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AthenryÕs marathon man stilll going strong at 66

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Date Published: {J}

JUST last month, Athenry Athletic Club’s Peadar Nugent achieved a remarkable feat when he completed his 30th consecutive Dublin City Marathon on the prestigious event’s 30th anniversary.

What made Nugent’s accomplishment all the more impressive was that earlier this year, the 66-year-old West Clare native had surgery on his right hip and was laid up for several months.

Yet, at no stage did Nugent consider not tackling the 26-mile gruelling road race on the October Bank Holiday Weekend.

“It is a big milestone for me,” begins the mild-mannered, quiet-spoken runner. “That said, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had done all previous 29 marathons, I may not even have done it this year because for the past number of years, I have had a problem with injuries.

“I have had a problem with my right hip; nothing got to do with running. I also have a severed tendon in my left shoulder. I had surgery on my hip on the 26th of May this year and I was non-weight bearing for six weeks after that. I was also discouraged from doing any serious running by the surgeon. I am now having surgery on my shoulder later this month, so all in all, I have to be careful.

“I decided, though, I would walk and jog this year’s marathon, so not to break my link with it. I am very tunnelled ‘visioned’ and even the morning when I started it, at no stage did I contemplate the possibility of not finishing,” says Nugent.

Nugent’s route to marathon running is – like so many – a familiar one. He began his athletics career in sprinting and jumping, but with his speed for those events failing him in his mid 30s, he looked to extend the distance. For him, it was not about competing for medals, but simply staying active in a pursuit that he loves.

“That is not to say I wasn’t successful. In fact, one year I was a member of a Meath cross-country team and I came fifth in the cross country masters,” outlines Nugent, who lived in the Royal County while he worked for 35 years in the Courts Service in Dublin. He is a life member of Dunboyne Athletic Club.

“My first ever marathon was in 1980, and I was aged 37 at the time. There was a colleague of mine, Maurice McMorrow, a Ballinasloe native, and he was a few years older than me. He had done a bit of running in his youth, but had left it and taken up golf. However, he said to me that he wouldn’t mind getting back running, so he did, and he hasn’t stopped running since. He even quit his membership of Clontarf Golf Club.

“So, the first marathon we ran together was in 1980. We had a good level of fitness, and we did it with relatively little training. We were doing just 40 miles a week for the previous eight weeks. We would be training at an average of seven minutes a mile. Our longest run beforehand was 15 miles. We set ourselves the target of running the marathon in eight-minute miles, which would have given us three and a half hours. Unbelievably, we finished it in 3 hours and 31 minutes. The bug had caught us then and the following year we wanted to see if we could improve. And we did continue to improve.”

Indeed, over the years, the Derrydonnell resident’s times varied between 3 hours and 10 minutes and 3 hours and 20 minutes, although in 1992, at the age of 49, he ran his first sub three-hour marathon in a time of 2 hours and 58 minutes.

The following Summer, to mark his 50 birthday, Nugent – who once ran the Dublin City Marathon and the New York Marathon in the same week – took part in the national veteran athletics championships. He won the over 50 long jump while also taking silver medals in the national 200metre and 400metre sprints. “And I haven’t competed in jumping and sprinting since,” he says.

In many respects, though, it has been marathon running that has given him the greatest fulfilment and he has had some great days. In 1994, he was among those honoured for completing the first 15 Dublin City Marathons. In the year 2000, to mark the 21st anniversary of the event, those who had completed all 21 marathons were given free entry for life. “So that is the only kick-back I have got from my running from a financial point of view,” he laughs.

“This year it was the 30th marathon and I never for one minute contemplated not doing it … even when I had the hip surgery. I have no excess weight and I have a good standard of fitness, generally. Despite being on crutches for six weeks until the middle of June, I put word out in the club that I was doing the marathon, not withstanding my medical condition, and I intended walking it and if anyone was interested in walking it, I would be delighted if they accompany me, if they were prepared to go along at my pace.

“So, there was one member of the club, Maire Treasa Beatty. She contacted James Lundon (Athenry AC) and she told James she would be delighted to do it with me. And she did, and she was absolutely marvellous.”

Between walking and jogging it, Nugent’s 30th Dublin City Marathon went very much to plan, with the pair coming in just under 5 hours and 20 minutes. Nugent says it was a superb weekend, which began with another special presentation at registration in the RDS the day before.

“The 29 of us assembled at the Adidas stand and we were each presented with a sweat shirt that was prescribed ‘I have run all 30 Dublin Marathons’. We were also given a piece of Dublin Crystal, a commemorative piece, and we were each given a separate number – the No. 30 – to wear on our back. Our own individual race number we wore on the front. So, everyone who saw us on the day would know that we were part of the group of 29.

“On the morning of the race we got special treatment. We were brought into the elite runners’ area and as a group we were put up at the start line instead of being way down in the middle of the throng. So, that was a great benefit. There was an absolutely marvellous atmosphere there that day, a fabulous morning. We assembled at 8:30am for the race at 9 o’clock and you couldn’t have hoped for a warmer or drier morning than we had. It was great to be there with the elite runners, and from my point of view I can say, yes, I saw them at the start and that was it because they disappeared out of sight very quickly after that.”

Still, the determined father of two and grandfather of three – who was not the last to finish of the 29 veterans – saw it through and, now, he can start planning No. 31. “Next year is another year. I am having my shoulder surgery soon and I will have my arm in a sling for three months after that. So, that will curtail my activities.

“I have other interests as well. I enjoy set dancing, social dancing, and I wouldn’t want my running to interfere too much with my social life. I am not ruling it out though. One should never say never.” Certainly not Peadar Nugent – a man who is very much young at heart.

A retired court registrar, Derrydonnell resident Peadar has been working part-time in the library at NUI Galway for the past four years. He has two children, Siobhan (Drumcondra) and Cathal, who is a GP in Athenry, and three grandchildren, Donal, Joe and Aoife.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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