Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Post : John O'Leary at 80... by John Walshe

Friday, January 18, 2019

Guest Post : John O'Leary at 80... by John Walshe

 Cork runner John O'Leary has been a regular on the road race circuit for many years and is still going strong. John Walshe of Ballycotton wrote a very nice piece about him in a recent edition of the Evening Echo.

(By John Walshe, Cork Evening Echo 17/01/2019)

In recent weeks, a lot of publicity surrounded the Operation Transformation Nationwide Walks which took place throughout the country.

It’s a time of new resolutions as thousands literary put their best foot forward, as the many pictures in the press and social media portrayed – summed up by the tweet from one of the organisers, Karl Henry, which said: “All ages out moving, smiling and energized!” 

One man who was certainly doing that last Sunday was well-know Cork runner John O’Leary. Having celebrated his 80th birthday a month ago, John looks like rewriting the record books in the months ahead, if his performance in the FMC 5km (Cork BHAA) road race is anything to go by. 

But what is more remarkable is the way he went about it. As his regular lift to the race was unavailable, John walked the three miles from his home in Douglas to Kent Railway Station where he caught the train to Little Island. Stepping out again to walk to the race headquarters at the local community centre, he was lucky to acquire a lift from a fellow runner.

He then proceeded to run the 5km race, finishing in a time of 25:29 which meant he had a third of the 420-plus finishers in his wake. This was his best time over the distance since June 2017.

To put John’s time into perspective, the recent edition of Athletics Weekly magazine contained the UK Road Rankings for 2018. The fastest M80 over 5km was Edmond Simpson with a time of 24:51, just over a half-minute quicker.

The fastest M80 time over 10km last year in the UK was 56:21 by Jim Conagahan – a time already surpassed by John O’Leary who on New Year’s Day at Beaufort, near Killarney, recorded 53:13, over three minutes faster.  

John was in his thirties when he first took up running, as his initial sporting involvement was with Douglas Hall soccer club, both as a founder member and as a coach.

His first race was an international four-mile event at Loughrea back in 1977, and he remembers the first cross-country medal he won: “It was a County Novice ‘B’ race and one of my team-mates on the Leevale team that day was Marcus O’Sullivan, who would go on to win three World Indoor titles,” he recalled.

The following year, John ran the Shanagarry ‘5’ and so started an incredible sequence that saw him take part in a total of 154 consecutive races in the Ballycotton Summer Series. But not alone did he reach that colossal number, he also achieved first place in his age category in a staggering 123 of these events.

If anyone needed inspiration and encouragement for the year ahead, look no further than this remarkable 80-year-old for whom the word ‘legend’ is certainly merited.


Anonymous said...

A nicer man you could not meet. Always has a word of encouragement at every race. Many more happy and healthy years of running John

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the previous comment. Happy birthday John. You're definitely an inspiration to us all.