If you are planning to do the Mullingar Half Marathon next year you are a clever runner, according to John Treacy.
Treacy, the chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympic marathon, was in Mullingar to help launch the half marathon, which occupies its now traditional date on St Patrick’s Day.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner at the launch event in Mullingar Town Park, Mr Treacy said: “What I always say to people that run half marathons is that they’re very smart. Half marathons are fine, 10-miles are fine, 5ks are fine, 10ks are fine... a marathon’s too far!”
A legend of Irish athletics, Mr Treacy had some good advice for the type of recreational runner that makes up the bulk of the 1,400-plus entry expected for the half marathon in 2019.
“It’s great to be here in Mullingar to help launch the half marathon,” he said. “It’s on the 17th of March, so that gives people plenty of time to put on the runners and get ready and get fit for it.
“Thirteen miles is a long way and people need to be in good condition, so now’s the time to start training.”
What would he recommend?
“Well, build up slowly, you probably should be thinking about it now, it’s three months away, but, you know, 13 miles – most people can do it if they get a few runs behind them, and two hours is great [as a time to complete the half].
“Keep going, put the head, work away and enjoy it, that’s the bottom line.”
Also a three-time world cross-country champion, Mr Treacy had praise for this part of the country.
“Mullingar is a great area, lots of activities down here, lots of sporting activities too, there’s a great running community here as well, the Harriers are a very strong club, they do so well nationally and internationally.”
He remembers competing against Harriers runners over the years, including Louis Kenny, and he knows Bobbie Begley well. “They’ve [the Harriers] had some great runners down through the years and there’s a great tradition.
“And now young ones coming through as well, which is great to see, absolutely great to see.”
Jason Scarff, who has been on the event organising committee since the start, said: “It’s the fifth year of the Mullingar Half Marathon, it’s going to be the same route as the last couple of years, same charity as the previous two years, TEAM, which helps homeless women and children in Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Laois.
“We’re expecting another huge crowd. Sales of entries have nearly doubled what they were this time last year, it’s looking like a growth of somewhere between 25 and 50 per cent.
“Entries are open at Mullingarhalfmarathon.com, they’re currently at €30. There’s about 300 of those left for sale online, and then the price will go up to €35.
“All proceeds of this half marathon go to TEAM as we have a 100 per cent voluntary committee. It raised €19,000 last year, so we’re hoping for a bigger and better donation next time.”
Jason’s colleague on the committee, Nuala-Ann Curley, added: “We’re looking for support from the community. As Jason said it’s a community event, run on a volunteer basis, there’s a committee of about 10 people all putting in their time.
“It’s for TEAM and we want to reach out to the community and get some sponsors on board, some help as support so that as much funding as possible goes to TEAM, and that the running costs are covered as far as possible, so hopefully we can get support in the coming weeks.”
Also present at the launch were Martin Marshall and Siobhán Flaherty of TEAM. “TEAM provides services for homeless women and children in the midlands, at our facility in Teach Fáilte on the Longford Road,” said Mr Marshall.
“Now, we have 11 women and 12 children, and we expect to have that number over Christmas.
“We hope to provide full Christmas fare for the women and the children, including Santy Claus, who comes to our premises next week - he’s coming early.
“We would like to thank the people of the midlands and the people of Mullingar in particular, and the businesses of Mullingar, for their ongoing support of TEAM, and the fabulous generosity we experience whenever we go fundraising.
“Apart from funding we receive from Westmeath County Council and the HSE we have to raise €85,000 ourselves, which is a big task.
“This year, 2018, the Mullingar Half Marathon raised €19,000, and next year we’re hoping for the same. We’re very appreciative of the fact that we’re the main beneficiary of the event.
“It’s the biggest part of our fundraising, but we try to have four main events, including the Valentine’s ball in the Greville Arms in February, and that we hope will bring in an equal amount.
“As I say, we are very grateful to the people and the businesses of Westmeath and the midlands but to Mullingar in particular.”