Orla with her husband Martin and their children Lucy and Daniel, after the Christmas parkrun in Mullingar in 2019.

Running Matters One:2:One with Orla Hickey

By Martin Lyons

This week I’m interviewing a lady who is a relative newcomer to the running scene, who has already made many friends and plenty of good memories.

Orla Hickey picked up the running bug after taking up a challenge in the local boxing club/gym to run a 5k. In 2019 she completed the Dublin Marathon.

Orla has good advice for anyone looking to start running and explains how the current Covid-19 restrictions have affected her racing plans.

The sooner the races start again, the better, as there’s plenty more craic to be had out running and plenty of tasty fries to be eaten afterwards.

Name: Orla Hickey

DOB: 30/10/79

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

It all started in the Elite boxing gym, where I do boxing classes twice a week. I met some people there who challenged me to run a 5k with them and I never turn down a challenge. I thought ‘sure yeah what harm can it do’, not realising running was going to take over my life. That was the start of it!

Not long after we did a 10k and I started doing the parkrun every Saturday morning with my two gorgeous kids and my lovely husband Martin.

Then 10k became 10 miles and next was a half marathon and sure there was nothing left to do only a full marathon!

With a lot of persuasion from my running buddy Owen, we ran the Dublin Marathon in 2019.

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

I prefer the longer distances at a slower pace. I’m not fast and don’t really care about the speed, but I prefer to enjoy the time I’m out running and take it easy. For me it’s all about the fresh air, clearing the head, enjoying the scenery and chatting in good company.

I try to pick routes that I like. The canal out to Coolnahay and Ballynacargy or out the other direction to Mary Lynch’s.

I often run up around Lilliput and Castletown Geoghegan. I’m very lucky to live beside the canal and greenway. 10 miles is probably my favorite distance.

What running achievements are you most proud of and why?

The first 10k I ever did was in Longwood in 2017 and that was a big one as I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to run that far.

It was the start of the self belief that I could do it and the great thing about running is you actually don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. Everyone that crosses the finish line gets the same medal. I reckon I get more for my entry fee because I’m longer running the race!

I can’t forget the Dublin Marathon in 2019 – that has to be one of the best days I’ve ever had. The sense of achievement when I crossed that finish line is like nothing I had ever experienced. After months of training, I’d finally made it.

I’m also proud to have my children Daniel 12 and Lucy 10 run with me. My husband Martin also joins us from time to time and it’s great to have something active and fun we can all do together. Even our dogs Roxie and Jack come with us, so really we’re blessed.

List your current PBs for the following distances.

5k: 26.48, Mullingar parkrun, November 2019.

10k: 59.56, Gingerbread run, 2019.

10 mile: 1.43, Roscommon 10 mile, 2019.

Half marathon: 2.16, marathon training, 2019

Full marathon: 4.47, Dublin 2019.

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

I signed up for around 10 races this year and every one of them has been postponed or gone virtual. I miss the races and the chat and craic with other runners on race day. I also miss the parkrun in Mullingar too, but I still go and run the route on Saturday morning with the kids and a few mates.

I ran the Virtual Mullingar Half Marathon last week, so I’ve been keeping the training going and doing virtual races to get some bling. I still set small goals for myself, running and cycling – that keeps me motivated until life goes back to normal.

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

Come to parkrun when it is back up and running, pardon the pun! It really is the best event for people of every standard, from walking to running.

Everyone is so encouraging, friendly and helpful. It’s a lovely community of like minded people and there’s always great banter, slagging and craic!

My advice is to get up and go that first day – you won’t regret it. You’ll find all the details You need for it online, or even in this newspaper.

What are your lifetime goals and/or PBs for the following distances?

Lifetime goals, oh Lord, where to start! Keep doing what I’m doing and enjoying it, I suppose – injury free. Another goal is to get my 100-parkrun T-shirt. I’m currently on 75.

I would also like to do another marathon or two, perhaps New York some day. I hope to do a triathlon in the future and climb Carrauntoohil and of course not forgetting to do all the races in 2021 that I missed in 2020!

What is your favourite post race meal?

Ah you can’t beat a fry and good cup of strong tea, but I love food in general and would eat pretty much anything! I’m very fond of the breakfast in the Roadhouse at The Downs.