VINNIE is a seasoned adventure runner. He once summitted Croagh Patrick in a straight 43-minute run during the Gaelforce West Adventure Race and clocked up 1,000 miles in an eight-month period alone last year over several different marathons. Running is simply what Vinnie O'Leary loves to do in his spare time and through it has redefined his very character.
It wasn't always the case for him. Up until his 30th birthday, Vinnie had a 20-a-day cigarette habit and while he played soccer regularly he was far from peak fitness.
Four years after he first started running with the north Kerry fitness group Kerry Crusaders and he is a totally different man in terms of his physical health. He is one of hundreds relishing the prospect of taking on the Bog 2 Beach Adventure Challenge terrain by foot and bike - over bogs, steep hills and beaches.
"I gave up smoking on my 30th birthday and, as I had always wanted to run a marathon, I started training. I started by myself initially, but as I built up the mileage over the first couple of months I started finding it difficult running on my own without someone there to egg me on.
"Luckily, Gordon Flannery started the Kerry Crusaders around the same time and I've been running with them ever since. I suppose I wouldn't have been fit before I started running seriously, I would have played a bit of soccer and I didn't have much weight to lose getting into it at least."
As for quitting cigarettes, he says it was simple enough: "I just replaced one addiction with another. When I started training I just got so engrossed in it and I wasn't going out drinking either which made it easier. By the time I started going out again I wasn't thinking of the fags. In fact, I found a lot of my life had changed in that I had new friends through the Crusaders as well."
Just last year Vinnie and his friend Fozzy Forristal from Lixnaw notched up 1,000 miles each in the space of just eight months when they crossed the finishing line in the Dingle Marathon. "The thing was we were only training three days a week due to work commitments. We were managing seven miles midweek so we were forced to increase significantly by the weekend when we would run a minimum of a half marathon!"
In another incredible illustration of his stamina and his ability to recuperate fast, Vinnie completed the Dublin City Marathon with Gordon before the pair of them jetted off to the US where they completed the famous New York City Marathon - in the one week!
He is fairly chomping at the bit to take part in the Bog 2 Beach on Saturday, April 27. The 69km route is broken up into three stages and Vinnie will be doing it as a relay with running buddy Fozzy. For his part, Vinnie gets to cycle from Listowel to Ballybunion over the seriously steep peak of Scrollum, run Ballybunion beach down to the Cashen and cycle back to Listowel to hand over again to Fozzy for the final stage - a 10km run around Listowel town.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It was Bog 2 Beach organiser Gordon Flannery that got me into adventure racing, doing the Gaelforce West in Mayo in which you have to climb Croagh Patrick. I've run up Croagh Patrick in 43 minutes and come down in 19 so I know how tough it is.
"Bog 2 Beach will really highlight the best of north Kerry and I think it will be of massive attraction to adventure runners from all over the country, not just in Kerry. I've cycled Scrollum myself for instance and I know how tough it is, the last part is definitely out of the seat! But the views from up there are amazing and if we get the right weather the Bog 2 Beach Adventure Challenge will really showcase the beauty of north Kerry, from the Atlantic all the way up past the ships coming into Foynes!"
"My advice for anyone wondering whether or not they should take part is to forget about your time in it. Don't worry about how long it will take you in the first year, just try to enjoy it as much as possible. For something like this you can only get a feel for your timing on your first attempt. After that you have a personal time to compare next year's attempt to. Just go for it! You will only regret something you didn't do. And take it easy on yourself while doing it, take it at your own pace and enjoy it. It's an adventure after all!"