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8 June 2021   |   Blog   |   

Catching Up with Denis O’Donnell

Last year, Denis, one of Sports Travel International’s long standing customers and friends, and also a Six Star World Marathon Major finisher, told us all about his running journey. From wanting to get fit in his local gym, to the London Marathon in 2015, and many many more since, you can read all about Denis’s story HERE. 

We could never have anticipated back then of course, how the next twelve months would pan out. So, we caught up with Denis this week, to ask him about how he’s filled the last 12 months, how he’s kept positive and active, and, of course, his marathon plans for the future.

So, Denis, tell us about the past year. How have you kept active and motivated through the last 12 months? 

I recognised right away that it would be important to keep running for my health. I think keeping fit and keeping your immune system built up gives a better chance against any virus.

Virtual running became very popular last year. Whenever I saw a virtual event that appealed to me I signed up.

I knew it would be some time before I could travel again to do marathons. Even marathons though Ireland were cancelled. But, I had a hunger for more medals. With nothing else going, on it appealed to me to do races virtually in my own area.

The first event I signed up for was a 500 Km challenge. I completed it in 10 days and finished 2nd overall. Then there was a 1000 km challenge. I completed that one in a month. Then I took part in the Virtual Dublin Marathon.

My final challenge for 2020 was a 2500 km event. It was a virtual race around Ireland and it took 2 months to complete. It seemed to go on forever. The race ran from October to December. It was the wettest few months I remember. Morning after morning it was pouring rain or misty.  I eventually got frustrated at getting soaked day after day. I would start my run at 4 am each morning. Doing anything between 30 km and 50 km a day. I would break down the distance, sometimes completing 3 or 4 runs a day. It took up a good bit of my time. Even though the weather was bad I felt good in the end that I kept at it and completed it. It’s a real challenge to keep going on an event like that. It can be so tough, over a long period.

In some ways, I suppose, that’s a bit like life. You keep going no matter what. There will be good days and bad days.

What did you do, aside from running, to keep busy, and get away from it all?

Apart from running I still kept active in the community. I live streamed Masses for well over a year. This is something I’ll continue to do it until things are back to normal. I recognised people weren’t allowed to go to Church with restrictions. So, I decided to record the Masses for them. In particular, I was hoping to help the older people who couldn’t leave the house. Also for people from the island who were living away. It made them feel closer to home that they could still be part of the community.

With no one going to Church, that meant that there was no money coming in. So, I started an online fundraiser. Over 5000 euro was raised for the Church in just a few weeks.

What are your plans looking to the back end of 2021 and into 2022?

I would like to run the London Marathon again. I last ran it in 2015. It was my first marathon and my first major. After that was when I decided I wanted to do all 6! There is a great atmosphere at it. Hopefully all things will be well in the Autumn, and I’ll be able to do it. If not this year, then I’ll certainly be looking to run it next year. I am still hopeful for this year though.

Are there any ‘bucket list’ marathons you have not ticked off yet? What are they and why do they appeal to you so much?

There are many marathons I would still like to run. There is one in particular The Great Wall of China Marathon. I would love to run that. I think if I could do that one it would be a great accomplishment. I’m sure it would be the toughest of them all.

Let’s see in the next year or two if that’s is possible. If you want to do anything in life you can make it happen. That’s the message I’ve always been passionate about sharing, especially as quite an unlikely runner myself. I want people to know that anyone can do anything if they believe in themselves and work hard. It doesn’t matter what anyone else believes.

At the end of each race I tell all my followers to never ever give up. Dream, believe, achieve……

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