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Declan Walshe talks to Waterford Viking Marathon

Declan Walshe is the epitome of many marathon runners of our generation. He played club hurling and football to minor level but after that, in his own words, ran only to get out of the rain. Once he decided to give up smoking after many years, his weight started to go up and up as he replaced the smokes with chocolate and Doritos.?Then, 2 years ago, the big 4-0 hit and he realised that, at 14stone, he needed to do something about his weight before it became a real health issue for him.

Waterford Viking Marathon : What did you decide was the best way to lose the weight Declan?

DW: I live in the country, I work from home, so the easiest, cheapest way to lose weight was to just hit the road and go walking. After a few weeks, I got bored, plateaued and started to pick up the pace a bit with some jogging. I listen to geeky podcasts like Science Friday or Future Proof to distract me.

WVM: So, you were running at this stage, but always on your own?

DW: Yes, I always just ran on my own, until Parkrun came to Kilkenny. I missed the first week of it in the Castle Park, but went along the 2nd week in October 2014 and got totally hooked. I’d been running on my own since about January, so this opened up a whole new world in one sense. Working from home, living in the country, my circle of friends was restricted to locals and family. Running or volunteering each week at the Parkrun meant I met loads of other people. By Christmas I had dozens of new ‘friends’ on Facebook!!

WVM: Any races at this stage??

DW: No, but I made the decision heading into 2015, that it would be my year for half marathons, so I signed up for the Mount Juliet half in February 2015. In hindsight, a hilly first event to do, but at least anything after it should be easier! My longest run prior to MJ was 20k, so I had almost completed the full half marathon distance in training. I was very nervous on the day. I purposely didn’t drive the course beforehand so that I wouldn’t psyche myself out even more! I found the 2 loops difficult mentally and twisted my ankle on s stone with about a mile to go. I hobbled that last mile with loads of encouragement from other runners and finished in 1.45. ??WVM: 1.45 is a very respectable time indeed for a first half marathon! Had you been doing any speedwork aside from the weekend Park runs?

DW: Not at that stage, all my training was on my own, which wasn’t ideal. I joined Kilkenny’s Fit For Life crew in September last year. They do twice weekly speed sessions on the track. Tuesdays are short and sharp, while Thursdays are a bit longer, more like tempo intervals. These 2 sessions have brought me on significantly. I still do all my long runs on my own however, I find it difficult to match paces exactly with others and quite enjoy my podcasts!


WVM: What was next after MJ??

DW: I completed the half in Tullaroan at the end of May 2015, which was another hilly course! In June I took part in the Viking half and thoroughly enjoyed the decent flat course, with a fantastic finish in on the track. Then I did the Marathon race series in Dublin, the 10miler and half marathon. That half stands as my pb so far, 1.40.55!

WVM: So, the Dublin full was next?

DW : Yes, I actually won a free entry to the Dublin City Marathon so had no excuse! I then also won an entry to the Athlone ¾ marathon, which was great as entries were already closed by the time I decided to check it out! ??WVM: ¾ is a great distance when training for the full, how did that go?

DW: Unfortunately, not great. I hurt my knee during it and finished in 2.45. Which wasn’t a bad time at all, but showed that my pacing was crap as I’d run 51, 51 and then 65 for the last quarter. I needed a month’s work with a physio unfortunately to get the knee fixed, so Dublin was out. ??WVM: Dublin gone, what was your next move???DW: I’d signed up for the Waterford AC half in December, which was postponed until January due to the bad weather. My new year’s resolution though was to do t5 marathons this year.

WVM: So, a year of halves, and a year of fulls. Which ones did you choose?

DW: I thought the Longford Canal marathon at the end of April would be flat and a good one to start with. I also thought I could sneak up there, get it done and come home without the pressure of anyone having to know. I messed that up after I’d mentioned it to one of the ladies on the track at FFL though and it turned out there were a bunch of them going too. ??WVM: How did training go for Longford?

DW : I stepped badly off a footpath on the KK ring road on Patrick’s Day, which meant I missed my last long run of 22miles and needed dry needling into the shin (ouch!). I had to keep all my runs to 8 miles or so between that and Longford, which was less than ideal preparation!

WVM : And was it as flat as you hoped?

DW: Flat it was, but easy it wasn’t. The conditions underfoot weren’t great, plus the race was run over a 5k loop. That might suit some people, but did my head in, especially as only 2k of the route was tarmacadam, the rest was like a towpath. It was also quite lonely and at 16 or so miles my legs seized up completely, which made the last 10 miles horrific! I was delighted to finish, but disappointed with the day overall. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done it with so little preparation toward the end.

WVM: Ah yes, runners are not inclined to wuss out on races for simple things like injuries or lack of mileage!

DW : Yep! So a week after Longford I signed up for the Tullaroan marathon on June 4th. It was H.O.T. My pace was slower but I was much happier than after Longford and felt better finishing. EVEN THOUGH, the course is 2 very hilly loops. There were NO flat sections, so we were either going up or down the whole time and I did find the downhills hard on my legs.

WVM : How did the recovery go after that, which was just last week?!

DW: I recovered much better after this one, some of it might be cos of the 10 minute dip in the river after the run. I hobbled in but felt fantastic when I got out. The drinking session that night and the night after was harder to recover from! But what could I do when there was a bar at the finish line?!

WVM: You’ll be disappointed in Waterford so Declan!

DW : Nah! I totally enjoyed the half last year, despite the quiet sections and said I’d definitely come back to do the full this year. Plus, I just love medals. For me, it’s all about the medal. I engrave each one myself with the date and time. I can do without the t shirt, but if there’s no medal, I’m not bothered doing the race!

WVM : Waterford is only a bare 3 weeks after Tullaroan, what are you doing for those 3 weeks?

DW: I did 6k the Tuesday after Tullaroan, then 10miles on the Thursday on the trail route between Kilkenny and Bennettsbridge. On Saturday then I actually did my fastest 5k of 2016, 22.05. I’ll do a couple of 10 milers this week and early next week before backing off for the last few days before the 25th.

WVM: Feeling confident?

DW: Yes. If I can perform like I did in Tullaroan, over this faster course, I hope to get closer to 4 hours. I’m going to go out with the 4 hour pacers, I’ve never run with pacers for a full race, so am hoping they’ll help me sort out my pacing. Tullaroan’s first half was 1.55, Longford’s was 1.50, so if I can slow it down to 2hours, I might be able to get the 2nd half done faster!

WVM : Hopefully the body will hope up for you! What’s next after Waterford?

DW: I plan to do the Kilkenny Medieval Marathon in September, and then of course the Dublin City Marathon in October.

WVM : And then?

DW: A bit of a rest before I aim for 12 marathons next year! Don’t tell the missus! Though when she heard people often travel to Paris etc, she got a bit more excited!

WVM: Final words, what keeps you going?

DW : I started running to lose weight, but the sense of achievement after every race is keeping me going. I learn something new from each race too and try to use it next time. I love having met so many people. I’ve contacts in every walk of life, whether I need a solicitor, architect, dentist or plumber, I’m covered! The Parkrun too is superb and I’d recommend anyone that wants to get out and active to go along and take part. It’s also had a positive impact on my family. We headed off to Wicklow for an 11k hike last weekend, kids included. That wouldn’t have happened a couple of years ago.

WVM :Thanks Declan, see you on the start line on the 25th!

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