No. 49: 60 Seconds with Harrier Darren Horgan

This morning another of our relative new comers, but a guy who has fitted in nicely to the club, a guy who will always volunteer to help out the club. He says he is shy, but once he starts! Read on..

Bio: Darren Horgan, age 40. Identical twin. Nine time marathon runner and very proud Harrier. I have worked in the Insurance Industry for over 21 years. I would consider myself an incredibly shy person who hates being the centre of attention but I have really enjoyed reading the other 60 seconds stories from my fellow Harriers so I feel it is only fair to share mine too (before I change my mind!)

What age did you take up the sport of athletics and why? I took up cross country running when I was in Secondary School in St. Aidan’s C.B.S. It was under the direction of the legend that is Peter McDermott. In all honesty, I was never the fastest or most athletic but I was always encouraged by Peter (or Mr McDermott as I called him in those days !) and always made feel like I was an important part of the team. Both my parents were (and still are) very much into sport and always encouraged us as kids. My Dad was a Marathon Runner back in the day and my Mum is one of a handful of women who have run every single one of the Women’s Mini Marathons since they started back in the 80’s.

When and why did you join Clonliffe Harriers?- I joined Clonliffe in August 2017 thanks to my great friend Shane Rooney. I started back running when I was in my late 20’s, when I slowly realised I wasen’t going to make it as a professional footballer . I ran my first Marathon (The Dublin Marathon) in 2014. I was tipping away with races and ran a few more Marathons on my own. I wanted to improve but I was not sure how. I had a (very incorrect) pre conceived notion of what a running club was. I knew Shane was in Clonliffe and asked him about a million and one questions (no seriously I did) and slowly realised that was not the case. Shane told me in no uncertain terms that ‘no one was going to bite me’ and to come up and see if it was for me. He introduced me to Pam and Ben and I quickly realised I should have joined years earlier. It is honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Joining Clonliffe has changed my life for the better and helped me when I needed it most, not just in terms of running.

What is your favourite training workout?- I love the mile reps in Northwood Park with the gang on the long Tuesday evenings in late spring and summer. A great test, with even better company in a great location. I love the long runs on a Sunday, in particular when I am with my club mates Anthony, Mel, Janette, or Dave (team Sky). The company of my club mates always makes it that much better. It reminds me of why I started running in the first place and the joy that it brings me, even if it breaks my heart at times!

And your least favourite?- Winter sessions in the Trinity Sports Fields, the cold there eats into your bones. It is dark, wet and unforgiving place that takes no prisoners, plus having soaking wet feet is one of my pet hates. It’s bad enough for us running but I don’t know how Pam and Ben stand there in the cold listening to us moan on cold wet winter nights.

What’s your favourite race / athletics meet?- The Morton Games of course but the Dublin Marathon always has (and always will have) a very special place in my heart.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in athletics? Hopefully there are a few more to come, but running the Berlin Marathon in 2016 in 3hours 55mins and 14 seconds was a very proud moment for me. To date, it’s the second fastest marathon I have ever run, but by a million miles it was the proudest I have ever felt to cross the finish line in any race. I ran Berlin in 2015 and was well on track for a sub 3:30 marathon. Unfortunately the wheels came off with about 8km to go. I lost about half an hour through sickness, but I got back on my feet and crawled to the finish. I was annoyed with myself at the time but very determined to ring that bell again. Every step of that marathon in 2016 was pure determination to get to the finish line. I also got to experience the race with two of my friends. We all had separate strategies and start times but we all ended up finishing the race in the magic sub four time and all within five minutes of each other. A great shared experience in one of my favourite cities in the world.

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it?- I’ve had a few bad ones unfortunately but the worst was a stress fracture in my left hip in 2018. In hindsight, the pain was there intermittently for a while but I kept going until it all ground to a very sudden (and painful) halt. A scan, an MRI and months of rest and quite intense physio later, I was able to get going again. It was intensely frustrating at the time. The support from Pam and Ben and a lot of my club mates was great. Even though I was relatively new to the group, I always felt like I was a part of the team. I never felt left out or like I was missing anything. Pam and Ben encouraged me to help out in training and always kept in touch. It really helped keep my spirits up and I feel helped me recover more quickly because I knew I had such great, supportive people to get back to. It is testament to the spirit and positivity that Pam and Ben have instilled into the group and it is something that I will always treasure and never take for granted. Earlier in the same year, I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my leg (non running related) I was misdiagnosed originally and sought a second opinion. Were it not for the quick thinking of a consultant in the Mater Hospital, I would have been in very serious trouble. It put the injury into perspective and made me realise what is important in life. It also guided me to one of the most rewarding (and exhausting) experiences of my life by volunteering at the Dublin Marathon that year. A great experience and even better to see and experience things from the other side.

(For a coach or seasoned athlete) What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete?- It is one of the very first and in my opinion one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever been given. Run your own race. What I mean by that, is not to get caught up in what’s around you and lose focus if things do not go to plan. Have faith in what your plan is and stick to it. But also have a plan b and a plan c if that’s not working out. At the end of the day, always finish the race if you can. It is an achievement that you should always take pride in. I am persistent by nature and like to understand and learn things so I am lucky to have two great coaches in Pam and Ben who are always there with great advice and help. I was also very lucky to meet and be coached for a time by John O Regan before I joined Clonliffe. John was a great help and an incredibly inspiring man. I will always be incredibly grateful to John because he really helped me to get started on this journey and also encouraged me to take the next step and join Clonliffe.

Do you have any memorable or funny story from Clonliffe Harriers that you could share? (the censorship board may review!)- I best be careful with this one because I don’t want to offend a close friend, but I feel in the interests of truth and transparency that this story needs to be told . The ‘incident’ happened in May 2019 at the Grand Prix Series 5 mile race in the beautiful grounds of Malahide Castle. Race started at 8pm. Arrived with plenty of time to spare thanks to a lift from Anthony. Met with coach Pam and Mel at the start. Pam advised us to do a warm up before the race and the three of us duly set off. Mel advised she knew the route and we followed along. We slowly realised that we were going further and further away from the start line before ending up completely lost. What was intended as a light pre-race warm up to stretch the legs turned into a mad dash to make the start of the race. We ended up missing the start of the race and sprinting towards the start line, where a bewildered looking coach Pam saw us sprinting towards her. Pam voiced her displeasure in words that best not be repeated here (to put it mildly). We still completed the race and had a good laugh about it afterwards.

What’s your favourite meal? A. For competition- Wholegrain Penne Pasta with tomato pesto and Chicken B. Outside competition- Pizza and Patatas Bravas washed down with a cold Krombacher beer (or two).

Who is your sporting ‘hero’? (athletics or other) A. Irish- Paul McGrath B. International- Muhammad Ali and Henrick Larsson.

What’s your favourite…? A. Film- Of all time, Shawshank Redemption. Most recently, loved Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. B. Song or Album- I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and have seen him play live about 18 times. Darkness on the Edge of Town by the Boss is one of my favourite albums. He always has music to inspire me or suit my mood. C. Book- Full Time, The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage. I read this book when it came out many years ago and read it again recently. I find it very hard to read fiction and much prefer biographies. I have read a lot of them, but this one has always stood out as one of the best. One of the most painfully honest, funny, heart warming and brilliantly written books I have ever read. Even if you don’t like football it is an inspiring story of a great (but flawed) man who found incredible success very late in his sporting career. It’s a fascinating journey and life story by an incredibly humble man. He also had a very serious health scare recently so it is great to thankfully see him back on his feet again.

What’s your favourite holiday destination? – Faro in Portugal.

What’s your favourite hobby / activity outside athletics?- I inherited a love of photography from my late Grandfather and my Father. I love taking photos of family and friends and anything that catches my eye. Over the past few years I have started making calendars from my photos. I give them to family and friends as presents. One of my calendars also takes pride of place (hopefully) in the Clonliffe bar.

If you were Seb Coe what changes would you implement to improve our sport?- Ban Drug cheats for life, no second chances. Encourage more investment in grass roots athletics.

How would your non-athlete friends describe you? (in 3 words) – Hopefully they would say I am Kind, Caring and Considerate

What is your next running / athletics goal? (whenever normality returns!)- The plan is to run the Dublin Marathon this year but unfortunately with the way things are in the world it is looking very unlikely. I would love to run another sub 4 marathon. Would really love to give the Berlin Marathon another crack and the Seville Marathon is one that had always been on my (ever growing) list. More so as an excuse to revisit such a beautiful city.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times?- I am doing my best to be kind to myself and more importantly be kind to others. If I am honest with myself I have probably had a lot more bad days than good. I’m trying to keep my spirits up and stay positive and not think about things too much (very difficult for me). I am working from home for the first time in my life which has it’s challenges and advantages. Running wise, I am sticking to my routine of running on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and a long run on Sunday. I’m lucky to have a nice route along Griffith Avenue within the 2km radius of my home. I have also seen some of my Clonliffe friends doing their own runs on the same route over the past few weeks, which really has given me a huge boost. The Clonliffe whats-app groups (and the people in them) are a great help and definitely help put a smile on my face every day. I am also doing my best to steer away from negativity and pay more attention to positive and inspiring people on social media. People like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, David Gillick and Eliud Kipchoige. I recently listened to one of David Gillicks podcasts (an Irishman Abroad with Jarlath Regan) which had a huge impact on me. I sent David a message to say thanks (not in a million years expecting a reply) and he responded with some great advice and help which really floored me. I had been to one of David’s talks before Christmas. I spoke to him afterwards and mentioned I was with Clonliffe, he was full of praise for the club and the legend that is Joe Cooper. A very nice genuine guy who was even more generous and gracious with his time and advice.