Running a half marathon is tough going in itself but running one, while soloing a GAA ball for the duration is an even tougher test.
That’s exactly what Stephen Ralph will be doing when he runs the The Ray D’Arcy Show Half Million Half Marathon for Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice this Friday.
The 29-year old, who is a native of Dundalk but lives in Naas and works for Classic Technology, hung up his GAA boots many moons ago but he will don them again on Good Friday in aid of a very worthy cause.
“I only laced back up my boots in January 2014 when Classic Technology’s lab manager invited me down to train in Kill. Before that I hadn’t played since I was U14 where I lined up in midfield beside Paddy Keenan, who turned out to be Louth’s first ever All Star,” said Ralph.
The GAA’s loss was athletics’ gain as Stephen went on to win All Ireland medals for sprinting, hurdling and long jumping, however in his twenties he started competing in endurance events. Thus far he has completed Ironman 70.3 triathlons in Barcelona, Austria and Galway and in 2012 he ran the Dublin City Marathon but Friday’s event is a whole new ball game. Pardon the pun!
“After so long out of the game, my GAA skills were pretty much non existent, so I used to take a ball out running with me after work to try and improve my chances of getting a game at the weekends,” he explained.
Ralph added: “It was during lunch in the canteen we were talking about running and what races were coming up. The owner of Classic Technology, Patrick Kinsella asked if anyone was doing the Ray D’arcy Show Half Million Half Marathon. I had been thinking about it but said no as it was €250 to enter and with all the running I do I’d never get that kind of sponsorship. Patrick added that it was for a very good cause and that if I wanted to run the race, Classic Technology would sponsor me.”
And so the idea was born but it didn’t stop there!
“After a bit of banter among the staff a sly remark was made by a co-worker, who said I should take the ball with me!” he explained.
“I let it sink in for a second and joked I’d solo the ball for the 21km if I could raise €500 for the charity, and that got the ball rolling. Little did I know by the time I got home that evening there was an email from mycharitypage.com saying that Patrick Kinsella had donated €500. So there was no turning back!” added the Dundalk native.
Since deciding on his novel idea, Stephen’s story has spread like wildfire across social media sites and his efforts may end up in the Guinness Book of Records.
“It was mentioned to me that nobody has ever tried to solo a Gaelic football over such a distance and that I should apply to the Guinness Book of World records. So I applied to Guinness to set a new record: ‘Fastest Half Marathon soloing a Gaelic football’ or ‘longest distance travelled soloing a Gaelic football’. I’m hoping that I can use a Dundalk based company STATSports ViperPod, as worn by top professional athletes, to provide proof of the guidelines set and help me set a new world record.
“This unit will be worn on my back and together with a specially written algorithm and, using the latest GPS and accelerometer technologies, the unit can detect the difference between a running step and a solo step and can give hard evidence that I didn’t cheat and did solo every four steps or whatever guidelines Guinness set,” he explained.
With the event taking place this Friday, Stephen is as ready as he can be. Preparations have been tough but the distance isn’t the issue, the small matter of the football in his hands is!
“I know I can run the distance as I ran the DUNE (Dundalk to Newry) Half Marathon in March but I’m struggling to get up to distance soloing. Calf cramps and joint pains will be the determining factor. I’ll just have to take it four steps at a time!” he joked.
To make a donation to Stephen’s efforts for the the Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice visit his charity page www.mycharity.ie/fundPageTemplateY.php?urlRef=sralphs_event.