Saturday 16 December 2017


Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Last Monday's flash-flooding has had no effect on the route for the 31st National Lottery Dublin Marathon and the organisers have confirmed that everything is cleared for take-off on Monday, starting with the wheelchair competitors at 9.45.

As usual, the elite race will be ultra-competitive and also incorporates Athletics Ireland's National Marathon Championship, which not only includes both senior titles, but goes across all the age-groups.

Among those bidding for a medal in the Over-55 category will be John Quigley (58) of Eagle AC in Cork City.

Monday will be his 21st marathon and he has an impressive personal best of 2:46.03 from Dublin in 1988, which he likes to describe as '2:45.63'.

Nowadays, Quigley also uses his running to publicise a cause that is particularly close to his heart and the clue will be the two small, but powerful words on his singlet: 'Cancer Survivor.'

"The common public perception is that when you're diagnosed with cancer you're finished, but our aim is to highlight that many people survive it," he said.

Quigley is typical of many marathoners who confesses to falling into the sport accidentally.

"I thought marathon runners were all nutcases," he admitted. "I started a bit of running back in July 1984. My wife was giving out to me about the weight, so I started up just running a mile or two a day.

"I was up to about 15 miles a week and one of my brother-in-laws was planning to run a marathon (in Cork) with two friends of his, but they all got injured and had to pull out and he was on his own, so I decided to fill in at the last minute."

That he completed it in 4:10, off just 15 miles a-week training was pretty impressive. Six months later he ran 3:11.

The mechanical engineer from Douglas was still sub 3:30 last year (3:21.52), despite the fact that five years ago he got a serious shock when some routine blood tests showed up elevated levels of PSA (prostate specific antigens) that led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

"I was perfectly healthy and fairly fit until I hit this speed bump," Quigley added. "I had absolutely no symptoms and never felt one bit sick, right up until the day I had the surgery in May 2008."

There are several treatment options for prostate cancer and Quigley chose a radical prostatectomy.

"It's not just a snip -- they open you up from the navel to the groin and dig in," he explained.

Three days later he was back on his feet, but a half-mile walk with his wife took him 20 minutes. His first serious race back, three months later, was a 5km in Ballycotton.

"I'd done it in 28:09 the year before and it took me 46:04, but it was just brilliant to be back and fully healthy," he said.

Quigley, who now mentors other cancer sufferers through the Irish Cancer Society and is a member of MAC (Men Against Cancer), is also the official course measurer for the Cork City Marathon and has encouraged other cancer survivors to take part in their 5x5 relay event.

Through this role he discovered that Clonmel AC's Ned O'Brien is a survivor of a melanoma. They now have two shared goals on Monday -- to publicise how successfully people can survive cancer -- and to win the Over-55 title.

"I know Ned very well, but I'm telling you, if it's neck-and-neck between us coming up Nassau Street, there'll be elbows and fists flying," Quigley joked.

Irish Independent

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