Inspiration outside the classroom
The students at St Paul's Secondary School in Greenhills, Walkinstown, Dublin, are still celebrating the Donal Walsh Memorial and Inspirational Trophy they received when taking part in the recent Remembrance Run 5k.
A few weeks earlier, more than 100 students from the school, led by their PE teacher Jacqui Dunphy, all finished the annual Simon Community Five-Mile Road Race in the Phoenix Park, and that experience whetted their appetite for more running action.
It was another teacher at St Paul's, Shirley English, who got the momentum going for the young students to get into training for the Simon event and Jacqui was more than happy to row in and get fully involved in helping to make the project a resounding success.
It helped that Jacqui was an experienced runner and a member of Clonliffe Harriers, with a personal best time of 3:18 for the marathon – set in Dublin this year. The 35-year-old mother of two was delighted to pass on her love of running to the students at St Paul's, and she is still amazed at how many answered the call to action.
Setting the students a goal of training for an event like the Simon Community Five-Mile was central to the project. The training was completed in a gradual way – small increments with consistency being the key.
"I have found it quite amazing how so many students took up the running challenge," said Jacqui. "They cannot wait to take part in the next big running event."
A native of Clonakilty, Jacqui is a mother of two small children – Caoimhe (2) and Beibhinn (4) – who still finds time in her busy schedule to train with members of Clonliffe Harriers, where she is coached by Eugene Coppinger.
"It is great to be able to pass on my love of running to the students and to witness how they respond to the challenge of getting fit.
"It is just a matter of getting the ball rolling, and once they discover the benefits of regular exercise, the young people are quickly sold on the challenge of improving themselves. Running gives these young people a chance to do something very positive for themselves. They learn that success can be achieved if you approach your training with baby steps and make small but gradual progress," said Jacqui.
"I loved to see the faces of the students that I trained as they came across the finish line in the Simon Community Five-Mile and the Remembrance Run 5k – the joy and sense of achievement could be seen."
Jacqui trains six days a week. "I have a great coach in Eugene Coppinger and training with a group at the club is a real tonic for me," she said. "It is a great feeling to be out running with a group from the club at 7.30am on a Sunday morning. The banter and the camaraderie is always brilliant and running like this is a great way of unwinding after a hard week.
"I suppose it helps for the students to know that I am a runner," said Jacqui. "They always want to know what time it has taken me to complete any of the runs they take part in. "They want to know about how I train and they also have lots of questions about health and nutrition.
"I would encourage other schools to target a few running events and encourage their students to get involved in a running project. I can guarantee the results will be very positive."
"The parents have been brilliant and they too see the value of the running programme that we have developed," she said.
Jacqui and her students were thrilled to be selected to receive the Donal Walsh Memorial and Inspirational Trophy from the Athletics Ireland organisers of the Remembrance Run 5k.
"It was a real honour for our school to be chosen to receive this trophy in memory of the brave young Tralee teenager who inspired so many people during his short life. Donal continues to inspire our young people and he left them a great message of hope that they all need so much right now."
Watch out for the young students from St Paul's Secondary School at their next outing at the Jingle Bells 5k in the Phoenix Park on December 7. You can be sure that they will all finish the course – smiles on their faces, joy in their hearts and the satisfaction of knowing that they have achieved another of the goals set by their running teacher.