Thursday 22 February 2018

Runner (70) eyes fitting finish to Boston race

Boston City Marathon runner Hugh Carolan at Shankill.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Boston City Marathon runner Hugh Carolan at Shankill. Photo: Tony Gavin

Joanna Kieran

A 70-year-old Irishman will finally get an opportunity to complete the Boston Marathon tomorrow, after his race was cut short by the tragic bombings that left three people dead and hundreds of runners and their supporters injured.

"Last year was a terrible end to what should have been a wonderful day," Hugh Carolan told the Sunday Independent.

"It was all a terrible panic. We were herded off into this marquee and then into a church by police. At first we thought it was just a fire."

After some time, the confusion lifted and Hugh heard from another Irishman, who had been informed via a phone call from his wife at home in Ireland, that the bombings had taken place.

"I had only got to around 18 miles at that point," Hugh recalled.

"This year will be special; it will be a very important day for many people. It will be a very big deal. People went down to cheer people on and watch the runners finish and they got their legs blown off, some others were left deaf, three people died and hundreds were left with very severe injuries that we heard little about afterwards, it was awful."

Despite the traumatic ordeal, the hardy pensioner is "really looking forward" to the event, which is falling on Patriots' Day in the US tomorrow.

He added: "For me, it's very much unfinished business and it's about having respect for the people of Boston too, and supporting them. I'll probably never go again, so I really want to finish it."

However, Hugh is far from retiring from his beloved sport. He may not return to Boston, but he will be travelling to other locations once he has completed the Boston run tomorrow.

Age is not an issue for Hugh. "You get guys running at 80 these days," he said. "It's an addiction, I started off in 1982 and I can't stop. I'll be in a bad mood if I don't go out for a run."

However, Hugh has learned to take it easier over the years. As he suffers from an irregular heartbeat he wisely no longer competes to try and actually win.

"As long as I can keep doing them I will and I enjoy it," Hugh said. "You get good days and bad days."

Hugh is unconvinced by those who claim that running is bad for your health.

"You hear people saying 'running marathons will kill you! You'll drop dead one day!' but what they don't think about is that maybe if you don't run marathons you'll drop dead 10 or five years before that."

Tomorrow's race will mark the 70-year-old's 92nd marathon event and Hugh hopes to have completed a whopping 100 marathons by the end of this year.

He has no intentions of stopping at 100 either. "I might aim for 120 then," he says with a laugh.

Hugh began running marathons following a trip to the doctor with his sick daughter when she was a child, on which occasion the doctor announced: "She's fine, but you need to do something about all the weight you're putting on." The simple jogging that followed soon gave Hugh the marathon bug.

Hugh flew out to Boston on Friday as part of a large group of Irish runners travelling with Sports Travel International.

According to a spokesperson for the company, which organises travel for groups taking part in marathons around the globe, this year has seen a huge surge in the number of Irish people travelling over to the Boston event.

"If anything, there are more people going over to take part in the Boston Marathon this year than we have ever seen before," said the spokesperson.

Sunday Independent

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