Runner Profile:  Eddie McGinley

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Eddie McGinley is one of Northern Ireland’s most talented runners; the football fanatic from Belfast has represented Northern Ireland at Junior, U-23 and Senior levels, with the most recent being at the Burgos Cross Country in Spain last year (2012).  He is the proud owner of two International bronze medals, both from Celtic Cross Country events.

Having represented Northern Ireland on the football pitch at U-18 level and played in the Irish League, Eddie has shown that he is a man of many talents.  Despite having briefly retired from running a few years ago, he is now back and looking fit and strong.  Recently he enjoyed a good win at Jimmy’s 10k, I would imagine this will be the first of many victories in 2013.

Full Name:  Eddie McGinley
Current Category:  Male Open
Associated Club:  Annadale Striders/Liverpool Harriers
Personal Bests:  1500m – 3:56, 3,000m – 8:13, 5,000m – 14:13, 10,000m – 29:47

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?  It would probably be the Armagh International 5k.  I’m good friends with Dermot Kerr and he always delivers a special night of racing.  It has a unique atmosphere and it’s great to be a part of it.

When did you start running?  I suppose I’ve always done a wee bit of running but my running career is not your typical story.  Football was, and is, my first love so running was always to compliment the football.  In my primary school we used to have four cross-country races in P7.  I won all four and then went on to win a Belfast Schools Cross-Country race.  In first year at school I won the districts without doing any training so I suppose I knew I had a bit of ability.  The problem is I hated it and my PE teacher Stephanie McCann, who was a Commonwealth athlete, used to force me to do it.  In 1997 I somehow managed to make the Irish Schools Cross-Country team despite doing no specific training.

The race was in Wales, and it was my first time on a plane, my first time away from home and a race race that was won by no other than Mo Farah.  I remember wearing really long football shorts, football boots and a vest that would still drown me.  I had a blinder, and finished 13th and second Irish man.  It should have been the start of running for me, but I swore then I’d never race again, the nerves were too much.  I felt I didn’t belong and hearing all these lads talking about splits, reps, tempos etc, I hadn’t a clue.  So it was back to the football and playing two matches every Saturday.  I was doing well, and I reached the last twenty five of the schoolboy international squad, was part of the Manchester United School of Excellence and had my pick of Irish League teams to sign for.

I ended up at Distillery thinking that I could force my way into the first team quicker but I hated it.  Being so small and light meant I wasn’t playing in the middle of the park where I wanted to be.  I became disillusioned with it and after playing against England at Gillingham I decided that that was it, despite a lot of people trying to talk me out of it.  Rory Friel, a great man who I owe a lot to, got me down to the Mary Peters Track and I started training with him at 18 in 2001.  It was great craic and I quickly improved.  Eventually I joined Annadale Striders and was progressing nicely.  In typical McGinley style I overcooked it and under doctors’ orders had to take six months of complete rest.  I came back but never felt like the same athlete so after running 14:59 at the Armagh 5k in 2005, totally disgusted, I called an end to my brief running career.  Or so I thought.  I went back and enjoyed a great season with UUJ playing football in the Amateur League, but work commitments meant I couldn’t commit the following season.  Quickly I was doing nothing but boozing and piling the weight on.  After a couple of years I saw a photo of myself and I was shocked.  I had ballooned to well above what I would consider to be my usual weight.  So in 2008 I decided to lose weight and after six months of training I got the bug again and haven’t looked back.

Why do you run?  I run for a lot of reasons but mainly to see how fast I can be.  I do love that feeling of being fit and it’s hard to beat.  I will always run for fitness.  However, if I don’t feel like I’m improving, I’ll walk away from competing.  I’m 30 and enjoy it but the enjoyment centres on running fast and please God more PBs.  If they are elusive I’ll go back and play football with my mates for enjoyment and jog to keep fit.  It’s easier and more fun.  I won’t be racing as a vet, that is for sure.  I’ve no interest in training as hard, hurting as much but running slower.  I respect all those guys who do it but it’s not for me.  I don’t know how they do it.  Their passion for the sport is amazing.

What is your next race and what would you like to achieve from it?  This sounds very unprofessional but I started a new job five weeks ago and I’m really just finding my feet in it.  Running doesn’t pay my mortgage so it’s taking a back seat at the minute so I’ve no real concrete plans.

You had planned to step up to the Half Marathon distance recently in Larne, but the event was postponed.  Have you any other Half Marathon’s in mind for your debut?  Not really.  Larne fell at a good time.  I hadn’t been doing any specific half marathon stuff so it just fell at a good weekend for me in the calendar.  I’m not sure when I’ll step up.  Some of the really talented young lads in our group are forcing me to think about it more seriously though.  These wee legs are getting a bit too old for the short stuff.

You won Jimmy’s 10k last month having just returned from injury; what was the injury and have you fully recovered from it? Were you happy with the performance?  I had a niggle with my Achilles ten days before the Greenmount International (in January 2013) but kept plugging away and banging out the miles.  The Monday morning after the race I had to stop five minutes into my run, the pain was just too much.  I got it diagnosed and took a few weeks of rest.  I was sensible, patient and didn’t rush back and so far it has responded well.  Jimmy’s 10K was an enjoyable day out.  I felt nice and relaxed.  I don’t wear a watch when I race and never get caught up on splits.  I’ve ran all my Pb’s that way.  I think too many guys are obsessed with Garmins etc and don’t run enough by feel.  I don’t need a computer to tell me if I’m running too hard or cheating myself.  So during the race I hadn’t a clue if it was fast or slow.  I didn’t care either.  I just wanted a decent work out.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?  Anything on the track really that is longer than 6k of work.  So probably something like 5x2000m or miles reps.  Again, I think too many people are obsessed with sessions and don’t realise it’s what you do the whole week.  It’s funny, in 2011 when I ran a load of Pbs people naively were asking had I changed my sessions.  It had nothing to do with the sessions, more like three years of consistent mileage!

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  I have a lot of stomach and stitch issues when I race so I’m still continually playing about with pre-race meals.  I still don’t think I’ve mastered it yet.  Post race, well anything with sugar.  I’ve a seriously sweet tooth so bags of Haribo is the norm.  I don’t get obsessed with diet.  I’m not an Olympic athlete so I’m not going to deny myself what I like when I’m busting a gut all week, all year.  So I’ll have a chippie, take away, a few pints, or chocolate whenever I feel like it.  Some runners need to get out a bit more and stop taking the sport so seriously.

What is your running ambition?  Like most athletes I’ve had lofty ambitions but I’ve started a new job and it’s my priority at the minute.  I don’t feel there is any point chatting the chat about what times I’ll run or teams I’ll make.  It’s all pie in the sky stuff.  Some athletes like to spout off about what they’ll do, but it’s bullsh*t.  Run the times and let them speak for themselves.  I’ll fit what training I can around my work.  Recovery is what makes the difference to reach the next level and unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of a rich patron, or being able to sit on my backside in between runs or away to training camps.  So I’ll take the ups and downs as they come.  As long as I’m enjoying it for the next few months I’ll be happy.

What would you consider to be your biggest achievement to date?  I suppose I should say winning the Irish Cross-Country title last year (2012).  It meant a lot to me and my family, but personally my biggest achievement was just getting back into the sport and being able to compete at a decent level.  When I started jogging after putting all the weight on, a lot of people said I would never get back into the sport.  It was a hard slog.  Losing the weight was one thing but getting my ass kicked day in daily by vets and 38 minute 10k runners was a real eye opener.

Many times I thought, what’s the point?  I had to leave the ego to one side, deal with constant injuries and constant pain, but I wouldn’t change it.  I appreciate the sport more now and learnt so much about it and myself.  I respect everyone who competes because I realised that everyone hurts the same from a 29 minute 10K guy to a 50 minute one.  So I enjoy the sport and feel privileged to be at the level I’m at – that for me is my biggest achievement.

Over the years you have competed on the track and on the roads, do you have a preference?  The track is where I feel most at home.  I’m a rhythm runner and the track suits me perfectly.  I would rather do 25 laps than 10k on the road.  It’s where I’ve recorded all my Pb’s.  Plus you know when you have ran 10k on the track you have ran 10k.  That’s certainly not the case on the road despite what some of the rose tinted spectacled wearing, back in my day brigade will tell you who boast 5000m track bests slower than the halfway split of their road 10k times.  Traditionally Striders’ athletes have always trained regularly on the track so I guess this is where I get my love for it.

What other sports do you like?  Football is my number one sport.  I don’t support any specific teams, rather I like to watch certain players.  I won’t miss Barcelona though and watch them every week.  I also try and get over to the Nou Camp for games when I can.  I had the privilege of seeing Lionel Messi score in the flesh last month so I can die a happy man.