Running Matters One:2:One with Bernie Duff

Photo shows - Bernie Duff (second left) after completing her 100th Mullingar parkrun, with her son, Ben, daughter Sharon and grandson Kayden.

By Martin Lyons

This week I’m interviewing a lady who is becoming somewhat of a local legend on the parkrun circuit around Mullingar and the midlands. Bernie Duff started running three years ago when her daughter was starting her personal fitness journey. She decided not only to give support, but to also use the opportunity to get fitter herself.

Her first official registered run that year was the Mullingar parkrun, along the canal and new greenway, near the old Mullingar racecourse, which she completed that day and many days since, with her daughter Sharon. Bernie had discovered the running bug. Before long, a lot of her family were joining her on the parkruns and that connection has made it even more special for her.

As she tackles another athletic year, Bernie has already reached a significant and proud milestone on her running journey – her 100th parkrun – on January 11, at the scene of her first one, Mullingar. To add the icing on the cake that she enjoyed with fellow runners afterwards, she set a new personal best time on the day.

Bernie, who lives in Donadea, is a larger than life character, and as you’re about to read, she has no plans to slow down in the years to come. She is targeting more PBs and new races around the country, and would like to complete a hilly climb or two in the near future, as well as another parkrun milestone, this time on the volunteer front. There’s no doubt, if there’s any woman who can do it all, then Bernie sure can.


Name: Bernie Duff

DOB: 7th August 1960

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

I started running about three years ago, when my daughter Sharon was on her weight-loss journey. I mainly wanted to give her support and at the same time I could get fit and lose a bit of weight, which was an added bonus. We both registered for our first run, which was the Mullingar parkrun and I can honestly say it was one of best things that I’ve ever done!

It wasn’t long before my son Ben, grandson Kayden and my son-in-law George, decided to join in. I feel proud to be able to share this joy of running with some of my family (still working on the others!).

The support is brilliant from all the parkrun family for each other and the core team are amazing – to name a few; Blanaid Adamson, Martin Murphy, Yvonne Kane, Brian Boyle, Sean Corcoran, Pearse Murphy, and Karen Taaffe Smith are there every Saturday morning, as well as the fantastic volunteers, without which it wouldn’t even be possible.

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

My favourite race distances are the 5k and the 10k. In 2018 I took part in a lot of 5ks and even the odd 10k. I decided that in 2019 I would do a lot more 10k runs in different parts of the country. I much prefer to do my training for races outside in the fresh air, as l am not a big fan of the exercise bike or treadmill. I love going for a run in Donadea Forest Park during the week, as it has a good mix of flat ground and hills.

I also go to an aqua aerobics classes once a week and get in a bit of a swim too. Thankfully, I can’t say I’ve a least favourite race distance, yet!

What running achievements are you most proud of and why?

I celebrated my 100th milestone parkrun on January 11, a proud moment. I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day I would reach that number. We even had lovely cake to celebrate afterwards and there was lots of laughter and well wishes on the morning. Another proud moment, I suppose, would be the New Year’s Day double-double parkrun, which I did this year in Mullingar and Kilcock and last year in Mullingar and Longford.

List your current PBs for the following distances:

5k: Mullingar parkrun, January 11, 2020, 26.52 (100th milestone and a pb).

10k: Santa Dash, December 22, 2019, 58.26.

10 Mile: Kilcock, August 18, 2019, 1hr 40mins.

Half marathon: Mullingar, March 17, 2019, 2hrs 20mins.

What are your running goals for the next 12 months?

The first half marathon I did was Mullingar, on St Patrick’s Day 2018. I did it again in 2019 and I am registered to run again this March too, so I’m going for the treble! In the short term, I will also do the Naas 10-mile race on March 1, all as part of my training for the Mullingar Half Marathon on St Patrick’s Day.

I will be doing plenty more 5 and 10ks throughout the year, perhaps another 10-miler and possibly even another half marathon to try and get a few PBs, and of course, add some more lovely bling to my collection of running medals and T-shirts. Last, but by no means least, I’m also really looking forward to achieving my 25th parkrun volunteer milestone, at some stage this year.

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

My advice for anyone who wants to take up running is to join a parkrun. Simply go online, register and print off your barcode. People start off walking first then progress to walking and running and after a few weeks they are running. Take time to enjoy what you are doing and remember everyone has good and bad runs, but we never regret doing one. It’s great to have the health to be able to do any exercise.

What are your lifetime goals and PBs?

PB-wise, I’ll take it day by day and try to chip away at my times. Some day I might tackle a full marathon! Apart from that, a lifetime goal is to climb Benbulbin in Sligo and The stairway to heaven in Fermanagh.

What is your favourite post race meal?

My favourite post race meal has to be a Cajun chicken supersub, out of newly opened Kinnegad Plaza, which is about 20 minutes from Mullingar... very tasty indeed!

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