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  • Writer's pictureBarra Oconnell

Eagle AC Member Profile: Martin Leahy

Cork City Marathon 2017. - Martin heading to the finish line with proud son Vincent keeping a close eye on him!

Name: Martin Leahy

Member of Eagle AC since: 2012

How long have you been running – what made you take it up? : I started running in 2008 – there was a lot of travel in the job I had at the time and I couldn’t make the soccer games in Cork any more. It turned out I could run no matter where I was in the World. I was in New York one day that October and, fairly clueless, I went in to Foot Locker, bought a ridiculous pair of Nike Shox as well as a baggy-assed knicks and ran 3 miles the next morning. Over the next few months, I ended up running in five or six different capital cities – running turned out to be a great way to see the World. My first race was the Ballycotton 10 in 2009 where I just about broke 70 minutes in the Nike Shox and the baggy knicks – I was one of those lads you see running along the road in a football jersey – pace all over the shop!

Favourite thing about running: There are two joint favourite things about running: The first favourite thing is the “Zen” – it’s a winter’s evening after work – no wind, cold but not freezing, you’re in the middle of an hour-long run in the dark on the Blackrock loop say, going well and your mind gradually goes to a different place – the speed picks up slowly but it’s almost incidental – all you feel is the buzz of the running. There’s nobody else there, just you, the energy and the road before you. To someone who doesn’t run, you can’t explain it – to someone who does run, you don’t have to. The other favourite thing is the camaraderie – training with your fellow runners, hours spent on the road together preparing for the races and the mutual respect that develops, the blast of going off to races together and the joyous few hours in Doheny and Nesbitt’s after the Dublin marathon.

Favourite distance to run: Has to be the marathon I suppose – although I’d love to give Cork-Cobh a really good rattle some time. I find the short stuff very tough going.

What is your main goal for this year? To restore my left hamstring to its former glory and get out on the road as much as I can.

Best race / most memorable racing moment to date: All races are memorable! My best performance would have to be winning the national individual silver and the team gold with Tom and Brian at Dublin marathon 2019 – that and the national team gold in 2015 with Ronan Boland and Frank Hill were standout days. We will always have that team memory. Sometimes it’s the training leading in to a race that’s the memorable part. Learning to train for the marathon with Viv Foley in the early years was a great experience – Viv has long since moved up the running field but it was some buzz to break the three-hour mark together in Dublin in 2012. Fantastic times too in 2016 training with Colin O’Herlihy and Ruairi O’Callaghan for Dublin – it’s great when everyone hits the peak together – you live, sleep, eat and breathe the marathon for those last eight weeks - brilliant. Last “memorable moment” - turning the corner and running down Boylston Street in the Boston Marathon knowing that I had nailed a sub-3 on the famous course was a spine-tingling experience – the noise from the grandstands, the flags and the music was like a wave carrying you along. It was the year after the bomb and that last third of a mile was very emotional.

National Champions - Gold medal at DCM 2015 - Ronan Boland, Martin Leahy and Frank Hill

Tell us something most people might not know about you: I am an avid James Joyce fan – his writing is a towering achievement, a source of endless pleasure to those who engage.

Biggest heroes (sporting or non-sporting): No surprises with the first one – Sonia O’Sullivan. Having seen and heard so many debates trying to determine “Who is Ireland’s Greatest Sportsperson?”, for me Ireland’s greatest sportsperson is the one that makes me the most proud to be Irish. Sonia wins that one hands down – I still get goosebumps when I think of her double World Championship win in Morocco or when I picture her in the green vest at the top of the home straight in Sydney, sprinting alongside Szabo ( we don’t run the videotape to the finish line any more ;-) ) Bill Gates is also a bit of a hero of mine – I’m an IT fanatic and I always loved his attitude to technology and his evangelism of same. He can be a fair old nerd but he’s developed a great second act in his career, talks a lot of sense and hasn’t hesitated to try and help the world. Mick McCormack, head coach at Dolphin Swimming Club is a definite hero in our house. Our family are heavily involved in competitive swimming at the club and Mick is incredible. His focus and dedication to all of the swimmers is something to see – inclusive, performance-driven and very much swimmer-oriented – the club is thriving as a result. His leadership during all of this Covid carry-on has been an inspiration. Definitely an unsung Cork sporting hero.

One bit of advice you would give to someone thinking of taking up running: Do it! As a runner, you’ll meet great people, never be bored or depressed, you’ll have a positive attitude & energy, can eat whatever you want, will be fit as a fiddle, will sleep like a top, will always fit your clothes and can kiss goodbye to coughs and colds.

Three things you would take with you onto a desert island: I am assuming running is already well catered for on this island, so:

  1. “Ulysses” by James Joyce

  2. Spotify

  3. A Zoom kiosk to stay connected with the family

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