Sunday 15 December 2019

Stephen and Gary O'Hanlon show age is only a number

Stephen and Gary O’Hanlon in the Phoenix Park
Stephen and Gary O’Hanlon in the Phoenix Park

Frank Greally

Friday and Saturday, September 19 and 20, were two days when I was privileged to witness what I can best describe as a feast of Irish running.

The Friday afternoon 5K in the Phoenix Park - the final event in a week-long around the country promotion of the SPAR/TodayFM Run 5K with Ray D'Arcy - had an entry of over 2,000 and the event, organised by Athletics Ireland, was a joy to witness, especially as I watched a continuous sea of runners wearing their souvenir green t-shirts, advancing towards the finish line.

Ray D'Arcy has long been a great crusader for running, but it was still pretty amazing that he could attract over 2,000 runners to the Phoenix Park at lunchtime on a Friday to participate in this splendid promotion. Ray led by example and greatly enjoyed his 5K run, and SPAR was well represented too by John Clohisey and Willie O'Brien, who both delivered spirited performances.

There was hardly time to draw breath before it was back to the park again on Saturday, this time at 10am for the start of the SSE Airtricity Dublin Half Marathon, the final event in this year's Dublin Race Series.

There was a huge entry of over 8,000, further evidence that the Irish running boom is still on an upward spiral. This was another promotion brilliantly organised by the gallant crew who also organise the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon.

The SSE Airtricity Dublin Race Series has to be, by a long shot, the best value four races in the country and the level of organisation for all four events is second to none. It looks like an increasing number of runners are now beginning to focus on the value allied to quality organisation when it comes to choosing events.

Gary O'Hanlon led the field home, winning as he pleased in 1:09:43. Patricia Wlodarczyk, a native of Poland and now running for Raheny Shamrock AC, came smiling through to win the women's race in 1:22:53.

For me, the most touching moment was when 69 years young Stephen O'Hanlon crossed the line to finish in 1:58.01 in his first ever outing over the half-marathon distance.

It was lovely to see race winner Gary greet his father and you could see from the way that Stephen O'Hanlon sprinted the final few hundred metres to the finish that his son did not lick his athleticism off a stone.

It's scarcely nine months since Stephen O'Hanlon laced on a pair of running shoes for the first time and started to walk and jog short distances close to his home near Dundalk. He had travelled to numerous events with his prolific and successful son Gary and was getting tired of being just a spectator.

Stephen started his training slowly, but built up the training and the distance and soon was ready for his first 5K, the Patsy Kelly event in April where he posted 25:48. He soon tackled 10K with similar success and, in the Frank Duffy 10 Mile in Phoenix Park received third prize in the Over-65 age category. Over the previous nine months, he had shed three stone through the training schedule planned by his son.

Stephen is now contemplating running the Dublin Marathon on October 27. He runs in the colours of Team Carrie with the same style and spirit as his son, who celebrated his 40th birthday a few months ago. For father and son, age is only a number.

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