'It is hard not to feel better after a run'
Pio Fenton, 33, took up running to get fit, but was amazed when he felt the stress-busting benefits
When did you start running and why?
I started running about five years ago. A good friend of mine was preparing for the Edinburgh Marathon and I saw the kick he was getting from it. I remember the biggest shock about starting to attend races was realising that there was an enormous sub-culture in Ireland. The amount of people who were up and out on Sunday mornings, in particular, really woke me up to the things going on in the world while many people are still in bed. I was also motivated by wanting to stay fit.
What’s been your biggest achievement?
Some days my biggest achievement is just putting on my runners and getting out the door! Overall, though, I am most proud of my 3hr 41min in the Cork City Marathon this year (which I ran in aid of Samaritans). It was my second marathon; my first, in 2010, was on the wettest day since the dawn of time. I was injured and I finished in 4hr 20min. This year, crossing the line and crying with happiness is a memory that will live forever in my mind. Other high points include the camaraderie of the Simon Run in Cork in December. A nice event for charity which seems to bring the best out in people.
What’s the best thing about running?
It is probably the best stress-reliever I have ever experienced. I often find myself heading out for a run with the woes and worries of the world on my mind. Work can be busy and my role with Samaritans can add to the complications of the day sometimes. Almost without fail those feelings dissipate as you pound the pavement. Whether it is the oxygen coursing through your system, the mindless repetition of putting one foot in front of another or the sense that you are doing something positive, it is hard to not feel better after a run. I would recommend it to anyone who has trouble switching off. Physical exercise, where possible, has enormous benefits for mental and emotional health.
One thing you’d change about running?
Dogs. The small ones that are “harmlessly unleashed” are as much an obstacle as anything one could encounter on a mountain run. They have this knack of getting under your feet. The bigger dogs are challenging in different ways. Typically their owners feel that that they are exempt from dog-fouling laws.
Where’s your regular run route?
I typically run from my home in Blackrock along the old railway line to Harty’s quay and either onwards to Passage West along the estuary or else around Loughmahon towards Blackrock Castle. The best of it is that I don’t have to worry about cars as this is a beautiful pedestrian walkway. You also benefit from the sea air and raw exposure to the elements. Parts of this run lead me onto the Marina which is a fantastic part of Cork City. There is something special for me as a Cork person to run along the banks of the Lee.
What are you training for now?
I am hoping to do a marathon in the early part of next year. Perhaps Barcelona would be one I would enjoy as this is such a historic city. Beyond that, as I work at WIT in Waterford City, I would love to take part in the Viking Marathon in Waterford.
Are you a morning or evening runner?
I run in the evening during the week but in the morning at weekends. It is fantastic to get up and out early on a Saturday or Sunday and have the whole day ahead of you.
Do you stretch?
I don’t stretch before running. While training for my first marathon I always stretched before going for a run. For my second marathon I decided against training. The contrast in terms of injuries is stark. I suffered no injuries in the lead-up to the second marathon. The conflicting advice one gets on stretching is incredible – I have decided to just listen to my body.
Good or bad diet?
My diet is atrocious in every respect. I eat at irregular times. I never have breakfast. I eat sweets, crisps and chocolate all too regularly. However, as I approach a race or a period of intense training I do tend to hold back on the rubbish and carb up. I spend a lot of time travelling around the country for Samaritans and it can be hard to eat healthily while on the road.
What’s your average training week?
It can vary sometimes but during the months leading up to a big race I tend to get out four to five times per week with one short, two medium and one long run. I do a Fartlek session occasionally but I still find them murderous.
What do you wear on your feet?
Asics Supernova Sequence.
What’s on your iPod when running?
I no longer listen to an iPod while running except on rare occasions. On the occasions that I do listen to music it is of a decidedly cheesy variety. Tina Turner features, and that’s not the worst of it.
Any niggly injuries?
Nothing major recently, but my ITB Band doesn’t let me forget that it is there. It is under control for now.
Ever been chased by an animal?
No, but I did encounter two crows having a mid-air duel about three feet from my face one day. That was terrifying.
Favourite running book?
Who Dares, Runs by Gerry Duffy
What’s your favourite running tip?
Just enjoy it! It’s the best fun you can have on your own.