Monday 18 March 2019

Women's meet and train hits the right note for Niamh

Former Irish international athlete Niamh Fitzgerald led the way home
Former Irish international athlete Niamh Fitzgerald led the way home

Frank Greally

There was a great gathering of club runners at the recent Women's Meet and Train Cross Country Race in Dunboyne, the first in a series of two-mile events due to take place at different venues over the coming months.

The two-mile distance is especially suitable for club runners who want to experience cross-country running for the first time and it is also ideal for middle-distance runners who want to build a winter endurance base.

Former Irish international athlete Niamh Fitzgerald led the way home over a flat but heavy course in Dunboyne and it was great to see her striding out confidently at the head of the field, cheered on by her husband Eoin and children Liam (8), Saoirse (7) and Conal (3).

Back in 1993 when competing under her maiden name of Niamh Beirne, the talented Lucan Harriers athlete was awarded a four-year athletic scholarship to Boise State University in Idaho, USA. She was showing great promise as an 800m runner and she enjoyed what ended up as a five-year sojourn in America.

Niamh competed for Ireland in two European and one World Cross Country Championships but about 10 years ago she simply drifted out of athletics as years of hard training and competition took their toll. She was glad of the break from the sport that she has always been passionate about and when she started back running after her youngest child was born, she found a renewed appetite for training.

Her first tentative strides back were in an annual five-mile race in Anne Valley in Waterford, the home county of her husband Eoin. Eoin joined her in this Valentine's Day event and they won the prize for first couple home.

Niamh's enthusiasm for a return to running was further enhanced when she visited the Lucan Harriers clubhouse and watched the young athletes and the Fit4Life members going out on training runs. She felt that she was missing something important in her life and decided to rejoin the running community.

The Saturday morning Park Runs in the local Griffeen Park gave her an enjoyable entry to mass participation and a three-days-a-week training plan has been enough build a high level of fitness again.

Niamh finds the Women's Meet and Train two-mile Cross Country League Races the perfect distance for her current level of fitness. There is no pressure and there is a great cross-section of runners taking part from a wide range of clubs like Lucan Harriers, Crusaders AC, Blackrock AC, Trim AC, Donore Harriers and many others. She also runs in some of the Business Houses Athletic Association races and finds the competition there a little tougher. "Your lungs would be up to your back," she said.

Like so many other mothers who have taken up running, Niamh Fitzgerald finds that races like the Meet and Train League, BHAA and Park Runs also have a great social dimension.

"I love meeting lots of other mothers and you cannot underestimate the importance of meeting up with fellow runners for a chat and a cup of tea after the race is over," she said.

There is a sense of coming full circle, too, for Niamh as her two oldest children are now members of her beloved Lucan Harriers .

"It feels great to be out there running with all the other mothers and by staying active I feel that Eoin and myself are also proving to be good role models for our children, who already love to run."

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