Mark McElroy (Special Olympics Athlete), Me and Margaret McElroy (Chairperson Monaghan Special Olympics Committee)

What Is This Mad Eejit Doing Now?

For the last few years I have been jogging up and down the roads of Ireland trying to convince my body that it can run Marathons. It was not a pretty sight. I looked like a badly rehearsed marching band ; Everything was heading in the same general direction at roughly the same speed but no one part seemed to be coordinated with any other part and it all looked like it was just a step or two away from falling apart. I managed to drag myself around the Edinburgh and Dublin Marathons a couple of times, the last time being Dublin in October 2019 and that nearly did for me. You know things are not going great when everyone who passes you is motivated to say “you are doing great”. In runners language “you are doing great” means “you look like crap and it’s a miracle you’re still standing”. Runners are polite that way. That was my fourth Marathon and my performances were rapidly going down hill – Indeed the rate of my dis-improvement was the only rapid aspect of my running. I thought a month’s break might rejuvenate me

A month passed, I looked down at my legs, ready to hit the road again and somehow my legs conveyed the message to me…get stuffed. Another week or two I thought, and another, and another and now I’m closing in on a three month break. I’m not sure how long you can say you are on a break before you start realising you have just stopped. This weekend I looked down at my legs again and they had disappeared. Where once there was an unobstructed view of my knobbly knees there now was a bulging jumper – That’s rather thick wool I thought! I lifted the jumper only to realise I must also be wearing a thick bulging shirt. Maybe I’m ironing them wrong. The shirt was my last protection of self delusion, for in lifting it reality hit. I saw an old acquaintance and he seemed to be winking up at me as if to say – “Ah I missed you – how are ye, ye fat fecker!” Seriously, I nearly dropped my chips! Enough is enough I thought. I have to get back running the hills before I become one.

I need to restart my training back at the short distances – Get the basics right before taking on the long distances. You can’t build a house on a dodgy foundation and there is some serious subsidence in my ass…I mean, foundation. The problem is that I need challenges to get me off my subsiding ass. I need to be trying to do something which I could easily fail at but with determination I might succeed . Just going out for 5 km runs doesn’t exactly motivate me. The local Marlay Park run on Saturdays is great fun, but lacks the challenge. This prompted me to go onto the Park Run Ireland site – Did you know there are 94 Park Runs in Ireland every Saturday – 23 of which are in Dublin? – Of course you didn’t, why in the name of God would you know that? – I only asked for dramatic affect! Mmmmm! 23 in Dublin. Now I spend about 50% of my weekends in Dublin which means in one year, if I really tried – I could run every Park Run in Dublin! At last a madcap eejit plan to motivate me again. 23 x 5 Km = The 115 Km Challenge.

But, I would also like to do some good along the way and so I want to use the challenge to help highlight the fantastic organisation ‘Special Olympics Ireland’ and most especially all my family and friends who are part of the Monaghan Special Olympics team. I will be wearing their strip on each run and I would ask any of you reading this, please support these fantastic athletes and their brilliant, dedicated helpers, where ever and whenever you can. Donate to collections, attend events, spread the word. The good that comes from this group who fund themselves is truly life changing, not just for the athletes themselves but for their families and anyone who has the honour of knowing them. I’ll try and entertain and inform through my blog as I attempt to get to all the Park Runs around the county…now where did I leave those chips!!

I was interviewed on Northern Sound Radio about my Challenge

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