In this weekend’s Irish Times Magazine, Aine Kerr spoke to four runners about what motivates them. We’d love to hear you stories, either through here or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘IF I CAN DO IT, ANYONE CAN DO IT’
37-year-old mother-of-two Karen Quinn was never a runner, avoided anything to do with running and never sought to compete in anything. “It wasn’t for me,” she says of outdoor competitive running. That was until she moved to Julianstown, Co Meath, and reassessed her gym membership.
“There isn’t the extra €500 in the bank account to go to the gym, but the gym wouldn’t be offering anything like the enjoyment I now get from being out in the fresh air, running,” says Quinn, who has now completed several long-distance races.
She brings her runners everywhere and runs in all weathers. Her children, aged five and three, pretend to race like their mother, and regularly arrive on the beach to jog alongside Quinn when she has finished her faster run.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it. I know that sounds cliched and corny, but it’s so true.”
RUNNING ‘I’D RUN TO THE SHOP AND BACK’
John Sweeney, who works in a Dublin bank, stopped his gym membership when the “pinch started” and a reduction in pay followed. “I just couldn’t afford to keep the gym going but wanted to keep fit,” says the 29-year-old. “So I got a pair of runners and took to the road.”
As the road miles clocked up, Sweeney, who is 5ft 7in tall, went from 92kg to 79kg (a loss of two stone). Running became part of his weekly routine, which in turn led to him running monthly races. Sweeney went from constantly worrying about his job to seeing his stress levels slowly diminish.
“When I first started, a run for me would be leaving the apartment and running to Superquinn. That was half a mile, not even – maybe half a kilometre. I’d run there and back. That was my run,” he says.
But with two marathons now under his belt, having initially used the motivation and support of Bootcamp Ireland, Sweeney runs as far as his “bad knees” will carry him, for the pure adrenaline rush of feeling “free”.
‘YES WE CAN!’
Shay Sheridan was working long hours to keep his landscaping and traffic-management business – and the farm – thriving when the 34-year-old accepted a challenge with Team Carrie in June 2011 to run the Dublin marathon five months later.
The father of four from Dunleer, Co Louth, was self-employed from the age of 21. He was first among his friends to get married, first to have children, but not the first to grow fond of breakfast rolls and chocolate. Christmas after Christmas, friends slagged him about his lack of exercise and dared him to start running. He took the dare and with that, James Gibbons of Bootcamp Ireland in Meath became his constant shadow.
By July, he had run an 8km race in the Phoenix Park. “That was the day I got the bug,” says Sheridan, who has become known for his screams of, “Can we do it?” at the start of races, to the loud chorus of, “Yes we can!”
“It’s a great way to clear your head. I have to keep men employed and money in their pockets. When I’m gone on the road, I’ve no phone with me. There is no one calling looking for money, looking for me to do something. There’ll just be the odd wave at someone on the road. You can just get away from it.”
“Every house in the country has some sort of worry relating to the recession,” he says. “When you went out , you might have three or four hours. An hour to think about your worries, an hour to sort out your worries and an hour to think of something else. When you’re at work or in the house or playing with the kids, you never give yourself that time.” In October, Sheridan completed the Dublin marathon for charity, singing a ballad every two miles for 18 miles.
‘I’M NOT AS HAPPY WHEN I’M NOT OUT RUNNING’
Since losing his job six months ago, Graham Allen’s primary focus has switched to organising the Carrick-on-Shannon 10km race, daily runs, regular races and multiple wins. The Carrick-on-Shannon race has gone from attracting just 60 runners four years ago to 1,000 this year, and such is 49-year-old Allen’s own success running races that he now hopes to move on to a national and international level.
Alcohol is excluded from Allen’s diet, apart from one beer on New Year’s Eve and another on January 29th, after he helped organise a charity run in Roscommon that raised €20,000.
“When you’re working nine-to-five, running dictates your schedule. What I used to do was finish late so I could get a two-hour run in at lunch time. As I progressed, I might sometimes train twice a day,” says Allen. “But when you’re off work, you also have to plan running around your day, around doing up a CV or going to an interview. It’s great to get the run out of the way and have your head cleared.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, Allen’s attendance at a Fás web-design course in Sligo demands a particularly strict routine. He leaves Carrick-on-Shannon at 4pm, arrives at Sligo IT race track, goes steeplechasing, and then completes a warm-down by running the 5km track a “couple of times”. His course then starts at 7pm.