Running Matters - one 2 one with Aengus Burke

Running Matters - one 2 one with Aengus Burke

Photo shows, Anegus Burke (left) battling with Mullingar man Maurice Looby in the National 10k in Phoenix Park in April 2017.

Interview by Martin Lyons -

Aengus Burke took up running relatively late in life, but he took to it like a duck to water! A regular in the midlands running scene since, he has gone from strength to strength, and has represented his country at international level, as a master athlete.

He has a supreme appreciation of the simple, but also many holistic benefits that running brings, but as we’re about to find out, his appetite for even more success is also evident, under his current coaches.

When did you start running and what motivated you to take it up?

I have loved running since I was a child but did not run competitively in primary school. My main sport was soccer, which I played until I was 40 years of age. However, I ran for my club in the off-season and every year I would run the Laois Senior Cross country race as part of the Portlaoise AC team.

When I turned 40 I retired from football at last (our only child David was born that year also, so I got sense at last!). That year I decided to run the Dublin marathon for Spinal Injuries Ireland, a deserving charity which I had a connection to, after a car accident which occurred when I was younger.

As part of my training for this, I ran shorter races around the country and found myself doing well in races and enjoying the competition. At that stage I took to training seriously and since then I have only missed a handful of days training.

I have gone on to run for Ireland in mountain running and master cross country and road racing.

Running has given me a second career when I thought my sporting days were over, when I finished playing football.

Apart from the competition, the bigger picture is the friends I have made, the places I have got to see and the physical and mental benefits of running as a whole.

What is your favourite and least favourite type of training and your favourite race distance?

My favourite type of training is my long Sunday run, which is generally 20 miles, and especially if I do it on the Slieve Bloom mountains. It is a tough enough session, but the beauty of it makes it worth while, taking in the scenery over Laois and Offaly, and not to mention the deers that frequent the mountain.

My least favourite type of training is speed work – more specifically when I have to do it on my own. Doing my speed in our group under coaches Teresa and Ian Wilson is manageable and the thought of Ian shouting if we slack makes doing the session the lesser of the two evils; however, on my own, human nature can take over and naturally enough the brain says it is harder and times can drop during a session.

My favourite race distance is either a 10k or ideally the half marathon, which I really enjoy. I have run five or six marathons over the years, but never really mastered or enjoyed them. My best time is 2.48, which is not really bad, but going on my half marathon times it should be lower.

What running achievements are you most proud of and why?

Among my most proudest running achievements are when I got my first team medal as part of the Irish team for British and Irish masters cross country and when I got a silver European masters team medal, as part of the Irish half marathon team in Portugal in 2017.

My 21 gold team medals for Portlaoise AC in the Laois Cross country championship is a proud achievement. This total makes me the joint record holder in the county spanning four decades, some of these coming after playing a soccer match in Dublin in the morning with Portlaoise AFC and then travelling home to race in the afternoon.

List your current PBs.

A quick note, My PBs were achieved in recent years as a master so are not exceptional. I was never coached in my younger years, but five years ago I liked up with Ian and Teresa of (Wilson’s Improving Performance). Teresa and Ian had returned to Ireland from Saudia Arabia, having coached at the top level there for years. They set up a coaching group in the midlands, bringing a professional approach to my training. They have being a massive benefit to me in achieving these times at my age.

5k: 16.23: September 2015 in Rathfarnham 5k, (age 51).

10k: 33.30: April 2011 in the National 10k/Great Ireland run, Phoenix Park, (age 46).

Half marathon: 75.13: August 2015, Tullamore Half marathon, (age 51).

Full marathon: 2.48: October 2009, Dublin, (age 45).

What are your running goals for the next 12 months?

I turn 55 in November so my main hope for the coming year is to hit the ground running, by making the Irish team for the British and Irish cross country (hopefully along with Mullingar man Eddie Newman!). Also, In March of 2020, I plan on running the European masters trail/mountain races, in Portugal. Along with that I hope to be in the medal hunt at the 0/55 age group at the national 10k and half marathon. (Again, Eddie might have different ideas about me achieving that!).

What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to take up running?

My advice is quite simple, but very important: just enjoy it and realise how lucky they are to be able to do it. We can all get caught up about times, injury, racing, but just being able to get out for a run and to appreciate it, is something we should cherish, when we have the health and ability to do so. Everything else is secondary to that really.

What are your lifetime goals and PBs?

At my age I have no plans to PB again, but my ambition is to continue running as long as I can and if I can remain competitive, then all the better. It would also be lovely to able to run for my country, a few more times.

What is your favourite post-race meal?

I am a vegetarian, bordering on vegan, so straight after a race I take in some fruit and water. Then when I get home, I hand my wife Ann any prize money I win, in exchange for a nice plate of potatoes with plenty of veg – a fair deal! I just love plain food, no sauces, salt or butter. So basically what I’m trying to say is, I’m a fairly simple man to feed!

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