tralee Triathlon Club
92 00:46:44 518 Ger Grady
93 00:46:57 222 Emma Chestnut
94 00:47:36 424 Fidelma Corridon
95 00:47:47 421 Helena Clifford
96 00:47:50 352 Danny Neenan
97 00:47:52 427 Rachel Glendon
98 00:47:55 350 Ross Gallagher VI O35 Award - 1st
99 00:47:56 Anna Falvey             MG Coaching VI Guide
100 00:47:57 468 Noel Clifford             Ardfert GAA
101 00:47:58 107 Caragh Kenny O'Sullivan St. Brendan's AC 1st Junior girl/3rd St Brendan's AC F
102 00:48:01 106 Caoilinn Kenny O'Sullivan St. Brendan's AC 2nd Junior girl
103 00:48:53 224 Amy Jordon
104 00:49:13 425 Jennifer Kislosky
105 00:49:13 469 Sandra Kelly
106 00:49:25 601 Gerard O'Connell
107 00:50:26 456 Caroline O'Mahoney MG Coaching
108 00:50:28 471 Micheal Regan
109 00:50:29 360 Maurice Murphy
110 00:52:51 403 Jonathan Keane
111 00:53:49 470 Anthony Griffin
112 00:53:50 364 Damien Kelly
113 00:54:51 367 Siobhán Griffin
114 00:55:07 354 Tom Dillon             Born to Run
115 00:55:08 357 Kevin Maguire
116 00:55:59 213 Michael Mulrennan
117 00:56:30 218 Sheena Sinashiller
118 00:56:31 214 Stephanie Nix
119 00:58:22 420 Antonia Pierse
120 00:58:23 467 Doreen Moore             MG Coaching
121 00:58:23 513 Linda Pierse
122 00:59:40 606 Agnes Godley             Tralee parkrun
123 01:00:21 462 Noreen Lovett
124 01:00:25 400 Gerard Daly                     Wheelchair user - 1st 
125 01:04:22 219 Lois Gioliu
126 01:05:24 556 Lillie O'Sullivan
127 01:05:25 602 Breda Curran
128 01:05:25 604 Margaret Slattery
129 01:05:26 603 Joan Harmon
130 01:13:51 109 Gráinne Carroll                         Junior girl - 3rd
131 01:13:52 Regan Family
132 01:13:53 Regan Family
133 01:13:53 609 Paddy O'Connor
134 01:17:39 563 Mary O'Connor
135 01:17:41 558 Mary Fitzgerald
136 01:18:07 610 Michael Ashe
137 01:18:08 559 Eamonn Fitzgerald
138 01:18:08
139 01:23:59 650 Josephine Delaney                         065 Female
140 01:24:00 353 Jacinta O'Dowd

More photos on St.Brendan's AC Facebook page HERE.

08 January 2023

A Walk in the ARC By David Kissane

 Walking Into 2023

My diary tells me that I did the 5.7K circuit of Tubrid on January 1st, 2022 to kickstart the new year. It was also noted that it was nice and slow (the type preferred) and that there was a stop to chat with John Kelly near Tubrid Cross. No doubt the subject of the upcoming first Tom Kelly 8K was the leading topic of conversation.
Now almost a year later, the second Tom Kelly 8K on Sunday, January 15th will be the topic when John Kelly is encountered again. Before that, the year of 2023 will have to be kickstarted again and the Charles O’Shea Memorial in Beaufort has been chosen. A powerful man to celebrate and a promoting Star of the Laune Athletic Club to admire. My humble time won’t do justice to either but there’s nothing like the air in Beaufort with the breeze from the McGillicuddy Reeks reminding the body and mind that the old year has to be let go and that the new one has to be embraced despite the birth-pains in brings.
A raggle-taggle month of January training which included 3K walk time trials, hills in Banna’s sand dunes and parkruns in Tralee and the Cows’ Lawn in Listowel. (It may be the Town Park to the modern generation but it will always be “cowsy” – with that hill – for me.) All brought the oul legs to the fantastic TUS Arena in Athlone on Sunday, January 30th for the Athletics Ireland national masters’ indoor championships. Up at 6am in the unrelenting January pre-dawn and flask filled and off into the promising darkness. A stretch on the way and then Athlone. What a stadium! There’s a magic in TUS that cannot be properly described in simple words. It has to be experienced. The three-hour drive is well worth the effort. A time of 21:03 in the 3K walk left me in the wake of the good walkers but glad of the O65 gold while a 4th place in the 200m gave almost as much satisfaction as an effort was made to get the bronze. Unsuccessfully. But the 200m is like flying without wings at our age and the race was won by my old housemate from our UCC days, Peadar McGing (DSD).
The following day was a sad day for athletics as Tom Joe O’Donoghue (Gneeveguilla AC) was laid to rest. His voice had become the soundtrack of Sunday evenings as we returned from athletics meetings: “This is Tom O’Donoghue for Radio Kerry Sport”.
Gone before us but not forgotten.
Training Upped
Then training needed to be upped and the 8.32K circuit of Banna-Barrow-Carrahane became a morning thing, complete with biting north east winds, soft sand and the flooded bóithrín. Ideal! And then off at 6.30am to the Munster masters’ indoors on Saturday, February 5th. Assisted with the club’s juvenile athletes who were in action early and then off in the 3K walk in the evening. Just a fraction faster than the All Ireland despite what I thought was a bigger input but sure what does time matter anyway. A lot! The first yellow paddle of the year didn’t help. Thought about that later as I climbed the hill in Lisselton to feed animals at 8pm that evening. Then the same journey the next day for day two and a bronze in the shot (always an enjoyable event) and a win in the 200m which was enjoyed. Little things make a difference! Thirty six seconds of heaven although Séamus Fox of Fanahan McSweeney AC was hot on my heels. The most unusual block start that only yours truly uses…right foot only on the block and left leg free as a bird. Othwerwise I would shoot straight into the ground on take-off! A curious feature of the race was that the O65s and O70s were grouped together and I was ahead of Donal Crowley (Tralee Harriers AC) for the first time in my life. Donal has been a better athlete than I will ever be though and is an inspiration to all athletes.
A good week’s training followed, complimented by a few hours cutting wood with a chainsaw – great for upper-body strength but lethal for the meta-carpals of the supporting hand. And as the weeks went on, I noticed that walking in the Ardfert Recreation Centre was becoming more frequent. I was drawn to the two options that the new facility gave…a nice bendy short 350m perimeter lap of the Astro pitch where we trained the juveniles or the 650m lap of the Astro and the grass Gaelic pitch combined…all with lights which made night training attractive.
The ARC…one of the best things to have happened in the Ardfert region for years. Well done to all who created and manage it.
British Masters Indoors
And soon it was March 3rd and a Thursday afternoon plane to London for the Saturday 3K walk in the British masters’ indoor championships. Fine arena in Lee Valley in north east London. The taxi-driver had never heard of masters’ athletics and thought I was joking when I told him my age and my intended walk event. I thought at one stage that I would have to persuade him that I had not escaped from a facility! He became so interested in the story of masters athletics that he got lost and ended up having to back away on a one-way street.
Collected my number when we eventually got to the stadium. Impressive and hot inside. Asked for pins only to be told by a gentleman in a blazer that it was my duty to bring my own pins. The point was made. Enjoyed the 15 heats of the 200m and the buzz all round. Support arrived just before the race in the persons of my nephew and his son and then faced the starter. A belt of an elbow (by accident) in the solar plexis by a fellow competitor as the gun went off helped to put a bit of fire in my belly. Too much fire as I looked at my watch after two laps and found I was way ahead of my usual average time. Too early for that pace so recalibrated and had reasonable energy for the last two hectic laps. A time of 20:42 and the gold brought me nearer to breaking the 20 minute barrier.
The first walking race abroad completed and thanks to Jim O’Shea and Mike O’Connor (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) for the advice in advance.
The sandy runs continued in Banna, adding murdering hills in the Gallán near Kilmoyley, 200m repeats in An Ríocht track and 10K runs from the Aqua Dome in Tralee with the flying St Brendan’s AC colleagues led by Ursula Barrett. We were joined by the Couch to 5K runners with Cathy Flynn showing them the ropes of running.
Long Evenings in the ARC
April made its magic appearance and so did a group of walkers in the ARC. The longer evenings just draw you out as they did in stone-age times and the energy just flows. And the thunder rolls! The aim was to get to the start line in the Munster walks and the second aim was to get to the finish line. Simple. No. Walking can be a minefield for the runner-converted-to-walker. That leading leg straight knee can be a right hoor to master, not to mention the right-angled/cross body arm movement, and that hip-wriggle…most difficult for men. The open shoulders and the head-on-the horizon take a while.
Of the five St Brendan’s walkers who gathered in the ARC last April, three were new to championship walking, while we were joined by Con Dennehy from An Ríocht AC who was taking up the discipline for the first time also.
Sunday May 24th saw three St Brendan’s AC athletes take to the tartan for the county 3K championship walk, thanks to Kerry Athletics for putting the event on the masters’ programme. Vital experience gained and good to see Willie Reidy (An Ríocht AC) take on the distance also.
And then a hot day in MTU Cork saw five St Brendan’s AC athletes compete in the masters’ walks with first time Munster masters’ medals collected by Moira Horgan, Serena Griffin, Tina O’Connell and Denis Foley. Con Dennehy (An Ríocht AC) got his first Munster walk medal also. Got to the start line and reached the finish line without disqualification. Job done and a good day in the 2022 summer sun.
The Walkers
Serena Griffin is the natural walker in the St Brendan’s AC walking group. She started at a young age with the club and won a Munster medal. Had coaching advice from international Olive Loughnane and had the benefit of having Joseph O’Halloran as a training partner. Twenty four years ago Serena benefited from the Community Games which kept walking alive at a time when it might have vanished from the face of Kerry athletics.
She hit the headlines early in her career when she won a silver medal in the Munster indoor championships in Nenagh in April 1999. The same day her clubmate Joseph O’Halloran won the gold in the U16 walk, breaking the record by 51 seconds while Melissa Costello won a silver in the U15 1500m and her sister Ann Marie did a silver run in the U18 1500m and Karen Best was 4th in the U15 shot. Clounalour AC was another club to promote walking in these years and Cathal Moriarty and Eimear Moriarty along with David Kearney were in the medals in Nenagh that day. Serena was in good company that year and later finished 6th in the national walk championships at her first attempt. As an example to all walkers, a certain Gillian O’Sullivan of FFMV walked 47:06 for the 10K in the Manz International to qualify for the world championships in Portugal.
Serena started and finished with the gold in her category in Cork in the Munster masters’ championship 3K. Her return to walking had begun.
Denis Foley took up walking in 2022 but has been running for quite a number of years. Background fitness level sound so all that was required was the straight leading leg and a few more bits and pieces. His Irish dancing experience came to vogue as he had no problem keeping square shoulders and head on the horizon.
His Munster walk medal came 31 years after he had won a Munster hurling medal with Causeway Comprehensive at U15 level in the Vocational Schools final, beating Borrisokane VS in that provincial decider. That was in 1991 when the team went on to reach the All Ireland VS final, leading Gort Community College all the way. Almost. Heartbreakingly pipped in the last minutes. So close. But Denis has now assumed a compelling passion for the racewalk, gaining nuggets of confidence all the time, as Robert Heffernan described gradual development during this super summer of success for Irish international athletes.
Moira Horgan has twenty six marathons ticked off in her career. Moira and a small group of colleagues launched the Born To Run Tralee Marathon Club in 2014. Then there was the amazing experience of running the New York Marathon in 2016 where she ran 4:59. She is a key figure in the Tralee adult and junior parkruns as volunteer and participant and she has graced parkruns all over Ireland and beyond.
But Moira claims that one of her career highlights happened in the walk in 2022 when she won the gold medal in her category in sun-drenched Tullamore Stadium in the Athletics Ireland national masters’ championships. Her smile said it all. Now she recalls the occasion with huge satisfaction as she carries out her busy roles as St Brendan’s AC club secretary, PRO and assistant registrar.
Tina O’Connell of O’Connell’s Village Kitchen in Causeway is a brand new walker. The Causeway woman returned from Australia in 2006 after spending six years there. She had run a few 5Ks and 10Ks in Brisbane for fun. Back in Kerry, she worked in insurance for a while but the business streak was strong in her and soon she was selling breads and tarts over her father’s butcher’s counter. Occasion cakes are a speciality. When her father retired, she expanded the business and now supplies shops, restaurants and hotels all over North Kerry. Club treasurer Irene Butler asked to go for a walk one evening and before Tina knew what was happening, she was a race-walker! A sweet walker, ice cool, the cream of walkers, makes mince of the opposition…she’s probably heard all the quips by now connecting her walking with her baking. She has a Gillian O’Sullivan power-style and the best is yet to come for the tenacious Causeway baker. “The machinery of grace is always simple” says poet Michael Donaghy.
Con Dennehy of an Ríocht AC made a return to active athletics in 2022 after a number of years writing about sport. His outstanding athletics moments had come with a bronze medal with the Kerry team in the 1973 All Ireland cross country championships. He had medalled in the Kerry novice and intermediate championships the same year and had an East Munster Colleges steeplechase medal from 1972. Along with this, years of official service at club and county board level and an ongoing compilation of a history of Kerry athletics brought him to the comeback in 2022, when he was attracted to the walk. A message there to all who want to continue their athletics career if sprinting and distance are no longer an option.
Summer 2022 Marches On
For myself, it was off to Derby a few weeks later for the British masters’ track and field championships on June 11th. Nice stadium if a little hidden away from the main road! Jim O’Shea was there early and collected his three medals over the weekend. Masters O65 walk called then and off we went. Couldn’t seem to get a decent rhythm going early on and was trying out a new style of walking…the “Serena Griffin bounce” style which John Laste from Tipperary has mastered over the past few years. A bit difficult to master as you try to bounce off the leading leg. Danger is that both feet could leave the ground together. And that happened me midway through the race and got a yellow paddle for lifting. Knocked the wind out of my sails and had to slow down but what an honour to be paddled for lifting both feet off the ground at once at the age I’m at! “We are prisoners in a world of mystery” indeed as Bob Dylan once sang. Went on to finish second overall and celebrated that night in Chesterfield up the road with my nephew Jim and his family.
A six-week pre-All Ireland masters training block by the walking group sharpened up the bodies and all looked forward with confidence to the first All Ireland masters for all except one. Summer evenings in the ARC and a circularity developing and energy flowing and bursting lungs and bodies fusing with minds and Serena praying for the coach!
Then with a few weeks to go, a bit of bad luck struck two of us. Tina O’Connell injured her back lifting a bag of flour – as bakers do – and although she tried to ignore it, it wasn’t going away. She was out of the chance to win her first All Ireland medal at a time when she was flying in training. I attended the Kerry V Dublin semi-final in a sunny Croke Park on what was a good weekend – except wearing a polo shirt in a draught in the Davin Stand left the chest in trouble for a month. Hadn’t got a flu for three years and had avoided the Covid and felt invincible until this. Like training with a 20% lung capacity after cough bottle and tablets had failed. Wore a few layers when watching Kerry overcome Galway in the All Ireland two weeks later but avoided the draught this time. Was kept motoring by the group dynamic and fought the war all the way to the nationals in Tullamore. I would be well until I was not. Training is always a revelation, never a disappointment. Be ready for the revelation.
Glorious Sunny Tullamore
What a glorious day it was in Tullamore on Saturday, August 13th. Forever would never be long enough for days like these. Up at 5.40am and in Tullamore to find the rest of the team had arrived already. The heat from the tartan was severe but it’s not good to complain about the summer sun. The result was three gold and one silver for the St Brendan’s AC group while training partner Con Dennehy got a silver. No DQs and all elated. Good judging and managing by Athletics Ireland and overall it was an occasion we will never forget. “Here is a small miracle and I am walking away” said poet Tracey Herd. Mike O’Connor (FFMV) and Pat Murphy (Castleisland WC) flying as usual way, ahead of us in the walks. Kerry as usual got a bucketful of medals in a variety of events with clubmate Ursula Barrett medalling with an excellent long jump. Much later in the afternoon and away in the outside arena, another medal came to the author in the O65 discus. For some reason the usual one and a half turns turned against me, and had to revert to a standing throw to clinch the bronze medal late on. The ageless Patsy O’Connor (Tralee Harriers AC) won the event, as he usually does with a superb throw that was heading for the plains of Kildare from Tullamore. “I come of Kerry clay and rock” said Brendan Kennelly.
Back to earth the following Sunday morning collecting bales of hay high over North Kerry.
Ideal warm down!
Then into training for the Dublin Marathon in October and the walking experience came to the aid of tiring legs on the day and the story of that marathon has yet to be written. The handy amount of training done carried the body through the Kerry cross country championships and helped to arrive at the national masters 10K walk in St Anne’s Park on Sunday, Dec 18th. The last walk of 2022. Hibernation how are you!
We are no Olympians - and never will be - but we are part of the hidden Ireland of athletics. And we love it.
If most clubs in Kerry encouraged two or three masters to take up the walk for 2023, there would be around thirty competing in the Kerry Athletics county championships next summer. If most clubs in Ireland encouraged two or three masters to take up the discipline…what a sight that would be! Remember something good happens every day.
There will be prizes for walkers in the Tom Kelly 8K in Ardfert on January 15th.
We can “turn and be walking again to hidden music, as if for the first time” to paraphrase London poet Freda Downie.
That could be a walking start for the new year of 2023.

18 December 2022

Tom Kelly 8K 2023 - INFO

Register HERE

St Brendan’s AC will host the Tom Kelly 8K on Sunday 15th January 2023 in memory of one of St Brendan’s AC founding members, Tom Kelly. This is the second year of this event.

Tom was coach and club dynamo for the first 10 years and inspired both adults and juveniles with his exemplary work. His work helped to make St Brendan’s AC the top club in Kerry for 10 years in a row. Tom passed away in 2020 and his family gratefully allowed this run to be promoted in his memory.

Start time 9.30am. Online Registrations.  

Cost is €17 for adults, €12 for participants aged 19 or under on the day of the event. 

Non athletics Ireland participants taking part in this permitted event will incur a €2 charge for a one day licence. This €2 charge is paid directly to Athletics Ireland. 

Medals for all participants. Walkers are also very welcome.

Start of the race is adjacent to Ardfert Cathedral in Ardfert Village. To compete in the 8k, participants have to be aged 15 or older on the day of the event as per Athletics Ireland guidelines. This is a permitted event.

30 October 2022

We Who Are About to Suffer, Salute You By David Kissane

“Well done on all the hard work” my wife says as I leave the house to head off to the Dublin Marathon on Friday.
“Ah, sure, I have a bit of training done anyway”, I says with great humility, sitting into my van.
“No, well done for all the work around the house you’re going to do next week!” she shoots “now that all the running will be over!”
Very funny she is. Sometimes.
After changing the oil in my van and WhatsApping club business (while under the van) and packing all known items of running gear (all neatly washed for me, I might add!,) off I drive past Tubrid Cross and stop to fill up with the diesel in Dillane’s in Abbeydorney. The owner is outside sweeping away the October leaves. A fair athlete himself and he quips “I think ye are mad taking on the 26 miles 385 yards” but adds “but I envy ye all”. I tell him that the nine of us from St Brendan’s AC will do our best and that I will act as sweeper at the back. Hoping to be back south of the Liffey before the gantry is taken down and the Sunday evening silence envelops the city.
As I head towards Lixnaw, I recall the uneasy road of 2022 to Dublin.
It could all have finished for me a few weeks ago.
It was the second week in October and no long runs had been done. I watched in awe as our colleagues in St Brendan’s rattled off the 25Ks and the 30Ks, and over, in single runs. All way ahead of my humble efforts. So I had to up my game. A run of 30K was planned for Ardfert Recreational Centre, a place we’ve grown to love over the year. The perimeter of the magnificent Astro pitch and the pristine grass pitch is around 650 metres. About 60 laps of it would put my marathon train back on the tracks and it would be full steam ahead.
Great place to train. Smooth concrete, no noise pollution, no traffic coming at you, level as a runway, clean as a whistle. “Fair play to you!” says John Kelly, a club founder member who loves walking in the ARC as I have lift off with water nearby on my van (another advantage of the ARC) and my Garmen is purring and the sun is shining and life is good. Earphones pumping “Wild Montana Skies” by John Denver on the Ronan Collins Show on RTE Radio 1 at 12 noon.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
No phone to bother the head and the total freedom of the run. Lengths of the pitches to use for fartleky dashes or closed-mouth-and-breathe-through-the-nose inserts or little Irish dancing steps to add variety for the legs.
I like to absorb the hinterland as I run. Ardfert Cathedral roof could be seen to the north west and the green and manicured undulations of Ardfert Pitch and Putt course were over the fence on the north side of the ARC. A cropped cornfield next door tells the story of a good summer and a rich harvest. The children in Ardfert National School had audibly been let out to play. Their energy flew across the houses to my ears. “Mankind made the school, but God made the schoolyard” said Walter Bagehot, he English social scientist. The energy that would drive the country ahead and secure the future of Ireland and the world. The undeniable energy of the school yard.
Then suddenly a flock of swallows landed on the top of the nets behind the goals in the GAA grass field. Twittering and excited and no doubt the last of the swallows to head off to the sunny climes of Spain and Africa. Their summer done in Ireland. A few took off and came back as if testing the flightpath. Then suddenly they all took off, except one lone swallow who resisted the urge to follow. The rest headed over Station Road
I used to give my Leaving Cert Irish students a homework scéal to do when I was teaching in Tarbert Comprehensive. “Bhí an lá ag dul ar aghaidh go hiontach go dti gur…” The day was flying until… and they were to create a plot and a title. Well, soon the title for me became “The day the music died” as I lost interest in the run after a mere fifteen laps, my legs seized up and the battery went in my radio. And in my heart.
Pointless, I decided. Making a fool of myself going to Dublin. As Mohammed Ali said once about an opponent, “I’m so bad I make medicine sick!”
I restarted, as I had never failed to finish a training session during the year. I tried to think like a coach and encourage myself to keep going as I have done with athletes over many years. I rehydrated and ate a few more grapes and tried to camouflage the pain and mental plonk with thoughts of how lucky I was to have good health and to be still alive at 69 years of age. After all, a brother and a sister didn’t live to be the age I am now. I though of others I could run for also. It worked for a while and I plodded on but then, full stop again! Back into the van and home and goodbye to the marathon. Too slow to keep up with my eight club colleagues who are in a different league. Mentally kicking myself in the backside and worse, admitting that I wouldn’t be physically able to do another marathon ever.
And I didn’t want to emulate the marathon-end of the first man to run a marathon. Poor old Pheidippides dropped dead after bringing news of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC! His last words were “Joy to you!” Fair play to him.
But the sun set and the sun rose and two days later I was back in action on the soft sand in Barrow. Plan? To give up on the long runs and do shorter, more intensive ones. Fartlek, soft sand, hills, twin runs some days, fast walks…not checking the Garmin too often. Survival mode. The culture of the effort is fundamental. Take the chance and you will never regret it. Arthur Lydiard, whose book Run To The Top Con Dennehy lent me recently, proposed that one should do a module of speedwork the week of the marathon.
That and more got me on the road to Dublin yesterday.
Autumn leaves dancing in Adare and russet trees getting russeter and streams of traffic coming against me on their way to a long weekend or mid-term break in Kerry. The Silvermines resplendent in the setting sun and then bacon and spuds in the Obama Plaza in Moneygall – great place – and soon autumnal Dublin wraps its arms around the mind. I love Dublin and always have done from All Irelands as a child with my father and later as a resident for eight years and from the early marathon days in the 1980s where I ran 3:12 in my second one. But I had trained for that, and oh yeah, I was a younger man!
I hear the news that Ballydonoghue’s Jason Foley has got his well-earned All Star as the best full back in the country. A great honour for my other parish and Jason is a fine example to all, both young and old. His grandfather was a founder member of the Ballydonoghe Parish Magazine which is entering its 37 year. I have to edit some items in the current upcoming issue before I sleep tonight! Jason will feature much in it.
Then the alarm rings this Saturday morning – I am already awake - and it’s out to the RDS to register. A wettish morning and would be ideal if it was like that on Sunday. Pre-hydrated air. Parked in a nice place near the RDS but the parking meter wasn’t working so had to circle. The usual buzz in the RDS and very efficient in the registration hall and friendly as well. Loads of stalls selling their stuff and of course I couldn’t resist. On duty at his post is Frank Greally, the Irish Runner inspiration whose book, Running Full Circle I finished last night. He exudes passion for athletics. And life. Then to Blackrock where I spent years of weekends at my craft outlet and headed for a lunch of pancakes and syrup – lots of syrup - with extra crispy bacon in The Yellow Fig. Tried to keep my feet on the heels as an hour passed in perfect relaxation.
As I drank a few cups of sweet tea, I sought positivity in the year gone by. A few miles covered in non-marathon-style training. Munster masters indoor walk, national indoor walk (in the beautiful Athlone Arena), British Masters walk in Lee Valley in north east London, a lovely arena also. Then outdoors in Kerry, Munster and Derby for the British masters outdoor walks championships. And then the Athletics Ireland national masters championships. Ah yes, the national championships in a hot hot hot Tullamore in August where three St Brendan’s AC walkers made their national walks debut along with Con Dennehy of An Ríocht AC. With Michael O’Connor (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) and Pat Murphy (Castleisland Walking Club) Kerry masters kept walking to the forefront that beautiful day.
A regular summer chat with John Griffin, Dublin Marathon winner supreme, was always inspiring when I often bumped into him near my favourite Lesotho bookshop in Tralee.
So back through heavy Saturday evening traffic and here I am at 10pm on the Saturday night before the big event. “Not young and not renewable, but human” to misquote the poet Thomas Kinsella who was born a few doors away from the house where I will sleep for a few hours tonight. Then up in the Dublin Sunday morning and across the city to the leafy streets around the Grand Canal to Fitzwilliam Square. The first and second and third waves with the well-prepared pistoleros will be well on their way when we start in the fourth wave. The Purple Wave. The last wave.
Then at 9.45am we will join the river of runners going north over the Liffey and through the Phoenix Park and back to the southside and…who knows.
By the time I might reach the last Purple Mile and the finish in Merrion Square North, the other waves will have reached home, hotel or wherever and will have well started the after-marathon-heaven-is-here level. So will my St Brendan’s AC colleagues. Let the celebrations then begin.
The marathon is a noble thing and deserves respect. It is a strategic ennabler if you treat it right. The runners will meet a part of ourselves that lies beneath and is rarely visited. We will question our very core. If the training didn’t go to plan, we will question ourselves even more in the excursion into something different. It ain’t no way to treat a marathon if we don’t prepare properly and we have to pay the price. That is the terrible beauty of the great run. The journey may be the destination for many with the experience of emotional and physical diversity.
We finish and some of us say never again. Then we start training in May. We know the soul-rinsing experience that is there for the taking.
Sure anyway, comfort is the enemy of progress. Let’s make the magic and believe for a while that the myth is the only reality.
The line from Gladiator comes to mind at this moment. It has to be paraphrased.

“We, who are about to suffer, salute you.”