When and why did you start triathlon?
Triathlon started for me in my home town on a wet Wednesday evening – June 1, 1983. The Newry race was one of the first triathlons in Ireland. 70 registered for the Newry event that instead of the current swim/bike/run format, began with a 5.5-mile run, followed by a 1k swim and finished with a 12.5-mile bike ride.
The race instructions said all bikes must have ‘a bell or horn fitted.’ The instructions also said: ‘You may, if you wish, immobilise your bike with a padlock and chain!’
I finished 12th that night and in the process qualified to represent Newry in the Ulster Championship. I was a decent runner then and was one of the first into the Newry pool but I lost an awful lot of time in the water. I think I took about 30 minutes for the 1k swim, doing breaststroke all way. Since that race, over 30 years ago, my swimming has improved but now most triathletes could walk quicker that I can ‘run.’
The next year (1984) Con O’Callaghan, the Godfather of Triathlon, organised what he termed a ‘Three-Day Event.’ This was in effect an Ironman race but spread over three days. 38 competitors entered for the 2.4-mile swim in Belfast’s Grove Baths on the Saturday and the next day there was the 112-mile bike ride around the Ards Peninsula, followed on Monday, May 7 with the 26.2-mile Belfast Marathon.
I finished fifth overall in 11.03.22, and was second fastest (triathlete) in the Belfast Marathon with a 3.08 time.
My best ever triathlon was the 1985 Irish half-Ironman Championship in Sligo where I clocked 4.39.32 (the course might have been a wee bit short). I was 11thoverall and first Over-40 veteran.
I was also quite pleased to duck under three hours four times for the marathon with a personal best of 2.53.29 in the 1983 Dublin Marathon.
My best Ironman was Almere (Holland) in 1991 where I clocked 11.20.33. In that race I finished a few minutes in front of Limerick’s Joey Hannon who the next year tragically died when he was hit by a car while riding his bike home from work. Joey was a lovely, soft-spoken guy. There’s a race now in Limerick called after him.
Incidentally that year (1991) I won the Ulster Triathlete of the Year award.
I completed five Ironman races and my final one was last year in Maastricht where I recorded 15 hours 35 minutes and finished second in the Over-70 age category. (There were only three in my age-group and one pulled out!). I was also the oldest finisher.
What’s your favourite event to date?
My favourite event was The Crooked Lake – the best sprint distance event in the nation.
What’s your favourite tri discipline?
My favourite discipline now is swimming but it used to be running.
What’s your favourite tri distance?
Before dying a death in Maastricht last year, Ironman was my favourite distance as I don’t have any speed but could trundle on to the finish.
I was a member of the first Newry Triathlon Club and a member of the first Irish Triathlon committee.
What’s your goals for this year?
I don’t have any ambitions this year (only to have the health and energy to swim a bit, run a bit, and cycle a bit). My goals used to be to stay ahead of Mickey Mallon and Gerry Patton and I still think I would beat them in the swim leg. But the pair would then gobble me up on the bike and run legs.
What does Newry Triathlon Club mean to you?
I was a member of the first Newry Triathlon Club and a member of the first triathlon Ireland committee.
Finally the sport of Triathlon seems to attract the right sort of kind people and I have to say that over the years I have met some really lovely men and women