Pauline Curley came smiling through on the June Bank Holiday Monday to retain her women's title in the Cork City Marathon and in the process break her own course record — finishing in 2:43.47.
When I saw the photograph of Pauline coasting to her second marathon victory in the space of a month I was reminded of a day in Beijing, China, six years ago when I watched the Tullamore woman compete in the Olympic Marathon.
Six years on, and at the age of 45, Pauline is still as passionate as ever about her running and her winning performances in the Barrington's Hospital Great Limerick Run (2:44.47 winning time) and the Cork City Marathon speaks volumes about her positive can-do attitude.
There is no other athlete that I know who could so fully embrace the Olympic experience as Pauline did in Beijing. She greeted me that day on the marathon course with a wave, a smile and a cheery hello — as if she was just training. For Pauline, the act of taking part in the Olympic Games was a deeply joyous experience that she savoured for every stride of the 26.2 miles that day in China.
It is amazing how runners like Pauline Curley and Catherina McKiernan — both in their mid-40s — can continue to show a clean pair of heels to a lot of competitors half their age. Both women are still fiercely competitive, but they each exude a great sense of the joy of living when they perform and stretch themselves to new limits.
When I called Pauline Curley on the afternoon of the June Bank Holiday Monday she was already back home in Tullamore — making plans for work the following day in the Café 4 U in the Bridge Centre in her hometown where she is the resident chef.
“I ran a bit in national school, but I was about 18 before I took it up again and joined Tullamore Harriers all those years ago,” Pauline told me. “Running has given me so much and I feel so grateful to be still able to compete at a reasonably high level. I suppose over the years my running has become something of an addiction — but a good addiction too. I experience a great sense of freedom when I run and I find it a great outlet to help banish any stress.
“I like to give something back for what I have received from my running and that is why I organise some strength and conditioning classes and Fit4Life courses in Tullamore. I love to watch people progress — from walking to jogging, and eventually running, while totally enjoying the experience.”
Pauline trains mostly on her own, but in the build-up to Beijing she was often accompanied on her long runs by her son Emmet who would cycle along beside her-encouraging her to ‘Give it the Holly, Polly'.
Pauline and husband Adrian are both long-time Tullamore Harriers stalwarts. You will see Adrian in full flow helping out at track and field events in Tullamore Harriers Stadium. Pauline still trains about five times a week and she has her sights set on the Dublin Marathon in October. At 45, Pauline is showing no signs of slowing down or even thinking of retiring. “I thought briefly on a few occasions about retiring, but then when I thought about how much I still love my running, the thought of retiring just vanished,” she said.
“Now I just want to savour my most recent successes and invite runners from all over Ireland to join me in the Tullamore Harriers Quinlan Cup Half-Marathon in my hometown on Saturday, August 30.
“It will be a great day in Tullamore and you can find out all about the event on our club's website, www.tullamoreharriers.com.”