1984 was a significant year in Irish Athletics. It was the year of the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. Ireland’s John Treacy made history winning silver in the marathon in 2:09:56 – Ireland’s 13th Olympic athletics medal. In the 1984 games too it was the first time a women’s marathon had been held – Joan Benoit (USA) won in 2:24:52. In 1980 the Dublin Marathon was held for the first time. Roll on the clock to 2014 and the same John Treacy is Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council. The ISC current report details the “continuing trend towards individual sports such and running or cycling rather than team sports: almost four times as many people are involved in individual sports (41.5%) than are taking part in team-based activities (10.9%)”. Yes, we are experiencing another running boom.
For one Christy O’Malley 1984 was also a significant year. The Carramore native had just turned 18 and in October of that year he ran his first marathon in Dublin finishing in 3:47.
Christy is a popular member of Mayo AC, and he will reach a unique milestone when he takes part in next week’s Dublin City Marathon on Bank Holiday Monday – a race which also incorporated the AAI National Marathon championships. He will be running his 50th marathon and it will also be his one thousandth race to date in an athletics career spanning thirty years.
Back in the summer of 1984, Christy was a prominent footballer with Carramore GAA club. His athletics inspiration came from a number of sources. His brother Gerry ran the 1983 Dublin marathon. Both of the them had seen TV coverage of the great Dick Hooper (Raheny Shamrock) winning the first Dublin marathon in 1980 and Christy was hugely influenced by that – Dick Hooper is still his athletics hero. The first running boom started about that time and Christy was happy to be part of it. .
Speaking after the recent Breaffy 10k – his 999th race – Christy reflected on the great satisfaction and enjoyment he has got from the sport. He says “it’s a mixture of the atmosphere at the races, the places I’ve seen, and above all the hundreds of friends I’ve made over the 30 years”.
Shortly after clocking 3.47 in that first marathon, Christy joined Claremorris AC and was soon wearing the light blue of the club in races up and down the country. Since early 1988 and the formation of Mayo AC he has worn the various versions of the famous green and red vest with distinction in almost every county in Ireland. To date he has completed five marathons overseas -Edinburgh, London, Blackpool, Prague and Barcelona. Over the years Christy has set himself targets. In 2011, he planned and achieved his aim of running 80 races including 5 marathons within the year. This involved balancing work and training, and avoiding injury and he sometimes competed in two races
in two different locations on the same day. His best marathon finish was in 3:14 in 1998.
Not surprisingly one of his favourite races is the Dublin marathon, as he says just for the atmosphere, and he has sampled that 28 times so far. Locally, he enjoys the annual St Patrick’s Day Tubbercurry 10k – run since 1971 in weather varying from summer-like conditions to arctic sleet and hail, and everything in between. He also recalls
running the first of a number of Belfast marathons in 1998. The peace process had not bedded in fully, tension and tight security was evident everywhere. One of his most testing 26.2 milers was in the
Burren in 2010, partly held off road over the unique karst landscape of West Clare – he recalls it was the only race he ran where he had to open and close a gate behind him.
While the running scene continues to evolve, new races appear and others disappear from the fixture lists. Christy fondly remembers races that he ran in some of whichare no longer held, such as the Quinlan Cup Tullamore Harriers Road Races (thankfully revived in 2014 after a 13 year lapse), the Kilkerrin 5 mile, the Tuam to Dunmore, and
nearer home the famous Claremorris 10k and just up the road from himself the Carramore 10k.
Over the years too he has been encouraged and inspired by the efforts of fellow Mayo AC members winning national medals and leading the current county marathon records. Hall of Fame winner, Paddy Murray leads with his 2:24:58 in Belfast 1991, with Dominic Regan recording 8th place in Dublin 1989 in 2:28. In 2014, Roger Barrett ran 2:30:14 in Berlin in September, while in April the prolific John Byrne came home in 2:31:54 in Rotterdam. John is not far behind Christy with 29 marathons so far, plus a number of 50k and 100k ultra races. And Owen Mongan has also completed 20 plus.The club have always had a very strong women’s section and the great Ann Lennon holds the county marathon record 2:45:54 which she clocked when winning the Irish Championships in Dublin 2002.
As we head towards the 35th Annual Dublin Marathon next week, Christy has been putting the miles in through fog and early morning mist around Claremorris, with the help of Mary Murphy and Mary Walsh of the club’s medal winning 050 team. They will be joined by over thirty others in Dublin. This year there are more women than men in the Mayo AC line-up, a broad spectrum of experience and first timers, with many coming through from the club’s four affiliated Fit4Life groups.
Christy is held in high esteem by all his Mayo AC club mates and by all his acquaintances on the running circuit He is quiet and unobtrusive, and full of good humour. His notoriety as a ‘memory man’is well known around the quiz tables. It’s all about the details and he can remember dates, times, and the weather at sporting events many have long forgotten.
Mayo AC wish all their marathon runners good luck and salute especially Christy’s unique achievements and wish him well on Marathon Monday
(Thanks to input from Michael McGrath in compiling this profile..TH)