12 December 2015

A late starter - Kirstie story

St.Brendan’s AC members share their personal stories and different experiences of getting fit and embracing new challenges in recent years.

A late starter - Kirstie's story

Getting started

I took up running in early 2012 (at the age of 40) having set myself the goal of doing the Dingle half marathon later in the year.
I was motivated into doing this having been a spectator at Dingle Marathon the previous year. I was curious to find out how people could run 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles and still be smiling afterwards. I really had no clue how long it would take to run these distances but it’s fair to say that I was well impressed by anyone taking on the challenge.
 I don’t think anyone really believed me when I said that I was going to take up running. You see, I have never been a sporty person. I don’t have an athletic build and I can honestly say that other than running around the school yard in primary school, I had never actively participated in sports. It really was starting from scratch for me.

The training plan

Training consisted of doing a couple of runs per week – usually a short run during the week and a longer run at weekends. It wasn't easy and I really had to persevere, starting off with gentle jog/walk and then building up over time.  As the mother of 3 children (current age 11, 8 and 5) and working part time, it was not possible to commit more time to training as the needs of my kids had to come first. I wasn’t going to be setting any world records for speed but for me it was all about finishing.
On Easter Saturday 2012 I completed the Ballybunion 10k. It was a mixture of walking and running for me, and I was so proud when I finished it. After this I set myself the target of completing the inaugural Ballyheigue “Half on the Head” half marathon which took place in July. Bearing in mind I had only started running in March of that year, I was probably a little over ambitious to be attempting 13.1 miles,  but I managed to finish in one piece and I spent the rest of the day in bed, exhausted but delighted with myself. I felt that I was definitely well set up for Dingle later in the year. However, when I finished the Dingle half, and saw those running the full Marathon coming back into Dingle town, I decided that I would have to do the full the following year.
It’s fair to say that at that point I had become hooked on the adrenalin rush that accompanies finishing a road race.


To date I have completed 5 full marathons, 8 half marathons, a number of 10 milers, 10k’s and 5k’s.  I even managed to take on a full marathon with just 3 hours notice as part of a relay team for the Hardman Triathlon in Killarney in August – something I would never have dreamed possible a couple of years ago. 
My training still consists of two or three training sessions per week though in winter this dwindles down to one running session (if I'm lucky) and one strength and conditioning session which I do with the St.Brendan’s AC Fit4Life group.  Again, the needs of my children will always come first and running takes second place while they have their after school activities to attend.  I complete all my long distance training runs on my own which gives me great head space and I honestly say that I enjoy my own company on those 3 hour runs. I sort out all kinds of problems and plan the meals for the week ahead.

Of all the distances, I would say that I enjoy 10 milers and Full Marathons the most. If I had to pick one race as being my favourite, I would probably say Dingle Full Marathon 2015. I had no goal set with regard to time having done a marathon only two weeks previously and I enjoyed every bit of it from start to finish – even the parts where I found myself sitting on the side of the road with aches and pains. Prior to this race I had said it would be my last full marathon, but once I crossed the finish line I started looking towards 2016. There is no feeling like crossing the line with 26.2 miles under the belt.

St Brendan’s AC Fit4Life

I also enjoy running with members of St. Brendan’s AC Fit4Life when I get the chance.  Belonging to the club has seen me competing in events that I would never have imagined possible such as the county track and field events and Kerry cross country events. I have won county medals for masters long jump and considering I tried this for the first time ever on the day of the competition, is proof that anything can be achieved with guts, determination and a sense of humour. The very idea of running cross country would have sent shivers up my back not so long ago, but I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve done it and I survived!

The biggest fun of all was competing as part of a team in the relay at the annual Masters county track & field events – and winning a county silver medal for this! As a group we always have good fun at all the events we attend which demonstrates that having fun is a key part for many of the more mature runners who have taken up running later in life.  During the summer months we enjoy trail running as a group and I thoroughly enjoy this experience too, though it is definitely a lot more challenging than road running.  The members of the club are friendly and supportive and we enjoy a number of social gatherings during the year too where we all manage to let our hair down.
I have also gained a better understanding of what the kids who are members of the club go through. My two daughters are active members of St Brendan’s AC and while they make it look so easy doing the long jump, throwing the shot putt and running, I now know that this isn’t so easy. 
For anyone thinking about joining a club but feeling that they might not be “good enough”, I would say that there are all levels of ability in St Brendan’s AC and that everyone is made to feel welcome and included.

Branching into other events

In 2014 I branched into Adventure Races, something I would never have contemplated prior to 2012. Again, I was tempted into this multi sport event after having been a spectator at the finishing line for a number of years and I wanted to see what it was all about. The Adventure Races consist of Run/Cycle/Kayak/Hike and there are different distances for all levels. I completed the mini Dingle AdventureRace and the medal I received is one of my most treasured finisher medals. I hope to do more of these events in the future.

How running has benefited me

Participating in races has given me a new confidence in myself. I feel fitter than ever before and I believe that I am setting a good example to my children. Of course they are all faster than me and have expressed their embarrassment at seeing their mother attempt the long jump at the County Track and Field event, but at the same time, I know these are memories they will remember as they get older.  As a family, we have been able to complete a number of events together including some 5K runs on Saturday mornings at Tralee Parkrun and this has been very enjoyable for us all.
The support from fellow runners and from members of the public is always encouraging and where once I would have been anxious about looking foolish if I was last, I now realise that participating and hopefully  finishing is the most important part of any event. I believe that it is important to instil this in our children too.
I have also made new friends with members of St Brendan’s AC and members of other clubs. Indeed fellow runner from Farranfore/MV AC, Pauline has pulled me through a couple of tough 10milers!

I do think that it is important to have a good sense of humour and I learned early on not to take any of the races too seriously and just enjoy them.


My goals for the future are pretty much the same as now. Until my children are older, I know that I can only commit so much time to training although I am getting smarter in my training and remain realistic about what I can achieve.
For anyone reading this that is considering taking up running but is doubtful of their ability, I can safely say that I took up running with no previous experience. I haven’t been able to dedicate huge amounts of time to running but I feel fit and healthy and happy with what I have achieved to date.

If you are thinking about it, I’d say stop the thinking and take the plunge. You can only learn what you are capable of by trying it first. 


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