There are a lot of things in life you can prepare for, like an exam or a race, but there is certainly one thing you cannot prepare for, and that is the death of a parent.
On September 4, my father passed away. He was 84. It was, and still is, a very sad time for my mother and all the family.
People often ask where I got my athletic prowess from. While my father was not an athlete, he was an athletic man. And in another era, he might indeed have been a competitor. But like so many of his generation, work came first and he was kept at home to work on the farm.
The room in which he was laid out at home before his removal was the same room in which he was born, a nice and poignant coincidence.
He was born, bred, raised and lived all his life in the same house, the one in which my three brothers and three sisters and I were also raised. We had a dairy farm which my father patiently developed and built up over the years.
He was very much an outdoors man and a farming man. His number one pastime was hunting. The greatest sound he enjoyed was the sound of his beagles out hunting. In Cornafean, there was a strong and vibrant hunt club, and up until he became a little less mobile in recent years, this remained a very important part of his life.
He always believed that you only got out of life what you put into it, and was a great believer in the old saying that hard work never did anyone any harm.
I remember one winter evening I was at home and I had an All-Ireland Championship race coming up and needed to get out for a practice run. It was around 6pm, which was a very busy time for my father, but he agreed to drive the car behind me up the road for a couple of miles while I ran.
There were some steep hills on the route, but I put in a big effort to run fast to impress him. When we got back home, he got out of the car and said: "Could you not have run faster?" That was my father's way of saying "good lassie, that was great running". He never got overly excited – no airs and graces.
Once when I returned from winning a cross-country race somewhere in Italy in the pre-euro days, I arrived home late on Sunday night, still in my tracksuit, and put a bundle of lira on the kitchen table. He just looked at it and said, quietly but wryly with a warm smile: "Good lassie yourself."
He instilled a great work ethic into all of us, which I think is a great gift that most farmers pass on to their children. His motto was to work hard and keep a low profile. He enjoyed the simple things in life, like a good chat with visiting neighbours at the end of a long day.
I understand that grief is something we all have to deal with. And I will be making every effort to remember my father on November 10 at the Remembrance Run in the Phoenix Park which will provide us with an opportunity to run a race in memory of loved ones. My father, John, will certainly be to the fore of my mind that day as a big thanks to him for being such a powerful driving force behind my running career.
And once I cross the finish line, he will be looking down with a nice smile saying gently to himself: "Good lassie yourself."
We miss my father terribly, but as he would say, life must go on.