GAA folk have some road to travel before they can match Hehir’s Herculean efforts
Dublin Marathon champion’s training schedule would make other sportspeople wince
To some people in Kilkishen, in East Clare, the Hehir name is more associated with the Clare hurling team of the 1970s, and his father, the Sean Hehir who played centre back on the Clare team that won the league in 1978, flanked in that half-back line by Ger Loughnane and Sean Stack – three men who reckon they know everything there is to know about hard training.
His mother, Cushla, might disagree, given she ran for Ireland as a junior, is still passionate about distance running, and reckons she knows everything there is to know about hard training. Anyway, with parents like that, no wonder hard training simply runs in the family.
“It’s funny alright, because my family would be split like that, 50-50 down the middle. My brother Diarmuid also played under-21 hurling for Clare, and my sister Cushla Og played camogie for Clare, and now runs as well.
“And I see the commitment my brother puts in, even with the club, and it is intense, and impressive. You have to respect the training of other sports, because sometimes they’ve other things to focus on, such as skills. For me, the only focus is running.
“But look, I wouldn’t really start comparing anything. I saw the DVD of the Clare hurlers, and how hard they trained for the All-Ireland, and that was certainly very intense. I would certainly respect anything they do.”
Hehir is indeed close to that Clare team – and was actually in the same class as their All-Ireland winning captain Pat Donnellan. He played a bit of hurling too at St Flannan’s in Ennis, but preferred athletics, even if he once finished 26th in the Clare Schools Cross Country Championships, and any athletics coach with a half-decent eye for potential would have told him to try something else.
Instead, Hehir stuck with the running, and the hard training, and after later moving to Dublin, then getting a teaching position at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, in Inchicore, he slowly edged towards the marathon, now under the guidance of former three-time Dublin Marathon winner, Dick Hooper.
His payback came last October, when in the days and hours before the 34th Dublin Marathon, Hehir looked himself in the eyes, and told himself there was nothing more he could have possibly done. It certainly looked that way as he crossed the line in 2:18:19, hardly sweating, although not without a few tears, as the first Irish men’s winner of the race in 20 years, since John Treacy last triumphed in Dublin in 1993.
Now, it’s back into the hard marathon training again, not just for Dublin in October, but also the European Championship marathon in Zurich, in August. At 29, the training doesn’t get any easier, and probably won’t either, unless perhaps Hehir goes back playing a bit of hurling.