As the closing date of the 30th June for the Early Bird reduced Registration rate for the Donegal Marathon draws near, Chairman Dessie Larkin reminisces with Donegal’s very own Danny McDaid, Double Marathon Olympian and winner of the last competitive marathon to take place in Donegal. In the following interview, Danny shares the mind-set of a competitive marathon runner with the former Letterkenny Mayor who intends to walk the half-marathon himself when the event takes place on the 24th August, this year.
Dessie: Hello Danny, thank you for taking the time for a wee chat about the marathon and for all your efforts on the Organising Committee. Having had such an illustrious career in athletics I feel that you must have seen many changes through the years. How would you compare marathon running when you first started with the marathons of today?
Danny: Thank you, Dessie. I’m very excited about this upcoming event as I feel it’s high time we had a competitive marathon event in this county to showcase the abundance of long distance runners we have today. Marathon runners in my time were athletes who were no longer good enough to compete at shorter events so they moved up to the marathon. It was all about being able to run the distance. Today’s marathon runner is usually a good 10k runner as well and starts running marathons much younger.
Dessie: In your opinion, is a marathon about competing with the other runners or competing with the course?
Danny: If you are a top class runner you are competing against other competitors. If you are a 3 hour plus runner you are competing with yourself and the course.
Dessie: As a Double Olympian in the Marathon event, it must be of great personal satisfaction to reflect on such an outstanding athletic career, but what is your most abiding memory of your time spent wearing the Irish singlet?
Danny: I always got great personal satisfaction but there was always a team to think of – family, coach and club who made many sacrifices along the way. I always felt I had a job to do when I was representing my country which added a fair bit of pressure but I felt I did it to the best of my ability.
Dessie: Superstition or routine often plays a part in an athlete’s preparation; where there any rituals or preparations before or during the event that you had to complete when taking part in a marathon?
Danny: Superstition or ritual were never part of my preparation. Preparation was to be happy about my training, my running kit, comfortable running shoes, pre-race meal and a good night’s sleep if that is possible.
Dessie: What do you think are the main benefits of establishing the Donegal Marathon this year and moving forward?
DMD: I see two main benefits. Firstly, to re-establish Marathon running in the county and maybe produce marathon runners like we had in the past from the wealth of enthusiastic runners that I have alluded to already; and secondly, to bring more people to Donegal by showcasing our beautiful town of Letterkenny and the surrounding county.
Dessie: As the winner of the 1983 marathon, what are your abiding memories of that day?
Danny: Ah there were a few, Dessie! The fact that it was ten minutes’ drive into town to the start of race instead of travelling long distances to other races all over Ireland, and that I was competing on a course which took me past my own home. I also remember the pleasure I felt giving the people of Letterkenny and Glenswilly the opportunity to see top class runners from all over Ireland and further afield pass their own doors with a Glen man leading them home. The joy and pride of my family and friends as I crossed finish line on Pearce Rd was very, very sweet and will always stay with me!
Dessie: Finally Danny, remaining with the fact that you won the last marathon to be held in Donegal, that this is a Donegal audience, and with a subtle little nod to our county, I’ll ask you one last question; what is your greatest achievement in athletics?
Danny: Looking back I was so lucky to have been given the natural ability to achieve so much, being selected for my first International, selected for two Olympics and privileged to captain the Irish team who won silver medals at the World Cross Country 1979 were all very special moments, but in direct response to your very pointed question… I will have to say it was winning the last competitive marathon to be held in Donegal in 1983!
For more information on the Donegal Marathon 2014, visit www.donegalmarathon.ie or find them on facebook. So if you’ve been doing a bit of running lately, why don’t you get your running shoes back on and take the ultimate challenge? Options include running the full marathon and walking or running the half marathon. Alternatively, you can just turn out on the course to lend your much-needed support and encouragement to all participants. Together we can make the 24th August a day to remember!