RUNNING MATTERS One:2:One with Enda Kiernan
This week, I’m interviewing a former local resident, who still has his heart and indeed fond memories firmly set in Mullingar and the surrounding countryside.
Enda Kiernan went to a secondary school which produced incredible cross country talent – “the Aidan O’Brien” of underage runners – namely St Mary’s CBS, Mullingar. The school still retains the same competitively fearsome reputation to this day.
Despite this, Enda bravely held his own in the deep pool of talent, as he explains below.
Life circumstances then led Enda to a change of destination and a change of sport, to GAA.
Only in the past decade, after a serious knee injury, did Enda hear the calling to go back to running. He was put on this route by his physiotherapist, who promoted it not only as a way of repairing and strengthening his injury, but also as an outlet to keep his competitive juices flowing.
As you’re about to read, Enda has not only overcome his injury through running, but has also progressed, and remarkably, has his short term goals set on running as a master athlete for Ireland, in Toronto next year.
Name: Enda Kiernan
Date of birth: June 1970
When did you start running and what motivated you take it up?
I ran while in secondary school in St Mary’s CBS under the tutelage of John Mulcair, who was the PE teacher there at the time. I had never ran before that, and the only history would have been two uncles on my mother’s side – one who ran the Athens Marathon in the 80s in 3.30 or so, and another who ran in Australia where he lived.
I ran track and was a part of cross country teams that medalled at North Leinster, Leinster and All-Ireland level with St Mary’s CBS, Mullingar. Those teams would have included former Olympian Cormac Finnerty, Eric O’Donnell, Finian Lynam, James Finnegan and many more besides. I also ran with Mullingar Harriers in cross country races and indeed road races at that time.
I continued running while in third level, but a combination of studies and time demands, among other things, meant that I stepped away from it totally and reverted to Gaelic football.
Approximately 10 years ago I received two partial tears in the PCL in my knee, and was forced to give up playing football. My physio, who himself was a 2.36 marathon man in his day, advised me against surgery and to start running again, after approximately six months off, initially in straight lines on grass to build it up slowly and to not put unnecessary strain on it. Then, after 15 months I was allowed to run full laps of a field and then onto the road.
Around this time, the Park Run 5k started near where I live in Cork, and that provided the kickstart to get back running. When I started back, I ran every second day for approximately 12 months.
My first Park Run was completed in 24.48 on the hilliest Park Run course in Ireland and I recorded a PB of 19.23 over 5k in April this year in Co. Cork, where I am now based. It’s proof to anyone that you can come back from serious injury and indeed flourish!
What is your favourite and least favourite type of training and your favourite race distance?
My favourite type of training is a tempo run. No matter what distance I am training for, as I believe this session most closely replicates what the body is going to go through on race day. It’s also great for the mind in a race to be able to tell yourself that I managed this pain and effort beforehand, during hard training and that was without a few days taper/rest, like I’ve had for today. It’s good for mental preparation too.
I don’t think that I have a least favourite session, though I’m not mad about long runs over 14-15 miles – they can be a bit monotonous!
What running achievements are you most proud of and why?
There are probably two achievements that I’m proud of. The first one would have involved the County Cross Country Championships in the mid 1980s out in Belvedere behind the Bloomfield Hotel, running for Mullingar Harriers. I reckon that this course was one of the toughest courses in Ireland at that time and a real fitness tester.
On the day in question, I missed the U14 race and ended up running the U16 race against the likes of fellow Harriers David Burke, Mark Nugent, Ian Mullen etc – all top-class athletes, many of whom went onto bigger things in athletics. Only the top 10 made the county team for the Leinster Championships in Punchestown and I managed to qualify in tenth, giving two years in age and probably running 1-2 miles more than the U14s.
The second achievement was qualifying for the All-Ireland Masters Track and Field Championships 1500m final held in Tullamore two years ago, running with St Finbarr’s AC in Cork. It was probably 25 years since I last raced competitively on a track.
List your current PBs:
5K (road): 19.23, Bweeng Trailblazers Running Club, Bweeng, Co. Cork (April 2019). 4 Miles (road): 26.05, Munster Masters Road Championships, Dundrum, Co. Tipperary (February 2019). 6Km: 24.48, Cork BHAA, Little Island, Cork (January 2019). 5 Miles: 33.25, Veterans AC, Battersea Park, London (June 2019). 10Km: 42.43, An Riocht AC, Beaufort, Co. Kerry (January 2019). 10 Miles: 70.10, Duhallow AC, Newmarket, Co. Cork (March 2019). Charleville Half- Marathon: 1.44.30, North Cork AC (September 2018). Track – 800m: 2.35.xx, Cork County Masters Track and Field Championships, CIT (June 2019). 1500m: 5.21.xx, Cork County Masters Track and Field Championships, CIT (June 2019).
I don’t care to think about the times I ran as a youngster, although I did run 36.38 for 10km in my youth. However, the advantage of the WAVA Calculator is that it allows you to compare your current efforts against a younger self, and I am content in the knowledge that I’m running as hard now, if not harder than before.
What are your running goals for the next 12 months?
I am just recovering from a four-week spell of illness, and I used the recent Mullingar 10 mile road race to see what shape I am in and to use that time as a gauge for training over the next few weeks.
I’ve entered the Charleville Half Marathon in September and expect to lower my best time there. After that, there are a few 5k/10k races around the country that I’ll target, along with the cross country season up to Christmas.
The Dungarvan 10-miler in February will be a key race, and perhaps the Mullingar Half in March next year. After that then, plans will be finalised for the World Masters Championships in July next year, which take place in Toronto, Canada. It’s there that I’m planning to run for Ireland in the 8km cross country race and the 10km race on the road, as I’ll be moving to a new age group the fortnight before.
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to take up running?
Most importantly that they enjoy it. Join a group or a club, as you will learn a lot more about running, how to train etc. The social aspect will make it easier to get out, and will motivate you on those windy, wet, winter nights to go out for a run.
I’ve been involved with a few Couch to 5K groups at work and I always say if you cannot talk at least 6-8 words in a string, you’re running too fast. Go to races, don’t be afraid of them, just forget the clock and enjoy your run.
What are your favourite places to run and your all-time favourite place?
My all-time favourite place to run is along the Royal Canal from Ballinea to Ballynacargy Harbour, where the peace and solitude is amazing. Fresh air and fun!
Running along the canal past Laragh Hill and its beech trees reminds me of my younger days running on the canal, which is now fully passable and a brilliant amenity to have for walkers and runners alike. Another favourite run was from home in Ballynacargy through Kilbixy, to Mace Cross and onwards to Joanstown, on the N4 and back again. I get home a couple of times a year and no trip home is complete without a run along the greenway and Piper’s Boreen along the Canal in Mullingar.
What is your favourite post race meal?
That would have to be coffee and a proper tea brack! It can’t be beaten and it’s (almost!) good for you too… a double boost!