The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner

My sister just phoned from London to ask if I was going over next month. The London Marathon passes her front door and I have watched it pass a few times. I used to run quite a lot ..even did a couple of Marathons and Half Marathons…..the great joy of running is that it clears your head. It was good “thinking” time. There is also the joy that I never came last.

Nowadays of course, I cannot run at all. I have arthritis in both knees and one knee can “go” at any time. But I still take an interest in Athletics. I was a spectator a the Moscow Olympics. Ignoring the issue of Drugs……and it is a big issue……there is something “pure” about Running. You just….run. OK I am being a bit naive, there are race tactics (I was never good enough to actually “race”) and issues about pacing……….but mostly the concept of running from Here to There is a very easy concept to grasp.

While I am on the subject of the London Marathon, a tip of the hat to Conall McDevitt MLA who is taking part and raising funds for a Diabetes Charity (a subject close to my fanily’s heart)

Ireland will have a full team of three runners in the Womens Marathon. Three runners have made the “A” standard….Linda Byrne, Ava Hutchinson and Maria McCambridge. They are not yet selected. Two reasons. There is always the issue of maintaining fitness and form and sometimes the issue of peaking to get a Qualification time in an event as demanding as running 26 miles can affect later performance.

Many in the political blogging community here will be aware that Gladys Ganiel, my favourite Conflict Resolutionist is an accomplished runner. A member of the North Belfast club, she runs under her married name of O’Neill. American born, she recently took out Irish citizenship and has the “B” standard. Hopefully she is targetting next months London event. It provides a great opportunity. Another Belfast person on the Irish Olympic team would be great news.

Gladys is an alumnus of  Providence College in Rhode Island, which has excellent Irish connections. Many decent runners went there on scholarship. The most famous were the brothers John and Ray Treacy from Villierstown in County Waterford. I was in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow in 1978 when John won the World Cross Country Championship. He retained it in 1979 in Limerick. I was in the Olympic Stadium when John collapsed of heat exhaustion in the 10,000 metres heats but I was back home when he ran to sixth place in the 5,000 metres final. In 1984 John Treacy took silver in the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon.

Gladys Ganiel-O’Neill narrowly missed the “A” standard at the end of last year and again in Houston Texas in January 2012. But she does have the advantage of being Ireland’s most consistent performer. She topped the rankings in 2010.  It would be nice to see her qualify.

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