10 January 2016

Making new friends – Pat story

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

Making new friends – Pat's story


My running career began in Rockwell boarding school way back in 1968. I raced against formidable opposition, the likes of which included the great Gerry Kiernan. You could clearly see the talent that he possessed even back then, he would leave us all in his trails! I competed mainly in cross country racing, which suited me as I was never what you would consider a sprinter, as the long distances and slower pace suited me. It kept me fit for underage football, as at the time I was playing for a Listowel minor team that included Tim Kennelly. It granted me a lot of concessions in school, even if the learning suffered as a result.

When I hung up my playing boots,I took up refereeing as a way to stay involved in the game. I graduated up through the ranks, and am lucky enough to be able to say I have taken charge of two senior finals in both codes in Kerry. It was when I progressed to inter-county officiating that fitness came to the fore. We were required to pass fitness tests under the watchful eye of Dr. Niall Moyna at UCD. This meant a lot of winter running for me.

Running for fun

I joined a group of Munster referees that ran every Monday night above at the University of Limerick. This meant a lot of long drives on long dark nights after a long day’s work. It was then that we discovered the running track at the Riocht in Castleisland, which was a godsend to us. One winter, however, the track was too frosted over to allow safe running so referees like Paudie and myself utilised the Bracker O'Regan road inside in Tralee, more commonly known as the "Fat Mile". It was through Paudie that we joined up with Dermot and that gang.

First race

Our first proper race was a 10K run in Ballybunion on the Easter weekend in 2010. We were curious and wanted to try it for ourselves. It was like nothing we had ever done before, we were hooked. We were training in Tralee and the miles started to escalate. After completing an eighteen kilometer run, we decided to enter our first half marathon. Dermot was the first of us past the finish line at a time of 1:45; I lagged behind at 2:15. We went on to compete at Shannagolden, Valentia, Killarney, Ballyheigue, Banna and many more.  

St.Brendan's AC

Dermot got us involved with St.Brendan’s AC, our group included Mary, Mairead, Sorcha Jacinta, Mary D., Tom, Kieran, Joe, Tom and Paudie. We decided to enter the Tralee Half and Full marathon. I was under no illusions - just finishing the marathon would be an achievement for me. Seeing my friends cheering me on really meant a lot to me and drove me on to break through the wall. I finished with a time of 4:15, and had no major aches or pains. We celebrated in Kilflynn that night. Our camaraderie is the key to our success, and it’s great to be able to show the appreciation of it.


Whilst preparing for the Tralee Marathon, an event took place that would change my life forever. We had been training real hard to get ready for the marathon, but a week beforehand, in a completely unrelated incident, I passed out while on the couch. After being taken into the hospital, it happened again. As it was such a conundrum, I had to be moved to Cork University Hospital for ten long days, while they ran tests on me. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted, it put an end to my hopes of competing in the marathon. It was a low point for me, as I was getting texts from well-wishers and the gang, who told me they would be thinking of me as they ran.

The return

As running had kept me alive, I always had a burning desire to get back at it, but I knew given my predicament that it would be a long and slow road. The lads were nervous in the beginning, understandable given all that had happened. But they began to see that I was showing a clean bill of health. I don’t think I would be where I am now without them, so I have to give thanks. To help my rehabilitation, Mary put me on to the idea of the Parkrun, a no pressure environment idea that promoted the enjoyment of running. We checked it out in Macroom, feeling we could apply the idea in Tralee. When it started we had 120 people, it now averages over one hundred per week and all ages attend it.

I never set target times when I run. I have been first eight times in my category and finished fourth in my category for the Tralee Marathon. Sometimes I think I’m the only one in my category if that’s the case, although Paudie has entered these too, maybe he’s taking pity on me. I only ever enter to have a bit of fun, and to help others that are less fortunate. Helping various charities is immensely satisfying. The Rose of Tralee 10K and Dingle Half Marathon were particularly enjoyable, as I had the pleasurable company of Luke in his wheelchair. The 2015 Tralee Marathon meant a lot to me, as I lined up with my brother Mike, who had just donated his kidney to our nephew.

Last thoughts

If anyone feels that running is not for you, give it a try first and you might be surprised. You will meet plenty of supporting new friends, and when you cross that line in your first 5K the self-satisfaction is so much so that you will want to come back for more. By merely taking part, you are self-improving your health, and that is the main goal for all runners
I would like to thank you all for the enjoyment I’ve had with you over the last few years. Such as presenting a wee tree to the Donegal lass Caroline, so that she could climb it to watch Kerry team training. Or the morning that Cathy thought that Tom was tucked up in bed only for him to creep up behind her on a 20 mile run. We even got a slot on Kerry radio for Cathy and Dermot.
 To my wife Marie and son James, who never knew where I was half the time, thank you for your patience and keeping the dinner. May we all look forward to 2016 and more enjoyment and a bit of running thrown in.


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