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Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan remembers mother-of-two Gillian Ryan who died on mountain running trail as ‘so much fun’


Gillian Ryan

Gillian Ryan

Gillian Ryan

Olympic medalist Sonia O’Sullivan has paid tribute to mother-of-two Gillian Ryan whose remains were found on the Comeragh mountains after going missing for 30 hours.

Ms Ryan, from the Horse and Jockey, Thurles, Co Tipperary, was a keen runner and a member of Thurles Crokes Athletic Club and her family.

She went missing while out of a run on Sunday and her body was discovered yesterday following a large search operation.

The 37-year-old’s husband Conor and children, Conor junior and Amelia, are being comforted by their extended family.

The popular young woman, who worked as a hairdresser, was a prominent member of the athletics club and represented it in local and national races on both the road and cross country circuit, winning many events over the last several years.

Ms O’Sullivan, who won a gold medal in the 5000m at the 1995 World Championships, and a silver medal in the 5000m at the 2000 Olympics, posted on the Thurles Crokes Athletics Club Facebook page saying: “So sorry and so very sad to hear this news. I met Gillian last year at our running camps in Kerry, so much fun full of energy and loved her running.

“A big fan of our weekly podcast and will be missed by so many in the running community. RIP and condolences to family and friends at this very difficult time.”

This morning, Thurles Crokes Athletic Club posted a tribute on its Facebook page.

"It is with absolute shock and heartbreak that we announce the untimely passing of our beautiful friend and and athlete Gillian,” the club said.

"So full of love and positivity. Running with Gillian made the many miles fly by in laughter and chat.

“Our love, prayers and condolences to her husband Conor, daughter Amelia and son Conor at this time.

“Ar dheis De go raibh a hanam. Xxxx.”

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Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

Gillian Ryan. Picture: Thurles Crokes Athletic Club Facebook

In an interview with Thurles Crokes Athletic Club some time ago, Ms Ryan said running was her joy.

She said her running goal for the future was “to get as many adventure runs as I can in”.

"I love to run and feel blessed to be able to. I want to take my running to be able to join half marathons in beautiful places. What a dream to be able to run 22km along coast lines or scenic beauty spots.

“It's a huge gift and I want to enjoy it. This is my wish for my running. This is what makes me happy, I came to realise this is my dream for running. Not to burn out for the wins.

“If I come to do well in races that's an amazing high and I will always do my best but my love of running is to enjoy it and see beautiful places with amazing people along the way."

Ms Ryan was last seen at 12.45pm on Sunday and was due to return from her run along the Coumshingaun Loop trail at 2pm.

However, when her husband Conor did not hear from her, he alerted the emergency services at 3pm.

Ms Ryan had been in constant contact with family members prior to 2pm.

A major search operation was launched and it continued into yesterday.

A body was recovered by mountain rescue and gardaí at around 6.30pm yesterday, close to an area where Ms Ryan had last been seen.

Gardaí believe her death was a tragic accident.

She was said to be a very experienced runner and was running on a loop trail around Coumshingaun Lake, a popular but steep trail for mountain runners and walkers.

Emergency services members stayed with her remains for several hours overnight until they were removed from the Coumshingaun Loop trail. Her remains were found in a steep gully above the lake.

A post mortem examination is expected to be carried out at University Hospital Waterford.

Local Fianna Fáil county councillor Sean Ryan said: “The community is in deep shock at the loss of such a wonderful lady. News of the accident and her untimely passing has sent shock waves through Thurles and Moycarkey Borris where she was best known and highly respected.

“All our thoughts are with her husband Conor, children, extended family and friends. What has happened is absolutely unspeakable. I knew Gillian and indeed her husband Conor who is originally from the nearby village of Dundrum. He too is a well-known runner.

“Gillian was a committed family person and adored her young children. I met her only three weeks ago and we exchanged pleasantries. You would always see her out running along the roads and she was a very graceful runner.”

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