For most, one marathon is enough of an accomplishment, but for Dundalk native Colette O'Hagan, one is just child's play as she competed in her 400th marathon on Saturday 9 July at the Duleek Marathon in Meath.
The 66 year old who has completed runs all around the world, holds the women's Irish record for most marathons ever run here. Colette spoke to the Democrat about her record breaking feat.
“I ran in Duleek which is a lovely place to do it in because it's quite local so my family could all be there at the finish line. I got a lovely bouquet of flowers at the end. It was one hell of an amazing day and just a rollercoaster of emotions. It's so unreal, I kind of have to sit back and wonder if it really happened!
“It was just all very emotional because all the grandkids were there cheering me on. I ran together with my daughter for the whole course and I really enjoyed the day. It's very hard to put into words. I didn't really realise the enormity of it as my 400th marathon because it just felt like another marathon and another day but with everyone around you making it so special, I realised just how big an achievement it is and all the miles I've put in.”
One would think Colette would take the day after her marathon a little easy but there's really no stopping her.
“I ran the Dunleer 4 Mile Road Race the day after my 400th marathon. The 4 mile run would be more of a test for me than a marathon because in a longer distance you can settle into your zone after a while and there's not as much pressure but in a short distance run, people are watching and timing you and you're focused on the finish line.”
Running can greatly benefit a person's physical health, but it's the benefits to mental health that Colette says are the greatest advantage.
“You're not only building up physical strength but you're also building up your mental strength because in long distance running, an awful lot of it is mental strength. If anyone is having mental health issues and try any kind of sport, not just running, the endorphins released will make a person feel good, clear their head and strengthen their mind.”
It the last number of years, there have been more and more marathons set up around the country and Dundalk is next on the list later this year.
“We're setting up a marathon in Dundalk on September 11 and that's out in Ravensdale. The start and finish is at the Rosewood Bar and Lounge on the Old Newry Road. I'm a race director for that so I won't be running it. Because I've done so many marathons I know what the runners need. I'm trying to make it a fun day for the families of the runner so they don't get bored waiting for the marathon to end. We want it to be a fun day and for it to make a good impression of Dundalk”, she added.
Colette has inspired many others to start running but it's women in particular that she wants to see be encouraged by her.
“My aim is to inspire, not just older women, but women in general. Women who think they can't do that can see me in my sixties with lots of grandkids still running.
“In the sixties and seventies, women weren't even allowed to run marathons. Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon and only for her running, women wouldn't be able to do it today. Well maybe someone else would have taken up the challenge...maybe even myself because I don't think anyone could take me off the course once I'm on it.”
Colette will be taking part in the Donegal Quadrathon in August which she describes as a 'mini holiday with a wee run thrown in each day' where she'll be running four marathons in four days.
“My children have now taken up running. They're following in my footsteps and can take over when I retire...which I have no intention of doing. My ambition is to keep running for as long as I can.”