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Grange Parish Blog

Article from the Grange Book suggested for reading this week (week 33)


Running is a Part of My Life

Jackie with his 13 marathon plaques

In Ireland, there is a very long-standing identity with sport, in its many manifestations. Sporting activities can assist hugely in defining and bonding a community, providing an impetus to support local teams or participants in non-team sporting codes. While participation is always the key objective, local success can buoy a whole community through admiration and pride in achievement. Participation in sporting activities by girls and boys from a young age is important for physical and mental development and can be a significant contributor to character development and preparation for the challenges of adult life to come later. People of the Grange locality have in the past loved and continue to love their sport, whether as participators, mentors, supporters or organisers. A number of our sporting heroes achieved on a world stage. Supporters travel far and wide to support not only local participants but county and country as well, particularly to GAA, Soccer and Rugby events. In the book articles that have been suggested for reading thus far (week 1 - week 32), tributes were paid to teams and to many individual sporting personalities. The following come to mind - the week of the article posting is shown in brackets: Tom 'Toastie' O'Connell (1), Tony Clancy (1), Austin Cregan (3), Anthony Bourke (9), Mike O'Brien (14), Jerry O'Riordan (15), Michael Weekes (17), Tony Barry (19), Clancy Family (24), Danny O'Dwyer and his sons (25), Andy Fitzgerald (25), Major J. G. O'Dwyer (25) and Canon Denis Browne (27). There are several more sporting personalities who will feature in the book articles to be suggested for reading in the weeks ahead until such time as every book article has been featured. This brings us to this week's (week 33) article, Running is a Part of My Life. It is an article written in some detail by that prolific runner, Jackie O'Connell of Lower Grange. Jackie ran in thirteen marathons (photo above with 13 marathon plaques) as well as many shorter distance events over his running career, with notable success and achievement. He ran overseas in several countries, too many to mention here. Jackie's account of the intense training and personal discipline that was required to enable him to compete in long-distance running is awe-inspiring, to say the least. While Jackie ran in many competitive events over the years, his primary reasons for doing so was his love of the activity in the first instance and a fierce determination to push himself to the limits of his endurance and performance. His single-minded training and preparation regimes permitted him to improve his performance on an ongoing basis. Jackie's article should be read in full in order to understand the huge commitment that was required to enable him to compete effectively and over such a long time frame. The following are extracts from Jackie's article:

"Running has been an important part of my life, almost from the beginning. I can say that a focus on keeping fit from my earliest youth spawned and maintained over the many years my love of running which, despite the challenges involved, has given and continues to provide me with a mixture of sheer enjoyment and a sense of achievement. A huge bonus has been the acquisition of many good friends in running circles over the decades."

"As I progressed from Hartigan’s farm and more local running, I began running from

Grange to Bunratty, a distance of twenty-one miles, which took me about two and a half hours. My children were young at the time, and they travelled by car with Frances, who would meet me at a few points on the run so that I could take water. The route took me from Grange to Limerick City, through John’s Street, by King John’s Castle, by Thomond Park, on the back road to Cratloe, on to the main Limerick-Ennis road at Setright’s Cross and finally to Bunratty, where Frances and the children met me with a flask of tea and biscuits, which were most welcome before the car journey home or elsewhere."

"Running a marathon is akin to climbing Mount Everest. It is all about detailed and proper preparation. Another analogy is an academic examination - if adequate preparation hasn’t been done, then failure is almost inevitable. So, while one doesn’t run a marathon by way of preparing for a marathon, the quality of preparation determines success or failure on the big day. Having said all that, I should also say that despite the proper preparation, there is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly on race day. After ten miles running you could feel on top of your game, but after eighteen miles you could be ‘gone’ with ‘nothing left in the tank’. Thankfully, I finished all of my thirteen marathons."

"Fortunately, I never met the so-called ‘wall’ that can devastatingly occur after about twenty miles. I knew that I had enough carbohydrates taken to carry me the first

twenty-three miles and that I would rely on body fats for the remaining miles. Mental powers became critical over the final race stage. That is not to say that I didn’t suffer – in fact; I did. However, my training including the 2,500 miles clocked each year, and mental strength permitted me to cope. In fact, the more difficult it became, the more I liked it, and I drew from my mental reserves. In a moment of weakness, I would look at the spectators along a route, observing how comfortable and laid back they appeared and asked myself, what am I doing here? That was negative thinking that I had to dispel immediately and return to a positive state of mind. After a race, I craved tea and ‘Custard Cream’ biscuits, and I usually had both - a whole packet of those biscuits was not unusual for me to consume."

"Over the years, I ran in numerous shorter distance events around the country with many of my fellow runners; we had great camaraderie amongst us. Ballycotton in Cork was a regular venue. In one such ten mile race, Deirdre and Andrew ran with me and finished the race. Andrew, who has a black belt in Kung-Fu, runs a lot on wild trails and mountains, including in New Zealand. While in New Zealand, I did a lot of mountain and trail running with Andrew and his friends. Deirdre runs outdoors too as well as doing a lot of treadmill running."

"In Europe, I ran in several countries including England, Italy, Spain and Holland. Farther afield, I clocked up many running miles in America, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Egypt (by the Dead Sea), China, the Philippines, Canada and New Zealand. In those countries and several cities within some of them, I ran as hard as I could, often at very high temperatures. I like running in the heat, perspiring until my running gear becomes soaked."

"The second adventure to mention is my run on The Great Wall of China. On the Great Wall, you could run three or four miles between obstacles - the Wall Viewing Posts from the early times of the Great Wall. At a post, it was necessary to take a diversion to get on the next continuous strip of Wall. On the Wall, the stepping stones were very irregular and uneven; therefore, it was difficult to establish a running rhythm."

"I am now at a stage in my life, being in my mid-sixties, and I no longer run as much as when I was in my prime. I maintain a high fitness level and the only time that my legs grumble is when Frances brings me to a shopping centre. For some reason, my legs go weak in those places - Frances attributes this reaction to boredom! I am a great believer in cod liver oil which I have taken daily for many years. I am not talking about the capsule form - I take it raw from the bottle, two good spoons or indeed directly from bottle to mouth at times. I have to pick my dosage times as Frances has an aversion to the cod liver oil odour."

"I now like to walk as well as run, and I exercise by bicycle as well. However, in terms of sheer enjoyment and buzz, not to mention challenge, running will always remain ‘king’ for me. I hope that Frances and I will make many more trips abroad, and if we do, I know that she will have packed two sets of running gear. Thank you, Frances!"

The article may be read in full HERE.

Next week (Week 34) we will suggest another book article for reading.

Kind Regards to All.


#JackieOConnell #marathonrunner #FrancesOConnell #AndrewOConnell #DeirdreOConnell #KungFu #GreatWallofChina #JohnCarew

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