Running Matters One:2:One with Nuala Reilly

(Above) Nuala Reilly with her youngest son Colm Reilly after they both finished the Dublin Marathon (“my first and only marathon”), October 2016.


By Martin Lyons

Nuala Reilly, a formidable masters athlete on the road, track and cross country, who has represented her country numerous times, is familiar face to those in both Westmeath and national running circles.

In ‘old fashioned’ Ireland a woman wasn’t supposed to run and Nuala went out early in the mornings, partly to avoid being seen, partly because it helped her stay fit and happy, while rearing her family.

Nuala’s running CV is most impressive and she has no plans of slowing down. Her attitude is something many athletes could draw inspiration from and she also has some practical, motivational advice, for those looking to start running.

Name: Nuala Reilly

DOB: 17/91/56

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

I was born and raised in Lavey in County Cavan and moved to Drogheda in the 1970. I played group sports in secondary school in Cavan, but no running.

I started running in the early 80s to keep fit and to take part in the ladies mini marathon (10k).

I used to run around the roads in Drogheda at 6 in the morning so no one would see me, because back then not many women ran. There were only two ladies in Drogheda that ran and I was one of them!

I also had four small children at the time and getting out early in the morning put me in good form for the day. I really admire young mothers nowadays who manage jobs, running and a family.

I didn’t start racing until my family were grown up and I had more time on my hands.

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

My favourite type of training is doing a 10- or 12-mile long run at the weekend. I’m not a fan of 200-metre or 400-metre intervals on the track. My favourite race distance is 10 miles.

I really love the group training structure in our running club, Drogheda and District AC. We are divided into groups of the same or similar abilities and it makes for great training sessions.

We were founded in 1999 with about 20 members and now there are more than 500 members.

What running achievements are you most proud of and why?

Representing Ireland on different occasions in cross country and half marathon has been a great feeling. I was selected on the Irish cross country team five times in different age categories, from 45 to 60. I have five team medals, one gold, two silver and two bronze, which I’m very proud of.

Probably the most memorable of these moments was in spring of 2019, when our ladies 0/60 team took home the gold in the half marathon, from the world masters championships in Poland.

List your current PBs for the following distances.

1 mile: 6:10 – Alsaa track Dublin, 2012

5k: 19:10 – Rathdrum County Wicklow, 2005

10k: 41:28 – Jimmy’s 10 Downpatrick, 2006

10 mile: 70:01 – Ballycotton County Cork, 2005

Half marathon: 1:31 – Dublin, 2005

Full marathon: 3:44 – Dublin, 2016 (my one and only!).

How have the Covid-19 restrictions affected Your training or racing plans?

I’m training away nice and easy within my radius, which takes me out along the Boyne boardwalk to Oldbridge house. Taking two rest days a week and doing some online yoga also helps to keep me sane! I miss the races, but really we are the lucky ones. We get to stay home, run and enjoy life at an easier pace.

The frontline workers deserve great credit. Hopefully by the end of the year, we will get back to racing and I will be looking forward to racing against my old friends in Mullingar Harriers, Brigid McCabe and Nicky McCabe and Vera and Paul McCool.

What advice or training tips would you give to anyone who is now looking to take up running?

Start slow and build up the miles. Get plenty of rest and try to stick to a healthy diet. The single most important thing to do when starting out is to get yourself a good pair of runners, otherwise you will end up with all sorts of injuries.

When things return to normal, join an athletics club. There really is nothing like having a group to keep you motivated and you will also make friends for life.

Run, jog or walk, as long as you’re moving, that’s what matters. Never be afraid to give it a go.

The amount of people who say to me, ‘I would love to be able to run like you’ – well, everybody has to start somewhere! I started running for fun and I’m still a fun runner, just a competitive one!

Never compare Yourself to anyone else, this is your journey, enjoy it and smile.

What are your lifetime goals and PBs?

I think my PB days are long gone, but I really enjoy the competition, especially with the more mature ladies in my category. I’m really a race fanatic, I just love the buzz of a race and the build-up to race day.

I have raced all over Ireland, from Cork to Donegal, and I have met some fantastic people and made lifelong friends.

I remember going to Belvedere in Mullingar to do the 5k league and the famous Pauline Curley (on her cool-down) and her coach Mick Hadden supporting and encouraging me on my last kilometre. That really made my night.

I really appreciated it and I have always tried to follow their example by encouraging runners in a race, especially someone who might be struggling or only starting out running.

Castlepollard is another race I never like to miss, as it’s such a friendly race, coupled with a lovely route around the Tullynally Castle grounds and back in to the town. I remember taking my daughter Aishling to it about 15 years ago when she was a baby, and last year she took part in it, and I don’t think I missed any of the years in between.

I feel I have been blessed to have been able, in the last few years, to take part in races abroad. I have taken part in a half marathon in Central Park, New York in 2016 and I even won my age category. I did another half in Berlin in 2017. I took part in the masters world half marathon in Turin in Poland, in 2019, where our 0/60 team took gold.

I also ran the Europeans masters in Venice in 2019 and our 0/60 team got bronze, in hot and humid conditions. We were supposed to go to the European championships in Madeira in April 2020, but it had to be cancelled.

I hope to travel to a lot more countries to race and to visit. Canada is on my bucket list and I would love to go back to Australia, God willing.

In my book age is only a number and you keep going as long as you can!

What is your favourite post race meal?

I love any meal that has chicken in it and I also love bacon and cabbage. I’m probably lucky in the fact that I love all vegetables and fruits – especially strawberries and grapes, they are my favourites!

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