Sunday 20 April 2014

Grassroots: Club of the Week

Athenry AC

The number of adult members registered with the club which started with just three

Plans are now falling into place for the annual Fields of Athenry 10k -- the annual St Stephen's Day event in the west of Ireland that attracts up to 1,500 entries as runners try to shake off some of the festive season excesses.

Athenry AC was founded in 2002 with just three members -- James Lundon, Mick Rice and Peter Delmer.

The club has since rapidly expanded and there are now more than 250 adult members registered, with many of the newest members having progressed into the club through the popular Fit4Life group.

This year, the club has joined forces with the local Tidy Towns committee to raise funds for the community.

The club does not have an official base, but officials and coaches organise a schedule of training sessions and trips to races all over the country.

The Saturday morning training session, from the local church car park, is the most popular session and has been a constant now for more than a decade.

The juvenile club and the senior section are organised in parallel but have a separate committee and AGM.

The senior club members tend to focus mainly on road running and cross-country but also support local track and field events.

Olympian Paul Hession, who competed in both the Beijing and London Games, is probably the best known club member.

Martina McCarthy was a member of the Irish women's 4x400m relay team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She now works as a strength and conditioning coach to many of Ireland's top athletes.

Meanwhile, club member and chartered physiotherapist Jane-Ann Healy was a member of the Athletics Ireland medical staff at London 2012.

Senior club member Paul McNamara has represented Ireland at the World Cross-Country Championships on a number of occasions and is now the regional development officer for Athletics Ireland in Connacht.

Athenry AC has also evolved into a strong ultra-running club with several ultra-marathon runners now in its ranks.

Club secretary and Athletics Ireland 2012 ultra athlete of the year Ruthann Sheahan is now in the middle of a high-mileage training block in preparation for the new ultra season.

National 24-hour indoor record holder Valerie Galvin has also recently returned to training following the birth of her second child and is setting her sights high for the new season.

Another well-known ultra-runner from the club is Mick Rice, who has won the Connemara 100-mile road race on four occasions. Just back in training after a period of injury, this dedicated club man is also looking forward to 2014 and a new ultra-racing season.

Athenry AC's 'speed sessions', organised by Jane-Ann Meehan, have become very popular and attract up to 60 athletes every Tuesday evening.

The club also has a thriving juvenile section.

The club's Fit4Life section has also proved to be hugely popular -- an ideal entry level for people wanting to improve their fitness.

Athenry AC has also hosted the Athletics Ireland National 10k (2008) and Half-Marathon Championship (2012).

The club's Fields of Athenry 10k is now firmly established as one of the leading road events in the west of Ireland.

Last year's event was run in a heavy downpour and the organisers will be hoping for more favourable weather conditions on December 26.

There is always a great festive atmosphere about the event, and the post-race get-together is always a lively affair.

Irish Independent

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